24 September 2015

There are nights in the middle of the day

This is the forty seventh in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

‘Terrible’ things can happen any moment.  ‘Terrible’ of course is a subjective thing.  What seems terrible to you may seem trivial to someone else.  Also, what you think is ‘terrible’ right now might appear insignificant later on.  However, when ‘terrible’ happens, it is not trivial, it is ‘terrible’.  It can come in many forms of course, but when it happens it’s like the sun has gone out and all of a sudden it is dark.  That’s how you get night in the middle of the day. 

So what do you do?  You think of terrible nights, that’s what you do!  

On the face of it there’s nothing to say that nights are worse than days, that somehow when there’s light terrible things don’t happen or that they don’t feel as bad.  The only difference is that in one instance there’s light and in the other there isn’t.  But think of it.  When it’s night here, there’s sunlight somewhere else and vice versa.  Globally speaking, even if nights are worse, there’s roughly the same quantum of ‘terrible things’ happening, day and night.  

But what of terrible nights?  We have all had bad nights.  Nightmares have surprised us.  They’ve kept us awake.  We have longed for daybreak so we can escape known and unknown terrors of darkness.  That’s where the answer lies.  However bad things seem, there’s a point at which the night ends. 

When the night ends and there’s light, the world looks different and you look at the world differently.    When it’s night there’s limited visibility.  We don’t get as good a sense of our location, our enemies, the surroundings etc., as we would if there was light.  When there’s light we see pathways that we weren't sure existed.  We see escape routes.  We notice weapons we didn’t know were accessible.  We suddenly realize that our range of options have expanded.  

So think of ‘terrible moments’ as such nights.  When it hits you, when it incapacitates you, everything blurs.  You suddenly find that you’ve lost your bearings.  You are not sure of your location.  You don’t know where to turn.  You can’t distinguish friend from enemy.  You don’t know what to do.  But here’s a story that might shed some light.

Way back in the early 1990s, a bunch of people were held in a security-related state institution on Longdon Place.  It wasn’t a prison or rather didn’t look like a prison.  It was a government office.  A police station of sorts.  During the day there were clerks, peons, typists and other officials in addition to lots of policemen in uniform.  After 5 o’clock there were only police officers.  The detainees had to sit/sleep near one of the walls in a huge hall where all the ‘official work’ took place.  And that’s also where they slept at night. 

They were all suspected of being involved in sedition.  They belonged to different political groups which included the JVP and the LTTE.  The LTTE suspect made an observation one day.

‘It’s easy to escape but there’s no point.  I am not interested in the LTTE. I was a victim, an unwilling recruit.  But I am well-trained.  I know how to get out.’

He outlined his plan.  And then said, ‘the trick is not to run, but to stay in one place for a long time.  I might have to hide in a sewer or in a toilet or in some other terrible place.  I might have to stay there for a couple of days.  Then it’s easy.  By that time they won’t be looking anywhere near this place.  They would expect me to be far away.  That’s when I make the break.’

You have to be patient.  Relax.  It passes.  All you have to do is to be very still.  Wait.  The hours pass. The night ends.  There will be light.

Other articles in this series
Don't hold back when you groom
The sun will never set
When the enemy expands consider inflation
When you are the last one standing
Targets visible and targets unidentified
When you have to vote
So when are you planning to graduate?
The belly of the beast is addictive
When you meet pomposity, flip the script
When did you last speak with an old man?
Dear Rebel, please keep it short
Get ready for those setbacks
The rebel must calculate or perish
Are you ready to deceive?
Dear Rebel, 'P' is also for 'Proportion'
Dear Rebel, have you got the e-factor out of the way?
Have you carefully considered the f-word?
It is so easy to name the enemy, right?
The p-word cuts both ways
Cards get reflected in eyes, did you know?
It's all about timing
Heroes and heroism are great, but...
Recruiting for a rebellion
The R, L and H of 'Rebellion'
Pack in 'Humor' when you gather rebellion-essentials
When the enemy is your best friend
The MSM Principle of Engagement
Dear Rebel, get some creature-tips!
Dear Rebel, get through your universities first
Read the enemies' Bibles
Poetry, love and revolution
Are you ready to shut down your petrol shed
The details, the details!
Know your comrades
Good to meditate on impermanence.
Time is long, really long
Learn from the termites
Be warned: the first victory is also the first defeat
Prediction is asking for trouble
Visualize, strategize and innovate
How important is authority?
Don't forget to say 'Hello!'
It's not over until you clean up!
Have you met 'PB' of Alutwela?
Are you sure about those selfies?
Power and principles
'Few does not mean 'weak'