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Friday, January 11, 2008

The Masks We Wear

Carl Jung said : Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, psychiatrist Scott Peck observes that we build the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality.

Clinical insanity, can therefore , be defined as a reduced inclination/ability to face reality. A man abandoned by his father at a young age may claim that he is dead. A bereaved child might find it easier to believe that the parents have gone on a long trip. A loyal wife might turn a blind eye to the promiscuity of her husband, clinging to the delusion that he is still in love with her. A love that he has traded for the flesh of another woman. All these make-believe can ease the pain of facing the truth momentarily. But nourished with time, the substitute itself becomes more painful than the legitimate suffering it was designed to avoid.

It is very difficult to say "I am a survivor" or show one's wound in public. In another extreme case, the subject might take an egomaniacal interest in exhibiting it in front of others. Both are, if not neuroses, strong contenders for eccentricity or at least unhealthy attitudes towards life. I can't appreciate the average. But trying to make peculiarity your USP is vulgar.

Drugs, fornication, excessive sleep are just a few forms of escapism. ( Watch The Libertine to see the decadent 17th Century society in London under the reign of Charles II ) What is it that can help us lead a balanced life? History directs us that any self indulgent society will fall prey to objective decline. The ancient Rome is a conflagrant example. I guess the same holds true for an individual or an artist. When we see our joys or sorrows to be bigger than life itself , or pretension elevates over effort or talent, it pronounces decay. Something worse than instant death.

I started a private blog to keep a record of my dark secrets. But was pleasantly surprised to find that I am a brighter human being than I give myself credit for. I could not scribble one word of spite or of vengeance. In fact, I found that I was filling my pages with my dreams, with happy moments or simply with my aspirations about my career.

I suppose that we all are beautiful in the inside. No matter, how much we feign ruggedness or indifference on the outside. I have found myself falling in love with some of the least likeable people. A teacher at school whom everyone steered clear of or a colleague at work who was infamous for her caustic remarks- each had a reason to be unhappy. And their unkindness was not the disease - it was just a symptom. Once, I walked past that, I could see the core of the person - a lot more adorable than the popular chums.

I don't dream of a world where everyone loves everyone else. Or a society that is free of social prejudices. We will have our differences- in colors of skin, in languages, in food habits, in what we perceive to be music to our ears. We will also believe that our taste or culture is superior to those who are different. And those different from ours will think the same. We are being similarly decadent by refusing to embrace what is not our own. What we believe is not our own.

I have heard great many a lofty word about the Western culture corrupting the young minds in India. The saffron brigade thinks that holding hands or kissing in public is the negative effect of media and the policemen have a gala time blackmailing such couples. While the truth is, some of these self-styled guardians of morality rape their own wives behind closed doors. I have nothing to say about the sexual preference or perversion of people about my father's age. But consider this- I know of a family whose daughter was not allowed to wear "western clothes", which I think are convenient when you are running behind a bus or a train, because that was not in their "culture". She was never given a chance to develop her own taste in her attire. What would you call this?

A country where hypocrisy is an art, needs a lot of growing up. I am not unpatriotic or an assimilationist trying to uphold one moral environment over another. I am not even trying to justify what I am trying to say here. My claim for the day is: Give us individual freedom. The right to be ourselves; to judge what is good or bad for us. We don't need to live the life of someone else or spend a lifetime taking dictation from our fathers/husbands/brothers. I am not a feminist. I am not trying to ask for equality. I am defending that we deserve to give it to ourselves.

Now, don't rush to the nearest Victoria's Secret's outlet to show how liberated you are or have an affair with a random guy on the street to say you are not 'tied down' to your husband. Look at yourself and see what you lack. Why do you seek affirmation from others? Why can't you respect yourself? Why let past experiences haunt you? Why not burn the old bridges and start afresh? Why not begin now?



sushant said...

"the saffron brigade thinks that holding hands or kissing in public is the negative effect of media and the policemen have a gala time blackmailing such couples. While the truth is, some of these self-styled guardians of morality rape their own wives behind closed doors."

All that might well be true, I don't intend to contest its authenticity, but it doesn't conclude anything. Its like the Congress spokesman saying the BJP guy can't blame us for 84 because they have their hands red in Gujarat. The wrongs of the protesters don't in anyway lessen your own.

