Somewhere along the vast green plains of the European sphere are people who have chosen to walk out of the lives that seemed to confine them for too long. Apparently they have removed themselves from everything that suggested conformity but have at the same time learnt to update Facebook statuses, use solar panels and move onto non-gas-dependent fodder-eating-horse-drawn carriages. Iain McKEll who has compiled a portraiture study of this new evolution of the gypsy in his photo-journal, “The New Gypsies” while he tried to emulate their way of life at the same time.
The idea of pulling the chord, hanging the communal animal and cutting out those roots of societal culpability is beautiful, even poetic. But, when you run away to the horse-drawn carriage-cum-abode and flip out your smart phone to supplement your Twitter intake then are you really going gypsy?
It haunts me because I am of the opinion that neither is the cosmopolitan farce we call ‘modern living’ or this neo-nomadic wonderland that these hopefuls run to is doing justice to our human desires to remain adrift.
It is a two sided coin, not because of the conventional reasoning of how they are different but with respect to how erringly alike they are. If the city-folk have restricted their upper proficiencies to the whims of their aggrandizing corporate figure heads, then the gypsy-folk have cast their souls to the danger of conformity without even realizing it. They find the insatiable need to align themselves with the definition of the ‘gypsy’ by confining it to mere details.
What is left out is the very soul of nomadism.
I am reminded of Gabriel Garcia Marcquez’s Melquiades ( the gypsy traveller in ‘100 Years of Solitude’) and of Zoli (the real life gypsy-poetess based novel by Colum McCann) when I think gypsy. Think of the nomadic Arabs, the Bedouins and the incessantly travel-spirited Mongol tribes (who were later united by Genghis Khan). These people were not running away. They were on the road for the power of discovery. They weren’t in want for sustenance but were peripatetic in that they were open minded, strong-willed and carried knowledge and skill wherever they went.
Gypsy-ism shouldn’t be a loophole around life but life itself. And therein lies my qualm with this neo-nomadism. When we do it for all the wrong reasons we end up befuddling our senses which is what we had been doing anyway before we left, right?
Granted, travelling these days (and especially for something as unbelievable as ‘traveler’s wisdom’) is hardly an easy task, what with all the immigrant-emigrant clashes and the iterant shorting of the nationalism-fuse that chokes our very minds to such levels that we are at some point essentially nationalists ourselves. Not disregarding all the stamps, prints, restrictions and barbed wire crowned walls that vein out our nomadic instincts right at its mere mental conception.
In these hostile circumstances, I figure nomadism should be one that begins in our very minds. Not an escape down the Cuckoo express but a deliberate procedure of reasoning with ourselves of how and why we rank elements in our lives. I am not trying to cliché the gypsies mentioned earlier but merely wondering if their ends would be met if they carried remnants of the technological bonanza on in their new disconnected lifestyle. Wouldn’t it beat the idea of spacing ourselves away from that what keeps us dependent on hotspots, charging points and chinwag feeders? In essence, that process of zoning out could begin while we are physically present in these lives ‘here’ right? Or can’t it?
I guess, we are all stuck in this wet patch for a little while longer. Or maybe just until our inner nomadist can actually find a way around this short straw.