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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Treasure

It was a small headline that read,' Cult film sparks hunt for a fortune.' The newspaper tabloids reported the death of a Japanese woman in a field outside Detroit Lakes in Minnesota. She had reportedly been looking for a hidden treasure, depicted in the movie Fargo. I felt I needed to get inside her head and know what was driving her to search for something that did not exist. What were the last moments of her life like?

Armed with morbid curiosity and my camera, I set out to search the breadcrumb trail she had left behind during the last few days of her life. The first place I went to was the police station where a long-haul truck driver had brought her after she was found wandering alone by the highway. Barely clothed to ward off the cold of a Minnesota winter, he thought she’d freeze to death until she got some help. AT first, the police officer on duty thought that she was a prostitute. ‘No one dresses like that in that weather. No one sane.’ He said to me.

He had tried to talk to her, but she barely spoke English. The only word he understood, which she kept saying over and over again was –Fargo, Fargo, Fargo.

She had shown him a map with an X. He could identify some marks that looked like roads, trees, and a lake. Could she have been looking for the money mentioned in the movie Fargo? He tried to explain that it wasn’t real. That it was just a movie. But she kept insisting on being there- almost pleading in a language he did not understand.

He decided to take her to the bus station. On her way, she kept clutching at her stomach and said something. He suspected that she might be pregnant. Did she want the money for her unborn child?

It was important for her to be with her family in this condition. Why was this woman wandering in the streets instead? He told her to reach out to him if needed and asked her to go home. She walked away.

‘I shouldn’t have let her go on her own. Why didn’t I do more for her?’, he lamented.

Upon further investigations, I found that she had checked into a cheap motel nearby. I asked to be let into the room she was in. I lay in the bed she had laid and looked out of the window that opened to a parking lot and a neon sign. It was depressing. I gathered my things and went out.

I asked the bellboy if she had gone anywhere. He said that she had taken a taxi. I found the cab driver who drove her there and asked him to drop me where he had dropped her.

It was the middle of nowhere.

I walked in the cold air with the sound of silence. Soon, I reached the place she had been found dead. She had died of exposure. They had found her with her face was buried in the snow. A cold, lonely death.

The last person I wanted to speak with was the lead investigator of her death. He told me that she had made a long phone call before her death. He also gave me her last known address in Tokyo.

After a long flight, I knocked on the door of a two-storied house. An old lady opened the door. She was the landlady of the Japanese woman. I had a translator with me who eased me into the conversation. I grabbed at the bits as she spoke swiftly.  The dead woman was a country girl who had found a job in the city in a travel agency. Through her work, she had met an American gentleman who was in Tokyo for business.

The landlady believed that they were engaged to be married when her tenant lost her job. The fiancé left for his country too. After months of waiting and no contact from his side, the girl decided to go to America on her own where she thought he lived. In a town called Fargo.

Based on true events.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The paradox of success

Sometimes, our success can make us impatient with the failures of others. Maybe we can empathize more with the struggles of the multitude when we are struggling ourselves. But with every ascent, as the height increases, we look down upon those we started with;  not acknowledging that they might have problems that we are not aware of.

We begin to attribute their issues to attitude problem. We might even try to fix it. Try to make them more like us. But success or failure is not the result of just attitude. Twenty other things are as influential. All the maxims oversimplify the truth.

Not everyone has to finish the race at the same time to win. In fact, there is no race at all. If someone asks for your advice, be generous with it. But don't waste time and energy in sheer pedagogy. It is insulting to the receiver.

The paradox of success is this: you have to separate yourself from what you have achieved. What you have might be delightful, but it might not be what someone else wants. Let them find their way to success and happiness.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The burden of expectations

One of my juniors from B-school had her wedding scheduled at the end of this month. The venue was booked, invitations had been sent out, and I had already decided what I’d be giving her as a wedding gift.

Yesterday, she messaged me that the nuptials had been called off. I called her immediately to make sure she was okay and that it wasn’t just a lovers’ tiff. She seemed sure of her decision. I asked her to meet because this is not a conversation you can have over the phone.

I had some inkling about what the issue could have been and I was right. Family. She said that her fiancé expected her to live with his parents six months every year after marriage. It was not that she was not ready for that, but he never thought of asking her first. Not having a choice is what ticked her off.

I see it as a symptom of a bigger problem. If a well-educated, financially independent girl like her is not allowed to have a choice, who else possibly could? She regrets not having handled the situation the best way she could have, but I had to ask her what the alternative was. She would have given in to his wish and accepted the terms. But what if she felt that it was not working out for her after six months of marriage ?

I always believe that whatever happens is for the best. She should, at least, have had the option to say no. Imposing decisions like these is just the beginning. No matter how much time and energy she has invested in this relation, it is nothing compared to the rest of her life. Eight months is nothing compared to the remaining 50-60 years of her life. In the long-run, it won't even matter.

I hope her family understands that she needs their support now more than ever. She shouldn’t be demonized to wanting to live life a certain way. At another time, he might have been the right guy for her. But right now their priorities are different. She wants to spend time with him alone and get to know him. He wants his house full of people with zero privacy.

Privacy. The concept is so alien to some people. It is spoken in whispers like it is criminal to want it. Not everyone wants to get married by 22, have a kid by 23, and call it life. She wants to travel the world with her husband. Build memories that last a lifetime. What is wrong in wanting that? Not everyone is the same. How can you expect someone else to give up their dreams because they don’t fit in with yours?

I think that people who agree with everything someone asks them to do, have some deep-rooted issues. They probably assume they are not good enough or are dependent in some way. Too scared to antagonize their ‘savior’.  Or some ulterior motive. Like her not-to-be-future-sister-in-law who lives with her in-laws, wakes up at 5 in the morning, goes to work, and then comes home to daily chores. She thought that the SIL was some superwoman, so she asked her the secret of her success. The SIL replied- ‘Look at the brighter side, I don’t need a nanny for my kids. They are not going to live more than ten years anyways.’

You need to have an icy, calculating heart to think of the death of a person as your only relief. If I had issues with someone, I’d want to work it out – not pray for their death. My friend is a genuine person to have refused what she thinks she can not handle rather than pretend to be okay with it or try to manipulate the situation to her advantage.

 I hope she finds her happiness with or without him.