Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yet , I have No Regrets

Over the last few decades, there opened a floodgate to a whole new brand of part time writers whose 'real' profession is either psychiatry, or yoga teaching gurudom (the most trumpeted amongst them being Deepak Chopra , Shiv Khera , Bikram Chaudhry and the likes) and their most favorite subject being tolerance and convergence issues .

" Be Yourself" is supposed to be the Mantra for quite a few years now , and it is supposed to be the easiest thing in the world. You will be termed  the simplest or the least complicated person around if you 'be yourself' and things around you will get a lot more easier for you and others. 'period'

Easier spoken than done. If only being oneself was that simple! You bet its not! neither for you , nor for others, and believe me, it really really does complicate matters in the weirdest possible sense.

The paradox here is, that you will be the person, who is first 'liked' and then 'disliked' for the very same reason.

Not that it matters much to me, as to what people think about me, because I know that people are almost always being judgmental and interpretative about others : we tend to jump to conclusions to fast and too soon. The only problem that I face being myself is the loyalty issue.

People who are supposed to be your friends expect your undying loyalty towards them. So much so, that they even want you to compromise with your own values and principles when it comes to being loyal. Most of you will understand what I mean , since I guess everyone must have heard  ' Hey! you are my friend, you are supposed to be on my side!' line. Even if you know that the so called friend is not being entirely truthful, or fair or whatever else.

And if you are not 'taking the side' then its as easy as 'off with her head' and you are labeled a betrayer for a life time.

My point here is not complaining about people. Its about how hard being oneself can get at times ; and I'm not the one to compromise on my values and principles. Not that I am rigid in my beliefs; its just that I try to be as truthful and fair as I possibly can , not allowing 'friends' to take undue advantage of others , thinking that they can safely get away with doing whatever they please in front of me, just because I am their friend , and that friendship , ' by definition' entails blind loyalty.

I have encountered  the most  (seemingly) 'straight forward ' people's  dalliance when it comes to personal practice. I will, in brief, recount an example of one such personal experience that I had quite a few years ago with my next door neighbor :

The neighbor couple was quite friendly and helpful , and their small acts of kindness were always returned in kind . The neighbor was a retired army official who was entitled to get groceries at subsidized rates  from the Army canteen , and would often help us, by getting us a few items at subsidized rates for us. In return, we allowed him to use our van to get his load of goods . If our overhead tank ran out of water, he would offer us some and when they ran out of milk for tea, when a guest arrived at their place, they could always get some from our place.

The families often got together over drinks and meals , and we celebrated our festivals together.

The elderly couple has a son, who was divorced and there were not so pleasant tales circulating about him , which is very often the case in our Indian culture, since the D word is such a taboo here : once you are divorced, you are automatically labeled as incompatible social out caste. So we  always gave a benefit of doubt to the family regarding the gory tales and brushed them off as gossip...

Until the son got married again. Until the Oedipal situation came to light when the bride beating began. Until I realized that the Mother-in - law had started using me as a means to torture the daughter in law :  once she 'invited' us to lunch to taste her 'wonderful 'dosas, and later came to our place chuckling, to tell me that actually it had been her daughter in law's wish to eat them, and she wanted to finish up the batter so that she could have none. The daughter in law, it seems , had expressed her wish to eat the dish, and since she "could not refuse her that in front of her son" she did make the batter for the pan cakes , but also saw to it that the daughter in law could have none, saying , " what could I do, the neighbors dropped in and finished them all".

And the stupid woman was having the last laugh sitting right on my sofa , and relating how she had used me!

I swore to myself, not to allow myself to be used in a similar manner, although I continued with my neighborly duties , albeit from a safe distance.

Then came a day, when there was a lot of screaming heard from the house and a human figure came flying out  and landed on the road, all battered and bruised, with her clothes torn. It was the daughter in law. She got up and hurried away before anyone could reach her, and disappeared in the dark. She must have gone to the police, because later next day, we saw police men approach their house. The mother in law came out wailing, while all the men hid inside, and started recounting out loudly, how she had been mentally tortured by her ' mentally deranged' daughter in law who had 'manged to run away from the house' , 'tearing at her own clothes and hair, and boxing her own eyes' , 'swearing to teach a lesson' to the 'poor' old woman.

If it were only that, I wouldn't be recounting this tale to you here. The highlight is, that at this juncture she sent for me, and when I came out, she wanted me to 'bear witness' and 'tell the officers' how much torture she had been through.

The officer bade me to speak, so I recounted exactly what I had seen happening, much to the chagrin of the  female.

The reason I spoke was that I did not want the poor girl to be locked into a mental hospital for nothing : the daughter in law had,  in the recent past, already shown me a letter from the women's grievance cell, which was addressed to her mother in law, which had luckily landed in her hands and which she had (sensibly) read on the sly. The letter said : " as per your complaint against the torture inflicted upon you by your mentally deranged daughter in law, the cell has decided to consider your request for making arrangement for housing the said patient  in ...

The old woman started hurling abuses at me, and cursed me for having 'betrayed a friend' etc. etc.

