P InC Letter 2002 PAIN

Yet another politically incorrect year-end letter – this time for 2002.

Dear Friends,

Life sucks. Then you get bombed, or your house gets razed to the ground or some one kills you in the name of some God.
Meanwhile a very cheery “have fun” to all of you.


PS: What a bloody mess! As a precursor to writing this letter I normally sit down and list out the events that gave me great amusement during the year. It’s a stream of consciousness thing – you know like one of those psychology tests where you write down the first things that come to mind.

Here is what flowed from my pen –
Nirmala/Cancer, Palestine, Israel, Russia, India, Iraq, Religion, right wing Christians, Unemployment, What is the world coming to? How will 2003 turn out? Economy, geopolictics, Pakistan/India, China/Hong Kong/Taiwan, Japan, Israel/Palestine, N.Korea/Iraq/iran, Republicans/Bush/Condi Rice, Russia and Chechnya, Daniel Pearl. My mind is still seething but the paper I was writing on was small so I stopped and started this email.

As you can see, I found nothing funny to say so the letter is very, very, short. The PS? Now, that’s another story.

As I read the letter – first written to my friend Sunil a few days back – these simple lines cried out to me with meanings. First of the people who have the courage to go on in the face of everything bad fate throws at them. Those people show great spirit to be cheery. Second, of the people who just do not give a fucoid (you should check that in the dictionary – it is not what you think, though I admit that what you think is what I really mean) about the others and make judgements about situations they have no idea about. These people show great lack of spirit in being cheery and I loathe them. Third, of the people who do care but feel that most of the events are beyond them but still try to make a small difference in their own little way and concentrate on causing some cheer amongst their loved ones. The people to whom this email is going out are by and large in this category – though there are some in the first category.

That email to Sunil spoke of funny things. Things like berth-control - a reference to being able to control the events leading up to and making possible a very enjoyable experience. I speak of course of being able to secure a berth on a train in India. (Just curious, were you one of those who also had to look up fucoid? Shame on you. ) The Sunil email also spoke of standing outside the flat braving a chilly December night in Delhi wearing only our chedi’s with only Laphroaig, good memories and an old and sure friendship of the type only classmates can have, to warm us. It spoke of two little girls – one of whom cried for me because she thought I would die sooner if I kept smoking.

How I pine for such simple good things in life. I, who have what many would covet. Imagine then now those people who have only their chedi’s (in many cases literally so). No Laphroaig, bad memories, and have been shafted by people they thought were friends to the point they can trust no one. Can you imagine how they must feel. How much more they must pine for the good things in life. The sunny side of life.

Or do they? Do they really pine for the sunny side according to a certain index? Does everything become relative? Is a Palestinian widow with two babies watching her house razed to the ground because her brother-in-law wanted to avenge his brother’s death really feeling only so much anguish as a rich socialite with two poodles would feel if she found that her husband was going to divorce her and live with her boy-toy tennis partner? Even if their pain is the same – for who can truly experience some one else’s pain – which one would your heart cry for? Possibly the Palestinian. Which one would you go out of your way to help? If you are like me, neither. I am ashamed of this and reconcile it by telling myself that I have much to lose. Will I, once my children are hopefully gainfully employed, think not about what I have to lose, but what I have to offer? Will I believe that I can indeed make a difference? I certainly hope so – and I do hope that in about 12 years from now you remind me of these words. If, God forbid I have forgotten them, may I find the courage to remember them again.

Do the less fortunate need courage to see the sunny side of life? Is this born of practice? It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of mind in the face of it. Do the less fortunate see their life as being hopeless and therefore have no anguish for themselves – only for their loved ones? Do the less fortunate therefore show their courage by teaching their children to survive the terrible odds against them? Day after day? What hopes do they give them? What does one tell a bonded child laborer in India? What does one tell a 12 year old returned from murder as part of a rebel force? Why should these children survive? Because life is precious? By whose standards? Which one of us would happily exchange all we have now for the life of a slave laborer in Africa just to be able to live? If life is indeed precious, then that must be a relative thing. If life is precious then we ought to save it. Should we save it by sacrificing it? How would such a contribution be measured? How many sacrifices must be made before the scales are tilted?

What are we saving by our sacrifice? Life itself or increased hope for the generations that will hopefully follow us? It must be the hope. So then what we are saving is not life itself but the ability to lead a life of some hope. What hope? Is there a general basic level of hope? Does the common denominator come all the way back to a hope of survival? Can it mean that a basic level of hope is the absence of everyday  fear? What kind of fear? Fear of life? Or of wellbeing?

Fear of the future?

This letter has taken a lot from me. It has caused me to look into myself in ways that have made me feel small. It is my hope that I will find my own source of courage and inspiration to change lives around me. Once my kids have been educated and are ready to fend for themselves I will devote much more of my time to changing lives around me. For now I have already started taking small steps. I will find a way to make a difference now.

As Khalil Gibran wrote (or at least this is what I remember): “look at darkness giving birth to light”.

It is for me to find answers to the many questions I asked myself and for me to give birth to light – even if it is a tiny sliver of light. For this I must live and be healthy of body and mind.

Bye for now. May it not come to pass that the only thing we are left with is hope itself.

Good luck and God Bless.

Your friend,