One fine day, with a load of deadlines approaching, in way over my head, I was contemplating my existence and how it had taken a turn for the worse and jauntily headed down disaster lane. You know, a normal morning. And in typical fashion, I proceeded to depress myself further by berating myself for being ungrateful when everything could have been much worse.
This thread of thought took me to that night years ago, to a railway station, where I sat alone enjoying the serene breeze, waiting for the train. It was almost midnight, and with only a couple of people around, it was with mild surprise that I beheld a man approaching, weighed down by a bag larger than his frail body, asking for alms. Now I am not a person who can ever turn down anyone in such a predicament, or any other for that matter, for I still hadn’t mastered the subtle art of saying ‘no’. So it was with great regret that I informed him that I had no money at hand, for I was quite young back then and was waiting on my parents.
He put his bag down, which consisted of a great deal of plastic, probably headed to the recycling yard, and started giving me what seemed to be life advice. I scoffed in my mind and was tempted to turn away, after all, talking to a stranger at midnight was not the brightest idea. But then he started recollecting his life and regrets and it was not what one would expect of a beggar. Turned out, he was a businessman but had been dealt quite a hand by fate when his children kicked him out with not a penny to his name. that seemed unbelievable and far-fetched, and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought if it weren’t for the fact that he could speak fluently in English, which was hard to come by in itself. He sold pens for a living, and he gave me one, insisting I keep it as a token when I refused, citing my inability to pay him. It all seemed genuine enough, considering he walked away, giving me something, which would have cost him precious money, with no strings attached. I admit that I was extremely naïve at the time, and my observations were perhaps clouded by sympathy, bleeding heart that I was and that he probably only lied, although, to this day, I can’t for the life of me, figure out why.
All I did, was perceive this overly emphatic side of me as a weakness and try and tune it down a bit. And what brilliant idea did my mind come up with to achieve this end? Faking it. That proved to be a blunder, for, when faking morphs into reality, when the lines blur, when your pretence goes just a bit too far, how do you find your way back?
I do not know how it feels to be hungry, to not know where that little amount of money will trickle in from next. I know not how it is to live without the assurance of a roof over my head, a barrier to keep me warm on a cold night. What will I be willing to give up in the name of survival? The image of a man from a cartel in California, a hired gun, claiming with utter conviction, that he was not a bad man, but just a good man who did bad things in a documentary, flashed through my mind. He believed that he was just another man who worked to put food on the table, yearning to see a smile on his wife’s face and hear the joy in his child’s laughter. Perhaps it was just an effort to give himself an illusion of righteousness. How far would I go when the pangs of hunger make me delirious and my parched throat begs for a drop of water? Would I be able to bring myself to take a life, kill another man, to put food in my belly, or would I rather die? Will I be desperate enough to take any job, and sacrifice my morals and beliefs? I believe I would never know, for it is all well and good to wonder when I haven’t experienced any of it.
Is it not the actions that define us, no matter what we feel about them? But is it not our opinions that make us unique, make us who we are? The infinite degrees of a moral compass provides for infinite shades of grey. From those that drive people to murder by proclaiming that the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, but full of air and water and that one unapologetic person in a party, who cares not what the world thinks, ardently believing that there are as many opinions as there are heads, and continues to dance so ungracefully, it would put a zombie to shame, to those that can’t be bothered with life’s games, and are content to wallow in monotony and those that turn killing and maiming into an art form, life is all shades of grey. It is only our decision which one we end up residing in.