Sonal Motla Ponders On The Labyrinth Of Legacy Or The Mirage Of Vanity

Sonal Motla Ponders On The Labyrinth Of Legacy Or The Mirage Of Vanity

The desire to leave a mark, the assurance that “I mattered,” resonates universally

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Sunday, February 04, 2024, 11:47 AM IST
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Life is short, and the fear of being forgotten weighs heavily on most people. The desire to leave a mark, the assurance that “I mattered,” resonates universally. Legacy, akin to a personal puzzle in life’s fabric, acts as a bridge between fleeting instances and an enduring desire to be remembered.

Whether it’s artists, business entities, political leaders, or the common person, all aspire to craft a legacy; such seems to be the inherent human inclination.

“Hum na rahenge, tum na rahoge, phir bhi rahengi nishaaniyaan.”

The most basic human belief is that one continues to live through their children; their lineage endures, their name survives, constituting a legacy. Creative individuals view creating art, writing poetry, or constructing iconic buildings as attempts to break free from the confines of mortality.

Consider Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, not merely as pigment on canvas but as an emotional symphony transcending temporal constraints. It stands as a testament to the authenticity of artistic expression — an outpouring driven not by a quest for recognition but by an inherent need to communicate, connect, and immortalise the ineffable essence of the human experience.

Similarly, literature, with its ability to transcend epochs, becomes a timeless vessel for authentic legacy. Whether it’s Tagore’s Gitanjali, Ghalib’s shayari, or the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, these literary gems endure, inviting us into a world where mortality and legacy dance inextricably. Works by luminaries such as Chekov, Tolstoy, Socrates, Lenin, live on, leaving behind the brilliance of their vision, thoughts, and values.

Sagrada Família

Sagrada Família | Pic: Freepik

Architecture, design, engineering — all manifest as expressions of authentic legacy. Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, or the Pyramids, and the brilliance of Newton or Einstein—the evolution of mankind is inspired by a spectrum of luminaries whose brilliance shines bright, leading the way in the night. The essence lies in the intent—is it arrogance, vanity, or a set of values based on a life lived by certain principles that shapes our way of thinking and living? Alternatively, is it the arrogance of power and a rush to build and make marks to enter the annals of history? This intent makes all the difference.

When it comes to political legacy, the shadow looms large, questioning the sincerity behind the legacy that political leaders aspire to etch. Political leaders often manoeuvrer to shape their legacies, not necessarily driven by a sincere desire to contribute positively to society but propelled by the pursuit of power, control, and a carefully curated image.

It was strange — last month marked the death anniversary of our beloved Gandhiji. There wasn’t much mention of him in the papers, nor did one receive a single WhatsApp message mentioning him. 

Just a couple of days ago, we had celebrated the republic he helped found. Days earlier, we celebrated his beloved Ram with fanfare and a public holiday, but Bapuji, who left behind concepts of non-violence, satyagraha, civil disobedience was nowhere to be heard. So it makes me wonder if Gandhiji in time can be forgotten then who are you and me? Is it then just a matter of time that everything is erased from the memory? And if so, is it so wrong? Why do human beings have this intense basic need for longevity? The contrast between the arts and business and political machinations highlights the essence of genuine legacy. 

Authenticity in legacy arises from a sincere connection to the human experience, a selfless desire to contribute, and a humble acknowledgment of the impermanence of individual existence.  To discern the spirit of authenticity in legacy, introspection becomes key. A genuine legacy is marked by a deep understanding of one’s role in the larger human narrative, an acknowledgment of interconnectedness, and a commitment to leaving the world better than found.

In conclusion, the pursuit of legacy is a profound aspect of the human experience, intricately woven with the arts, individual contributions, and political maneuverings. The arts, in their purest form, serve as a testament to human existence. Legacy can be a private fulfilment—a transference of values and systems—adding depth to life’s intricate tapestry. As we navigate this intricate tapestry of life, the question lingers: Is our pursuit of legacy driven by a sincere desire to contribute, or does it succumb to the allure of vanity—a mere façade masking a deeper emptiness? In the end, the echoes we leave behind, whether in art, actions, or political endeavours, bear witness to the authenticity of our journey through the labyrinth of legacy or the mirage of vanity.

(Sonal Motla is an art curator and Director at Rachna Sansad and a visiting faculty with educational institutions like NIFT Mumbai, among others. Send your feedback to: sonal25fpj@gmail.com)

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