Better to wink at life than to brood over it is perhaps the best principle one can adopt to lead a healthy, successful and comfortable life. Especially now, when life has become extremely tiresome because of the socio-economic excesses one is driven to to achieve in a fast-paced world, a laugh here and a smile there could improve the quality of life manifold. We talk about physical catharsis often by indulging in a regular regime of exercise, toning and flexing the muscles to freshen up and let loose our pent up adrenalin. However, more often than not, a smile — with the clichéd ability to stretch 26 muscles in one go — is considered hard to summon. We can run miles, play tennis ad nauseam, run around feverishly, ride a horse tirelessly or swim the lengths of a pool for hours, but a small smile or a big bout of laughter is, at times, arduous for many around us.
There is a general consensus that unless one puts on a heavy face, an expression that reveals a no-nonsense demeanour and a stiff approach towards getting things done, people would rather fool us to the extent that we lose our ability to ‘rule’ over them. This typical character trait is borne out of a mindset that wants to rule rather than manage people and is thus alien to the idea of enthusing life with candour and humorous titbits. This is precisely the message Kamran Ahmad is trying to pass on to his reader in his book Better To Wink At Life. It is a simple book, comprising witty anecdotes with the message that it does not take much effort to spice up life with humour, even when one is laden with grief. What it takes is the ability to live like an ordinary human among other mortals. It is ego often that takes away this ability to consider others equally respectable and deserving of good manners. To this effect, Kamran writes in an anecdote, where he is trying to repair ties with his wife, broken over petty household rows: “Why have we chosen to become prisoners in the windowless dome of our egos? A different world, it could be argued, cannot be built by indifferent people.”
In one of the anecdotal pieces, ‘Kingdom of darkness’, a narration of a party thrown by his bachelor friend, the writer, among the bevy of beautiful couples, is thinking how foolishly we humans at times willingly and, most times unwittingly, give in to the worries of life to become pawns in the hands of circumstance. He writes, “Will we ever be able to tie up the loose ends of our lives? Has not the world started resembling a market abounding with sorrows and troubles where the fruits of joy and calm have become rare, precious commodities, not within the reach of a vast majority? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?”
Better To Wink At Life comprises 113 anecdotal pieces narrating occurrences that either Kamran or others close to him have experienced. A character of special interest to Kamran, to whom he often turns, is his wife, a woman with wit and looks, who Kamran acknowledges should be the last person on earth to lead a dull, humourless and insipid life. The reader does not fail to notice the understanding between the two and their candid approach towards life. It really takes a lot of camaraderie between husband and wife to bear unkind remarks from the other, especially coming from the wife. Once when Kamran tells his wife how in his college days people would clap endlessly over his singing, she retorts, “Lots of clapping, yes...on your poor face!”
The downside to the book is the language used by the author that only a few can understand. Difficult words are mismatched here with the intense imagination the writer has used to convey the lighter moments of life. Explained in a mundane and ordinary way, these anecdotes would have had a different effect. On many occasions, the reader gets the impression that the writer is trying to impress rather than amuse the audience with his observations, spontaneous responses and cutting remarks. The writer also fails to share any funny and witty experience he may have had while growing up.
The writer has, however, beautifully woven the emptiness of his life in his own and the laughter of others. It is a difficult combination, being humorous and being empty within. It is difficult to camouflage one’s sorrows in the veil of good wit and sparkling smiles. In ‘Appearances could be’, he writes, “For a long time in my life, good luck had been quite conspicuous by its very absence and I felt like running away for good, from myself. How long can one drink the cup of bitter grief and still pretend to be happy? How very painful it is clinging to the sinking raft of one’s hopes.”
In short, life goes on, whether one chooses to wink at it or brood over it. The choice is ours.