Saturday, November 01, 2008

Last Impressions...

....are everlasting, many times. You think of someone and the first thing that comes to mind is how he'd appeared for the last time you'd seen him. He could've been a totally amazing person but if he'd screwed up in the final instance, that's what you're most likely to remember about him. Or if he'd been kind and loving all his life but finally turned bitter, you remember him as someone who's rude/depressed. This could be a top of the head reaction, and one may have to dig deep to get to the real character of that person, but how often do we dig deep is the question.

I remember my granny sitting alone in her bed, looking nowhere while we kids played around in the courtyard. She was more than 75, brittle, physically unwell and psychologically bruised. Whenever I think of her, it's this lonely, suffering image that comes up from memory. That she was a loving granny and sometimes strict too is a bit hard to conjure up, but that was a fact. She would pamper and spoil us for the two months of summer vacation every year, when we visited our native. She'd admonish us for the devils we were and also shower us with love. A mother of 6 and a grandmother to more than a dozen and a half, she must've witnessed a largely peaceful life in a sleepy hamlet for most of her years. All these would gradually pave way to a lonely existence after my grandpa's death and after the return of her rebellious son. In her last years she went through severe psychological abuse at the hands of her son, who'd unfailingly get drunk every evening and create a scene for the most trivial reason. Ignored by grandchildren who were growing up in their own individual worlds, taunted by unsympathetic daughters-in-law, and largely unwanted by anyone, it appeared as though she was wishing for death many times instead of living through the hell that her home had become. So when we were playing around and once in a while when I looked at her, I could in a way sense her desperation and cluelessness. I'd think that it would be better to die when you were needed than live upto such a ripe age and become a burden on others. It's this image of her that has stayed in me eversince.

Similarly When I think of O, I see a selfish schemer although that's the image that came to the forefront in the last 1 hour of our interaction. Throughout our 4 years of friendship he came across as a multi-talented, dynamic, warm person but how's it that I don't associate these qualities with him? How do I retain only the negatives about him? The same happened with a couple of friends, who were dignified, gentle, witty but now I've to try hard to link these qualities to them because of their not so glorious final acts. How is it that we carry back only the surface attibutes of a person that are most glaring instead of his subtle characteristics? Are we biologically hardwired to process and store information in this way--keeping stock of only the recent, more useful(?) information and relegating the rest to the dustbin of memory?

And what image do others retain about me is also worth pondering. An unforgettable character from my childhood is Satyajit, a dear friend with unusually large ears, who'd happily call our teacher as 'aunty' when the rest of the class sheepishly referred to her as Miss. Although we were the best of friends, he must be recalling memories of a nasty fellow whenever he thinks of me. Long long back, on the final day when we parted ways, I was at my worst, harassing him for no reason and thoroughly enjoying his discomfort. He was sad but uncomplaining. I came to my senses within minutes after he left and fervently wished that I'd make amends if only I could meet him again. A swathing sense of guilt and sadness stayed in me for a long time after that final farewell but I guess, if I were him, I'd always carry that last impression of a nagging bully instead of a dear friend whenever I'd think of myself.

Maybe it's unfair to judge people, for better or for worse, but definetly not right to push aside all their characterisitics and weigh them only by their most recent behaviour. And given the lengths to which we go, consciously or not, to gain approval, to belong to a group/community, to look good in others' eyes, it's amazing to think how randomly we judge others or get judged by them. It takes a lot of detachment to be impervious of others' opinion of us. Maybe the evolved souls strike the right balance between developing strong interpersonal relationships and giving no shit to what others might think of one. But for the rest of us, who're on the highway of evolution it's a bitter-sweet struggle between appeasement and indifference.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful blog post!!
    No,our random thoughts which come and judge a person by his or her last behavior could be true or false!!
    I know some one very close to me who showed up total detached behavior towards his own children, neglected them and even did't like their presence can not prove that what the person did love unconditionally all life towards his closest people!! We did't judge him because that was the person's state of awareness at that point of time and more so, we do not know what an other person is undergoing! Yes, at times balance between appeasement and indifference could be bitter but as time passes, it should not hold us back to where we are heading towards!! What matters is what did the last impression bring us?? !!...
    -- archana