Sunday, November 25, 2012

161 Monday Musings: A reluctant Hero

161 Monday Musings: A Reluctant Hero
He would not be more than thirty two or three may be. The conversation begins with the proverbial small talk. In the course of his life story, he shares that he says he has two sons, one fourteen and the other far younger and i kid with him if he had a child marriage. He smiles but with an effort and continues.

He was like any other young guy, fired with an ambition to do better, rise up the ranks, take the baton forward and hand over to his next generation a situation better than what he had inherited. He falls in love outside the permissible boundaries, the kind of boundaries that exist aplenty, bereft of logic and devoid of substance - but sticks to his decision despite predictable opposition. Soon the two were to get on to build a 'happily thereafter' world for themselves.

A few rains down the years, but a few weeks before they were to wed, life throws at him a strange gauntlet, which is not really his making, but which he cannot watch from the sidelines. His wife's elder sister and her husband meet with a fatal accident leaving behind a ten year old son. Intense thoughts tear the household about the future course of action that needs to be taken with regards to the young boy, and for reasons peculiar to the story, it finally comes down to whether his wife is the best person to take responsibility for the boy.

It was not a simple decision for him. Most discouraged him, few remained non-committal and probably no one encouraged him. The prospect of inheriting a ten year old boy along with the marriage was daunting in many ways - the least of which was inheriting a life long financial commitment. It meant immense emotional investment, it meant dealing with uncertianity about how the peculiar relationship will pan out, it meant dealing with the vagaries of a pre-teen mind who was dealing not only a soul shattering trauma but was also about to deal with the emotional vulnerability of  the what was to come. It meant becoming a parent much before nature meant you to be one. It meant the onerous task of becoming a father much before you learnt the tricks of becoming a husband. 

He agreed - not as much because it was the right thing to do, or a moral decision, or a responsible stand, but because he loved his to be wife. This was the right thing to do, because she wanted this to happen. He would have been fine with any other decision too if his to be wife would have so desired. Its overwhelming to hear the story at this stage, in the realization  how larger than life he is, and just how puny most of us are. Then he clarifies that his decision should not be given a higher nobility than what it deserves, for he did agree to this, or would have agreed to do anything else, should his would be wife had so wanted. It was only about one thing - he loved her and wanted her to be happy.

I get the point. Love - such a beautiful thing - if it had not existed, we would have had to invent it, and he is the hero of the story, much against his wishes.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Monday Musings 160: The Good in the Bad

Monday Musings 160: The Good in the Bad

There are many mysteries in life that baffle me. Why do good people do bad things, and why do bad people good things. Who are these good people we have read so much about and who are these bad people we hear so much about.

Human mind is a strange hiding place. We store so much in it. We don't always store only the event in it, but our interpretation of it and also the feelings it evoked. Soon the cupboards are overflowing.  An event decades ago can still rattle, prick as reminder of destiny's betrayal of how we wanted the script to flow - the thorn not fatal, but just there. 

Cognitively we can explain a lot, put in perspective, dissect logically, analyse dispassionately and reach a 'mature' conclusion - that this how it was supposed to be, that no one is to blamed for the unfairness of things, that one does not get all that one wants, and that imperfection is the nature of life and we must live with the difference of what we wanted and what we got. 
'What do we really want' is no longer a mere existential angst for the intellectual - its a real question that real people ask. We want financial security, emotional understanding, intellectual acknowledgement  respect as an equal, physical compatibility, success and meaning from our pursuit - all rolled into one and in an equal measure. And we want all. Absence of even one is unacceptable  The psychotherapist will say that this expectation is not fair and we cannot have the cake and eat it too, but for the human mind, let the therapist be damned, for he knows not the peculiarity of human want - 
Dil be ek nadaan bache ki maanind hai
ya to ise sab kuch chahiye, ya kuch bhi nahi
(The heart is like a child; either it wants all or nothing)

And then that big bang dilemma. Do you live with things they are, alone in your agony, for those who listen to it will most likely dissect it cognitively based on facts and/or the restrictive duality of right-wrong, and will miss the plot altogether or say "what the hell - this is one life and we want all the joy, pleasure and meaning that we can pack into it; Time is flying and we will redeem whatever we can; Life may have dealt with cards that it did, but we will play them the way we want; that we will take the leap of faith and do what may not be obvious/normal/usual, but as long as it 'feels' right, it will be done. Most spend entire lives in the interlude of this dilemma, torn between what they think they deserve and the extent they will go to get it. 
Life is playing out in strange ways around us. Good people are doing bad things and bad people are doing good things. The only reason i hold my judgement is what a filmy phrase says it eloquently, "if its so wrong, why does it feel so good'


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Monday Musings 159- The prophecy

