Quotes Recalled

As a child and later as a teenager, I had this habit of collecting quotes. I would write them all down in a notebook I’d stitched together from the blank pages of used notebooks from the previous academic year. In those ancient pre internet days I would often come back to a quote either to pep up an essay we’d been set or to introduce a speech as part of an elocution contest I was participating in or simply for the sheer pleasure of it. My notebook of quotes was lost in the several moves that we made from one house to another. But I still have this love for quotes as do many of us. Here are some of them that have remained with me through the years. When read afresh they still move and inspire me and help me chug on.  

Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows. – Tagore

I remember seeing this quote framed beneath a lovely picture that showed wild flowers growing in a meadow. The picture with the quote was one of the several that were hung on the walls of the corridors of my college. I recognised it as part of the poem from Gitanjali by Tagore. I was always moved when the nuns sang the poem as a hymn – ‘This is my prayer to thee, my lord, /Strike, strike at the root of penury in my heart’ – though I was always wary and tired of proselytation of any colour. What attracts me to this quote and why I come back to it time and again is because it asks for strength not just bear the sorrows but also the joys thus opening up a whole new world where joys also had to be borne. If they were to be borne were they joys? At its simplest I felt the line meant that one has to maintain a degree of equanimity in life – not be too affected either by the joys or by the sorrows knowing that each shall pass.

Be happy. It is one way of being wise. – Colette

I remember coming across this, while still a child, in a book of quotations and noting it down for the sheer simplicity of what it advised. Yes, don’t let your sorrows get to you too much. Don’t take things too seriously. Be happy. I also wondered who Colette was, whether it was a man or a woman and to which country they belonged. It was only much later that I found out that the quote came from the French novelist.      

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. – Maya Angelou

Truly, there is no greater agony. I should know for I have borne within me countless stories some of which will sadly forever remain untold because they were not told at the right time and so if told now will have a has-been quality to them the musty smell of the redundant.

When women support each other magical things happen. – Anonymous

I could not find out who said this for there was no attribution to the quote when I came across it. But I love it for it expresses the need of the hour. One of the ways in which patriarchy is strengthened is by pitting women against other women. Everyone loves a catfight. That explains the perennial popularity of saas bahu serials though it is not only women who are watching them. And all the misogynists and the votaries of patriarchy stand by the ringside and applaud because they know that the energy that could have been combined and used for the betterment of all is being frittered away. But in recent times, women recognise the importance of supporting each other. But often women confuse this with the need to speak out in a unanimous voice. Unanimity always hides some kind of silencing some degree of oppression. There is no need to be ashamed of disagreements. When several minds think about a set of problems, different voices will emerge. This is not a sign that women cannot get along with each other as it is often made out to be.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Emerson

It is especially so for women. The world conspires so much to mould them into shapes that it dictates that even seemingly innocuous acts that are ordinary and everyday for men become actions loaded with meaning and fraught with danger for women. An example that leaps to the mind is the very personal choice of dress. No one would care to even notice what a man wears. But when it comes to women the world is so obsessed with what she wears that wearing a dress of one’s choice or even colours of one’s choice become political acts; acts loaded with meaning. The trouble is, the meanings are often misplaced and lost in transit. How often have we heard the shrill shouts of ‘she asked for it; look what she was wearing’ kind.

Of course we do not know if Emerson had women in mind when he expressed the above thought but it is something worth revisiting.    

Follow you inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. – Allen Ginsberg

We set so much store by normalcy, by sanity. And by doing so, we forget to acknowledge and revel in the insane side of ourselves. And thus we perish. We perish by blending in, by being so like others that it is impossible to live and so we make do, we adjust, we just exist.

Let’s follow the inner moonlight. Let’s have the courage to be crazy.  

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