Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Faceless Stories

Everyone has their own reason for waking up every morning, or “a reason for being”. The Japanese call this “ikigai”. All of us have so many different reasons for jumping out of bed (or, as in my case, crawling out). It could be a compulsion to meet the minimum attendance percentage required in college (most college-students’ cases!), or, maybe, to just meet up with friends, to take up a new challenge that life throws our way – carpe dium. Reasons could be many – perhaps, to just hug your parent, or cuddle with your pet, or even crank up some silly music and goof around in your PJs. Maybe, you just like to see the sun rise and hear the birds chirp. The dawn gives you hope, light beyond the dark, and a chance to start afresh – a new beginning. Since the chance can be grabbed, why not?? Even though we might not all be morning persons, there is always that one reason in our life that gives us the belief and the hope of another day. It’s the belief we take with us to sleep at night and hold on to – and that is how life goes on…Really. Days, weeks, months, years pass by for these little reasons that make us “want” to wake up to a bright, new day. Reasons that keep us alive. These “ikigais” are something that just makes us so much more similar to each other than we realize…These “ikigais” are the faceless stories that are common not just to you and me, but also to stories we do not perceive, or realistically, choose not to perceive.

Last month, I had the unbelievably amazing opportunity to attend a workshop in Rishikesh and the lessons I learnt there – I could not have learnt them anywhere else. Amongst the various life-lessons the workshop taught me, one was that no matter where you go, which language you speak – everyone is one and the same...Flesh and bones…With the same hopes and dreams, same reasons to wake up every morning, same fears and insecurities. We are all watching the same movies, listening to the same songs and fighting the same battles.

Let me now get back to the title of my post – Faceless Stories. These stories are merely just every single person around us. The crowds that we get lost in, in shopping malls or in the middle of a crowded street. They include our batch-mates and our colleagues. Our parents. Our teachers. Even the celebrities we adore and worship. How much do we really know about their lives? Have we ever really stepped into their shoes and seen for ourselves what living their life felt like? How many times, before placing a judgment, have we stopped to ask ourselves what that person’s life has been like? Forget about each and every day, have we ever lived even one day in his life? If not, then, what gives us the power to decide for ourselves what ‘might’ that person be like, or what his life ‘might’ be like. We paint a face what in reality is nothing more than a faceless story…A novel that we are NOT the author of. This serves as the building block to all the pandemonium that we see around us, today. Clouded judgements and influenced perceptions.

Being absolutely non-judgmental may not be possible for all of us. All I feel is that – yes, we may be different from each other, but then, if all of us are different together, then in that, we are all similar. So yes – we are in all entireties, the same. I do not ask you to not judge. I ask you to not judge people by your own standards. Everyone around you is trying to hold on to their “ikigais”, fulfil their dreams, fight their demons, win their battles - and all unbeknownst to you. 

Faceless Stories - Scenario 1:
As you walk home after an exhausting day, a cute seven-year-old skips along the pavement holding her mother’s hand. You smile to yourself and say, “What a cute little girl!” and then something else catches your mind. Little did you know that the cute seven-year-old won her first poem recitation competition in school that day. She was given a certificate and everyone clapped for her. The certificate is now safely kept in a pink folder in her school bag that is slung across her mother’s shoulders. Her mother cannot help but smile a proud, little smile. The mother is reminded of her school-days. She remembers her days in school when she was great in debates and is so happy that her daughter is following her footsteps and enjoying public speaking. She can’t wait to reach home and announce via Facebook proudly before the world about how her daughter won a prize.
At home, the cute, little girl snuggles in bed clutching her teddy bear and soon drifts off into a dream world where she fantasizes about receiving ten more certificates and trophies that’ll adorn her bedroom, and more claps, more hugs, more Facebook statuses, more praises.

Faceless Stories - Scenario 2:
Your boss has just announced your promotion in front of the entire office. As everyone is busy cheering and congratulating you, you observe a colleague, who is a good friend of yours, slightly moving to a corner, with no smile on his face, fidgeting with his phone, and you immediately realize, “He wanted this promotion. Now he’s jealous of me.” Your colleague notices you looking at him and smiles, but you can make out it is forced. You make up your mind to stay away from him as far as possible. He has no idea about your decision. Just a while ago, he found out that the girl he really loved is marrying another man and he’s heartbroken. However, he does not want to share his bad news with you at a time when you are celebrating your success. He decides to shake off his grief and join in the merrymaking even though he does not feel like it. He is happy that he at least has a friend at work.

Faceless Stories - Scenario 3:
Your date just stood you up. As you sit by yourself, blinking your eyes rapidly to stop the tears from flowing, you suddenly hear a delightful scream! The woman on the table in front of you has just been proposed by the man of her dreams, and she's said 'yes'. You stare at the happy couple in anger and mutter to yourself, "Life's not fair! How can they rub their happiness on my face." You don't notice the sigh of relief on that woman's face. You do not see the creases on her face, caused due to incessant nights of worry. For the last ten nights, she has not slept a wink. "How do I tell him that I am pregnant with his child?", "Will he accept me and the baby?", "What do I do now?" - that is all she's been thinking. Finally, she can have a restful sleep tonight. Her baby is going to have a father figure after all. Life's good again. The man too can see nothing around him; he's too engrossed staring into the eyes of the woman he loves. It's time for him to become responsible now, take charge. He cannot behave like a child any more, because an actual child is going to come into his life - his own baby. He just cannot believe it!

Faceless Stories - Scenario 4:
You're having a great time with your friends. All of you have had a few too many drinks. Your friend insists on driving the car, and even though you know it isn't right,  you let him. The music is loud and all of you are singing along, having the time of your lives. You do not notice the man crossing the road, and by the time you do, it's too late. He's gone, and your friends just drive past the empty roads without even turning back to look at him. "He seemed poor...Was probably homeless...No one will miss him...Let's not get into any trouble...Run! Drive fast!" and you and your friends have escaped. It's been a week and life goes on for all of you. There are a few moments plagued with guilt, but nothing so extreme that you aren't able to focus on the task at hand. You just shrug off the ill feeling and get back to work. Back in an old dilapidated house, a visually impaired father is desperately waiting for his son's arrival. The neighbours feel his son abandoned him because taking care of the sick, old man was no easy task. The old man hears these whispers every day and wonders what is it that he did that drove his son away. 

There are so many more faceless stories just like these. Everyone around us, making their way home by the roads they know best - roads that we probably would have got lost on, till we made a phone call and asked them to repeat the address again...Because everyone around you has a life outside of yours, complete with their own thoughts, feelings and emotions. You could potentially just be a passing figure on the street to them. Every random passerby you encounter is living a life as vivid and as complex as yours - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk…
Let them write their own novel, a novel that you do not need to write a book review of!