Just completed The Motorcycle Diaries. First the book and then, the DVD movie.
Although I had purchased my copy of this all-students-must-own book two years ago, got around to reading it now. Post vipassana. Post - well, so many other things as well...
Am awed anew. At Che Guevara the iconoclast.
This twentieth century icon begins his memoirs on his youth thus :
This is not a story of incredible heroism, or merely the narrative of a cynic. It is the glimpse of two lives that ran parallel for a time, with similar hopes and convergent dreams.
And with these words on the first page of your diary, Che, I have felt a deep bond of kinship, that has strengthened as I have gone through all the pages. The quiet strength, the underlying sense of humour, the eye-opening moments, the loneliness of adventure even when shared with marvellous friend Alberto.
And I have felt so proud of you!
... to know that I share my date of birth with you.
... To recognize how the trials & tribulations of human lives always touched you in life, especially on this most seminal of trips when you were 23-24 , a very 'Coming of Age' age.
... To be totally moved at your vision of a single race not divided into unstable and illusory nations and narrow-minded provincialism. You mention America and mean 'Mexico to the Magellan Straits.'
I think of the entire planet. And when you describe certain lives, it is like seeing my fieldwork in Solapur come alive... Some give the impression they go on living only because it is a habit they cannot shake. I am reminded of the beedi workers met in my fieldwork again, when you say: On top of the very low wages paid in the south, unemployment is high and the authorities afford workers very little protection.
How things have stayed unchanged, Che, 40 years since you were murdered, even as the world has moved on, in man's indefatigable thirst to take control and exercise total authority.
In my need to establish more spiritual and emotional points of contact, I find I can link a few more. Some might say tenuous, but in this journal of your self-discovery, mere mortals like me shall seek other parallels with legendary souls who went on to find themselves :
... To find out you were born in Rosario, a town that I have visited up the Mar del Plata on a most incredibly memorable ship voyage (the only time I have been on a ship that actually went up a river - she traveled across the Atlantic from Antwerp, and then slowly and majestically moved up this river with breathtaking banks visible both port and starboard, all the way to Rosario) , a city I recall in vivid detail. Both its comic aspects ( my first evening ever at a sailor's 'pub' and all because I, an officer's wife, had asked good friend Piggy, the Captain of the M. V. Mannan (Piyush Srivastava actually) about where all the sailors disappeared to as soon as we berthed at any port - and he insisted I go along to 'see' for myself, much to the shock and horror of the officers but more so, those 'girls' in the pub :-)) .
Also the underbelly of the city, with the sight of its middle class begging and selling off everything owned - Argentina those days of the mid '90s was in severe recession.
To know you visited Necochea for a day on your motorcycle - a town I visited for exactly a day too, and one I recall as fascinating - pride of place in the town square held by the statue of - a dog. And where in its port, I had my first close and hilarious 'brush' with a moustached walrus. To know you played soccer and went to medical school in Buenos Aires, that city where time stands still. Where I felt I was transported into another era and catapulted as if into the insides of a beautiful movie.
You write : 'The person who wrote these notes passed away the moment his feet touched (back in Argentinian soil). The person who reorganizes and polishes them, me, is no longer, at least I'm not the person I once was. All this wandering around - has changed me more than I thought.'
The movie rephrases these original words and ends thus:
I am not me anymore. At least I'm not the same me I was.
Was our view too narrow, too biased, too hasty?
Were our conclusions too rigid?
Change and Che.
Isn't that true - even if not in a world-changing way - of all our diaries and journals? Of all of us? The global and universal theme of a search for one's identity.
And Che leaves us at the end of his introduction chapter 'So We Understand Each Other' thus :
It will be hard for you to find an alternative to the truth I am about to tell. But I will leave you now, with myself, the person I used to be.
Che, salut !! To the young you and to the you you became. A legend and inspiration to all those who denounce suffering. Hatred. Inequality.
From both me that was.
And the me I have become.