Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept…"

27th February, 2007

"those who love conquer the world
and have no fear of loss…"

A few months back, I chanced upon the first and most famous book of Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist. Once I’d finished reading it, I was so impressed that I resolved to read up all his books. One by one, I finished several titles by the author, and finally picked up the book "By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept".

As I immersed myself into the pages of the book, it seemed to me that this was the best book authored by Coelho. There couldn’t be a truer and more accurate statement than the one in the Author’s Note made by Coelho at the beginning of the book – "True love is an act of total surrender. This book is about the importance of that surrender. Pilar and her companion are fictitious, but they represent the many conflicts that beset us in our search for love. Sooner or later, we have to overcome our fears, because the spiritual path can only be traveled through the daily experience of love."

The book is about Pilar and her childhood sweetheart, and the slow but sure development of their adolescent fascination into a mature and spiritual relationship. To make this work out, Pilar has to take numerous risks that she’d never thought she would take, and though she finds it extremely difficult in the beginning to give up all her inhibitions, she finally succeeds in losing herself in the all-consuming fire of love.

Once I’d finished reading the book, I couldn’t resist the temptation to write about it – and the analogies that I drew from it to my own life…

The part that touched me the most was Pilar’s description of love somewhere in the initial parts of the book: "But love is much like a dam: if you allow a tiny crack to form through which only a trickle of water can pass, that trickle will quickly bring down the whole structure, and soon no one will be able to control the force of the current. When the walls come down, then love takes over, and it no longer matters what is possible or impossible; it doesn’t even matter whether we can keep the loved one at our side. To love is to lose control."

Yes, to love is truly to lose control over your senses and sensibilities… I’ve experienced unrestrained love once, and lost. As the popular saying goes, "once bitten, twice shy"! So losing control is something that I was not about to try again in a hurry – it is best avoided, I thought, for I was afraid of the risk of losing the one I love again, and so are thousands of others like me.

Not so long ago, the opportunity to lose control once again knocked at the doors of my life. But the guy in question was not from my city, had different ambitions and plans in life… there was just one thing in favour of accepting his proposal – that he loved me – and thousands against it. I found my mind telling my heart, "Don’t even think about it! You will just end up hurt, because this is never going to work out… and not only you, but he’ll also be scarred for life – and you have no right to spoil his life because of your rash decisions."

My heart agreed meekly, and convinced itself likewise. But did I for once stop and think why it is so impossible? Why can’t we make it work out? If two people are in love, they can overcome the world together, and we just had a few hurdles before us. But I couldn’t take "the risk" – what if it didn’t work out?? In fact, I even ignored the pain that I caused to the guy by rejecting him, and somehow managed to convince myself that what I was doing was in the best interests of both of us. Had I said yes, it would have meant taking too many risks, too many uncertainties and hurdles were to be smoothed out… In short, I was afraid to do anything that threatened to upturn my world… I was afraid of facing the unknown… I wanted a smooth sailing life, with little or no shocks in it…

God however has his ways of showing us how wrong we are – life is full of unexpected turn of events, and it is definitely not a bed of roses! Soon enough, He made something happen that sent my life completely into turmoil – something that I’d no control over, that I’d never contemplated, never expected in my wildest nightmares… but I had to, and did, cope with it, didn’t I?

Somewhere in the middle of the book, the author speaks thus through Pilar’s companion: "pitiful are those who are afraid to take risks…" and he’s so right! Just because we don’t have the guts to take the required risks, we miss out on the miracles of life! We plead all sorts of considerations (read, "lame excuses", if you can tackle the truth) – what with all the family responsibilities, social expectations, professional goals, etc before us, we deny ourselves the very things that make us happy! We don’t realize our true potential, we don’t give ourselves a chance to be content, we don’t learn to love and be loved without any expectations – in short, we fail to lose control…

If you have read till here, dear reader, then you might be wondering whether I gathered up enough inspiration from the book to take the risk, and allow myself to be loved… or to allow a crack in the dam of my heart to appear, so that love rushes forth and takes control of my life… Sorry to disappoint you, but no, I still don’t have the courage to do that. I’m still too bogged down by the traditional ways of life to be able to take such a big risk, but pray for me dear readers, pray that I gather up the courage soon – I know its too late this time, but my life isn't over yet... I might just get lucky again! Coelho’s right. Miracles do happen, but I’ve got to be courageous enough to spot them quickly – otherwise the miraculous moments will pass by, and I'll be left wondering why I never experienced one in my life?!

Monday, February 26, 2007

“Easier said than done”…

26th February, 2007

What do you do when a person, whom you consider to be a very good friend of yours, suddenly decides he wants you to be his life partner???

When two summers back a chance meeting with him bloomed into a beautiful friendship, I felt wonderful… the long chats, the cute leg-pullings, the sweet times spent together… I ignored all those who told me that the "friendship" was going too far, and that soon it won’t remain "just a friendship" at all!! I stoically maintained that he’s just a good friend, and I enjoy the time I spend with him, so nothing else matters… and I thought he felt just the same about it.

