India Uncut

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

New York, the internet and parenthood

Adam Gopnik says about New York:
One of the wonders of New York is that anything that obsesses you turns out to obsess at least several hundred other people. Transgendered Zen Buddhists with a taste for Proust and Dave Barry find others just like them to form a reading group, and though every group is an island, every island of interest is, like the bigger island they sit on, crowded.
Doesn't that sound just like the internet? I was wondering earlier today about how life would have been if I'd been born 20 years before I was. But hell, I simply can't imagine being 32 in 1986, in India, without the internet. I'd know no one who shared my interests, would be unable to explore many of the things that fascinate me (or would have fascinated me had I known about them), and I'd have felt the world was an infernal, lonely place. No one would have cared about my writings, and I wouldn't, of course, have had a blog.

I don't think I'd have wanted to survive till 2006, or waited to see what it held for me.

Anyway, back to Gopnik's interview, which contains some lovely passages on parenthood:
The gate we walk through when we become parents is, in my experience, the most one-sided gate we walk through in life. One morning, you are a ship out on the ocean, heading for Byzantium; the next, you and your spouse have become a harbor for another boat getting ready for its own voyage out. And, though you sneak away for weeks on book tours, you are never anything but a harbor again. (An abandoned harbor, eventually, searching the horizon for the long-gone ships.)


... for all the joys that parenting provides, it also makes you keenly aware of the temporariness of all experience. To a child, family life looks as fixed and solid as a civilization, with rituals and routines and prohibitions—boxes of ornaments that have always been in the basement and silverware that has always been resting in the drawer. In fact, to the parents, it’s a frantic improvisation, as fragile and contingent as a truce in wartime. We see the bills and they see—and should only see—the ongoing surface of reassuring sameness.

More than the continuity of time, what parenting provides, I think, is a sense of the fragility of existence.
You don't need to be a parent to sense that fragility, of course. Anyway, Gopnik is an outstanding writer, one of the finest of the New Yorker's staff writers, and besides reading all his work for the magazine here, you can also check out his latest book, Through the Children's Gate.

And now I'm off to see what I can salvage of this fast-disappearing weekend, which, like life itself but on a smaller scale, is rushing past.
amit varma, 5:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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