Licence from Mitty or Mittycism

We all have a Walter Mitty in us. At times, he manifests as Rajinikanth. Then, in a flash, transforms into a romantic hero like Leonardo DiCaprio. Though rooted in fantasy, Mitty is always within the wide realm of possibility. An exaggerated vision of what we could have been but let go either by choice or due to circumstances. So, in a way our inner Mitty is like a buddy. An alter ego with whom we can drop our guard and have a quiet chat any time.

Is it only a man thing? What would a female Mitty be like, I have often wondered? Being an armchair shrink these are questions that I reflect upon in solitude. But, in this “woke” age, one has to be wary of gender traps. Besides, stereotypes are extinct. There are no predesignated roles for men and women anymore, even at home. Modesty Blaise or Miss Marple are passé. Now, there are opportunities galore. Limited only by imagination. So, if James Thurber was around, he would have had to reinvent Mitty from the core. And, who knows, even change his sex and colour of skin.

That does pose a challenge for older Mitties, as mine, who slipped into retirement. Like Thurber, we too have to reimagine our own Mitty to survive in the current times. In the previous generations, life progressed on a linear path. So, it was easy to rewind the film and relish the flashback at leisure. But, in the present age of disruptions the changes are radical. So, it is hard to visualise my twenty-year-old avatar or how my first girlfriend would look like.

Going a step further, would the first date have ended with Phuchka and Ice-cream? Or, would have led to more exciting possibilities. Do guys on assignations carry condoms in their wallets or the girls prefer ‘morning after’ pills? These are delicious problems to nibble at on a rainy afternoon sipping gin. Mitty loves it too spiked with some erotica in his drink.

Crossing sixty, I like to look back at life gone by in chunks. Each of a twenty-year span — give or take a few years either way. It is easy to retrace the twists and turns of fate that have brought me to where I am today. But, more fascinating is the inner journey of personal unfoldment. Most of it involves people. Unexpected encounters, accidental crossing of paths, magical consummations and pre-ordained parting of ways. Also of unfulfilled desires, lust, longings and elusive liaisons. Each of them helped me grow. Even those that did not fructify and could have taken me in a different trajectory, as Mitty knows.

Coming to think of it, each one of us — if we are so inclined — can write a book on missed opportunities. There may be elements of regret but it does not mean we are dissatisfied with our present lot. Yet, time travel can be fascinating, seductive too, at any age. Occasionally, it might trigger envy but that is when Mitty walks in to provide a touch of realism to our indulgent reveries.

Movies they say are a reliable reflection of social trends. And, some time back I had read an article about the screen names of the newer crop of female actors. From the times of Asha, Jaya, Hema, Madhuri, we now have Katrina, Kareena, Kiara, Alia, Anushka and Samantha. In comparison, the names of boys sound staid . Ranveer, Ranbir, Varun and Arjun are still in vogue. This could be due to the average age of male actors being higher than the girls. But, we see this even among our kids. Next generation has been more unconventional in naming their daughters than their sons.

Do names have a bearing on personalities? Some would argue, yes. But, it certainly does conjure up an image. I cannot say for certain if my parents would give me the same name had I been born twenty years later. But, I am sure girls of my age would have more hip names with an attitude to boot. They will not be looking for either domesticity or financial security. They shall pursue dreams and make off-beat career choices without fetters of conventional morality. By extension, they would place a lesser premium on the professional stability of partners and be willing to take risks both in life and vocation.

That does not mean being Bohemian in attitude. Unlike the flower children of the 70s, today’s youngsters are far more focused. An occasional drag of a joint may be fine, but they are generally not into drugs. They are easy about relationships but not casual about sex. Looks are not instruments of sexual attraction, but a statement of confident sexuality.

Going steady has still not gone out of fashion, commitment is important but nothing is for keeps. Heartbreaks are common but not the end of the road. Like losing a job is only the beginning of a new journey. In essence, choices have increased and the cost of failure is less than what it used to be in our days.

So, if I had a ticket to start afresh again — would I be playing in a rock band or be a stand-up comedian? Even if my parents forced me through a MBA or Law Degree would I chuck it all up to run a start-up or a travel company? Doubt if I would have done either. My genetic construct would come in the way. But, I can think of myself travelling around the world. Dropping anchor from one country to another. Living in small towns and villages. In Japan, for instance, or some Scandinavian country. There would be long walks and treks. Endless hours in cafes and bars. Soaking in the local culture, savouring ethnic food and meeting interesting people who would enlarge my world, sharpen sensibilities and heighten consciousness.

Of course, there will be generous dollops of romance rich on the carnal quotient. The chance falling in love too. But, all of that would be part of a larger deal. Experiences that are at once uplifting and expansive. Necessary but not essential conditions. What would be non-negotiable though is the freedom for the spirit to soar and the heart to be carefree.

Writing for a living, taking up freelance jobs or doing remote work as an architect or graphic designer. Commute long distance living in the countryside and working in a city a few days of the week. Or even distribute time between two continents. Earning enough by working part of the year to pay for living a life I love for the rest of the time. In the process, finding a new meaning of existence.

All this may sound idyllic and impractical. But, Mitty grants us the licence to dream. So, why decline his bounty? After all, it costs a couple of beers in the afternoon, some Scotch in the evening and a supply of fine teas throughout the day.

#youth #WalterMitty #life #relationships #sexuality #career #travel #sex #love #longing

Article first published on the GhoseSpot

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Right Angle

Writer, current-affairs columnist, and political commentator. Public speaker, Corporate Strategy Advisor and Practising Life Coach (ICF-PCC) www.sandipghose.com