Sunday, April 18, 2004

Life cannot be learnt by heart
Gitanjali Sharma

A New Friend
by Nacho Blanco. Frog Books, Navi Mumbai.
Pages 24. Rs 30.

A New FriendHALF an hour is all that it takes to read the novella A New Friend. But, by the time you reach the last page, a part of you yearns for more, and before you realise it, you are back to page one and reading the short story again`85pausing and pondering over the feel-great phrases and the reach-out-for-the-sky parts.

This inspirational piece by Nacho Blanco, a Spanish writer and painter, talks of love, dreams and happiness — all motivating material that makes you want to stretch yourself and experiment something special and unique with your life.

The young protagonist in the story, aptly reflects the feelings of misery and despondency experienced by most of us at some point of time or the other when "the meaning of life is fast losing its strength." When, wallowing in self-pity, we find that "everything seems to be going wrong at the same time. All my friends seem to leave me when I most need them."

The forlorn speaker’s chance encounter one night with a blind old man helps him realise the true meaning of life as well as the futility of pondering over troubles. The wise man, who eventually becomes the new friend of the narrator of Blanco’s tale, shows him how to dream and, more importantly, how to make reality of them. "We are all made of dreams`85everything is a dream till you touch it`85only your wish can make it happen. The dream isn’t outside, you have to close your eyes and seek it in your own personal world, your own reality."

It is easy to identify with the young man’s apprehensions and mind blocks, an outcome of the emotional crisis of modern times. Isn’t it grilled into us right since childhood to keep to ourselves and not allow the private go public? This realisation comes thus: "I, who had been taught to keep my life to myself and not let out my feelings of miseries, started to notice`85that there was no notice with ‘No Trespassing’ written on my heart`85"

Again, you can relate to the protagonist, whose interest is aroused when the wise man enthusiastically speaks about hitherto-unmentioned-topics like "imagination," "love", "comprehension of our selves." These soft subjects made the young man open his heart out and talk of "great things never learned within the dirty walls of a town school" and "things that nobody in my family had ever said a word on`85" How true, as how many of us sit with our family to talk of love and happiness.

A New Friend is Blanco’s first book in English. Written lucidly, the language is a little stilted at times, but that doesn’t hamper the flow of the story.

By the end of the short tale, you realise you too have made a new friend, whose words could embolden you to embark on an adventure called life. You become wise to the reality that life is "not meant to be learnt by heart." You have the freedom to fall and learn from your mistakes, as "you become the perfect captain of your boat after you have set sail more than once." The words of a true friend, indeed.