Tuesday, July 27

Lederhosen and the Path of Self-discovery 

Lederhosen. The word brings a smile to my face, despite the fact that it also makes me twitch in discomfort. Well, the thought of these German hiking pants with shoulder straps sitting snug on a man’s body as he takes brisk steps down a walkway can make anyone flinch just a little. Especially if you’re a woman who appreciates a well-toned male body whose gait is just a wee more kingly than manly. But I digress. I haven’t really sat down and imagined a man with a well-toned body walking briskly in his Lederhosen. I was referring to the discomfort that stems from reading Haruki Murakami’s short story by that name, which is rich with so many emotional layers, so many metaphors for our lives that it has got me thinking. It is the story of a Japanese couple separating over a pair of German hiking pants.

The woman travels to Germany to spend time with her sister, promising, as requested, to bring her husband a pair of lederhosen back as a gift. She finds herself in an unusual lederhosen shop that sells only to men who wish to buy a pair or two for themselves. Her challenge then is to bring back a man who is approximately of the same build as her husband, so he can try the pants on and see how they fit. Uncannily as it were, she does end up finding a man who looked exactly like her husband (save his skin tone), from the receding hairline, to the shape of his legs. Observing this man as he tried the lederhosen on, all frisky and cocky like a little boy with a new toy, she realized so many things that she’d been unsure of, about her own self as a person, and it all began to gradually coagulate into something solid, something crystal. And it dawned upon her that she, infact, simply hated her husband. And she decided to divorce him.

It brings us, ofcourse, as readers, as readers who anatomize every turn of sentence, every underlying sensation and try to comprehend in all that the grimmest of semblances with the workings of our own minds and lives, to a state of trance. The dots that connect daze us and make us wonder where the beginning was and how it snaked its way to the end point as it were. This particular part of the story got me thinking about how, when in a seemingly extraneous instance, new light is shed on an aspect of our lives and the veil of mist gets lifted..a new strain of emotion dips itself into the still waters, and makes us fathom the depth of things. It could be an exchange of words with someone, on a day long past that seems to make sense of a sudden, in the most unlikely of situations one finds oneself in. Or the things that one believed accounted for one’s virtues, seem to evanesce with time, and one has evolved and risen above all that, for the better. This need to soul-search, discover oneself, bash oneself over one’s flaws, seek and restore the righteous spirit, reinvent oneself..becomes a routine mission when one is stuck in a complex web of emotions and relationships. Not that the realization comes when one sets foot in the web, of course. And then, the idea of a couple separating over a pair of lederhosen doesn’t seem so bizarre anymore.

What I also took away from this is that we do have the predilection to find cues in objects for grander things, like reality check barometers. And I don’t just mean the objects we surround ourselves with, where keys to many memories are locked in. An object we’re never seen before could become a synergist for change. And that change, against the odds of resolve and fragility of heart, will come to make more sense with the passage of time.

There are few writers who can make us ruminate and reflect long after the strike of their words has abated. What Murakami can do with his writing to his readers’ minds is best left unsaid, like the interpretations of the endings of his stories. It should suffice to say that in the process of reading writers like him and looking within, one learns to tune out the sounds of the imp of the perverse and the angel of righteousness at the required times and yet attain a balance on the tightrope walk that makes perfect sense to one, while it may seem like the most eccentric of things to the rest of the world.

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