Sunday, December 25, 2011

Great Expectations

It’s Boxing Day (and yes, the title is a Charles Dickens allusion). Another year is coming to a close, and how can I deny what an eventful year this has been! No, it certainly wasn’t a bed of roses, and it was far from perfect, but unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, that doesn’t stop it from being eventful! And to be honest, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have it any other way, save one way and that, unfortunately, was no more likely to be than it was for Santa Clause to climb down my apartment’s non-existent chimney, in person, and offer me a bag full of pre-written PhD theses to chose from. My grad school anecdotes aside, the year has come full circle and here I am, looking back and trying to come terms with what was, how it all came to be and where it has led life to. Do I love what I see? Perhaps, not entirely. Do I like how things played out, and the implications therein? Well, I am learning to. There were things that I would rather hadn’t transpired, there were things that made me cry, there were times I felt blessed, and there were things that I wish I could undo, things that I am not proud of, and times that restored some of my faith and self-respect. Yes, there were so many things I didn’t deal with head-on, things I am not proud of, things I will do differently if I could do them over. There were people whom I would rather have not met, there were friends who turned out to be quite different from what I’d expected them to be, and there were those two rare souls, who quietly made me feel blessed and blissful. This was also the seventh year, in a very particular sense, since I lost a part of my life, and the first, in a very long time, since I had an epiphany that seems to have drawn me out, magically almost, out of a black-hole. And it all came together to form the smorgasbord of experiences that added another year to my life, the epilogue of which I am now trying to compose. In setting out, I will like to acknowledge each and everyone one of those experiences and all the people who were involved with them- no matter how blessed or wretched you made me feel, without you I wouldn’t be who I am. So, I guess I will raise a peg to you all tonight... before I brace up for all the more to come.

I will not venture to attempt a complete evaluation of the year gone by. I would, however, like to pick out a few events that completely re-defined my perspectives, and perhaps in a way that had been in asking for quite some time now.

How often do you find that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there are certain mountains you just can’t climb? Not because you lack the technical know-how, but because the people at the top refuses to acknowledge you are there, even when you’ve reached that point. Not very often. But it does happen, to a lot of people, save the extremely lucky few. What do you do when that happens? Do you shout and try to make your presence felt? You could, having after all undertaken some amount of dedication to make the climb. But unfortunately, more often than not, such attempts are futile. You can make someone open their eyes, but you can’t make him/her see what they don’t want to see. It is one of the abilities of the human mind, bestowed upon it by evolution itself- it sees what it wants to see, and disregards the rest. As someone once said, “A belief is not an idea that the mind possesses. It’s an idea that possesses the mind.” And people are quick to form opinions and ideas and beliefs, and would hang on to them for dear life. Being judgmental comes swiftly with security, a sense of being in, and of course beyond, control. And it will make one feel so righteous, as to firmly believe that one is justified in determining the fates of those still climbing the ladder, based solely on one’s perception of the person(s) and completely disregard any empirical evidence pointing to the contrary. That, perception might not always be unbiased, and that even when it is unbiased it should not replace facts in making decisions that will affect a life, is quickly forgotten by those tarnished with ages of conventionality, dwelling under the safe-haven of pre-conceived notions, and enjoying a sense of aloof and indifferent power over the fates of those dependant on their whims, simply by being ‘subsequent’ in a temporal sense.

These people live in glass houses, and are quick to throw stones at others, believing all the while that if someone does throw one back, they can always use the shards to make the insolent ones bleed. But they are just as quick to forget that while they may revel in their personal agendas, more than one road can, and does exist leading to the same summit. But that is another story altogether, and one that you must write once you have travelled the alternate route. For the time being however, all your rational arguments, and fervent protests will fall short, and the best you can do is to take comfort in the fact that for them to deny your having reached that point, you indeed must have been there. Denial, by its very nature is self-negating. One does not feel the need to deny something that one has not witnessed. It suffices to merely affirm an absence. To deny the presence is not semantically equivalent to acknowledging the absence. Not unless one is in an argument over the validity of the ‘presence’ and/or ‘absence’, which again invariably points to the existence of some sort of a counter-opinion.

