I promised Bhutra I’d write this two years back. Now the content is a little ornate compared to the original plan, but the main idea remains the same.
When you come across the adage, “Out of sight, out of mind,” you (and I) are filled with disgust at the possibility of the existence of people to whom such words do apply. You and I are repelled because we think, and quite rightly so, that we owe this little to someone we know, naturally. We try hard to rationalise that we are human and therefore it “behoves” us to act in a manner that is in concord with “rational” behaviour; behaviour that needs us to respect precepts — precepts that require of us, certain sophistications; behaviour that will help fit us correctly into a society. Women can’t stay out late because it is unsafe for them; you must love your neighbour (in a manner that is absolutely dependent on your priorities and/or certain other factors), and a host of other rules that we ought to adhere to, so that we can fit right in. The basic assumption here is that most people behave in that manner, therefore we must act accordingly. So unfortunate is our adherence to these precepts that when a victim goes to file a complaint, questions like “what were you wearing and what were you doing out so late” take precedence over the simple fact that a gamut of human rights were violated. What I am trying to say here is that, logic and reason should take precedence over tacit guidelines; the simple fact that this kind of deviant behaviour is accepted as normal, given the circumstances is not only ironic, but also sad. Rules exist because we do, not the other way round. Man’s vices are now accepted as an inherent part of him, over which he has no control; give him the circumstances and he will act in that manner, because that’s expected.
But then again there are certain things that are expected of us, because we are human beings. Now we aren’t much different from animals; we act in the same manner, doing what’s best for ourselves and the ones around us. Like animals we believe in communities, in harmonious relationships with others. Occasionally we aspire to do something that benefits others, but then that is because it makes us feel good. We are usually selfish, and quite rightly so. The trick is to use the selfishness in a broader perspective, and call it a virtue. Our actions should not be guided by noble motives; they should be guided by our attempts to do something while not harming others. That is the noblest motive today, if you should ask me.
I am a decent, empathetic person. I feel sad when I find poverty around me; mostly I am not able to do anything. I take a mental note every time I see suffering, that I will change this when I am capable. I feel angry when I read reports of men, women and children suffering in one way or the other, when I read reports that mention how corrupt politicians at the helm are destroying the golden legacy left to us by our fore-fathers. I feel unhappy when I realise that the corrupt passport office needs to be paid up before I can expect my police clearance, even though I have an impeccable record. I feel sad when I find humans suffering and I feel better when I see the pain alleviated. I am basically a good person, because given the circumstances, I wouldn’t harm a fly!
I am also incapable of human connection. I grow tired of seeing the same person over and over again. When I have talked to someone for a long time, I run out of words to say. I am not evil. Probably the only people I can tolerate being around for a substantial amount of time, is my family. Add distance to my lack of longevity, and oblivion is moments away. I think I am afraid of constancy. I am afraid of being around the same people all my life. Yes, when I come across worse, I do long for the past relationships. But as soon as I come across better, the longing is gone. I guess we are all afraid of being tied down, but somehow we learn to adjust. I used to write down the names of my friends on the walls of my room, so that I could remember them. But then, they are just a coat of paint away from becoming the forgotten past.
Don’t think for a moment though I don’t care. I deeply care about the ones I have loved or love. It’s just that when there’s no tumult in my life, I don’t see the reason to be around someone. As far as love is concerned I seriously doubt if I have ever been able to do so, if you go by the clichéd definitions of love, that is. I like it as long as there’s intensity. Once distance and complications creep in, I always get cold feet. Then there are my principles. Because I think that I am not being honest with someone, I force myself to take decisions that end up ruining my relationships anyway. When someone I care about is in trouble, I don’t hesitate to help; when her troubles are over though, it becomes palling. I care about my friends as well. I just don’t feel the energy needed to pick up a phone and call someone and tell them that I miss them; because honestly I don’t. I make ponderous and maudlin posts on social networking sites because I have to force myself to feel as I type, because norms demand that I do so. I love the moments for what they are worth, and I hate it when I am supposed to reflect on them. Here’s the brutal truth: all of us deal with the same problems, but you’ve probably worked out a way to circumvent these emotions, and I haven’t.
When I was young, I used to visit my grandparents. I remember some lovely moments that I shared with them. As time rolled on, other priorities superseded them and my cognizance of their existence got restricted to once a year, when I visited them with my parents. As the visits became even more fitful, so did my attention, until one day when I heard my grand ma was close to her death. I remember that day very clearly because I had never seen my grand ma like that before. She was reduced to her bones and she was as light as a feather. She could barely recognise me. Now I have never been one to hide my emotions. I broke down instantly and hugged her and cried for as long as I could remember. That’s the worst position to be in because you see, memories never fade. There is something so redolent about the sadness of death which has the purging effect of smashing your mental bulwark. I can accept defeat, rejection and scorn gracefully, but this was something which was irrevocable. I could not accept the fact that she was so close to being taken away and I could never really have her back again. She died within a month. I have a pristine recollection of how much I cried that day, as I watched her remains being incinerated at a crematorium in Kolkata.