I reconnected with a good man last weekend – a disconnection that had been orchestrated by me, and the reconnection equally orchestrated by me. That man was completely gracious in accepting my craziness and was undeniably kind in his response.
Today, I sat in the absolutely lovely surroundings of the NGMA (National Gallery of Modern Art) at its beautifully restored Manikyavelu mansion on Palace Grounds Road, Bangalore. The weather was picture-perfect Bangalore – cloudy, hint of rain, a slight chill in the air, and gorgeous trees that shaded the sun whenever it chooses to say hi to us. We sat there at the cafe, cupping warm mugs of lemon tea and nibbling on french fries. This is one of my favorite places in Bangalore, and if you are very nice to me, I will take you there. For now, though, my friend and I sat on the benches overlooking the pond. Ripples of water shimmered alive its surface every now and then. A black kitten wandered here and there.
As we sat and spoke, I told my friend about my reconnection. She was quite baffled initially. I told her then about another friend in London who had recently written to me about how she was finding that her circle of friends was shrinking as she was growing older. “I have lost faith in humanity and friendship overall and may want to live the rest of my life as a recluse,” the London friend wrote. My NGMA friend listened patiently to my explanation for reconnecting with the said wonderful man.
“I feel it’s the same – life is too short to be spent on resentment. We need to build connections, not break them. In the end, what we carry is just the memory of who we are with who we are,” I said, trying to explain thoughts that seem to become different beings when spoken aloud.
I spoke then about how we need to find spaces in our lives for the people we carry the best part of our memories with. Many times, people come to me for advice – I am not sure why because I don’t believe I am good at doling out advice – but I feel I am able to be practical because I lack empathy. I can deal dispassionately with a problem without getting mired in it. I give suggestions that make sense sometimes. But I can’t identify myself with your problem – that distance is probably valuable to those who seek me out. I feel for you – for your sadness – but I will not identify with your problem. When this NGMA friend had come to me many months ago about a person who had treated her shabbily five years ago and which still affected her, I had told her then to let go – or words to that effect. It sounded simple. Cliched. Trite. Pathetically easy. Today, I told her, I understand now what I didn’t then.
Anger has no timestamp
I know that there is no pecking order to our anger or hurt – that while grief comes with a timestamp and expiry date, no one ever tells you about the appropriate expiry date for anger or hurt. I am still hurt and I still angry over what someone did to me a year ago. But while grief can be shared and is almost communal in its quality, anger and hurt are private – no one can share those – and you are left to handle these vultures that peck at your heart all alone. When I told my friend this, she asked me a simple question. “When you can reach out to the “good man” why not reach out to this girl?” she asked. I paused. But the answer was simple. “Pride. Ego. Resentment. Anger. Bitterness. Hurt. And to honest, the feeling that this person can’t care less anymore.”
When I reached out to the “good man,” I didn’t think. I just reached out without thinking about the consequences – it was the same spontaneity that made me reach out to Travelling Birdy two years ago. In both those instances, the recipients of that reaching out were gracious in their acceptance. In this case, I don’t think that the wonderful Blocking Bear will be quite as gracious – probably something to the effect of – Thank you. I wish you well. But. Please don’t bother me again, Smitha. Thank you. Goodbye.
Or the alternative – the blank noise of silence. And utter, absolute indifference.
The thought of that stings. And I have all the other demons – ego, pride, anger to accompany me. So, I will not reach out, I admit to my friend. She looks out at the pond and says, “But isn’t that contrary to what you believe? In kindness and compassion?” I nod. “I am a hypocrite, ain’t I?”
She doesn’t agree. I think then: Who am I?
I do believe in kindness. I think that the world is a better place if we are kind the most to those who deserve it the least. Kindness should not be a quality that we dole out only to those who return it in equal measure.
Can I practice it? No. I struggle with it.
I believe in compassion – that those who hate us are seemingly the ones who need our love the most. I know it every time I meditate.
Do I practice it? No. Not all the time. Not many times.
“Bear with me”
The thing is, my dear reader, I am a flawed person. When you tell me that you find sustenance through the words you read here, I am touched and humbled. But I find myself wondering all the time if I deserve your attention. I struggle with the resonance of the words I write. I am a mean, bitter idiot many times. I can have laughing conversations with the eunuch at the traffic light, grin at children who gravitate to me, and then come back to rail at my friend or parents. I can indulge in fits of moodiness and drag the world down with me. I can preach to you all the kindness and compassion you need to have and find that I am low on those resources myself. I am this mess – I am all I have. But I am not fake – you won’t find me on social media for that same reason because trying to portray this shallow world of glorious living is not me. This blog is really raw and unfiltered, not a decked-up display picture where I grin all the time.
I believe that my life is better with kindness, and that anger kills you first. Despite that, I hurt myself. I slip up all the time. I am learning. I know that I need to transform this anger and bitterness into the love I once had for this person. I am trying. I am trying. Bear with me.
And I hope that I will make my NGMA friend proud one day and that I can walk my famous talk too.