Life as No One Knows It

Shambhawi Tripathi

Lady Shri Ram College for Women

There is a certain privilege we exercise in the way we navigate our worlds; bargain, haggle and negotiate through investments – both professional and personal. It started somewhere in the fable of the tooth fairy, and has stayed with us; making Life (seemingly) easier to sift through. ‘Life’ is a laden word; with an unending acknowledgments’ list and an even longer series of annexure, that is supposed to corroborate the worth of our lives, almost like a quality check. What often goes unmarked, is this synthetically created normalcy; of measuring Life in water-tight indices; that we feel Life entitles to us. To get into why Life is the bearer of the universal brunt of human afflictions and theories would be too grand a task to undertake, but is this is really what Life can come to mean – a constant tryst with performance and an exaggerated mean of all our potential? Before you can ask why, the world will have you know that excellence is key, and we limit our theorizations to what our personal field of distinction could be. Life is supposed to be the journey leading up to the brink where merit translates into superiority, the ‘edge’ that you need to have over others, even if that takes away that glint of unadulterated joy of just being good at something. In some ways, Darwin probably knew that the human race would be too estranged between the matters of the head and the heart, to question his onus on the pressing need for competition, and its essentiality for survival!

Ideologies come in all shapes and sizes, and size does matter. The thickness of a volume defines its richness and the plunge of the neckline; your moral fiber and this construct just never goes away, just like that one favorite pair of denims we keep, even if we know it’s too ragged and frayed. The idea of a ‘rainy day’ doesn’t let us throw it out; and if we just removed a few chic layers, that’s how it works with us too. As opposed to what Life may have you believe, the ideas we ascribe to ourselves and the takes we have on the world may not be self-empowering or courageous, they could be shelters; shelters that stock our ‘darker’ flipsides, because Life is not only about the good, it’s about the means you employ to claim that ‘good’. It’s both; a human’s virtue and undoing to persevere towards locating an axis of responsibility, for everything that happens around us. It’s probably our way of making sense of this otherwise; murky, read-between-the-lines world. We labor into reaching this locus, which can explain the cause of an event; or even entire phenomena, often without enquiring if that’s really something we want to figure out. For example, why should we focus on ‘gravity’, male-female ‘anatomy’ and the ‘Original Sin’, when it all comes down to the whim of one sinister apple?

Love and hatred are everyone’s poison. They find various; often unprecedented manifestations, but become that barbed wire fence you simply need to cross over. They express themselves in how hearts become collateral damages to promises that are honored, the sting-dipped deceit and guilt that ride on the vows that you couldn’t substantiate. All this action makes the heart very real; even if in a completely imaginary way. Ironically, this also makes room for the head, the osmotic layer that is trained by Life to resist repetition of mistakes and play the bad cop, to keep you balanced. This constant swinging between these two; equally charged domains barely lets us wonder if this is all a façade, where they are serving as alibis for the errs of the other; while Life teaches us lessons about hard decisions and eternal woes. Reason and Passion hence become vanguards to the head and heart, subbing in for each other and for us, when we need to redefine that locus f responsibility anywhere besides ourselves.

Add to this, the final component: universality. The fuel to Life is in unity and in the quality of your work, which practically strips us of credit and robes us with every inch of blame that the consequences of our decisions and work bring. To what worth is this oneness with the world when all your mistakes are your personal debits, and you; a solitary, singular semi-colon in the world? We are striving to carve a niche, even if that’s borrowed and photo-shopped, because it’s all about that footprint we leave on the sands of Time (which interestingly; has no geographical coordinates). The fame of an inventor is momentary even if the contribution is transcendental, but what is this luxury of remembering the misfortune with the offender; even at the cost of losing the potential of that adversity? Is this another one of Life’s crafty mechanisms to make us feel we’re part of a larger plan that makes our strategies; and us, so breakable?

We spend ourselves trying to celebrate or defy these maps Life draws out for us – trying hard to be a saint or a rebel, to either strive or settle. Life becomes a retail store, where things work on a service module; and the unhappy customer, (in this case; the rebel) is also the person who is trying the hardest to fit in. Our name becomes an adornment; something we can quickly don and remove with equal ease. In trying to live with our names, we spend eons dodging what this name entails, ourselves. It’s a cynical but easy job to ask these questions, look at the ‘other side’, but this exercise fails if it is seen as trying to make a point, because that again, would be someone’s point – which you should be allowed to completely ignore, in figuring out what your contention is.

Once, on a teenage caprice, I wore leather heels in the summer, even if was the incorrect thing; even at the expense of the smarting wounds and blue-green lesions on my feet. My father scoffed, “Proven a point?”

I smiled because I didn’t want to traumatize my old man, but in effect, I had. Even if I might not always know what Life is, I always have the option of going barefoot for as long as it takes to figure it out.

Or for Life to show me how.