Sunday, June 25, 2006

The outsider

I was sitting in the balcony of my house letting my mind drift away in no particular direction. I just kept thinking.

The other day, I'd just finished the weekly room-cleaning routine when my close friend Rohan came over. He looked extremely happy and excited. He gave a cursory look over my room and deemed it spotless. I smiled. I mean. All that effort put in had to pay off. Nobody could deny that. Then he said "I have some awesome news dude and you're the was the first person I'm telling it to." I was curious. Naturally. So I asked, "What is it?" He replied "I got the job man! They are paying me 7 lakhs! " It was the job he'd always wanted. The Citibank dream-job. I thought of what to tell him. I mean. I've got to tell him something. I am expected to feel overjoyed. I don't know. Perhaps he'd want me to jump with joy or hug him or something. But there I was, feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing. I smiled, shrugged and let out a little laugh. That was how I reacted when I didn't know how to react to something. With that I did what I was expected to do. I congratulated him, did the usual pat on the shoulder and hug routine, and put on the cloak. The cloak of happiness. In the hyper-excited state that he was in, I hoped he didn't notice all this. He went on and gave me all the details about his job and all and I was just laughing sheepishly and nodding now and then. Then he left.

I kept thinking about what had happened and I remembered something else. An incident that had happened a couple of years back.

I was in my room watching TV and I heard someone come into my room. It was my friend Amit. He walked in slowly, his head tilted low and it was as if it was a great effort for him to even walk. He looked like somebody had died. Really. I said, " Hey what's up man? Why do you look like somebody died?" and laughed. And he just burst into tears. I was baffled. I mean. What the hell did I do? He said "My sister. She was killed in an accident an hour back." Oh my! That just threw me totally off guard. I had to feel something atleast now. I must probably feel guilty about saying what I had. I was trying so hard to feel something. But then I just ended up shrugging and I almost let out that little laugh. Would you believe it! I was about to laugh after hearing that my friend's sister had just died. Immediately, I tried to bring a sympathetic or emphatetic or whatever expression on my face and consoled him saying " I'm sorry. Really. It must be really hard on you. I hope your parents are ok." I mean. I didn't really know what I should be saying. Then I hugged him and asked him to be strong and something and he left. I still didn't feel anything. I went back to watching TV. I was supposed to be sad and solemn and all. It was weird.

Then I remembered many more such occasions.

Like the other day when my friend came rushing into my room to show some nice piece he'd written. I read it and just smiled and laughed and gave him a few words of appreciation. Oh well. It must have been something like 'Nice piece dude' or ' Hey good. Keep writing' or maybe ' Oh cool! When did you write it?... Oh I see' or something. I'm sure he felt a little disappointed.

Take this for another instance. I had come back to college after a month long vacation and met all my friends. They were so happy they jumped and hugged each other and I could see the genuine happiness. I was smiling, the vague smile which I put on to show that I was also happy, as I was being hugged by everyone.

On an other day my sister was in tears after failing to get through and exam she had prepared for almost two years. I was just standing there not knowing what to feel or make of it, smiling vaguely. God knows why I was smiling at such a moment. But that was exactly what I was doing.

Even on the day my girlfriend broke up with me, all I could manage was the vague smile and laugh. I still remember her saying that I was always like that and that I'd never really loved her. It was like I was just watching myself stand like a rock in front of my girl who was going through an emotional roller-coaster.

I asked myself what sort of a guy I was. I mean, really. I'm sure one could discover more emotions on a stone than on my face. Had I lost the ability to feel or something?! Why was I like this? Am I some vague floating entity in this world where people are alive and feel stuff?! It was like I just didn't have those parts of my brain in place. The parts that make one feel stuff. I should feel bad about not being able to feel! Surely.

I just shrugged and laughed.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A matter of expression

Every living being on the earth has some means or the other to express itself. As humans we have various ways of expressing ourselves. Being a human myself, let me focus on humans.

A person can share his feelings with others through various modes. For example, speaking, making physical gestures, making eye contact, writing, playing and/or composing music, dancing, the list is endless. Heck, one may communicate his feelings by just being with someone doing nothing at all.

But then, why is it that not everyone can effectively express themselves in all these ways? Some people dance well, some people draw and paint well, some are excellent at music, others at speaking or writing. Is it something that is intrinsic or is it something that the person acquires because of his environment? That is to say, are things like the way he was brought up, the friends he has and everyone he meets and interacts with, where he lived, incidents that happened in his life,etc completely responsible for his being good at a particular mode of expression? Honestly speaking, I am not sure as to what it is.

Yet, I think we're all born as equals and that the deciding factor is the surroundings. Some people criticize this point of view by saying that it can never be verified; because one cannot provide the same environment to two people at the same time. I'd still go with this school of thought because I don't really like the idea of our lives being determined completely by some sort of arrangement of chemicals. I wouldn't like to believe that we're destined at birth to be good at some things and not good at other activities. The destiny theory just gets to me. Big time. There just has to be something else to it.

I recently wrote a post in my blog because I just felt like writing something. One of my close friends read it and told me writing is just not my way of expression. She told me I was impenetrable through the post and that it was extremely formal. Bluntly speaking, it meant that I hadn't written well. I wonder if I'll ever be able to write "well". But again, I wrote it. And I am one who is of the opinion that any activity that a person does can be traced back to the person's state of mind given that one knows certain basic principles of psychology, which I believe apply to almost everyone on this planet. It is something that set me thinking about all this.

Can one can reach any level of ability at a chosen activity by sheer hard-work and determination? Or does one need to "have it in him" to be good at it? I'd choose to think that one can possibly attain a good degree of ability at a given activity, provided one devotes enough time and energy to it. I may be wrong but what's the harm in giving it a go? Here, people tell me that I'll probably end up being mediocre at it and that there is no point in putting in so much effort. But in my opinion, this point of view may lead to disastrous consequences. One may not pursue an activity that one likes simply because of the apprehension that shrouds him as to whether he'll be good at it or not. And there are the matters of interest and want as well.

Heck, if one likes to do something I believe there is absolutely no harm in going ahead with it, even if he's not great at it. Does everyone who writes have to be a Maugham or a Shakespeare or something! Does everyone who plays football have to be a Pele or a Maradona! I believe one should strive to get better at what he likes to do or what he does because it is the only way ahead as I see it. If one is happy doing something, however bad he may be at it, he should go ahead with it keeping in mind that there is always time for improvement. As George Bernard Shaw would like to put it, A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. I sincerely believe in the fact that no one is born a genius.

I don't know if I've conveyed the exact idea that bugs me but I think I've given a decent idea of what it is.