Sentiment n. Mental feeling; emotion;tendency to be moved by feeling rather than by reason; verbal expression of feeling. Sentimental a. given to indulgence in sentiment and its expression; weak, sloppy.
In its forty- first year in possession, my Collins New Gem Dictionary, still spells out facts of life to me in the same dispassionate tone that it has, when as a young boy I would scurry through its pages for smutty words and meanings. 41 years it has been with me, my father's little present. Grappling with Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Niggers'; unbearable suspense frustrated by unintelligible words - father would say - you skip the words you don't know the meaning of, you will get the hang of the story. Later, after finishing the book you can look them up in the Dictionary.
Later, as a hot-blooded adolescent madly in love, I would flip through my Collins to make sure that I have written what I really wanted to say. Didn't have a Thesaurus in those days.
Many dictionaries and thesauruses and later Wordweb in the PC and so many other tools of the language, I still rummage through the mess in front of me on the table, for my little Collins.
Then there was the hilarious day long ago when I was unmarried and unwilling to be castled, when my mother oh-so-tactfully asked me if I were in love again and that too with a Christian girl. I was flummoxed and asked her what she meant. Nothing, nothing, she said, only that you are reading the Bible all the time - my Collins, with its leather binding could be easily mistaken for a Bible... In a way, it is my Bible. I have carried him where ever I have been stationed. There has been not better gift from my father - in the first page he has written - To V Balachandran - no 'dear son' or such affectionate phrases - he must have meant me to take it with all formal gravity, seriousness of a dictionary.
The other day, a close friend of mine quoted to me - 'Sentiment distorts'. I retorted - 'No, it doesn't, it only makes things human'.
I have often been amused at the many instances in my life when people advised me not to be sentimental. Like what I have said above about my dictionary, I would be said to be being 'sentimental' about it. In the days of committed environmentalism, again this caution - ' act with reason, don't be sentimental'. In the days when I was in love with a girl - ' you are being stupid wasting time and sentiments over her'. I go off on a long trek to Himalayas, i am so so passionate about Himalayas, again these smart people would say - ' you are wasting money and energy and risking your life - be reasonable - save up money and buy a car or something'.
They were right too, in most cases. Yet, what I am, what I had been and what I would like to be, is to be sentimental about everything. Let reason come after it. In sentiments lie the awakening, in passion lies the seed of thought and action. Without sentiments, I would be like a salted, dried mango. Sentiments rush through like blood, giving life and meaning of life to me, I want to live and not just survive...Sentiment is feeling, feeling for the animate and inanimate, for the tangible and the intangible, for a dog and for the universe. Sentiment is, to be. Broken down I am, yet I will rise my head and my spirit to my last breath.
Maybe later a day will come when I am detached, detached as J Krishnamurti behoves us to be. Even in such a detached stage, we are sentimental, because it is such feelings that decides for us to be attached or to be detached. I cannot look at a waterfalls and think of it as such and such cubic feet of H2O rushing down at such and such velocity, and producable of so much of Megawatts of electricity. I cannot look at a tree and think of it in terms of tons of firewood. I cannot look at my dog and think of him as a security utility. I cannot marvel at the magnificence of nature and think in terms of the survival value that it gives. I have to love them all and feel for them all and wallow in sentiments and in the rush of emotions that sweep over me, be grateful and then act, with reason, to protect and preserve all that I love in whatever little way I can.
************** Balachandran, 09.04.2009 Trivandrum