The Burden Of Memory The Muse Of Forgiveness

July 6, 2012 at 9:15 PMJul (Friends, Media, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

I did not know, while writing about Vijay Simha and his words on forgiving and seeking forgiveness, that I was writing about it on the night of Shab-E-Baraat, aslo known as, Lailat Ul-Dua. I learnt about it in the blog post of Rakshanda Jalil who describes Shab-E-BaraatLailat Ul-Dua as:

“A night of prayer and repentance, of asking forgiveness and seeking barakaat or blessings… (it falls on) the 15th night of the month of Shabaan which, according to the Muslim lunar calendar, is Shab-e-Baraat, or the Night of Forgiveness… And, indeed, Shab-e-Baraat, also known as Lailat-ul Dua, is the Night of Records when our past catches up with us and our future can be corrected by only repentance and prayer.”

Chinese symbol for forgiveness

On learning that it was Shab-E-Baraat I took the opportunity to seek for forgiveness from quite a few friends who I thought I could have hurt at one or the other point, unconsciously and unintentionally. In an atheistic interpretation of prayer as ‘wishing good’ I remembered all of them in my prayers. Oh yes, I did feel good about myself while asking for forgiveness and praying for these who I value a lot.

I cannot do in peace, till the mind works, for it has its own way of functioning and plays its own games. When one of the friends replied saying there was nothing for which I should ask forgiveness and asked me to forgive him in case I have hurt him, the thought “what is my ability to forgive?” popped up in my mind, even when there was nothing for me to forgive the friend who replied as there was nothing in him which had hurt or offended me.

What is my ability to forgive? – I asked myself trying to look at the darkness outside my room window…

Quite a few faces appeared before my mind’s eye. Incidentally it was 5th July, the last day of working of my first job. That was 2008, four years ago. I asked myself if I could forgive all those who conspired against me staring from the eldest to the youngest. The obvious answer was NO. One of our greatest leaders who passed away recently- B.V. Kakkillaya- once remembered his mother saying, “You will be forgiven if you slap someone or stab them. But if you kick their loaf of bread even God will not forgive you.”

Comrade Kakkillaya’s mother should have added to it saying- you will not be forgiven, even by God, if you hurt a person who loves you with all his/her heart and misusing his/her affection for you to get benefits from that person and then walking over him/her as though s/he was a doormat or using him/her like a ladder to climb up and kicking him/her away after climbing up. I say this because there were few others faces that popped up before my mind’s eye of such betrayers.

Et Tu- is the expression which captures the pains of such wounds of betrayal. To be treated as lesser than humans is the worst feeling. It requires superhuman power to come over the loss of dignity and the pain inflicted when one is walked over and misused, especially by those who are closest to the heart. To be betrayed after showering all the affection, is traumatic. Yes, as a friend wrote in a mail to me:‎”There is no shame in standing up for a person. There is no shame in sitting beside a person. There is no shame in giving someone importance. There is no shame in being betrayed. There is shame in taking advantage. Shame in betraying. Shame in backstabbing,” but to come over the feeling of having been betrayed, used and unloved by those who you loved the most, as I said earlier, requires super human power.When there is such burden of memory one can hardly muse of forgiving. Can I forgive all those people whose face appeared before my mind’s eye, I asked myself and had silence as an answer from my inner self.

I remembered how two years ago one student mailed me asking for forgiveness and explaining how the conspiracy was framed by one of the most senior person. Even after two years of him asking for forgiveness I have not been able to forgive him or those others who were a part of the conspiracy but never asked for any kind of forgiveness. The burden of memory is such that I cannot forgive. I alsoremember how once when one boy, who was a part of the conspiracy, was asking for forgiveness I stopped him half way through and said, “Don’t ask me to forgive you. Do you have any clue what I am going through after all that you did?” This was long time ago. The result of cutting him half was through was that, probably as defense mechanism, he hated me even the more and continued to speak rubbish. It did no good to me nor any good to him. I continued to live with bitterness and he too.

What would have happened had I forgiven him? Or just listened to him complete his sentence? The boy, who wrote that mail to me, has not been forgiven by me, but there is some kind of communication between us. He feels lighter after asking for forgiveness and I feel a bit better with the feeling that he feels guilty, though there is no justice done. It’s the burden of memory which stops me from forgiving. So, had I allowed the other boy to apologize would it, in some way, initiate reconciliation? May be. Even when I cannot forgive him? I have no clue… but the answer for the question ‘can I forgive?’ remains, shamefully, only and only NO.

Recently we observed the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The image that comes to our mind the moment we remember Vietnam War is that of Kim Phuc running towards the camera, her body being burnt and clothes having melted completely. There were a few articles, in various places, about Kim Phuc and the photographer Nick Ut who saved her after having photographed her. While the story of Kim and Ut is undoubtedly a very humane account which pulls a chord in our hearts a much more moving account is the tryst between Kim Phuc and John Plummer who was the pilot who dropped the bomb. Twenty four years after the bombing Kim was giving a lecture on the Vietnam War veterans and in her lecture Kim went on to say, “If I could speak face to face with the pilot who dropped those bombs, I would tell him that we cannot change history, but we should try to do good for the present.” Kim was not aware that the hall where she was delivering the lecture was close to the house of John Plummer and that he was seated in the audience. A note came her way, during the presentation, which read, “I am that man.” When her talk ended he made way through the crowd to reach Kim and on nearing her could say nothing but, “I am sorry,” and repeat the same, “I am sorry.” Kim holding Plummer in her arms said, “I forgive you, I forgive you.”

It requires immense strength, I feel, to forgive. Plus it requires effort from both the sides- the victim and the victimizer. If the victim refuses to forgive there can be no reconciliation possible and there can be no reconciliation if the victimizer has no sense of shame or sense of guilt and does not ask for forgiveness.

“Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope and forgiveness,” wrote Kim in an article few years ago.

Yes, we need to free ourselves from hatred and bitter feelings for fellow humans. It requires great strength to ask for forgiveness, bending before somebody. But it requires immense strength to be able to forgive. I wish to do that but the burden of memory is anything but forgiving. While the Shab-E-Baraat made me ask for forgiveness, the Lailat Ul-Duamade me ask life to bless me with the strength to forgive.

1 Comment

  1. uglywords said,

    I don’t believe in any such thing as forgiveness. What is it? Is it an emotion? Or a symbolic gesture to tell someone they are absolved of their responsibility to repair what they have broken? How does one forgive genocide? The Holocaust? Imperial rule? Rape?

    Forgiveness is an illusion of power, that the idea of justice lies in our own hands when the injustice is perpetrated by others. That we choose our actions in the face of injustice, but we don’t. We can only follow a path laid out for us, or end our path right there at that moment.

    Buddha is supposed to have said that anger is like holding a burning coal in your hand, that it burns no one but yourself. I think pain and suffering are exactly the same. You’re burning up with it, Sam, and you are the one who fans those flames. No one else can put it out with apologies, reparation or reconciliation as long as you’re still fanning those flames.

    I don’t believe in forgiveness because you can still choose to remember things and retain the illusory power in your hands. What I believe in is surrender, to life and to the past, and in letting go of what has happened and refusing to hold on to such memories. Memories that go stale become illusions. The only way to remember is to choose the things that will grow and yield fruit to us, where bitterness builds strength and anger builds resolve. If bitterness and anger yield nothing but pain, then you will become a walking dead man, entirely useless and entirely unlikeable.

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