There is a moment in “The English Patient”, when Laszlo is carried out on a stretcher by Kip and Caraveggio, with Hana holding an umbrella over his head. They run around a fountain in the rain and it’s the perfect moment for a story to end, since it seems so full of possibilities and there’s a feeling that the war will end. Hana and Kip will be together and they will look after Laszlo forever, while Caraveggio will pop in and out of their lives, always around to lift a stretcher.
But, it’s not going to be like that. So, to preserve the magic of the moment, I stop watching the film and go to sleep, by sheer mischance at 10 pm on a weeknight. I have never done that, knowingly, as long as I have lived and don’t know what to expect from an early night.
Sure enough, at 3am, I’m up. Without a sound, without any of the grogginess I normally feel. The night is really quiet, the kind of silence that makes solitude seem even more intense. The shadows are so dark, they seem dark blue rather than black. My mind is wide awake and filled with ideas I struggle for, and over, every day. Story outlines, snatches of dialogue, blog titles, little dramatic set pieces which are as simple as a Haiku. I’m delighted and humbled by it all.
No wonder there was once an adage of early to bed and early to rise. Although, at this early hour in the morning, I wish there was another one we were taught so assiduously. That the business of living one’s own life is something no one else can tell you about or even teach you. That’s something one figures out and when one does, it’s to wish it was known earlier, like maybe when one was 20 and still had the semblance of a waist.
However, it’s not bad to get the first inkling of it twenty years too late. It’s quite okay to see that one will write every single day without any expectations from an audience, oneself, of any recognition or any entitlement, because that’s just part of it all. The business of living.
I don’t think, our well meaning teachers, parents, peers and we ourselves had any idea what we were in for, when we were born. Did anyone ever tell us, that after all the tough trials of every exam, every competition, selections, everything where our worth would be evaluated by others, finally we alone would be able to know our true natures and that would be the only thing governing our lives like a lighthouse? The imagery of a lighthouse at sea is quite perfect because at times, true nature seems to lead into pretty precarious places.
Neither did anyone mention that life would no longer be about ownership, claim, or certainty of a place in life. It would be an endless striving of finding and knowing oneself in every situation, every conversation, every relationship, every job, every location. Finally, it may be the only thing worth doing, since I believe all the religions are indirectly telling us to take reality with a spadeful of salt.
“The English Patient” ends with Hana leaving after burying Laszlo. She does for him, what she didn’t do for her father. Kip leaves Italy, shaken by the death of a longtime comrade, who actually never let him into his world. Caraveggio is happy to be back on the road, cutting deals, living in the here and now. The movie ends in bliss, despite the fact that there is no picture perfect ending, only the promise that they will all find their own lives and live them and thus know what makes it all worth while.
Gentle reminder: This isn’t a review of the movie. It’s just the disclaimer I had forgotten to read in my cradle.