The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Waiting to usher in a new dawn
Rooma Mehra

IN moments of thoughtfulness, where the panicky harshness of black and white thoughts stands unlinked by any shades of gray to the real, urban world, I wonder if it is truly possible for any big-city-dweller to love the soft, soothing sounds of nature. Can one love the whisper of the wind, the chirping of birds, the crackling of golden, autumn leaves — and yet be hooked to the harsh city mega-sounds, provided in equal measures by cable T.V., a constant state of construction, traffic, and restless, noisy people.

Towards Peace I, an oil painting by the writer.
Towards Peace I, an oil painting by the writer.

Or have the forever-honking-horns deadened our senses to such an extent that we no longer seek refuge in a good book or in a tuneful melody. We would rather slip into the monotonous weave of relationships of a soap opera or watch the gyrations of a no-holds-barred youngster on the threshold of filmi-fame, again and again and yet again.

Indeed, the book, plant and poetry lovers and "writers of letters" are dwindling into a negligible endangered minority and retreating into a silence that is even more stubborn and morose than is their wont. I see them making themselves smaller and smaller — to finally merge into the furthest corners of their respective rooms that boom with the sounds of T.V., telephones and "T.V. and telephone lovers", frozen in flight with wool in their ears and their backs to the world. It is hard to be a lover of silence and live in a metropolis without falling into a deliberate "mute" (to use T.V. remote lingo) more stubborn and depressive than the one towards which nature inclines such a temperament anyway.


Yesterday, looking for a pavement-seller of books, reportedly with books that are almost impossible to find anywhere else, I found myself lost in a maze of greeting cards instead. I realised that with my mind preoccupied with dangerously depressing thoughts — given the present depressing scenario — about how so many deliberate "mutes" were becoming permanent, I had completely forgotten that the festive season was almost round the corner. While scanning a heap of cards, something held my attention. On a cheap yellowing card paper, looking conspicuously out of place in a flurry of glossy, expensive looking cards with their gushy, contrived messages of undying affection and eternal hope, was a badly printed picture.

A very small, forlorn looking boy gazed at the setting sun. A message, sprawled across the bottom-half read — "No Dreamer is Too Small No Dream too Big". The dignified silence of the picture emitted itself to me spontaneously, immediately silencing my chattering mind, filling it with a thousand dreams of a peaceful world, while people-filled planes become bombs, bombs rain in a wretched neighbour, and people preferably talk "war", "revenge" than "peace" and "justice". I remember telling a friend that I had written a book called In Search of Peace.. and he asked me, "Whatever for? I have personally decided that it is very didactical to try to force your "peace" on people because maybe people "like" fighting. Has this occurred to you?" It had not occurred to me, but in all objectivity, there was more than a suspicious grain of truth in his statement. In fact, maybe that was the truth thatI dodged all the time. This revelation depressed me even more.

Towards Peace II: Do people actually like to fight?
Towards Peace II: Do people actually like to fight?

What about people who were unable to cope with the present day world with its harsh contemporary realities? Recently, I had been going through a lot of disturbing reports on the increasing number of urban suicides. A long report on the steady increase in the number of cases of neuroses, psychoses and other minor and major mental disorders afflicting the finer minds, dispassionately listing probable reasons behind more and more resultant suicides being brilliant people, (including doctors and scientists) who would have had much to contribute to society if they had lived. A short, cryptic report on the horrifying increase in the number of exceptionally bright teenagers committing suicides on the thresholds of examinations or results.

Another one on the justifiability of punishing, under the law, people who had unsuccessfully tried to embrace death. And a row of other incidents of suicide, recurring with morbid frequency..

To me, all these suicides seemed like final unanswered knocks on lock-stubbed doors of self-centred, noisy vicious circles, followed by a resigned retreat into the doorway of permanent, monumental silence when the cries for help fell on ears too deaf to hear any silent screams for a better, more humane world.

Every time I hear of such a suicide, I wonder if somebody — a friend, a relative, a colleague or a teacher might not have been able to help more with kind words and some reassurance, at least enough fuel of hope to last till the psychiatrist’s door..

If only families would take time out to just "sit together and talk", a mild reactive depression just might be nipped in the bud and a life saved.

I have this, perhaps irrational urge — as my good friend would have pointed out again — to shake puritanical, but surprisingly, unconcerned individuals out of their state of mental complacency that allows them to put the blame squarely on the victim who could not "cope" and chose the "coward’s way out" of the God-given life, and should have been "punished" if he/she had not succeeded.. The question here again is, whether God gave us "war and violence" as the natural state of human habitat or "peace and non-violence"..

So many times, one hears the escapist’s argument that all problems are "self-created" and it is a "harsh-reality that nobody has the time or the inclination to listen to another’s troubles.

Is all right with a world where a silent suicide is ‘discussed’ volubly over caps of coffee/tea, as are bombs on living people minding their own businesses and not harming anyone, and this when the glaze from late night T.V. watching or net-surfing has worn off? Who knows, the present judgmental advice, disguised in kinder words at a more opportune time just might have helped in reaching somebody whose sensitivity did not gear him for either self-defense or attack against the ruthless expectations of his/her brethren to conform to the ruthless parameters set for him/her by a sharply competitive, fight-loving as also rule-setting society. But what of a person who has crossed the zone of rational communication? Someone you cannot reach out to anymore. Someone who has reached a state where circumstances and people have diminished to zero importance as the cause of the depression.

Where an endogenous depression has begun to seem like an organic disease of the mind that weighs it down continuously to unfathomable depths. Yet, the victim is not mad. He can think, too much. Suffer, too much. But remain sane. Almost too much so. I think of the young doctor from MAMC who set up the complicated unto-death I V drip and kept an extra bottle of injectible muscle-relaxant, in the improbable case of one bottle not sufficing, so final and sealed was the decision of opting out of the world, and so clear the mind that he expected to set up the second bottle himself.. I also think of "mad Sonu," discovered and rescued by a conscientious reporter of a national daily.. What about his lost "power of coping"? I come back to the greeting card on the cheap paper that had silently held my attention.

Expect a miracle. Have faith and hope. Because night is darkest just before dawn.. and you or I do not hold the brush that colours the night and the day. Just expect to wake up one miracle morning, an unreasonably happy person. It will happen inevitably when you have reached the end of your tether. When God and peace have begun to appear like bleak dreams that only fools believe in. Dream of that morning. It will come.

A miracle literally handed to you on a platter by a miracle-maker with a weird sense of humour..

It could be the coming dawn.. the sun rising to the tune of the twinkle of a smile hovering on the lips of the pale face of a very small, forlorn- looking boy, who sat through a cold night because he knew that the sun that god lost in the waves of black inky darkness and smoke is the same one that will rise again to herald a new dawn.. again...silently..