“We don’t see people the way they are, we see them the way we are.” Great quote I said to myself. “Applies,” I added absent-mindedly, wondering if the vanishing distinction between obese and fat and ‘pleasantly plump,’ as I had started calling myself lately, was related to it in some way. I mean when I weighed fifteen kilos lighter I saw people as obese, fat and even tubs of lard (forgive me!) but definitely not ‘pleasantly plump.’ As I said it was just a half thought which hardly registered at the time. I filed it away under ‘Later’ and forgot about it.
But I suppose when you label something ‘Later’ it’s bound to come up sooner or later! One day a lady who knows me quite well, commented on my life with a sweeping statement that had more pessimism and defeat as a basis, than truth. She said, “Jis ki barbadi likhi hai, woh lakh koshish kare toh bhi kuch nahin hota. Sab kuch ujjadta rehta hai.” (If it is your fate to be destroyed, no matter how hard you try nothing will come of it. All your efforts will be in vain) In other words, what she was saying was that I was doomed to be a failure! That hit hard and I must have been gaping at her stupidly while I gathered my wits, because taking my blank stare for incomprehension, she began to elaborate. I twisted and turned as she wrung out my life underlining all my losses; my roller-coaster life, unsuccessful efforts, blah...blah...blah. What about the successes, the small victories...I wondered. Were they real or not? I figured out they weren’t to her. So I resigned myself to listen.
I listened to her theory in awe. According to her reckoning, I would not find success in anything and it would be a waste of time, effort and money (which I did not have much of anyway!) to try to fight fate. I was wondering which path to take; get into a useless discussion with her to defend myself or let her walk away happy that she had imparted some knowledge and sound advice to me. I opted for the latter, it was the easier way out. Besides, she had a right to her opinion. After all, she was viewing it the way she was. Ah! The quote was back.
I am sure she went away feeling very nice and fuzzy-wuzzy inside after passing that (dubiously) prophetic statement and commiserating with me. I felt relieved that in some way, that conversation had made her feel good and I got out of an unwanted discussion. She had a right to her opinion, especially, when she refused to see the brighter side I presented.
I realised at this point how we saw people not as they were but as we were. This lady is highly superstitious and uses superstition to justify any kind of failure or loss. She likes to be a martyr and is happy only when she imagines herself suffering. A chance “how are you?” will elicit a long list of ailments and problems she has to bear. Often I would tell her in jest, “Look at the doughnut, not at the hole.” So it would have been impossible for her to see the positives, she was too used to seeing the negatives. It was one of those contradictions where her happiness stemmed from her misery and I suppose the miseries in another’s life.
I was feeling quite light and enlightened by the co-relation I had discovered through our conversation and wondered if I would meet someone else with an equally strong perception and who would be equally eloquent about it. As it occurred I did. And unfortunately or fortunately I was once again the subject.
Another close acquaintance called me. I cannot recollect how or why the conversation took a turn to me being the subject, but she began praising me and telling me how much she admired my grit and perseverance. I was a bit embarrassed, and laughed it away in an effort to make small of my struggles. This did not throw her off the topic, on the contrary, it stoked her fervour further. So once again, I had to hear the same list of the known challenges I had faced and how I had done so well despite it all. What a change in perspective! Once again I realised the best way to end the discussion was to agree. I am sure she felt better that day having praised me and for having passed on some positive energy my side. I must admit I felt good about it.
I found I had agreed with two women who had entirely opposed views about me!
In retrospect, I am glad I had both those conversations. The attitudes and perceptions of both the women were a direct reflection of who they were. