Saturday, June 30, 2007

Closed Eyes

I had gone to see a relative at a hospital. While waiting in the reception area, we saw a doctor who had put a funny laughing ring tone to his mobile. Being in a grim mood after meeting our friend, the strange ring tone brought us back to reality with a weird thud. What was he up to? Had he forgone all decency or was he just plain mad? Frustrated we left the hospital to take a thoughtful ride back home.
Later that night, discussing the topic with my dad, it dawned that may be he was shutting himself off. He worked at a place where death and grief was a part of daily routine. Unless they drew themselves apart, they could lose all sanity.

So what all people do to shut them off from the situations they are faced with?

One of my teachers had once told us that our eye lids are the most basic defense mechanism. When we don't like anything, closing our eyes to it is a most innate and basic act. In a sense, we block out the problem, and bargain a temporary respite.
Some people smile at adversity while some go silent. I have people oscillate between extreme offences to cowing down defense. Some become so strong that they become immune to the problem. There have been instances when each one of us has had to take refuge in to one such blocking mechanism to maintain our sanity.
There is nothing wrong with this. Mythologically speaking, the Bhagwat Gita is the biggest example. Arjun had been faced with a difficult problem in the war at Kurukshetra. He had to fight and kill his own relatives, teachers, and friends to win the war of the righteous. Like any of us, his conscience did not allow this. So he told Lord Krishna about this dilemma. Lord Krishna told him to do his job and not worry about the results. He was a warrior and his job was to fight for the righteous. Even if it meant, killing his loved ones. That’s how he would justify his mission in life and would go to heaven. Arjun used the learning’s of the Bhagwat Gita as a shield to block himself against his dilemma.
All of us are faced with such a war everyday. We are worried how to block a problem out of our system but unlike Arjun, there is often no Guide like Lord Krishna present with us. So we get worried and sometimes take refuge in wrong ways.
Some evil forces use these situations to manipulate people into a treading a downward spiral. They justify it in the name of god, and some hardline translations of religion and culture.
On the other hand, some people make their own defense mechanism. They might not be completely correct, but still they are trying to save their sanity. I am in no way trying to defend the doctor at the hospital, but am putting another thought into his actions. Whenever terminally ill patients come to such doctors, they know the deadlines of these patients. Like all of us these people also feel sad and helpless. So what do they do? They find other means to preserve their sanity.
If you ever ask a soldier about war and killing, he would be dead against it. But his job requires him to do it, so he does it after making a protective shield around him.
This write-up is an effort to understand this basic human problem. I have tried to use my limited understanding of human behavior to explain it and feel have done a good job of it. Is it true, or am I building a shield against sharp criticism!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Feel Good Story!!

(I had thought the break from writing would be longer and would be able to keep myself away from it. But as luck would have it, in less than a month am back to my old ways. As I have always maintained, there are episodes around us that warrant a re-look to save them from being lost in memory. And that is what I am doing here. Apologies are due to all my friends whose real life situations have been used and changed here with the help of powers of creative freedom vested in me to achieve a lot of aspirational value for all of us. Hope I live up to your expectations and in turn mine.)

