Saturday, January 12, 2008

This Above all
Shades of anger


Anger is listed second among the five deadly sins by Indian sages—kaam (lust), krodh (anger), moh (attachment), lobh (greed) and ahankar (pride). I think they were exaggerating because in proper proportions all five are integral to human beings. It is only when one or the other exceeds proportions acceptable to human society that they become evil. At the moment let us consider only anger.

Anger is of different grades, ranging from minor irritation to uncontrollable rage. At times it is justified, as when a parent reprimands his or her child for misbehaving. There is no ill-will on the side of the parent. Nor when a child throws tantrums. For a minute or two the child is in a rage against the world, flailing his arms at anyone who tries to quieten him. The anger suddenly fizzles out and he sits happily with his parents. The incident leaves no trace of bitterness. You can’t call such outbursts sinful.

Likewise, in quarrels between married couples. They may shout at each other, go into sulks and stop talking to each other for a day or two. Then they resume making love and all is forgotten. However, if such quarrels become habitual, they take all the fun out of married life. If they become violent—it is usually the husband who first raises his hand against his wife—you can be sure that the marriage is going to break up in a court of law or they begin to live apart.

You attribute the break-up to uncontrolled anger. However, I was a witness to one case of uncontrolled anger, which took place about every other month in a flat opposite me in Colaba (Bombay). It was a family of four—parents and two children, both under 10. I could not find out what caused the explosion. I could only see the man pacing up and down the room, shouting obscenities at the top of his voice while the wife and children sat huddled together in a corner.

It would end with the man banging his forehead against a wall till he drew blood. His wife would run up, wipe the blood with her dupatta and put a strip of band-aid on the wound. Peace returned to the household. Next morning I would see the man, dressed in coat and tie, go to his office with the strip of white on his forehead.

When it comes to workplaces or offices, ill-temper is the privilege of the boss. In fact anger helps bada sahibs to assert authority, while remaining calm and mild is often taken as weakness. In my limited experience I arrived at the conclusion that the ill-tempered are at their worst behaviour in mid-mornings, and become even-tempered by mid-afternoons.

My one-time boss Krishna Menon had a foul temper. He was also at his wittiest when running down people. Pandit Nehru was also short-tempered and was known to throw files at officers if he disagreed with them. He was best admired from a respectable distance. No one working close to him enjoyed doing so.

More important than listing different kinds of anger is to find ways to control it. You have to learn to control your tongue, not to give a piece of your mind as a retort. Some say when in anger count 10 before you reply; others extend the figure of 100. In any event, "never let the sun go down on your anger", advises the Bible. If you do, you will pay for it with a sleepless night.

Making resolutions

There was a time I used to make New Year resolutions. For many years it used to be the same. "I will not speak ill of anyone anymore". It was important for me because I was in the bad habit of running down people behind their backs, making witty and hurtful jokes about them just to get a laugh out of friends around me. Inevitably, when what I had said got to them, some dropped me, some confronted me, and I had to lie that I had said no such thing, or apologise for having said so. My resolution seldom lasted more than a week. My friends thought I was getting old and dim-witted. I could no longer raise a laugh.

So I was back to my old ways till the end of the year. I once again resolved: "I will never speak ill of anyone anymore". If you must make New Year resolutions, make them trivial like "I’ll cut down on my smoking, chewing paan and tobacco". You may succeed on keeping the resolve for some weeks or months.

My father used to relish achaar (pickles) with his meals. They gave him a bad throat, which led to heavy colds and cough. He had to be given injections. So every New Year he would announce that pickles were to be banished from the dining table. At the end of the month he found his meals too bland for his taste. So, varieties of achaars were back on the table for lunch and dinner.

I suggest a variation in the theme of resolutions. Instead of one for the year, make one for every day. It will not get lost in the passage of time and you can check it up every night before your retire. Start your mornings in silent contemplation of what you have to do that day. It will depend on your business or other occupation—who you must see, ring up, what you have to complete, etc. Do everything in good time.

Don’t waste time on pointless telephone calls or calling on your cronies. Time is God. Also, give thought to what you will eat at your meals because taking care of the body is of the utmost importance. Your meals must be tasty, wholesome and small. They are not meant to be gulped down nor taken in large quantities, which may affect your digestive system.

Every night go over what you had scheduled for the day and check whether or not you had kept the resolutions. It will soon become a habit—this time a good one.

The almighty ‘I’

Surprisingly enough, all important Indian leaders worth watching in the future have their names ending with letter ‘I’—Sonia Gandhi, L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Pranab Mukherji, Karunanidhi, Mamata Banerji, Priyaranjan Das Munshi, Som Nath Chatterji, Uma Bharati, Budh Dev Bhattacharji.

(Contributed by KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)