Slowly but surely, however, I started realizing that indeed, the innocent "friendship" had led him to believe something else… he had started assuming things, and they definitely were not accurate. Of course, he never made any moves towards me, never misbehaved, never took any undue advantage of me, even when I was utterly defenseless, and alone with him… not even so much as trying to hold my hands. I respected him very much for that. But his behaviour, his way of conducting himself made me more and more uneasy. He started behaving as if I was his girlfriend, and jokingly even mentioned that to me a few times… I always pointedly rebuffed his attempts, but somewhere deep down, I felt bad doing it, because I knew I’d spent some truly memorable times with him… I could understand that he could not help having these feelings – one doesn’t have control over the doings of his heart – but when he failed to conceal his feelings for me even in public, I knew I had to take control. People laughed at his helplessness, I defended him… my friends made fun of his feelings, I stopped them… but I knew this couldn’t go on. I had to rebuff him, and I did that for his own good – I hated it when people laughed and poked fun at him. He is, after all, a good friend of mine, and I care for him…

But even my repeated rebuffs failed to tackle the problem. He had grown fond of me, I saw that in his eyes, but I just did not feel the same about him. And I knew that if I could not stop him now, the results would be disastrous for both of us… I had to bring distance between us, somehow… I hated what I was doing, but there was no other option left… I started avoiding him, our meetings became less frequent, and even when we did meet, I made sure they were brief. We had shared a cute, flirtatious friendship, but I cut down drastically upon that too – I did all that I could to get him to understand that I was really not interested in him.

And then, I don’t quite know what hit me… perhaps cornered by my avoidance, or by the creeping distance between the two of us, he decided he’d had enough, and he needed to clear out things between the two of us. So he finally came out in the open, and proposed. I was shocked – I’d thought that my behaviour would make him see sense, and he would not go to this extent. But I was wrong, dreadfully wrong…

He caught me unawares. Of course, there was no two ways with my answer – he wanted a life-long relationship. It would be the most important decision of both our lives, and it could not be based upon sympathy alone. I did feel bad for him – I’ve been through the phase of giving up the one I love, and I’d definitely not want anyone else to go through it – least of all a good friend who is dear to me, and most certainly not because of me… but was there anything else that I could have done?

He asked me why I didn’t consider him good enough for me. I really didn’t know how to explain my feelings, my position to him… how could I take such a huge responsibility at a time when my own life is at the peak of uncertainty? How could I, more importantly, make a commitment to him when I myself don’t know if I’ll be able to live up to it? How could I take a chance like this, which would amount to gambling both our lives? Who’d be responsible if tomorrow it doesn’t work out (and there was every possibility of that, as I was unsure about the whole thing myself) and what will happen to our futures???

He says I think with my brain, not my heart, something that he’s not been able to do ever since he started feeling for me. But he doesn’t realize that it was to protect his heart from excruciating pain that I used my brains… He says I don’t bother about or care for him. But he doesn’t realize that if I didn’t, I’d just have taken him for a ride, and left him more desolate than what he is now… He says I was cold and indifferent towards him. But he doesn’t realize that had I not taken that step, things would’ve been worse… He says he’ll regret not having spent enough time with me. But he doesn’t realize that had we started a relationship, only to end it all too soon, there would be so much bitterness that the happy, sweet memories would be washed away… He says he can’t disguise his feelings for me any longer. But he doesn’t realize that if he loses me, I also lose him as a friend, and he’s very precious to me… He says he’ll miss talking to me. But he doesn’t realize that I too will miss that… He says the pain he’s feeling now, is too much for him. But he doesn’t realize that when a relationship is denied, it hurts; but when a relationship breaks, all that remains is pain worth a lifetime… He wishes he could stay single forever. But he doesn’t realize that if he does get married, the woman in his life, his wife, will give him just the companionship, love and understanding that he needs right now…

I want him to find a wonderful bride for himself, for I know from my own life that life goes on – it does not stop even if you lose the person you love the most. If my life can go on without my Dad, without the person I love the most, then so can his… Time is the best healer, and soon he’ll find new reasons to live, enjoy and be happy. Love will eventually happen, and perhaps he’ll find that feeling even more joyous, even more wonderful than what he experienced with me. Because love rests on hope, and though he seems to have lost all hope right now, I’m sure he’ll find it again… and when he does, he’ll find love too!

As for me, though, I’ll feel thoroughly awful about causing so much pain to someone I’ve loved in my own way… about hurting him so much that he feels he’ll never recover. He probably does not realize what I went through… every time I hurt him, I hurt myself twice as much; every time I rebuffed him, I felt much, much worse than him; every time I looked at his pained, crumpled face, I felt as if my heart’s been pierced… I’m told I’m nowhere at fault – even he agrees that I’d not promised anything to him, he’d simply assumed I felt for him – so I should not feel bad about the whole thing. I did not induce him, so I’m not guilty… but people forget, and that includes him, that I’m also a human being, with a pulsating heart, and to see him in pain is not a pretty sight for me as well. I have never wished him ill, come what may, and now that I do see him in pain, supposedly because of me, I do feel sad and responsible. I do ask myself, where and when did I go wrong? What did I do to put him in this situation? My heart, contrary to what he thinks, does seek answers to these hopeless questions, and curses itself silently because there are no answers that it can find…

People tell me that I’m not supposed to feel bad about hurting him, about causing him so much pain – because I didn’t do it intentionally. But someone once correctly said, "Easier said than done"…!!!