I had the privilege of a conversation on the topic with a friend. I use the word 'privilege' with care. For most of us catching up with our dear ones, simply stick to the routine 'Wsup?' and 'Hows life?' My friend said, "A muse is someone you cannot see or you cannot be with." Right. But that's a conventional definition. For, internet and technology have made us reach out to the world in such a way, that if you want to find your muse, you certainly would have the medium and means to. I told my friend, "I don't think Husain's never met Madhuri. And I'm sure he has met Amrita Rao, his current muse. (Husain was enamoured by her role in Vivaah, another Suraj Barjatya blockbuster).
It's not easy to find a muse. Even those who have one may not be able to acknowledge it. A muse is a source of inspiration - something that makes you create something new. A muse helps you push your boundaries and explore the unknown. It's what gives you strength when the chips are down. It's what you love without wanting to be loved in return. It can drive you crazy, for not having acquired it. It can give you a lot more pain that you think you can bear. It can make you ecstatic. It can leave you in misery. It's something you understand, yet not completely (and you don't really want to). It's something that stays with you in memory even when it's not there. It's something you can't live without even when it's not there.
A muse is not always tangible. And it needn't be a person. I had found a muse in Mumbai. It helped me explore more than I would have. It helped me know myself better than what I would have otherwise. Yes, I never publicly acknowledged it, for the fear of being misunderstood. I feared I would be told, "Muse is too strong a word for a city." Now I can because I no longer live in the city. It dawned on me when I sat watching the sunset at Priyardarshini Park at Napean Sea Road. Beauty! It made me want to capture the moment in an artistic way - poetry, photograph, painting. That's what a muse does to you. It urged me to do more than simply utter, "It's beautiful!" It made me pen down a few words.
The muse need not be a constant in your life. Look at Husain and how many he's had (Indian Goddesses, Madhuri, Amrita Rao, and whoever else). Nobody can define how and why a muse ceases to be one. It just happens. It's like you may have had a best friend for nearly 30 years and then suddenly wake up one day to find that he/she is no longer your best friend. Like mine did. I didn't realise when Mumbai was displaced by one of its inhabitants. But I guess it was because a person makes a much stronger connect than a city.
Most of us spend all our lives looking for things we would have found in people around us. It's not that I consciously looked for a muse, the way people look up the classifieds for partners. It just happened. One story, then another and then yet another...From being just a source, the person turned into a source of strength and inspiration. It took me some time to figure it out, till I had to answer that critical question, "What does this person mean to you?" I'm glad I know now.