So, the healthiest route to take is to merely derive comfort from that conviction, re-assure yourself that since the world is not metaphysical, denial does not invalidate the existence of some phenomenon and your efforts, while un-acknowledged, have made you stronger and the experience will stand you in good stead should you fight another battle of the kind. The unhealthiest thing to do will be to doubt yourself, and re-think your existence in terms of public opinion. An even greater disaster would be to try and change one’s self to fit the requirements of others. What good are your achievements if ‘you’ do not exist? They are not yours, they are somebody else’s. You merely brought them to be. But in doing so, you would have lost yourself. A one-of-a-kind unique creation of nature would be lost. I doubt that is desirable. Looking back on a series of events that transpired between March and July of this year, I am thankful that I was able to avoid losing myself. And I am thankful that people live who will always judge me, and assume that they can flawlessly predict my worth based on their individual perceptions of my idiosyncrasies, for in so doing they re-affirm my convictions in myself and restore my pride in being able to outgrow pettiness and avoid bitterness, while maintaining a strong disdain for such contemptible trivialities. But more importantly, I am thankful to them, because while their acts may have caused me pain and humiliation, it is the same pain and humiliation that will keep me human and mindful of the fact that my purpose in life is not simply to get where I want to go, where they deemed me unworthy of going, but to get there without myself falling prey to similar weaknesses. It will keep me from judging others, it will remind me that while I, as a human being, will have opinions, they will always be my opinions and not the yardstick to measure someone’s worth in life. It will ensure that, having got there, I will not make the climb difficult for those who will come after me. And the day I wake up to realize that I’ve done so, I would have lived a life worth living. And for that I am thankful to everyone who doubted. You were, are and will continue to be my biggest source of motivation. I take my non-existent hat off to you, my lords and ladies.

Moving on, while it is definitely difficult when you are faced with insensitive behavior from above, it is all the more difficult when insensitivity comes from beside. Someone almost permanently attached to my being once wrote to me in a card, “When it hurts to look back, and you are scared to look ahead, just look beside…. ‘Hi!’”. Seven years down the lane, I still carry that card as a constant reminder of humanity’s still enduring capacity for enormous nobleness and magnanimity. In a world increasingly obsessed with self-importance and hierarchy, it is nothing short of a miracle to be on the receiving end of affection from someone publicly held to be way out of and above one’s league. The fact that it was seven years in the past does nothing whatsoever to diminish the magnitude of that overwhelming realization. Nor does the fact that the person concerned has been lost due to completely unrelated matters depreciate her ability to dive beneath the surface and stare past the bad into the good in somebody. And yet, this Christmas, amidst positive developments on the professional front and increasingly promising opportunities flowing in, sitting in a bar I felt an overwhelming sense of being ‘one’. It scared me to realize just how far I have walked alone, and to think just how much further I will have to walk alone till I make it, and the thought that when I’ve got it all made and perhaps bought my dream Beamer, I’ll be taking my first long drive in my own Beamer alone was absolutely heart breaking. Almost instinctively (as dramatic as it sounds, or reads) I looked beside me. All I saw was an empty chair, and a couple entwined in each other’s arms in the next table. No one said ‘Hi!”.

 As I fought back the swelling despair inside, my thoughts raced back and forth over a multitude of conversations that I have had with some very special people over the last few years, and two particularly revealing ones from this year. I remembered being told, “I too had been through unspeakable pain and despair when you disappeared”, and I wanted to scream out “I didn’t. I was out there lost, I was held prisoner. Please, oh won’t you please forgive me?” But even as the thought crossed my mind, I remembered that I did disappear. While I may have been put under the invisibility cloak by force, that doesn’t reduce the implications of what it must have done to the person concerned. Milton’s lines raced across my mind, “To be weak is miserable.” I was weak. I am miserable. I remembered making a call two years ago. I remembered a dear brother telling me if he were me he wouldn’t have done so. I remembered a year and half worth of clandestine emails and conversations, and the inescapable complexity of our lives, so apart yet so connected. I was reminded of a certain call from the land of opportunity, I recalled the person on the other end not being able to hear me, I remembered the despair it caused me, and then like the final gun shot that kills the wounded lion, I was reminded of what came out of trying to reach out after that fateful call. And suddenly all the memories subsided leaving me with an absolutely harrowing one. The memory of a Denial.

