We confer upon thee, author Carlo Pizzati, the unofficial title of ‘Sass-master Supreme’, to recognise the publication of what is a rib-tickling account of your past decade or so, dipped in wit and wryness, and neatly packaged as Bending Over Backwards: A Journey to the End of the World to Cure a Chronic Backache.
Why would one undertake such a journey, filled with doubt and uncertainty? Well, when Pizzati did so in 2007, life for him, he reveals, “was a bit messy. The end of a relationship, a professional crisis, writing a movie screenplay and trying to stubbornly finish my first novel.”
And add to that the debilitating backache. It just wasn’t fair. So, “Suddenly, I allowed myself to say yes to many things. Yes to a posturologist in Italy, yes to New Age soul-reading contraptions in Los Angeles, to trance rave parties, spiritual healers, exorcists, and gurus. Yes to yoga and meditation. And yes to walking barefoot for 14kms around a holy mountain,” the author recounts.
The journey that began at the posturologist’s office took him across chapters with titles such as ‘Techno-Spirituality in L.A.’, ‘The Red Thread of Madras’ and ‘A Techno-Astrological Robot in Nasik’. Much like how it is with Roald Dahl’s autobiographies Boy and Going Solo, Pizzati’s interesting-to-a-point-of-disbelief experiences read like well-written fiction. One wonders, is this the real life or is this just fantasy?
If you ask the author, it is the truth. He reveals, “Some critics have defined my memoirs and novels as having a confessional style. Telling your truth is not a confession. A confession implies guilt. I don’t believe in guilt, only in responsibility. But when I write, I am telling a story I care about to a good friend. And I try to be as frank as I would be with a friend. And I try not to bore that friend.”
No, no boredom here at all. And as one wafts through the pages, retracing Pizzati’s journey, it stops being about the backache. Well, it is about the ailment, but it never really was. Isn’t the ache just the perfect excuse to, in full The Beatles style, go looking for enlightenment and purpose? The author continues, “The inevitable is not the pointlessness of life but realising the futility of the obsessive search for meaning. Towards the end of my journey I came to realise that through the search for relief from suffering, I was abandoning some bad mental and physical habits I had developed unconsciously. I tried to document a growth through experiences and acquired knowledge and a very contemporary fascination for the relationship between spirituality and technology.”
But in this sass-pourri, one wonders, does Pizzati lose out on emotional depth? After all, its absence makes a book too shallow to enjoy, unless it happens to be a commentary of that very shallowness. Well, the author answered that even before writing the book by deciding to be his own protagonist, complete with all his flaws and dark moments. “Being as honest as you can means also sharing the dark moments. This requires a surgical intervention in your sense of decency. The exaggerated problem of decency often creates a crust of rusty lies over what needs to be faced,” he says, on a concluding note.