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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Happy to be me...I think

When was the last time that you heard someone say, "I don't like the way my hair looks." Or maybe this person is not pleased with the way her/his behind looks in most of the pants that they own. Or it's another point taken from an innumerable list of conditions that seem to plague the "chosen few" members of humanity. Whatever the reason, it seems that people are never without a reason to complain about themselves. I'm not going to deny that I don't do any of what I've said here, but there are days when I have to sit back for a moment and just realize the fact that I've spent the last eight hours complaining. And it doesn't even have to be about my physical "deformities". No, it can be anything from the way that the politicians are making life a living hell to the way in which nothing ever seems to improve quickly enough.

All this complaining makes it seem that I have oodles of time to sit around and do it, but then a lack of time seems to be another favorite complaint of mine. To revisit the unhappiness-with-self idea that I began this post with, I think I've stumbled across the reason for its existence. Now, it's no claim to fame by any stretch of the imagination, and I'd like people to tell me what they think, but I feel that it is the educated and privileged among us that seem to do this the most. What do I mean? Well, my theory is the fact that the more knowledge you're empowered with because of your level of prominence in society, the more likely it is that you spend your time thinking about "why me" and "where is all of this going". Don't get me wrong, I include myself in the educated lot, regardless of whether I thought that the education received was useful or not. But I find that more and more of the 'these' people are throwing themselves in the "problem-end" of the pool instead of being part of the solution. And yes, that goes for me too. But here's hoping to make a difference.

So, for example, what's up with all this nonsense complaining that we're obese and that our current habits will lead future generations to have heart attacks and other cardio-pulmonary disorders by the age of five? I mean, how is it that some of the people in this world have a problem with eating too much, while millions of others spend their entire lives never knowing where the next morsel will come from?...or if there'll be a "next morsel". Sure I've heard all the arguments before, and if nothing else the sheer range of things people will say to justify this never ceases to amuse me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that obesity isn't a problem. I think it is. My only question is how it was allowed to get to this stage. And I don't mean to make this one of those eat-your-vegeatables-Tommy-because-there-are-people-out-there-who-have-nothing-to-eat kind of posts either. Neither do I intend to provide an answer to the question about the constant awe that people seem to be in of the nebulous future. On the contrary, I simply hope to ponder why we question so many things in our lives that seem to have no direct consequence on our rather insignificant lives. Why do we worry about things that don't make a difference in the "greater scheme of things"?

"I've tried everything from diets and tablets to ayurvedic medicine and massage therapy to try and get a more shapely body, but nothing seems to work for me." Someone said this to me once...Once. No, just kidding. In fact, they couldn't seem to shut up about it for a good half hour or so. And I didn't think much of it then because these things have a way of coming up again and again. But I found that the frequency with which I was confronted by such complaints was unnervingly high. Why unnerving? Well, because it seems that every street corner, even in this once green "Garden City" of Bangalore has a weight-loss clinic or a gym that promises to have you "fit and fine" in no time. Needless to say that the adjective "fine" is used subjectively, but you get the idea. In fact, there were advertisements in the newspaper for one of these "clinics" that seemed to encourage those unfortunate few to come in and look better for their significant others. That was the last straw because I couldn't believe that there were people out there who were being convinced that they could look better than they did now. And yes, this is where I introduce the 'educated' lot back into my discussion. More often than not, and because there are no "charitable" gyms out there, it stands to reason that the patrons of these places are well endowed, financially speaking.

But what about the guy who comes around to pick up the trash? Or the lady who works at a construction site to feed her four kids? What about the guy who puts his whole life into getting by with his bare hands? Do you think any of these people sit around wondering what people will say about the fact that their skin is dry and that their prune-like faces could use a little moisturizer? Or should that be sunscreen? Again, I must say that I'm not attempting to make any of these people sound akin to animals by pointing out that they don't rationalize their existence. They do simply because they look around them and wonder why it is that they're not riding in the fancy cars with the "bling-bling" and the rims still spinning... It's natural for a human being to look around and realize that there is a huge disparity between the way s/he is living as compared to the lives that people around them are leading. How do they answer it? One idea is fate; an all-time favorite for the average Indian. But they wake up the next morning and go about their lives trying to do what it takes to get by and live another day. There may not be enough time to sit around and wonder if things will turn out well, or if this towel-converted-into-a-headdress makes my head look unnaturally big.

On the other hand, there are people like me who spend a great deal of time complaining about the state of the world around us, somehow never able to find a way to go about implementing any of the grandiose plans that we preach. To make matters worse, we will buy into ideas and fads that tell us that we're somehow sub-human because we don't own the latest gadget, or because we don't have what it takes to get some every now and then. I admire the approach that these ideas adopt because they get you thinking about something nonchalantly, but before you know it you're dreading the fact that if it happened to you wouldn't be able to live with yourself, let alone show your face in public. And it's funny because the idea is a well-versed seed when it enters our feeble craniums. What happens next is purely a form of the individual being her/his own worst enemy. And we go running to the clinics because they tell us that they have all the answers. And we throw money at them because they're working miracles on us. And before we know it we're happy again because in spite of spending all that money we've achieved a much-desired result. Good for us. Now if only we could all be so lucky. And I don't want the clinics to think that I blame them in anyway, because I'm sure they do fine work. But can someone please tell me how it's more beneficial to somebody else to have you tinkering around with their body instead of you trying to help them identify that there are million and one reasons out there that could cause their condition, and that ultimately it's a person's will to live a better life that will get them what they want. Maybe we should go so far as to identify that lack of self confidence due to poor physical image is not the grounds for any kind of treatment, but for trying to help people to see themselves as wholesome beings who needn't truly care what others say about them because we're all human and it takes all sorts to make this world go around. But this is never the case, eh? No. We spend the first two decades of our lives in schools and colleges trying to assimilate as much knowledge as we can so that we will one day do ourselves proud, only to lead unquestioning lives when it comes to matters like our sense of self-worth and what we're doing with our time here on Earth. Nope. We save time so that we can use it later to feed our own unending quests for answers about our universe and what role we play in all of "it".

That's life? No, that's what we make of life. Life has nothing to do with who or what we are. We seem to have reached the number one spot in terms of evolution, or the days of primordial goo so to speak. So, as we look above us we don't know what to make of our position. And as societies become more well-established, people find that there are fewer "real" dangers to worry about like predators and war, so we turn to art, literature, and the oft futile search of perfection, as it were. Not to say that it's bad, but a whole lot of creativity never helped anything unless it was acted upon...or maybe I should say put into use. But none of this answers the question at the beginning of this paragraph. Is this life?

Look around you. This is who you are. This is the world as it presents itself to each and every one of us. And the less time spent "worrying" about things that we as individuals crave and desire, the more time we have to try and put our efforts into saving our planet. I mean, six billion people and hundreds of global conferences later, the overall state of the planet Earth is deplorable. We all see it. Some of us, however, sit back and use the "armchair" approach, namely never getting out of the chair to do something about it. Others of us will simply look the other way because out of sight seems to be out of mind. But it'll still be there until we learn to see that "our" issues are in no way determinant of the state of the world around us. After all, are we not another kind of life form that inhabits this planet? Do we not shiver when it's cold and sweat when it's hot? So where did having the "right" hair or the "right" stuff suddenly become so important? And why do we worry about things that don't make a difference in the "greater scheme of things"? Truth be told, I don't know. But I for one am hoping this will change...the sooner the better. Here's to being happy for, well, being myself. And about the "I think" in the title, that still needs a little ironing out..."But it's so hard to iron from the armchair," I whine. Well, then it's time I got out of it, eh?
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