I was looking at the wad of bills, coins, and postcards. These were my souvenir items from my holiday in the East last year. I would still recall the monsoon rain, even the humidity. I did miss that trip, but it reminded me of something else. A D.H. Lawrence short story.
"Things" would tell the adventure of Erasmus, a young academician, and Valerie, his wife, and their little boy. They were idealists. They wanted to be free. New York didn't seem to be the place for the likes of them, so they relocated to Paris. The couple loved the capital, even the materialistic attitude and cynicism of the Parisians. Otherwise, they didn't stay for ten long years. And then they were disappointed. They moved to Italy, awed at the Roman and Renaissance art. Valerie must have a piece of it. They didn't stay long, as they ended up disappointed. Again. They moved back to New York, where they became restless. Erasmus thought about the Pacific. Alas, the West was an untamed terrain. It overwhelmed them.
My instructor was impressed with my paper on this tale, but I was lucky. If I couldn't get enough of traveling, then I wouldn't figure out that the concept of freedom was the main theme. Anyone familiar with the author's life would guess that Erasmus and Valerie could be him and his wife. Lawrence was harassed by authorities, as his novels were deemed immoral. He had a severe case of wanderlust, so he didn't think long and hard about his fate. For Lawrence, his books revealed a man from a working class background. He wanted to escape from it, which would suggest the inflexibility of the British social classes. He might have realized that it was impossible while he had health problems.
Erasmus and Valerie dreaded the academic life, but Valerie's mother scolded them for the freedom they sought for years. They were proud of what they acquired from Europe, manners, and things. It adorned their Old World home, a proof that they drank from the fountain of tradition. But they couldn't find a bigger home in New York. They would store their precious belongings in a garage. Lawrence highlighted a metaphor here.
To be twenty-one and having an inclination towards Indian thought
Erasmus and Valerie have their share of foolish decisions. They were selfish, as there wasn't any certainty that their young son having the best of both worlds. They were somehow irresponsible. All the beautiful things surrounding them slowly turned into waste. Could it be a sign of despair? Perhaps.
If Lawrence were around, he would be surprised at the little changes then and now. I heard one too many remarks from backpackers, who claimed to make a difference through their never-ending journey. I could imagine the Briton giving a snort of disgust (after reading their blogs). They were unable to find heart and soul in a cubicle. And the Internet would have a limitless stock of breathtaking images. Freedom was about finding your place in this world, and it could be the airport. Jack Kerouac would like it. For most people, they would go back to the cubicle. There was no substitute for security.
Erasmus and Valerie resigned themselves to a life in the university. They didn't like it, but it was a painful truth. They accumulated many things, even ideas, and manners to make their (New York) neighbors green with envy. But it had diminishing value. I looked at my bills, coins, and postcards one more time. It might be worthless ten years from now, but I would doubt about it. Call it complacency. I would confess my restless nature. And I travel with abandon. At the end of my trip, I could savor the comfort of my room. My souvenir items would remind me that it won't be enough. I was thinking of Brazil.