So to come back to the point, this happens with me often, although in much milder sense than what happened in the story above. People advise me to be more tactful, the definition of which I know is something like being able to get your point across without alienating people. Tactfulness comes easy, in a place where people maintain a distance and give each other enough personal place. In India you get 'stuck' because either you have 'friends'  nose diving too much into your life, or none at all. There is no' in between' stage. And in this country with abundant human population, and where almost everyone these days seems to be involved in corrupt practices one way or another ( yes, even the most seemingly respectable ones) ,they say its difficult to survive peacefully in our social milieu , otherwise. And since the majority of people are like that you tend to almost always get dragged in. Its not just "if you can't beat them, join them" ; its " you just can't beat them , be damned!"

My mother often tells me that it is necessary to 'meet' people ( read that as " me coming out of my room to greet her friends , sit with them and gossip, even though later she and I might disapprove of what they were saying, in short, be a hypocrite") because we would need someone to "carry our dead bodies to our graves at our funerals" ( her words).


I would rather be without 'friends'  and its My Choice.



Being yourself! It is complete objectivity, the objective tendency of the mind. how it is possible until we see things absolutely in an impartial way? Free from our own will where our true knowledge shines above all. It is the removal of personal equation and predominance of sensibility and aversion towards reproductive power. That makes a person impartial or in a popular adage "be yourself". but how many of us realize it, question of implementing is far cry. We are bunch of hypocrites. Aren't we? Being yourself.. the most funny expression..more funnier than "L+O+V+E
Your writing is lucid and enjoyable..

the walking man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the walking man said...

I used to have a saying when I was a heavy drinker Mona- "I only drink with my friends, which is why I always drink alone."

I have been not to long ago ,in the unenviable position you describe, of being caught in the middle of two friends one saying thee and the other thou. I went months without seeing or talking to either of them until I could witness the truth come out and out it eventually did come. In short by not taking sides I found out with absolute certainty if "thee" or "thou" was playing the victim.

*shrug* I refuse your mothers thinking and know that even if I were isolated for the rest of the time on earth I have to go through then at least I will have done so as honestly as I possibly could.

As for the neighbor I may have been the one to insist on charges being preferred against her for her own duplicitous nature. above all else I can not abide that worst human trait of lying and expecting me to accept it and support it.

I will have no need for a pall bearer...not at that price.

G-Man said...

The truth will Conquer!!!

Brian Miller said...

being yourself is the only way to truly live...and yes it makes for some tough choices...will a real friend ask you to lie for them, to betray yourself?

snowelf said...

Mona, you make some very good points here. What a difficult situation to be placed in by your neighbor!! And the poor dear girl... what a fright. I am glad you stood up for her though the circumstance was so grim.


Erratic Thoughts said...

Couldn't agree more!
That was such a horrible misuse of ‘good friendship’! You were put in such a difficult position and you handled it so tactfully...
I've been in some such incidents, were my so-called friends have tried asking favors which were against my ideals! I might not have been so tactful, but I have bluntly removed myself from such incidences. I rather be alone than be associated with such people.
It’s difficult to be yourself when the same people who once liked you start disliking you, you might be tempted to forgo your morals. But then what makes you you is that determination to not change for such superficial people, isn’t it?

Even my mom tells me to 'meet' n 'greet' people for exactly those reasons and I silently find reasons to be grocery shopping or going out to do mom’s chores at such times so that I’m not trapped!

jodi said...

Mona, Good grief, what a situation! True friends must appreciate you for your personality. Honesty and tact, can be the basis of a great friendship. I could no more participate in that mess than the man in the moon! Good Luck and stay true to your beliefs.

ivan said...

"Meh" indeed.

Not an Indian expression.

But it does express the case with you and those among whom you are compelled to move among.

I had visitors from India lately who were amazed at "the wide open spaces" of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.
This view surprised me, as I saw the fifteen square miles of tiny Newmarket being given over to developers, who loaded every square foot with their subdivisions, leaving the downtown (which was "heritage" protected) largely alone. "But aready there are rumors of highrises downtown.
The "wide open spaces" were untouched parkland and "designated" buildings, that is to say, "Historical, don't touch."
I would say that in its cities, India easily sufferes from too many people in too small a place.
This leads to people banging into one another in class and creed and creating complicated relationships like you describe.
This Southern Ontario town's jocular comparison to say, Calcutta
has been recently laughed at in the local press.
They had invested 50 million dollars to build a brand new Regional Headquarters for all the local towns.
It is a beautiful building, but some say, too ornate.

One wag wrote in:

No need to go to India.
We got the taj mahal right here.

Well, we certainly get visitors from India.
And they seem to think this is heaven!

Mona said...

Shubhajit, Thanks! That is enlightening :)

Mark, Thanks buddy. I knew you would understand the most!

G Man. Hail Truth!

Brian, you are right, such a friend is not really a friend!

Snow, I know. I never regretted doing that!

ET, You know exactly how it is in India, and how common that scene is really!

Jodi, very true!

Ivan, what you are saying is so true. It is indeed amazing to see such wide open spaces in the American continent. India is very congested these days; but I guess that japan would be worse!

Erik Donald France said...

Thank you for this post -- absolutely wonderful~~

Attempts to balance the self and social networks/pressures are endlessly fascinating to contemplate (and observe).

lime said...

because we need someone to carry our dead bodies? good grief. sad reason to cozy up to cruel people. no, you were right to stand up for that poor girl. we cannot defend abuse when we see it happening or we are complicit with it.