The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

I DIDN’T FAIL THIS TIME

Life has been familiarly strange yet so clear at times..like the real drops from a mirage in the woods..

Something happened this January almost similar to what had happened in the March, three years ago. Real life characters were different. Places were different. Characters were playing almost the same role. I was the common figure in these two. Then I was in two worlds. This time the other world was like the evaporated one and I feel I needed it much ago. Probably my conscious built on this foundation that I started inculcating during the last incident.

I had expected that day to be just another good sitting with professors Sameer Prasad and Jerry Gosen like my last meeting with them. It started and followed the same until the last leg. We spent sometime in IIT’s main guest house discussing and debating. Then we took a brisk walk of the campus before finding a place to sit and talk. We again singled out the market complex in front of the main gate of IIT. We decided on a deserts and chocolate shop this time to have something while talking. This time we had an agenda. I had to discuss one of my ongoing studies. And here something happened that made that evening an imprint that could never be washed out and certainly for good. I was looking for another meaningful conversation with Sameer and Jerry but what I went through was very subtle and refined for my senses.

We ordered some usual stuff and were looking for a place to sit. We could locate a table just out of the shop with an old lady, probably in her late 70’s, sitting there alone. We were discussing what to do when she made an offer to share the table with some additional chair. We thanked her for her gesture. We started talking on my project. During the course of conversation, Jerry again raised the point of me joining Columbia or some other university for a PhD for my study though I had ruled out this option in my earlier meeting. They were of the opinion that my study had the potential and could get sponsors. I have my family, my people here. I cannot leave India. A higher study like a PhD would take around 3-5 years and I may not be able to have more than one to two home visits during the period. Besides, I never have believed in institutional education and do not want to restrict my studies in some framework when I am gaining confidence in my abilities. These are my reservations that I feel attached to and both of them were agreed when we first discussed all these things. So this mention again and subsequent discussion in our second meeting was just in passing references.

But these words caught attention of the old lady, my prospects of going abroad and an American and an NRI discussing the same with me and agreeing to my reasons. She said somewhat in a bitter tone that her sons were settled in US. They were well to do and had huge mansions but they did not visit her anymore and she stayed here alone. These lined were a rude shock and suddenly brought us back to listening to her but she didn’t say much after this. We found us drawn to this lady, an elegant looking motherly figure. The way she kept herself and was speaking, we could infer she was probably a retired faculty member from IIT. It touched and disturbed all three of us. It firmed my opinion of not going away. It firmed Sameer’s opinion and need to visit her mother regularly in Ghaziabad. It made Jerry, who’s in late 60’s, to say again I should stay back here and work. We didn’t discuss my project afterward.

We kept on talking but now everything was in backdrop of words of the old lady. Suddenly she asked me for Rs 10. At first I could not grasp it as I thought how could have she asked for it and I asked her again. She repeated saying she would buy a patty for it. We all were hit by another shockwave, in fact we felt speechless this time. Somehow, I came back from our inertia and I requested her to buy it myself. She insisted she would go inside and have it and we should continue with our discussion. I did that reluctantly.

After a while she came out murmuring some words looking upset and angry. When we asked about it, she said they would not give her anything for 10 bucks and how they mistreated her. I insisted I would find why and would buy her one. She couldn’t say yes but I didn’t wait for her nod. I went inside the shop and ordered for the patty. When I asked why the lady was mistreated, the shop owner said she deserved it. He said she used to sit there daily and would ask for something like this and would create scene. In fact her children left visiting her because of this nature.

It made me feel sick. I felt ashamed of myself, not because I was sitting with two Americans; not because such a thing was happening at an up-market place; not because I felt exposed and let-down. I felt ashamed on the extreme low that we can we go on our values. How debased can we be to deem them irrelevant who brought us to this world. All I could think was how they could not think these might be the very reasons for her behaving like this. Someone who needs an absolute support at this stage of life has been abstained from it. An emotional connect, the need of people who can listen to you at this age, there was no one around this lady to extend this fundamental duty. I don’t know why the lady could not go and stay with her sons but nothing can justify it. But all this quickly revived my memories of something defining in my life, now I can admit.

I was in a similar situation almost 3 years ago. We were in a group leaving on a tour. As we were about to enter the destination to board, we faced a lady, in tattered state, lying on the floor crying from the acute pain and was saying she had not eaten for a long time. All of us in the group reacted differently. One went rushing to buy something while I approached the picket police so that the lady could be sent to hospital. I felt upset not because of the indifferent attitude of the policeman but because of what he had said. The policeman said it was usual practice by this lady to make easy money. She would do it daily, all the day. I was not sure whether I believed his words but I said why he was sitting there if she was doing this con. I forced him to come with me to check whether she was genuine and needed hospitalization or to take some action in case she was manipulating things to cheat others. He came along with me.

Meanwhile, the group member who had gone to buy something to eat was back and I saw morsel in hand and the old lady in lap if my memory still works. It made the lady quiet. I could read the satisfaction on the face of the group member, as well as on the face of the lady. It touched somewhere. Later on, we had discussion about it; about my reservation after the policeman’s version and the group member’s approach to the situation. The person was of the opinion that the primary requirement in that situation was to extend whatever help that was possible. There was a situation when someone needed help and we needed to do that irrespective of the nitty-gritty of the debate of right and wrong. In a small time, we could perceive and do this much only. The lady might or might not be feigning. A small help wouldn’t alter our course of life but can work for the person seeking it if the requirement was genuine, in this the old lady lying on the floor in a public place. These were some of core words of our long discussion. For most part, I kept on listening, for I had reasons to believe in those words; reason I was not aware of. Even I could have read the face of the lady when we left the spot to our boarding destination and that might be one. I knew before long that what we discussed was going to stay with me but I could not feel it manifest itself so transparently until this time. It was a realization that gave me some solace in all the gloom and disturbance that I found myself trapped into that evening. Three years ago, I didn’t know how deep it was, but it echoed somewhere, now I can feel the depth.

It was like a quick flashback and words spontaneously came out of me; words reasoning the shop owner and helpers amidst my thoughts of gloom and disappointment. Didn’t they have the sense to talk someone so old? Why couldn’t they think her bitterness might be out of the anger that her children’s absence would naturally inculcate? But who cares. I had started feeling low and nervous. Nothing could justify the situation the old lady was forced to stay in. I reacted and rushed out of the shop with my order served. I could only say think of elderly in your families. When I proceeded to offer, the old lady accepted the patty hesitantly but I felt a known satisfaction after a long time. After this, we didn’t stay there for long as Jerry had some work. He left early and we followed him after some moments. During all this while we didn’t talk much. We took a brisk walk of the campus before I bade them goodbye. They had their flights next day.

Since then, this incident is doing rounds in my thoughts with consistent chaos of its implications aligned with my thoughts of the incident three years ago. Then and now, the incidents were really sad and pathetic. There was a sea-change in how I felt after them. I could connect to the last incident but there was an element of reason in that. This time, there was no such element and my thought process moved spontaneously. I felt more at one with me this time. There were not so many questions then. There are questions and questions now. Why do we exist? I could not accept incidents of that evening. How could such a grilling be there? But it is happening. Many of us are doing this to our older generation. I am ashamed that I just can think but cannot do anything for that motherly figure. There is just one solace. I could act without reason and now I know why I could accept those words last time after going through this feeling this time. At least on certain counts, I didn’t fail this time. Thank YOU.

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