While I sat there, dumbfounded in the middle of a conversation that was raging inside my head, I shuddered at the remembrance of that day; the day I saw my entire past crumbling down to dust all around me. But then just as the despair seemed to overflow my consciousness, rational thought rose back, like a Phoenix from the ashes. “ It doesn’t matter”, a voice spoke inside. “None of that misery matters. You were there. It happened to you. The memories will always be yours. And you will make many more. Your days are yet to pass by, and the sun will rise tomorrow”. I sipped on the rum, and felt the ball of fire rolling down my throat. As warmth returned I realized the immense panic attack that must have led to a denial like that. It doesn’t do to dwell on what has passed. I would have been a wretched being indeed, if my selfish desire had broken up a happy union. No! This pain I can take. That would have been too great a burden to bear. What would be left of a man if he has to live with the knowledge that he was the cause of the greatest mishap in the life of one he claimed to love? When a man builds a world around an idea, and after years of believing in that, all of it suddenly comes to a lie, what more would be left of him? Nothing. But when you find the heart to walk away from your deepest desire, knowing that in walking away you are at least giving part of it a fair chance to exist in joy, that should be prize enough to consider life fair. And so I am thankful, that in spite of all my incorrigibility over the years, in the end I came that close to disaster and yet found the heart to let go. I am thankful that in letting go I have proved to myself that I indeed loved someone way too much to come in the way of her happiness. I take pride now, in retrospect, in knowing that I found the heart to delete all her contact numbers and mail IDs, and destroy all evidence of mutual communications. It was the right thing to do, for both of us. It will let her live a happy and fulfilling life without the sweet memories of our past together turning into a bitter poison for her future happiness. It has already empowered me to move on with my life, and the hope of a future prospect return, and all that without demanding a denial, or implying a betrayal, of our memories together. True, the process was definitely trying and far from being easy. But I can honestly claim, that the effort was worth it. For that, I am immensely thankful. When you reach the stage, where sweet memories of a gone by time only brings smiles to you, without the despair, you realize you have done your time. There is nothing more that you need to regret.

Of course, I will miss her still, sorely! It will cause me unbearable pain, even years down the lane.  And it won't be the only thing. It would hurt me a lot more to remember that once, in my despair, I had turned to a certain sports-journalist whom I considered to be a brother, begging for help, asking him desperately to let her know, should he happen to talk to her, that I didn’t mean to be rude, that I had answered the call, that as much as I tried she couldn’t hear me, and that was no fault of mine! Yes! I was despairing. Because, I didn’t want her to think I was going away, refusing to talk, again. It scared me that she might think I was doing what I was forced to do seven years ago, again. Was that a crime? All I wanted was a proper closure. Was that too much to ask for? The despicable Sam with his mundane affairs, bothering the high and the important amidst their all so important vocations. After all what is the status of a broken heart, and lost love and forgotten promises, when there are county cricket matches to be reported, bowling techniques to be debated, and of course Aiswarya Rai Bachchan is pregnant? Is it any wonder then, that the man I had held to be a brother should accuse me of being an attention-seeker and state “I am not your middle-man and I have more important things to attend to.”? No, my lord! You are not my middle-man. How can you be? I am after all but a humble aspiring linguist, and one who wears his heart on his sleeve at that (oh! The shame). You have been chosen to bear the burden of supplying the middle-class dining room with the most updated subject matters for pseudo-intellectual gossips, and to pass judgments on the follies and foibles of us lesser mortals, while yielding in one hand the self-imposed duty of awakening the conscience of the society, and in the other the most potent excuse for justifying all your incoherent, dogmatic ramblings- freedom of the press. And you do it with such righteous zeal! Among a bunch of hyena-like, self-righteous holier-than-thou, you are after all the re-incarnation of Jesus Christ Superstar Immaculate. Don’t let yourself be troubled by thoughts of whether or not you hurt a friend you have known for over fifteen years, who had no one else to turn to. Please, do attend to the more pressing matters. And do not forget to proclaim to the next person you meet that your love is holier and purer than ours, and therefore still surviving. Do feel free to lecture us on how to be sure whether or not we are/were indeed in love the way you are, and why the ones we love wouldn’t have enough reasons to remember us by. They are such delight! Those were tears of joy rolling down my cheek, sire!

