Literature is a thing of the mind. Hence, it may just be a luxury that we cannot afford.
I will not blame people if they thought that way because I had similar thoughts myself. My first feelings when I got selected for the English Honours degree course in Sherubtse was…well, I cannot put them in words. Suffice it to say that my first choice was B.Com. Honours and not what was apparently an abstract literature study.
When I look back, I think my preference was an extension of the belief that B.Com is more skill oriented and hence a job was guaranteed on graduation. However since then, I have learnt to be more comfortable in calling myself a literature student.
After studying all those ‘odd’ people in the books, I am becoming like one of them myself. I can safely assume that I have changed as a person. I am a thinking creature now. When I was studying commerce in high school, a blade of grass of something that we walk on, safe us from the dust and the mud; or in a more business-like tone, something that we feed our cattle to increase their productivity and commercial viability. Now I can conjure up myriad imageries of that same strand of grass. I am beginning to appreciate Whitman, Keats, Shelly, Wordsworth and all the other seemingly deranged idealists.
I can now think of the reasons and feel the inspirations that enabled Shakespeare to exercise his amazing range of thoughts in writing his many plays. I think if I have to go through my high school curricula once again, I will like the Tempest much better. That multi-act play simply put me to sleep me then. It does not seem so far-fetched any more. Nor is Plato so totally inaccessible once you have acquired the wisdom to see the world as he saw it. Literature is a beautiful world by itself.
Nevertheless, I am not oblivious of the fact that in a society, the artists are usually people who are content with watching from the sidelines. They are unable-or rendered unable-to participate in what the people see as ‘meaningful activities.’ There is no such thing as a perfect ten like in some sporting disciplines. To do any job at all, an artist constantly needs to evolve, reinvent and better oneself.
That is the main reason for the literature students’ lowly numeration. RCSC exams would be a tough proposition with those marks. I have learnt a lot in my two years here though they are mostly things that the nihilistic people call subjective.
I still cannot convince my friends who got into their streams of choice-Science and Commerce mainly. Maybe I have no theories to work with like them, or maybe it is because I take my practical lessons from my own life and the lives of those around me. My failure to make it into a commercial line is for my own good after all. When it comes to real life, it is not just the facts and the figures. Life is all about living it well. Fortunately, I am learning to do just that.
PS. I edited this essay written by Sangay Dema in 2006. It is an expression of a literature student’s self-doubts and reasoned redemption. At a time when I am caught between my literary inclinations and professional needs, I thought this would serve me just as well now as it did then. Sangay has since been running a flourishing trading business. Hope she still retains the professed idealism and the zest to perfect the art of living even as she apparently reverts to her original choice.