Monday, October 14, 2013

Parallel worlds

I suppose everyone has had a certain experience of life wherein the primary occurrence of the moment is so weighed down by monumental and paradigm-shifting cataclysmic import, built up over months and years to hysterical levels... that almost every other important incident that happened at the time is over-shadowed so completely that, except in the dark recesses of an old-age memory, all traces disappear leaving one feeling the loss of an intimacy never remembered but which nonetheless did occur. That is not the case with me and 'The Wire', thankfully.

Introduced to it by the same close friend who once introduced me to Facebook, it did take some time before I found the time and the inclination to download all five seasons of the show in an area of the world where I can't imagine it appealing to a wide audience that would justify the television syndication. Hence the jugaad in access, though I doubt that David Simon or Ed Burns would mind. It is a piece of online piracy that has least affected my sense of propriety, and for a show that thrives on the depiction of an almost elemental face-off between the forces of an enervated Jekyll and a resplendent Hyde in the human condition, I admit that a sense of ironic vindication does assault me when I do care to think about it.

'The Wire' is everything filmed fiction should aspire to be. It is omniscient, omnipresent and fantastically layered within the universe of tortured souls it creates, and it is a story told through the eyes of the uninitiated, wide-eyed, uncool, wannabe, opaque, sentimental, foolishly naive and dangerously earnest characters that all of us might very well have been in a parallel universe. There have been reviews of the show where the writers warn the viewer that one must be prepared to invest oneself psychologically and emotionally in the fiction, forgetting the clock and leaving one's fast-food television habits behind, but I suspect that advice appeals to a certain audience that will never understand how crucial fiction is to the lives we lead. There are other reviews I have read where the writers elevate a particular season over another and discuss the historical and enigmatic significance of a particular episode or character portrayal, but all that amounts to, I believe, is a grasping at straws in the aftermath of a forest fire. There is nothing in The Wire that is superfluous (except some of the sex scenes) and how that reality accommodates such complex explorations into the dreams and hopes of an entire city both at an individual and societal level is a mystery best savored when the rest of the world is asleep and you are alone in a dark space in absolute silence pondering the depths of human nature.

I moved countries during 'The Wire'. I left my extended family, my culture and a fair few significant graves behind in my migration from the third to the first world during the second half of the third season. I set up home all over again in a continent where the only thing standing between oblivion and despair is a plethora of walkways and children's playgrounds and the anguish of a girl not yet three at being forced to leave them when it gets too dark to be out, as I relished the fourth season. I can't wait to see the fifth.