Monday Musings 159- The prophecy

It was a bad Monday morning. The weekend hangover was still strong. I had traveled a hundred kms into the heart of rural western Uttar Pradesh, having got up in the wee hours of a very chilly winter morning. The icy air had a somnolent effect. The prospect of meeting the doctor and detailing to him the dry subject of disease in the course of my profession as a medical representative was very depressing. I was outside the government hospital in Bijnaur. Disease and the diseased were scattered all over in a chaotic design - some frantically searching for a ray of the sun for warmth; others having lost the effort, sitting in the shade. The crowd had an array of faces- young and lethargic, old and wrinkled, motherly and anxious, avuncular and hopeless, matronly and pale. Overall not a very likeable place to be in. "The doctor is out- will be back in an hour" declares the attendant. "Its ok" I reply politely, but mutter under my breath ‘shit!’. I gaze around forlorn and lost- going over the options I have to kill time. Disease, pain and suffering around do not touch me. Very much like mercury which does not wet the surface its put on. "I am here for work" I remind myself.
Suddenly I see another turbaned creature and I smile to myself.  Having nothing else to do I move up to him. He responds. He smiles. We share a handshake. And then we indulge in the favorite pastime of all Indians in general - We ask each other his religion, caste, region, district, dialect, school, college favorite cricketer, most hated politician, the bad state of our polity etc. We search for some commonality of shared interest or experience. It helps build sufficient rapport to kill time outside bus-stands, railways stations or hospitals. Thankfully our discussion restricts itself to the obvious and mundane.
Are you married?" he asks. "No I am still happy" I reply. He releases something between a chuckle and a grunt. "And you?" I quip. "I am happily married" he replies. I smile at the difference of perspective. By now I have taken a liking for the person. He is talkative, lively and spontaneous. He must have been around 40. "Do you believe in stars?" I ask. He gives me a deep look and falls silent. After a while he says, almost philosophically "No I believe in destiny".
I am not sure if I had asked the right question. After an interlude he starts speaking, slowly but with increasing firmness "During my early adulthood a soothsayer had predicted that I will have three children. I had scoffed at the idea. I believed in a two-child policy. So when my wife gave birth to our second daughter I had her tubectomy done. I was suddenly reminded of the soothsayer and laughed. Later one of the medical check ups revealed that my wife was excreting too much of proteins. Then began, what was to culminate into an unending saga of medical examinations. Her kidneys had failed her."
"I was a mute spectator while her condition deteriorated. I knew her days were limited. Today when I sit back in retrospect, the kaleidoscope of the past is hazy. There was no time then to feel the grief- to understand and let sink the gravity of the realization that she was dying - every moment, slowly but irrevocably. She slipped through my grip like sand. One moment she was there, the other she had gone. She had cheated me. How could I have allowed her to die? She died four years ago and I was actually relieved, that she would not suffer any longer. We both had fought valiantly. She fought her disease. I fought the agony. We both lost."
He stood silent. As if the effort of reminiscence was too taxing. I did not know what to say. I too stood silent.
After a while he resumed "I remarried last year. She had lost her husband in the dengue epidemic. She has a son. So now I am a proud father of three children. And incidentally, happily married. The prophecy had been correct"
The sun had turned warm. "The doctor is in" a faint voice seemed to be calling from a distance.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

158 Monday Musings -Voltaire reloaded

158 Monday Musings -Voltaire reloaded

Voltaire is a 18th century philosopher who had an interesting life. I am not a student of philosophy as that is an esoteric pursuit, much beyond the limits of my comprehension and capacity, but many quotes attributed to Voltaire that i read or heard did leave me impressed. So one fine day i decided to search famous quotes on the net by Voltaire and i present here my top 10. Enjoy the breathtaking expanse of his comments, the dry wit of his observations, the fun he pokes at the establishment, the dig he takes at the norms and popular beliefs and it is precisely because of the levity and frivolity with which he observes life that he renders himself so profound. No wonder he was exiled in his life time - if he was around today much worse would have happened to him. Enjoy his quotes followed by my take on them in the spirit of Voltaire.

1. “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.” - it is absolutely fine to lie to the living because truth can hurt very badly, but a corpse is a different kettle of fish.

2. “Governments need to have both shepherds and butchers.” - and shepherds are mostly butchers in disguise. 

3.“Love truth, but pardon error.” - For those love truth too much are unimaginable bores or a intolerable prudes.

 4. “It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.” - I will let Voltaire have the last word on this.

5. “It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.” - Conscious stupidity can save lives. 

6. "There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.” - What they taught us in school about honesty can safely be regarded as redundant.

7. "The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” - So just shut up.

8.“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” -God needs us more than we need him..

9.“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” - so that we one absurdity can be matched with yet greater absurdity.

10.“Illusion is the first of all pleasures.” - No wonder i feel so pleased these days.