There was a time when going to comedy shows meant having the luxury to leave your brain at home for a light, carefree evening. But between Gadsby’s Nanette and Ansari’s Right Now, stand ups no longer provide a tax-free zone for our overloaded gray matters. And when it is the comedians of the world who are making the most global sense at this present time, in the words of Wanda Skyes, “it ain’t normal”.
Last week as I walked into a new work project, I realised my ‘normal’ was about to change. Perhaps forever. What had become my usual, formidable style of doing things was going to become null and void. That I had to slip and slide in some kind of Charlie Chaplin waltz to re-learn a new way of doing things seemed to highly amuse the Universe and the Gods above as they stood doubled over trying to cover their spasmodic fits of laughter waiting for me to start. As if they had come to my comedy show leaving their brains to hang out with the fairies on the neighbouring galaxy’s clothes line for some timeout.
I did consider the usual packing my bag and disappearing for a few years as an alternate act but things aren’t normal in a lot of places in the world either. Especially two of the most special of places for this blog; Kashmir & the Amazon jungle.
Very rarely, I think twice. Once when the 24-hr mechanical vent of my bathroom stopped and once when I was walking through the empty township of Grenfell after 8pm to get to my bnb on a work trip, have I thought of that dark, eerie morning. Only sound was the shikara-walas oars slicing deeply into the Dal Lake waters. I have not heard quietness like that anywhere else. With the scrapping of Article 370 by the Indian government, I’m not sure if that quietness will be still there if I ever went back. There’s a reason I don’t have opinions on international affairs because what happens in other countries is not my lived truth. So while that quietness for me was one of most beautiful things I’ve heard in my life, it maybe the very thing that has been suffocating Kashmiris for decades. Either way, since the past 4 weeks, life is no longer the quasi-normal in Kashmir.
Swinging in a hammock somewhere near the Tres Fronteras of Peru, Colombia and Brazil, I planned to come back one day and hire a boat to take me all the way to the border and then I’d trek deep into the Amazon with a partner who’d be game enough. I had spent that morning fishing for piranhas in flooded rainforests and in that moment – they all seemed to have stood still and said that they’ll wait for me to come back to just as the way they were. Today the Amazon rainforest is on fire. That’s not their normal.
But perhaps the joke is that there is no such thing as normal? That the only normal is the ever evolving state of normal.
A lot of our ‘normal’ lies in the nostalgia of time. Malik in a recent spoken word read “main 2019 mein 1999 dhoondh rahi hoon”. Shayad mein phi (maybe me too).
Maybe the only normal is normal will always be changing. And what we have now is not just normal but the very best of extraordinary. Once (and if) that ever sinks in, wouldn’t you stand there guffawing at yourself, too? (Before breaking into a rain dance!)