Disclaimer : This is not meant to be a sermon nor is it a summary of my virtues (if any) and vices (of the many)
I have always HATED grey. Things were black and white once – between the ages of 2 and 16. I knew what was right; I knew what was wrong for sure. All I had to do was imagine my mom’s reaction to an action and that’s it. Crystal clear. However, as I left home for college, the colours started blurring.
Now apart from right and wrong, there were concepts like right/wrong for me; right/wrong for others; right but not practical; wrong but needed for survival etc. These shades surfaced sometime around my second semester and it was poetic justice when I got not the best grade for an ethics paper we had then – yeah, that paper had nothing to do with my (or anyone’s) idea of ethics, yeah, the marks were based on a roll of a dice (at least I hope so – that would mean there was some logic) and yeah, none of my confused thoughts had let to any unethical behaviour. But still. Poetic justice.
You see, these confusions fundamentally altered the kind of person I had been until then. For example, earlier it was
“Lying is bad. I should never lie. I will always speak the truth.”
Now it was more of
“Lying is fine if it is for the greater good. The emphasis on truth by all religions and gurus is to ensure that Man stays civilized and to reduce fights. Lying is fine if I ensure that no one gets hurt by it. But lying is also cowardice and means I care about that person’s opinion of me. And that is showing weakness. If I have the guts to do something wrong, then I should also have the guts to admit it. I should be able to tell others that I never lie. But lying is fine for others, I’ll just have to be vigilant, it’s ok to have friends who are chronic liars. So basically lying is fine, but it’s not for me.”
The end result was still that I didn’t lie (almost never). But somehow, the emphasis shifted from telling the truth to not lying. And that caused many more confusions and dilemmas, I was miserable and it affected my health, but I refused to see why – I was no longer a child but instead of growing up with poise and responsibility (yeah, right), I lost my path briefly (if nearly 3 years is brief).
It was my grandmother who finally brought me back. The grandmother who I meet 6 times every year (on an average). The grandmother who deserves an MBA if not a doctorate for having managed the balancing act, not on a wall, but on a 15-sided solid figure. The grandmother who says “Enakkenna theriyum ? Naan enna padicchavala ?”*.
(* What do I know, am I well educated ? )
Late afternoon’s the time of day that reminds me of her - when the heat reduces and the room turns dark gradually, like the stupor after a heavy lunch, like a descending shade, casting a protective cover over our precious conversations. Then the sun suddenly remembers it has half its journey left and renews its effort with an instant burst of energy. Only this time, instead of heat, it is light – the whole room gets bathed in a golden light (inexplicably, her words have this effect too, of lighting a huge bulb in my brain) and she lies on the bed peacefully, her hair and face illuminated, blissfully unaware of how much she is affecting me.
She’s literally worked all her whole life for others, with no tangible benefits as such. And what astounds me is that she would do it all over again because to her, it’s just her way of showering love. When I argued that she was being exploited, she just said “They are my kids and my grandkids. When you do something for yourself or what is yours, how is that exploitation? I am in fact being very self-centred.” I am yet to find a counter argument to that.
Coming back to truth, it is she who cleared things for me. She was talking in a different context – the relevance of rituals and traditions. She said “You can’t question everything in life. These have been passed on to us as our heritage for a reason. One just has to lead one’s life with certain values which should be held sacred and as a result, are not to be tampered with. Just like how one isn’t supposed to be lie or be violent.”
She actually held truth as inviolate as non-violence or her religious beliefs. Which is when it hit me hard… And the world was back to black and white. And other colours too, but not grey!
So yeah, am back on track, have been so for some time now ( people have asked me if I know a word called diplomacy, but it’s fun being brutally honest at times :) ). And I still HATE grey.