A Fable

November 30, 2021 at 9:15 PMNov (Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

My mentor and I sat down to have lunch at a small hotel in our hometown. We were comfortable being silent in each other’s company though we were meeting after a long time. We ordered our food and while we waited for our meal to be served, the couple seated at the table next to ours paid the bill and got up to leave. While leaving, they greeted my mentor. I looked at them closely and then looked at my mentor. “You don’t know them,” he said. My preoccupations made me unzip my lips and say, “Yeah, I don’t know.” By then the server came with our meal plates and placed them on the table, repeating what was told to him while placing the order- “One plate rice and sambar. And one plate boiled rice ganji.”

Silence sat with us for a while, while we were having lunch. Being preoccupied with certain recent occurrences, I broke the silence, wanting to discuss.

“You may have an answer to this. Even if you don’t, I know you will understand what I am trying to say.” My mentor paused as I began speaking and looked at me, without taking the next handful of rice to his mouth. “In such an opinionated world how is one supposed to find their place?” I asked and heard laughter from the other side of the table. “I ask you because I know you too have been facing this issue since you too hold unpopular opinions and have refused to fall into the trap of binary thinking.” Looking into my eyes with compassion, helplessness, and understanding, all at the same time, my Mentor said, “This problem has existed always in the world”. Though I did not disagree with the answer, I wasn’t comfortable listening to a generic answer. I looked within and asked myself what exactly is troubling me about a divided world. “Maybe it has existed always, ” I agreed and continued to say, “But that fact doesn’t lessen the loneliness of being in this position.” Taking a deep sigh, in a very defeated tone I stated, “It gets very lonely.” My mentor nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, I know,” he said. “Yes, that is why I brought it up with you,” I explained. “Also, social media gives great courage to people to vehemently put forth their opinions and because of social media’s algorithms, it feels like these opinions are pouncing on us. All of this not just makes it difficult to have views of one’s own, but it is also making me doubt my own views and positions. I am constantly wondering if I did not understand something which others seem to have understood,” I spoke in one breath and exhausted myself.

The moment I stopped, immediately my Mentor exclaimed, “That is the truth.” I looked at him with a question mark on my face. “The truth is that you haven’t understood,” said my mentor with a certain force in his voice and then immediately altering the tone a bit, he continued to say, “The truth is that others also haven’t understood it.” He took a pause. “The problem is that while everyone believes they have understood it entirely, you believe you have missed the point entirely.” Without interrupting the brief silence that followed, I waited for him to break the silence and continue. “The truth is that all of us are learning. While others want to be right and correct, you too want to be right and correct. While others are trying to prove their learning to the correct one, you are trying to prove that you aren’t wrong. Others are trying to prove to the world and you are trying to prove to yourself. Hence it is lonely for you. If you try to prove it to the world, you will certainly find an echo chamber,” said my Mentor and his words began creating innumerable thought ripples within me. While I was still trying to digest his words, he said, “But finally in terms, all of their and our understanding and learning is limited, which we do not want to acknowledge. All we want to know is who is right and who isn’t.” 

With hearty laughter, my mentor summarized it all with a beautiful metaphor. He said, “Forming opinions even before learning and understanding if not entirely but at least understanding the magnitude of the subject that one is trying to understand and learn about, is like building a temple for baala-Krishna (Krishna as a child). It museumizes Krishna in his infancy and doesn’t take into account that he turned out to be something else as he grew.”

I too joined him and laughed.

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