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The power of forgiving

I'm not an avid viewer of Bengali TV soaps (for that matter, any soap, although I do appreciate the realistic portrayals in 'Crime Patrol', which is a Hindi 'non-soap' based on real-life events). However, when the TV is on at home, and I'm passing by, I'd sometimes sit down and watch for a while.

I realize that after an initial period, all soaps lose direction of plot, and are basically trying to retain viewership by inventing dramatic twists, which are frequently inane. I don't blame them. They are doing a job, and a huge number of people are involved in each TV serial who must all remain employed. So they try to extend it as best as they can, although often faltering at the story-line. Having said that, one can still appreciate snatches of brilliant acting, even little turns of event, which are inspiring - when considered in isolation (from the jaded, overall script). This keeps my hopes alive in the enormous talent in Bengal, although the days of Chhobi Biswas, Tulshi Chakraborty, Bikash Roy, Tapan Kumar, Bhanu Bandopadhyay are long gone. Soumitra Chattopadhyay, that giant of an actor is now old, and is rarely seen on TV. Anyway, I digress too much.

It was in one of those soaps, where I viewed an amazing scene. A young lady who had suffered some great misfortune only recently, was cruelly treated by a man. It was easy to empathize with this character, and feel a sense of outrage at the incident (Hey, what's the fun in watching movies/soaps if you remain unresponsive!). One was lead to expect that some kind of retribution would follow, perhaps a divine intervention (like, from the script-writer) to put the 'insulter' in his place. 

Amazingly though, what followed was an act of deep kindness. The victim initially reacted as if she was about to punish him. Instead, she forgave him with a dramatic gesture of reconciliation. It was a stunning turn of events, and even the insulter was left tongue-tied. I do not know what happened next, for that was all I had watched. 

I couldn't but reflect on the rich, all-pervading sense of goodness and well-being that must affect you once you forgive someone. If you feel that you've been deeply wronged, your compassion and sincerity has been betrayed, its natural for thoughts of rage - even vengeance, to scorch your mind. But that is all it can do, it scorches your precious moments on earth, eating into you little by little. Life has enough misery as it is, without having to suffer self-inflicted ones.

It is easy to blame the other person, but you were guilty in the first place to allow expectations to build up. That expectation was your motive, and motivated action attaches you to it. From then on, you're like a slave to turns of event beyond your control.

No wonder ancient sages warn us, the instant we seek to gratify our senses, especially outside of socially permissible norms, we are inviting trouble. For that will build up expectations, and  you'll be left anticipating more and more of the same. Gratification is not the 'sin', the anticipation is. Take each instance of kindness/affection to be an isolated one (they'd say), and respond to subsequent ones on their individual merit. That way, each will come as a happy surprise to you, and you'll be left freshly grateful.

Swami Vivekananda, that fiery sage had written to one of his disciples (Chicago, 28th May, 1894), "Build your hope on none".

So why be angry with the other person(s), he or she is only following his/her natural tendencies. It is as if, the first time you had a particularly delicious fruit, and enjoyed it, you tend to anticipate the same taste every time thereafter. Which is rather unrealistic!

For that one fruit is gone, that was one instance of experience only. Every subsequent one involves a new fruit, with innumerably different conditions of growth and degrees of ripeness. Same with people. They change, the circumstances and compulsions of their life change. Even a mother may harshly react to a child's most innocuous demand, leaving it bewildered. Who knows what was troubling her mind at that moment!

Hence, acts of perceived betrayal/insensitivty/irrational behaviour are, I believe, a person's attempts to readjust to changing situations in his/her life. Those are his/her survival strategy, and however hurtful it may seem at first, its probably best to empathize with it. Change is the truth. And we, the perceived 'victim' must learn to adapt to it as well.

Forgiveness is that act of (conscious) re-adjustment to new realities. It can take us to a fountain of peace, put out the fire of anger, and fill us with kindness. The latter, sages say, goes a long way in healing oneself. It makes you see things from both ends, and you emerge a wiser, happier person.

 Nov 2014


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