Public kissing, apart from other things, is brutal show off. Its much bigger a show off than someone showing off his flashy car to his modest once was friend. There's some decorum you have to follow in public, for their might be someone next to you who just got divorced or anything.

All I am trying to say is, protesting against something you feel, is perfectly fine even if you're not clean as milk yourself, after all who is ?

And I have no sympathies with the saffron brigade otherwise. I hate them. But that's because of the methods they employ to protest, not because they protest.

Anonymous said...

Aparna.....ur everypost Made Me a better person and todays post is awesome,ur thoughts are really admirable and motivational.....i started loving family memebers,the real lesson i ever i am the happiest person.
U deserve more than a blog publisher....and i hope ur words delivered and supported by right person's can enlighten many people......i wish all the best of luck for ur career .

muahhhhhhhhhhhh.......this for mind
which thinks in such a beautiful and sensible way.

Munmun said...

Yeah I agree: in a nutshell, life is about living every moment and letting others to do so as well :) Each day is a new day which emcompasses new hopes and opportunities. While learning from the past is important, but getting bogged down with it is equally bad. Similarly, seeking affirmation from others is meaningless, but consideration of others' views and beliefs are necessary, even if we personally differ from them.

SsS said...

No man is an island!

Sam said...

well said...
somehow this post seems to have been built up of two different halves...
oh btw, had read it long time back.. Indians are supposed to among the lot who are more into hypocrisy than most others you'd find around you!!! really i have seen it.. double standards all the way!!!

arnab said...

There is an interesting contradiction in your post, because the two halves follow slightly different logic. You were criticizing Indian society for limiting an individual's freedom of expression, while also stating that "trying to make peculiarity your USP is vulgar". The problem is who gets to decide what is "peculiar" - there is usually no problem with the extremes, but it is gray in between, and each of us is comfortable with a different shade of gray.

A good example is Sushant's comment (assuming he was serious in what he said). What is normal to you is peculiar to him. One can extend his argument to put a moratorium on smiling, for there maybe someone sad around, but that would be taking the argument to an extreme where we are in agreement (hopefully) about what is an acceptable behavior.

That is why if you want freedom of expression, you have to appreciate the peculiar, tolerate the insane. A line can and should be drawn where one person's expression infringes upon another's personal and physical space, but criticizing something that "looks" eccentric to you is not consistent with a desire of individual freedom.

Aparna Kar said...

Thanks for replying to Sushant on my behalf. I particularly subscribe to the extension of the argument :" put a moratorium on smiling, for there maybe someone sad around.."
What you missed out entirely was my emphasis on the word "trying". What comes naturally to you , is not peculiar to me. Just like the examples I cited. In fact, I'd appreciate your ability to be yourself. It is the feigned effort to project oneself as someone else to be different or to be 'in' that bothers me. But I guess we all have to resort to it once in a while. And specially in the corporate world, where politics and influence are not dirty words but the very parameters that measure your survival quotient, let alone success. The more I hear about office politics, the more I feel that I have a lot more of growing up to do before I can be where I want to be. Now this is a dilemma. Because my secondary career necessitates me to be a feeling individual, while my primary career would require me to be more of a thinking type. However, I hope that I will be able to oscillate between the two as and when required. But that would need immense control over my own mind and the chemicals that it triggers;) Btw, before I go rambling here I'll call my mom and see if I can script my next post today.

anon said...

Time to wear the mask.
Put on that smile.
Make it seem that everything's alright.
Coz all's not lost.

Not yet.

So off I go.. to the world, my stage.

reminded me of something i wrote sometime ago...

Da Rodent said...

people are beautiful inside when they start out. the world makes them what they are.


> Public kissing, apart from other
> things, is brutal show off. Its
> much bigger a show off than
> someone showing off his flashy
> car to his modest

well.. how do you know the intention of the couple is to 'show off' and not anything else.

Aparna Kar said...

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. And you may continue to abhor the idea. Personally, I am for Public Display of Affection (PDA), done with no intent but to show care and affection for each other.

I believed it partially when I was in India: public kissing is a show off -> because people noticed you. Here, no one really cares and is nothing more than a natural expression of love. In fact, I feel good and warm to see couples together who are cozy and so much into each other that they do not realize if there is a world around them. Specially the older couples. It's beautiful !