02 August 2014

What kind of conversations do you have with yourself at the ‘Deep Down’?

A man died recently He was in his seventies.  He had been terminally ill but not exact on his deathbed.  He was living with his wife.  They didn’t have children.  A son from an earlier marriage would visit him off and on.  On one occasion he had made an appeal: ‘Chooti, these people don’t give me any money. I need a drink. Can you give me 500 rupees?’ 

‘These people’ was actually a singular term and an equivalent of ‘wife’.  ‘Chooti’, in his mid-forties and quite a giant physically, compared to his father and well on his way to matching the old man for stature in chosen field.  Chooti had said softly that he should not be drinking. 

‘I have a problem.  I need to write.  I can’t because of my illness. No one comes to see me. There’s no one to talk with.  A man like me has to find a way to overcome insomnia, find a way to sleep.  This is why I need to drink.’

Chooti gives him 2000 rupees, opining that if he has to drink he might as well drink something decent.  Well, let’s say ‘less indecent’ for there is nothing good about drinking.  The old man responded: ‘No, quality is not important to me now.  This is good.  I can have more with the money you gave.’  He died a few days later. 

The most important part of this conversation was the need to find a way to fall asleep. We all need to. ‘Fall asleep’ moreover is about managing to keep at bay the demons that often invade our conscience. The problem starts once you are alone. There’s no one asking you questions.  The interrogator is within you.  You have to find a way to fall asleep.  Not easy.

It is not about justifying things to the world.  Money, power, a way with words, guilt/sin-expiating acts and the human being’s propensity to forgive and forget, not to mention legal sanction (courtesy loophole and manipulation of article and clause) can eliminate embarrassment in this regard.  Right and wrong, good and bad, are things that really should not bother anyone when playing in the public domain for that is a pretty sick place.  It is easy to find the worse-case that allows one to justify action.  If someone points a finger, you can point it to several others and ask ‘why aren’t you asking them, buddy?’  That’s enough to get by.

I remember Godfather III, where Michael Corleone, a mafia kingpin tries to purchase legitimacy not just by moving out of crime, but obtaining a papal white-wash of sorts.  He does succeed for a while.  A man is often made too much of his past; event and personality pursue. Al Pacino, playing Michael put it this way, ‘just when I thought I was out; they pull me back!’ 

The lesson is easy to grasp: the pathways of escape are cluttered with misleading road signs.   Michael could have managed, theoretically, if he had the correct map and was able to better read road sign.  That’s only one part of the story though.  It could get you to a point where the world believes you sleep well at night.  Only you know what demons are waiting to waylay you as you reach the point of truth/lie every night after obtaining legitimacy through public statement justifying this, that and the other or by securing higher moral ground by pointing to greater crimes. 

All of us are blessed/burdened (depending on perspective) with a ‘deep down’. That’s a gate we have to pass before we enter the region of slumber.  At the Deep Down, we are required to ask ourselves whether or not we’ve been bullshitting ourselves (forget about bullshitting the world, i.e the general public, colleagues, friends, family etc).

The old man I talked of had a problem. He found it difficult to fall asleep.  This was not because he was stumped at the Deep Down.  It was an ailment that had nothing to do with conscience. 

I just wonder if others, especially those professing to be acting for the betterment of all and frilling statement and act with all the colours and decorations of selflessness, are as blessed Chooti’s father was.  I wonder what kind of conversations they have with themselves at the ‘Deep Down’.    

*First published in the Daily News, September 4, 2010



padraigcolman said...

Have you seen Al Pacino in "Insomnia"?

padraigcolman said...

Have you seen Al Pacino in "Insomnia"?

Anonymous said...

They come in the guises of ‘it was meant to happen’. ‘It’s too beautiful not to have happened’ ‘they did it, I had no choice what so ever’ ‘I was too young/ innocent to understand’ etc. But only for those who are blessed enough to be able put themselves in another’s shoes. The only solace is sometimes a long time later we find out it was actually one of those dots and everyone is better off for it. But there are things just time itself can’t mend, maybe letting go, forgiveness or just getting by with expiating acts help.