This issue is an apology for the regular viewsletter and I owe an apology to the members of the community for the long gap of inactivity. The truth is I was ill for two weeks. Then I was tied down to some pressing personal work which could no longer be justifiably put off. During my ‘bed rest’, I was pampered and fussed over by caring relatives and concerned friends. It is quite an experience to learn how much you mean to others when you are indisposed. The way they express their sympathies by words and actions is a true measure of the love they have for you. And I did get more than my share of love. As the expression goes, ‘they killed me with kindness.’
In the vacant hours of my sickness, I realized this startling truth. I am envious of people who are inclined to be less cerebral and more emotional. People who live by heart are a happier lot than those who live by brain. Caught in the whirlwind within their head, the cerebral people are restless souls. They should dissect, bisect, rip apart and reduce an experience to its nuts and bolts. Finally they end up congratulating themselves on their admirable analytical skill and critical sense, but totally remain insensitive to the fact that they have brutally destroyed a beautiful experience that came their way. I am not fortunate to be that simpleton who basks in the love of people. I don my critical robes, wield my analytical instruments and assume the grave looks of a thinker.
My mind becomes a restless, relentless mill grinding every experience without any feeling. Lying in bed, I began to wonder if I had not been relegated to the position of the handicapped. My sickness, no doubt, bestowed upon me certain privileges and one of them was the constant attention; someone or other bothering periodically to know whether I needed a glass of juice or if my sleep had been peaceful or disturbed. Every heart should truly feel thankful for the engulfing affection but mine did not. With such solicitations, I felt more embarrassed than pleased. If you call that attitude a sin of ingratitude, you will not be wide of the mark. The emotional type of people would never dream of committing such an act.
The next monstrous act I was guilty of was that I considered many of the visitors as intruders upon my privacy. Behind their benign and well-meaning faces I could see a conspiratorial silence in which plans were being hatched to rob me of my time. For the first time, I discovered to my dismay that my illness had drained not only my physical energy but also the will to tell them to leave me to myself.
Sickness brings its concomitant psychological effects too. The awkward silence prevailing in the room punctuated with sporadic outbursts of hyped exclamations and vapid expressions of concern provides an eerie background in which your condition appears frighteningly magnified. No doubt, the callers try to be as helpful as they can be but their offer of help somehow clearly underlines your own feeling of helplessness. There is no denying the fact that you ARE helpless, but would you like some one to know that? It creates a kind of one-up–man-ship and you feel you are at the mercy of others.
Did I describe my callers as intruders? Yes. They certainly are and at time times worse than that. They are nosey parkers too, as most of them, during their short stay at my bed side took undue liberties with what I consider strictly personal. One of the callers found the arrangement of the books on the shelf distasteful to him. He broke off our conversation half ways to rearrange them size wise, the tallest to the left sloping down the shortest to the right on all the six shelves. Beaming with self-satisfaction he turned to ask me how it looked. Did I tell you that he was a supervisor in a factory?
Not only did human beings, but inanimate objects also chip in their share of discomfort. I was almost driven to the conclusion that these objects had had a rod in the pickle for a long time and once they got a chance, they settled their scores with me. My counterpane kept either folding up or wrinkling without any provocation and was an endless torture to legs. The pillows developed pockets of resistance and the cup right over the motor of the fan lost its grip and began to grate. The leaky tap let out a series of well timed drops which cast a hypnotic spell on me making me either anticipate the next drop or keep count of them. To top it all came the raucous cawing of a crow which had no reason whatsoever to bear a grudge against me. On the whole I seemed to be living in a hostile world in which the living and the non living had conjoined to launch an all out attack on me.