There is something called the marriageable age. Different people have different definitions and age bracket for the same. It is different for both men and women.
The marriage market works on the phenomena of demand and supply. With the dismal male to female ratio in the country, men face a stark shortage of the right women. On the other hand women face a surplus. But once we build in the social, physical, intellectual, and so many other requirements, the resource base actually reduces to very minimal quantities. And that is exactly where the problems arise.
Some go in and find someone for them, while others are helped by friends and family. The latter is commonly termed as the phenomena of arranged marriages.
That is exactly where both of them were. Their families had after a lot of mails, telephones, and visits to the priests had decided that this was a great match. They matched 30 off the requisite 36 points, 6 more than his parents, and definitely a lot more than her parents. Socially, and intellectually the pair was suitable. He was 29 to her 25. Hence, by all standards it was a good match. So they decided to exchange the photographs.
The two were called by their respective parents and shown the photographs. The photographs were good and they Okayed their parents to arrange a meeting. The meeting was fixed in a restaurant in a secluded by lane in the centre of the city.
On the designated Sunday, at the apropos time the two met with the families in tow. The restaurant was empty and all of them sat in a corner with a television playing the local news channel which specialized in gossip more than actual news. And as providence would have it at that moment the channel was playing a story on why more and more arranged marriages were falling apart in the society.
Still the meeting went on perfectly with small talk being made on the weather and the effect of climate change on the city. Both of them were jittery and conscious of the situation. With nothing better to do she went into a discussion with his and her mother, while he discovered that the good old life insurance building just across the road had small lights on the walls.
Soon after the tea served was consumed, the parents decided to give them a break. They were asked to go out and take a short walk and talk. So they got up and left the restaurant. Once outside, reality struck. There was no good place to walk. There was a hustling and bustling market outside, and the only landmark there was the municipality building. With nothing better to do, and nowhere else to go they started to walk, soon realizing that the families lingered, not far behind.
In whatever little time on hand, they discussed music, movies, books, jobs, and like/dislike to shopping. They also brushed on the topic of their respective emotional pasts. Soon the walk ended and they were back in front of the restaurant to bid farewells. Phone numbers were exchanged as the two clans happily left with promises of meeting again soon.
Once back in their respective homes, both were asked the dreaded question, “What do you say?” And the answers were exactly in the way men and women are built. He did not find anything wrong, so he said yes, while she wanted sometime, and a few more discussions/meetings with him.
If you don’t understand why I said, “the way men and women are built,” then remember last time when you saw a man and women go buy a pair of jeans. The man would buy it because it fit fine, while the woman would not like the design of the back pocket, and hence hackle with the salesperson on the possibility of getting it changed. Well, women being women don’t understand that they would not be able to see their back pockets, and those who will be able to see, would be least interested in the pocket.
Let’s leave it there, and return to our two friends. The parents communicated the decisions to each other, and the wait started. It was akin to a game of holding eye contact. They waited for the other person to blink. And he being himself sent an innocuous looking text message after 2 days. The message was a gentle nudge.
She reacted and they spoke on the phone. She needed more time to think. Besides she was doubtful of his belief in the institution of arranged marriage. He had not even denied having a past. And to add to the confusion, he had rambled on the question. So she needed more time, and would decide once back in town. By the way, she had to leave for a business trip in a few days.
The stalemate continued and he started to get jitterier. He wrote a lot many text messages on his phone and erased more than what he had written.
On the day she had to leave, he was surprised to get a call from her. She was at the Airport and the flight was delayed by 3 hours. She had checked in and got herself a boarding pass. And the darn mobile had run out of battery.
He was thrown off the track on receiving a sudden call from her. He rambled on the phone. She had repeated the 3 hour delay twice, and he being so self conscious had overlooked it. Trying to hide the call from his mates, he in turn advised her to while away the time in the lounge on the first floor of the airport.
She was astonished. Was this guy dumb or was he just ignoring her. She clicked off the call after thanking him for the wonderful advice. She hated herself for having called him. The guy was nuts. Didn’t he understand that she wanted to talk? Clattering her heels she walked off into the airport and did what women do best when angry; she shopped.
Meanwhile as soon as the call ended, he realized what blemish he had committed. He had in his own self conscious trip, missed an open invite to talk. She would think of him as a jerk; a stupid jerk – that’s better. He walked around the floor in haste. His hands in the pockets were getting sweaty.
He banged his head gently on the wall, and struck a framed poster. It was a Dennis (the Menace) poster, which said “Don’t Quit.”
This got him thinking, and he ran to the car park. Having pushed the attendant out of sleep, he took his car and drove to the airport like a maniac. Once there he parked the car and walked to the terminal.
The guard at the gate asked him for a ticket. Ticket? He didn’t have a ticket. He was there to meet her. All through his frantic run to the parking lot, cursing the sleeping attendant, the maniacal drive, he had not once given a thought, how would he meet her.
Even she had not thought how he would enter the airport without a ticket. Realizing this she couldn’t help chiding herself. She started to replay their conversation, soon to realize that she had been very abrupt with him.
Meanwhile, he tried to explain to the guard the urgency of the reason. He explained it as if explaining a matter tantamount of National security. The guard laughed and called his mates to hear this stupid man.
Angry with herself, she walked out of the lounge. She passed the terminal entrance to go to the pay phone to call him. There was some commotion at the entrance, but she was too lost in her thoughts, reprimanding herself.
She called him from the pay phone. And a phone started to ring nearby. She ignored it and tapped her feet in anxiety, waiting for him to pick up.
His phone rang, and the display blinked with her name. He was scared, she must have called to tell him that he was an idiot and she could not marry an idiot.
“Pick up…..pick up….please,” she was saying to herself.
Dreading a censure, he picked up the phone. Not wasting a minute he started to explain how he had messed up and was so sorry for it. She was saying something, but he wanted to apologize before she got angrier.
Her voice was warm and soothing. He was impressed, that even in such anger she could maintain her composure. She was saying how she had forgotten and had been abrupt with him.
Abrupt? Forgotten? He went silent, and heard her. He had got her completely wrong. She had also realized later that he couldn’t enter the airport without a ticket. He told her he was at the gate.
She threw the pay phone and ran to the entrance. Smiling to herself. He had come. He was still stupid, why had he come as he couldn’t enter without a ticket. But she liked that he had come. She waved at him. Her cheeks were blushing.
And then as luck would have it, they announced the security check for her flight. They both heard it. He smiled and so did she. They waved. The guards smiled too. As she walked back, she turned around to see him still looking at her. She patted her head, walked back to the pay phone and rang him up.
“I will be back on Wednesday. And then we can tell the parents together.”
He smiled and nodded his head, as he saw her looking at him. They smiled for the times to come.