The Message of ‘After 5 Years’September 10, 2009
While I thank the readers for coming up with many valid interpretations to that story, the message I wanted to convey was not simple. I am an expert in complicating simple things 🙂
Imagine this situation: You go to a restaurant, you have a buffet lunch. You have eaten to your stomach full and had desserts too… When you want to leave, the waiter comes with a lemon juice. You don’t want to miss it (as you have paid a good amount for the buffet) and somehow manage to drink it fully. Here, the act of drinking the lemon juice, which normally would have a positive feel about it, became negative (or at best neutral) because you have just eaten a lot of other tasty stuff.
Now imagine this situation: You have not taken you lunch (maybe because of the work), then you need to walk down for half an hour in hot sun to reach your favourite restaurant, and find out that you are late and they have closed the lunch section. There is nothing there in the surroundings to eat/drink. You are so tired and start thinking how tough it is going to be to walk to the next eat-out joint, which would take another half an hour of walking in the hot sun. Now the waiter comes and offers you a lemon juice, as you might be a regular customer for them. How happy would you feel! in this situation. You might even give him a nice tip for a very simple gesture!! (Even if he charges you for the lemon juice) as he is serving you something that is very much needed by you at that moment.
So, have you noticed how the same lemon juice has evoked such mixed reactions! Your mixed reaction is entirely based on your situation just prior to the incident (of receiving the lemon juice). So, in a sense, your happiness of enjoying the lemon juice depends on how much you are deprived of it.
In our story, in the first case, the person was just casually chatting (perhaps with a friend) and might have been young enough (though there is no such explicit mention in the story) not to be exposed to the hardships of life. So, the extra 20 rupees charged to him looks like big cheating to him. (Let us not get in to whether the charging of 20 rupees extra by the auto driver was right or wrong – it is clearly wrong and I am not supporting that, and the focus of the story was not that point).
But in the second case, the person is perhaps running a business and is introduced to the perils of making money in the big competitive world. When people are suddenly subjected to such situations (after having been pampered endlessly in their homes, etc), they tend to react in two ways: One set think that all the world cares is about bad things only and everyone in this world are bad and hence becoming bad like them is our only best defence or means to growth. Another set think that what a lot of people are doing is wrong and we should try and be different and set a positive example, inspite of the hassles involved. I am not getting in to which is better as both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Without deviating much from the story, in the second case the person is simply introduced to bigger perils of life and hence the overcharging of 20 rupees doesn’t look that big a sin to him any more (This, was suggested by the readers too). But the core message that I wanted to convey is : Nature gives us trouble to understand the value of goodness. Good and Bad just cannot exist individually. You need one to understand/realize the other. That is why the “They lived happily ever after” concept propagated by the movies/novels is totally false. If you are always happy, you would forget what happiness feels like and the happiness in itself would become a profound state of sadness.
The argument against this would be: “What if I have happiness always and I keep increasing the happiness at every stage of my life. Then, it would be a total bliss – right?” Think about it and you answer that question (to yourself).
“Cut your own wood and it will warm you twice” – Ancient Chinese proverb.
You could visit the ‘Concepts and Ideas’ section of this blog for reading more such articles.