Friday, November 7, 2014

Overcast skies are never forever

Just one of those days?
This is the first in a series of essays on miracles, dedicated to all those who, like me, believe in and have experienced them.

Is it a miracle if something unexpected happens? Or if something you had kept in the back of your mind, which you had secretly wanted all along but never really desired, comes to life? Or if something you had wanted and desired, something which people all around you had told you not to desire for, suddenly comes true and justifies your expectation? What is this seven-letter word that refuses to be defined, that slips through your fingers the moment it unfolds and leaves you in a state of indifference? Why is it that "miracles" happen only so long as we consider them miracles? What about the million other things that unfold before our eyes, which escape notice? What are they?

A few years ago, we were bankrupt. Literally. I'm not a beneficiary of free education. My schooling was meant to be paid for. There were other expenses too, and I won't deny that some of them dwarfed the cost of my education. But "we" paid through them. Every last cent. Without a single debt being incurred. No loans, no debt. Years later, looking at those times now, I am humbled, by my father and the fact that he did all this without a single aide on his side. I am humbled by those who helped us in whatever way they could. I am humbled also by those who refused pointblank to support us even though they had enough and more on their side.

To me, that's a miracle. A miracle we got through those years. A miracle we are where we are now.

There are other things. I am not very self-confident. Until three years ago, I couldn't go in a bus alone. The point wasn't just that I couldn't, the point was that my parents didn't allow me to. Then came one day when I went to a class that had been cancelled the day before. I hadn't registered at the institute, which meant that they couldn't notify me. So there I was, thinking. Left to thought. Deciding what to do. I didn't tell my parents. I lied. "Classes till six o'clock," I told them. Then I left, boarded a bus, and came home two hours later. No scolding, no harsh words from mother or father. Just this thought: it finally happened, and happened through some unseen force, some unseen quirk of fate. And I survived. A miracle?

These are trivialities, however. I've seen miracles happen to other people. We see them all the time on TV. On radio. In the papers. It's just that we don't call them miracles. We refer to them by other tags. The miracle of "recovery" after a 30-year old conflict, for instance. The miracle that underdeveloped areas in the north of this country are seeing development on a massive scale. The miracle that people from these areas have jumped into the spotlight, have finally found their place in the sun in this country. The miracle that despite every attempt made at drawing boundaries between "them" and "us", the people prevail and we live.

Miracles happen everywhere. They happen in the unlikeliest of circumstances, in the most overcast of skies, and when they go away, we take them for granted and refuse to be moved by them. Yes, they happen. Like how we survive, day-in and day-out, in a world where a million ways to die exist but a mere fraction of it is used to ensure life. Just the teeniest wrong impression and miscalculation, and you can fall victim to accident. That's a hair's breadth away from death.

Take road accidents, for example. How hard can it be to underestimate the speed of an oncoming car? Just the tiniest miscalculation is enough for you to slow down or quicken your steps as you cross the road. Just the smallest glimpse the other way is enough for you to miss that car coming from the bend by your side. That's the thin line between life and death, at any rate. And yet, we live. We don't die.

Road accidents happen every day, every hour, every minute, in this world. Have you ever wondered just how easy it is to fall into the annual statistic of their victims? Have you ever considered that should you die at the hands of a careless driver, everything you treasure, everyone you cherish, will lose your support and go down the slope for the rest of their lives? That the bright sky graced by birds and butterflies will sour for everyone you hold closest to you?

This is an orderly world. We stress on order and on consistency, too much I should say. None of us are selfless, naturally. But we shrug off another's misfortune, another's reversal of fortune, as an inevitability in life, as a glitch in an otherwise organised world. We refuse to help, we pin down our faith on that person's resolve and ability to get out of his or her bad luck.

In other words, we believe in selfishness to such a degree that we actually believe that, through one's own will, even the biggest catastrophes can be got over with by hard work. It is true that there are some tragedies that call for people to get together, as a community, and help out brothers or sisters in need. But not all the time.

Isn't this, one way or another, a sign of our collective belief in miracles? Isn't this what the statement "he'll get through tragedy soon enough" is all about? Don't we all believe, truly and may I say selfishly, that those whom we love and cherish will turn tragedy into luck by their own wills? Don't we all then, unconsciously or not, think that they will face their own share of miracles to get them over their tides?

Yes, miracles happen. They happen and they unfold every minute of the day, in some corner of this world. They happen even while we're not aware of them, even while we ourselves put our trust in them. They happen with individuals, those people who battle it out in life, who lose the help of those whom they loved, they adored, and win in the end. They happen, yes they do, and in ways not many of us will be comfortable to admit.

The thing is, human beings are selfish. They relish another's misfortune and sadden over his fortune. They wait eagerly until that person tastes tragedy. Those who love him, those who are unable to help him, and those who don't want to help him glance at his troubles. They turn the other way, with the "he'll get over it soon enough" dismissal. Does this absolve their act of looking away? Hardly. But this, to me and probably to anyone else, may well be the biggest way by which we, as rational human beings, admit the existence of that seven letter word we all deny every other day and hour.