To be fair, I had the proverbial silver lining too. An old friend of mine, my college friend dropped in. I must say something about this guy who in those days was considered a magnetic personality. He was tall, handsome with a shock of jet black curly hair and possessed the finest qualities. He was a brilliant student and a powerful orator, gentle, lovable and helpful without being obtrusive. He spoke when he was spoken to, sang when requested; he had a gifted voice that strummed the heart strings. He was neither ostentations nor overmodest about his qualities but made everyone comfortable in his company. He was a winner of hearts too. There was the fragrance of romance about him, but he handled all relationships with ease and grace. Perhaps I was the only one who discovered that far-off, out-of-this world look in his eyes. He always seemed to be in communion with an ethereal figure, a cute angel who was fluttering about him unable to assume a physical form. Even as I was secretly jealous of his success and popularity, I was pained over his longing for that unseen, tantalizing ideal. We had a silent, subtle liking for each other which, thank God, is alive till this day.
We parted after college. I met him two years ago and since there we have been maintaining a kind of relationship that is neither too close to jamming on each other’s busy schedule nor too far apart to be forgotten. He hasn’t changed much in looks far less in attitude, but for the numerous strands of silver hair and a few creases in the face.
Sitting at my bedside, he flashed his usual charming summer smile. In the next two hours our conversation ranged from movies to metaphysics. He was witty as ever, charmingly persuasive and disarmingly candid. In those two hours he made me forget that I was ill, out of action and I that I needed to be cared for, He filled me with a kind of energy that pepped up every sagging nerve. Very cautiously I enquired about his wife and children but he answered casually. “My wife is a practicing doctor in the U K and my two sons are doing M S in the U S A.” I knew better than to ask how he could stay away from his family, especially his wife who had been his sparring partner in the inter collegiate debates before they fell in love and got married. But he understood my silence masking that unasked question and smiled. “You see Mohan, When we were young we were free enough to fall in love and now past our youth, we have love enough to be free of each other.”
He left after half an hour leaving me to chew over his words. How profoundly meaningful! True love is an expression of generosity to grant freedom as much as the desire to acquire it. True love lets the loved ones to be free individuals, just as the inter-planetary attraction holds each other in place yet allowing them to move in its own orbital path. By giving freedom to his wife and children to pursue their interests he has ensured their constant sense of belonging, which he would have certainly lost, had he tried to be possessive of them. Love is a sacred sense of belonging not a brutal passion of possession. The other day I saw a wall hanging with a picture of a parrot in a cage with these words underneath it. “If you really love something set it free. If it is yours it will come back to you.” The depth of your love is fathomed by the extent to which your loved ones enjoy freedom and it is their sense of belonging that is the true measure of the reward of your love.
These reflections become highly relevant in a society where love means nothing more than a maniacal urge to possess someone body and soul. We have enough of possessive moms, dictatorial dads, tyrannical teachers and autocratic authorities. A vulture that drives it talon into the guts of a rabbit knows it has caught its prey, but parents who impose their will on their children to make them mere Xeroxes of themselves call it love.
The last scene of “Titanic” is a classic example of this sense of belonging. The old woman walks up to the stern of the vessel, climbs the railing. With her eyes closed she stands for a moment in which she relives every moment of her wonderful relationship. She finally throws the diamond necklace in the water, an act symbolic of her belonging to him whose love outlives their lives.
Old Mrs. Dawson walked up to the stern
With burden of days never to return
Hands so sure and feet unfaltering
The heart knew not when, why and how
Came into her eyes the glow of light, the light of love,
Dispelling the gloom of days and many a lonesome evening.
It was long ago and the cold sea was freezing
She lay on a raft holding the only living hands
Dreaming of wet kisses, teasing and dizzying
Of babies to be born in unknown lands.
Time seemed eternity and happiness a certainty
In the lap of that unsparing calamity.
Call it the agony of tragedy, too deep for pity
His loving eyes were drowned in the sea of humanity
Old Mrs. Dawson walked up the stern
A raging heart yet a face so serene.
Did any one see her clutching the pendant and chain?
Was there a soul to share her searing pain?
Your English Sir
Original Post: Dated Sunday, the 19th of November 2006