Took a lot longer than it should have, but finally turned the last page of ‘The Fountainhead’ today. Blame it on large chunks of time between workdays being taken up with shuttling to and from offices and airports. By consensus, not many can claim to not have been made to create the slightest furrow of thought across their foreheads. The complete and unapologetic glorification of the letter ‘I’ of the alphabet, the damning of all things collective is portrayed starkly albeit exaggerated by degrees to stamp the point home. There can be arguments made about the how the characters are entirely monochrome minus the indecisive shades of grey. How the hero (not central character), has the lean rugged body exuding virility while his face, a convergence of angular planes all of which serve as a fitting exterior to the ideals, fiercely protected within. Irrelevant cosmetics aside, the biggest argument might be the predictability of actions from those out to demolish all that is exceptional.
What both books do, and very successfully, is to ask the question “What do you stand for?” In a sense, it simplifies every emotion one is likely to feel and to ask whether it is worth devoting mind-space to. The passage where a broken Keating leaves Roark’s office after having shown him his paintings after being told that it was too late for him and Roark’s ensuing thought process about what he was feeling “This is pity. There must be something terribly wrong with a world in which this monstrous feeling is called a virtue”
Made me go back in time, way way back, to a day when I was waiting at the bus-stop to go to school, 10th grade i think (i told you waaay back). The usual huddle of early morning commuters waiting for their respective bus numbers to show up. The huddle growing with each passing minute. Then, for no apparent reason, the clusters started to break apart, as if a fighter formation disengaging after completing an exercise. People were almost putting distance between themselves, and in a city that has no concept of personal space, that is very noticable. Thats when I also noticed what had caused the aberrance, a man was shuffling into the midst. His stature extending to just above the waist of my 4’9″ frame. The reason was that his legs ended just above what were once his knees must’ve been, ending with wooden slats that served as shoes as he used the limited leverage to walk. As people edged away, he looked straight ahead, seemingly oblivious to the hushed consternation his arrival had brought. I remember being much more aware of the shuffling people and their strange expressions than of this person. I hadn’t moved, the thought hadn’t occurred to me. An aerial shot of the scene would’ve shown a bus-stop, the ring of space in an otherwise crowded bus-stop. He glanced around and people seemed to cower, like looking directly at him would incinerate them in a flash. A bus trundled up, it wasn’t mine. I watched as he went to the front entrance, hoisted himself onto the unhelpfully high step using his arms and got on. I did not feel the urge to rush forward and help him, like effort to help him (in action or in spirit) would be the most unforgivable violation of his person. On the top step, he turned to adjust his bag, he knew he was being watched by several pairs of eyes, mine too. We made contact, his eyes almost seemed challenging. I didn’t look away, didn’t feel the need to. Reason being that what I felt for that individual was admiration of the highest order and the fervent prayer that I would be able to develop a fraction of the mental strength that man possessed. The bus went on its way and while I overheard hushed conversations that went “…so sad…”, I wondered if there was something missing in my system that I did not feel what the others around seemed to be feeling. That printed paragraph from the book hit home in a way very few have.