But perhaps you could try and understand, my lord, that I have always worn my heart on my sleeve. While it might have endowed me with significantly higher EQ compared to your highness, it has never once let me be rude to my friends. I have never told a friend in tears, that I have more important things to attend to. Not even when that friend was a hysterical girl called J, who kept waking me up after midnight to ask me about the ‘future of the relationship’ when I had a minimalism test to take the next morning. It allows me to tell a dear brother that should some intellectually impaired Neanderthal attempt to break his nose, I will place myself in between. It lets me say that, and know deep within that I mean it. Yes, it also makes me sad to hear words like yours from a friend, when others will be outright angry. It makes me despairingly blue, every once in a while when my subconscious suddenly remembers the scent of her skin, or the feel of her hair on my face, even though I have felt neither for over seven years now. It causes me pain. Yes. But I will rather have this pain than the frivolity of the world. At least mine is genuine. At least mine pushes me towards being a little more accommodating. I am sure the pain is anything but over. And I have long since accepted that being who I am, I am more likely to attract ‘melancholy minds’, as a brother I wasn’t born with puts it, than the Paris Hiltons of my generation. But at least in my lot, there will be genuine tears and sorrow, and not laughter that stretches the lips, but never reaches the eyes. I accept that loneliness, even though at times I will scream for company. I will, invariably. And it will hurt. But at least when I look into the mirror, all I will see is a proud loneliness, but no shame whatsoever.

So, as much as it did hurt me then, I am thankful that I faced denial. Facing denial allowed me to acknowledge a side of human emotions that I had previously not been able to see- being protective of one’s present happiness is not a crime, and does not imply deliberately hurting others. It allowed me to better understand the actions of a wonderful woman I had in my life, actions which otherwise would seem random and irresponsible. And now I love her so much more. I had experienced her dedication and care first hand, but now I have witnessed that having gone through such pain in love, she has still not lost her care and dedication to her loved ones. That makes me respect her all the more, and gives me immense pride to think that I had her in my life, once. Had I not gone through that denial, I would have never realized that facet of her character, and would have remained ignorant to such an amazingly wonderful side to her soul.

I am also thankful that I faced betrayal from an old friend. Going through that has re-inforced something my brother recently told me, “These days I expect little from others. And a lot from me.” Those are the words that I now know I should live by. Had I not faced this utter betrayal of trust, I would not have been able to appreciate those words properly. There is nothing wrong with expecting great things. You just have to ensure that great expectations are directed inwards, and not towards others.

Finally, having gone through such whirlwinds of emotional and psychological experiences, there could have been no better way to turn the tides in my favor than to be accepted into the University of Auckland, along with few others. That day in August when I filled in the application form and the statement of purpose, I didn’t expect any response from the University whose Humanities and Sciences Department makes the QS top 50 list. The recent past didn’t exactly provide encouraging academic experiences. I can’t even recall what made me go through with that extremely long application process, and write those numerous essays- expression of interest, statement of purpose, proposal for post-graduate thesis and many other fancy, cheek-full terms. But somehow I found myself at the other side of it, and three months later I was sitting in front of my computer, staring at the screen, at a loss for words! I was looking at my own acceptance letter! And now here I am, recollecting my year that was, ready to leave coast and sail away into the great beyond, and as Joyce would put it “forge in the smithy of my soul, the uncreated conscience of my race” and perhaps “ away from friends and family, discover what the heart is”. I do not think I would have been able to make the most out of this great opportunity I have been given, had I not gone through what I went through. Those experiences split my heart and my mind wide open. And now I am ready to let the myriad of experiences flow in. I shall sail away, see the world, let all that she has to offer flow in, and emerge stronger and richer than I’ve ever been. So, I am thankful for all that befell me. For without them, I would have been just another ‘Bong-in-denial-gone-west’.

