I am hardly ever starstruck. I would have been as a child, but as I grew up and my career path veered into journalism, meeting actors, sportstars and politicians, interviewing them on a regular basis, I lost that thing about looking up to anybody. Do you know what I mean? You see the people behind the personalities. Well, sort of. You see through one’s carefully cultivated veneer at any rate. But there are a few exceptions and one of them has been lost to us today. Who knows if Anthony Bourdain was a tortured soul. The man was certainly an urban poet.
I have never had the fortune of meeting him, but in the year 2008, which seems like some time ago, when I was 28 years old, when I had not yet met Adi, when life was a whirl of covering fashion shows, meeting chefs, and furiously digging for stories to produce at edit meetings, I did get to interview him through e-mail. Now I know how measly that seems. An e-mail interview, hah. But for someone who has always been an icon for me, a badass one, I was in the clouds. I wrote a small piece on this modern-day philosopher who took us places the way no one else did. The man who maintained this that “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: To know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom… is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
I always had this secret notion that I would meet him. Someday. Somewhere. The world is unbelievably small and you never know who you meet around the corner. Do you have a small list of people you would really want to meet in real life, no matter how terribly it might dash your perceptions of the individual? Leonard Cohen was on my list. That never happened and it appears this shall not too.
The news made me think of an English professor when I was studying literature in college. He analysed the works of authors and poets like no one ever had for me. He was an odd one, this professor. But he was bloody passionate about English literature. If you think about it, it is the quirky ones who make an impact upon you. The disturbed souls. They know how to rent your thoughts, make you think of new things. Anyway, we were studying Somerset Maugham’s short story, The Lotus Eaters. In it the protagonist is a British bank manager who decides to control the fag end of his life after living it to the fullest on the island of Capri. It is a distressing story.
When we had arrived at the end of the story, the professor looked at his small batch of students and said on a sombre note, ‘From the day that we are born to the day we die, we have no control over anything. Have you thought about it that death is the only control we have over our lives? That we can choose when and how we end it. It is like writing your own end.’
I thought of him today morning when I got the news about Bourdain. Am I justifying the act of taking one’s own life? Hell no. But I cannot help empathising and this sorrow that wells up at the thought of one having to snuff out one’s own existence, as if not being in this world is the only way one can be.
So I can only say this, RIP Mr. Bourdain. You shall be missed.