Waiting: Of Grief, Acceptance and Coping

May 27, 2016 at 9:15 PMMay (Cinema, Musings, Soliloquy)

“It is your grief,” says Shiv (Naseer) to Tara (Kalki), indicating it belongs only and only to her and she alone will have to deal with it, and goes on to explain that there are different stages to it- “Denial, anger, hope, depression and then acceptance.”

While the film WAITING by Anu Menon, as I see it, is primarily about grief and acceptance of grief, it certainly goes further to state that it is not just acceptance of grief which is necessary what is more essential is to cope with the grief, grief which is inseparable from life.

While the film is showing, quickly, the first few stages of grief through one character, it dedicates its time, to show the last leap one has to make from acceptance to coping.

Acceptance can be quite unconscious and passive, coping is a very conscious and active decision, to which one has to arrive.

***

waiting..

Shiv, whose wife has been in coma for eight years, and Tara, whose husband Rajath, married to her six weeks ago, is in coma following a fatal accident, meet each other in a hospital in Cochin and their personal grief brings them together.

Shiv is hopeful about his wife Pankaja’s recovery against the lack of any hope in the doctor treating her, Dr. Nirupam (Rajath Kapoor) and insists on going further with treatment. Tara is anxious about her husband not being the same as earlier even if operated and is unsure of going ahead with the required surgery, in spite of Dr. Nirupam, who is also treating Rajath, being hopeful.

Dr. Nirupam tells Shiv that he is afraid of being left alone and hence wants to believe that his wife is going to be fine, some day. Shiv tells Tara that her perplexity is caused by fear of her husband not being as she wants him to be or how he was.

What is told to Shiv and what is told by Shiv, in more than a way, is similar to each other: the inability to accept the changing nature of life, the inability to cope with life, a life which is ever flowing, ever changing.

Shiv takes Tara, a declared atheist, to a temple and says “Faith is a way of coping,” a line which is repeated by Tara later in a shopping mall, to Shiv, who hates malls, by slightly altering it to say, “Shopping is a way of coping.”

How do people cope with grief?

While Tara’s friend believes in chanting and “positive energy” Shiv avoids Dr. Nirupam who, he thinks, is filled with “negativity.”

Though an athiest Tara wants reassurance from the Doctor, who in a scene tells that Doctors are the like Gods for the patients.

Shiv believes that his wife is an exceptional case, like some that he reads in medical journals, who will wake up normally, one day, to a normal morning and to normalcy.

Tara’s friend’s husband needs her presence to cope with their son’s illness. Probably the son also needs his mother to cope with his illness. It is similar to Tara seeking company in Shiv, an almost stranger, after her friends do not come for her.

Rajath’s mother believes in “raahu-ketu” i.e. astrology.

All of these are ways in which one tries to cope with life, whether it looks practical or impractical. What is important is that it helps one cope with grief, with life.

The need to cope pushes Tara, the atheist, to run to the temple, to chant Buddhist chanting and also brings out the F* word from Shiv’s mouth, though it is just for venting anger, soaked in helplessness.
To cope also means to change, for life is ever changing. To cope the will to let go for life is ever flowing.

waiting room

To cope with the possible added grief of being blamed by her mother in law, Tara avoids calling her to inform about her son’s accident. To cope with possible grief Shiv hides/ remains silent of his momentary tryst with an old classmate during a reunion. But this means of escaping cannot help in coping with actual situation in hand. One has to confront reality. One has to let go off fears and also false imaginations, which possibly stems out of helplessness, an offshoot of grief.

You can escape into drinking and dancing and merry making at night but you have to wake up in the morning to the harsh reality of grief in life. That calls for acceptance of grief, coping with grief, acceptance of life as it unfolds and coping with life as it unfolds.

While Pankaja’s being cant cope with the dis-ease any more Rajath’s being can cope with the injuries and rise back.

While Tara has to decide to live with imperfections of life, Shiv has to decide to nurture himself (cook) all alone.Those are the only ways with which they can cope with grief, with life, from here.

The ability to cope with dis-ease, with injuries, with loss and life with all its imperfection is what is most crucial for life.

***

Though the film’s hurried ending causes a kind of discomfort, what is very commendable about the film is actually its writing. For a film which explores grief in its various shades the film at no point becomes melodramatic. The restraint makes the grief more poignant.

Undoubtedly it is Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin who carry the film as Shiv and Tara but what intensifies the experience is the way in which these two characters have been written and not to forget the effortlessly beautiful dialogues.

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