So, I guess I was justified in believing that this was indeed an eventful year. I have learned lessons this year, that I will carry with me all my life. I have changed more in this one year, grown faster, than I have done in all the years before. And as I look forward to greeting the next year, I will like to end this recollection with a few words for three very special persons in my life:


Bro, you are a beacon of hope in my life! I am so glad I took that HPSG class in 2009. Had we not met on that fateful day, I don’t know how I would have gone through what I went through, without breaking down. I know you will say, “Had I not been there, somebody else would have been”. But I have seen too much to take that. You have been a constant source of comfort, a friend, a philosopher, and a guide ( to some very alluring Bars, among other things :-) ) and the most amazing senior one could ever hope to meet. You Sir, are amazing. Enough said! Love you, Bro.

 Sam

 A Girl Who Was Named After a Flower,

You are the most amazingly wonderful, beautiful person I will ever meet. I love you so much! I know you are strong and smart, and you will go places in life. As much as I wish I could be around to see you make it big, I know it cannot be. My love, I am so sorry I failed you. I love you still, and I just want you to know that… I understand. Love you always…

 Sam


What can I say, Ma? I wouldn’t be here today without you. I am so blessed to have you. Thanks for putting up with all the insanity, and I am sorry for all the time my incorrigibility hurt you. You have been there for as long as I can remember, and months before that! Now who else could have done that? Love you more than ever…

 Sam


Anonymous said...

Nothing I will say will be significant in front of this wonderful post (now, I DID read the post fully, don't think otherwise. :D) so I will just say thank you :)

Wish you a fabulous 2012.


:D I know you DID. I know you well enough to believe that if you didn't like it, or didn't agree with it, or even felt that it wasn't worth reading, or simply found to be way too against your temperament to go through, you would at least say it to me up front. That's something I really value in the rare few friends I have left, or perhaps I should say the rare few I have not asked to move on and never return. I always prefer to have honest opinion, than polite ones. If something about me bothers someone, I appreciate it when that someone walks up to me and speaks it out loud, in my face. It tells me that while we may not see eye to eye, at least that person will be someone I won't have to worry about stabbing me in my sleep. I will rather have straight talks minus humility, than a humble saint who will slip away when you need him most. Integrity and uprightness, are the most valuable characteristics in a man, in my opinion.

And you are welcome! Just calling my cards as I see them. It took a long time, but finally I have reached that stage where I can do my part, and refuse to give a damn about how some third person may interpret it. I spent too much time trying to fit in to how I felt others(specially the ones above me in the hierarchy) would want me to be... in spite of my aggressiveness. But now I know, it wasn't real aggression at all! It only held me back, and I almost lost myself. But I have finally learned to do what needs to be done, and having done that shrug at the face of public opinion. They may like me, love me, hate me, despise me, glorify me or vilify me... none of that, the good or the bad, will make me do anything that my heart tell me not to... no anymore. If someone found me unworthy, that's there opinion. Until my heart tells me I have deserved that tag, I will continue believing that they were mistaken. If someone was rude to me, unless I know I deserved that rudeness, I will never feel sorry or doubtful of myself. True, unlike before, I won't say I will not forgive them. I will just say, "I forgive you, but I will not relive you."

So, no need to thank me. You deserve everything I have ever said about you, in my mind at least. And since the words came out of there, I think they are self-justifying. AND ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO SUGGEST OR POINT OUT WILL ALWAYS BE SIGNIFICANT TO ME. So, feel free... anytime!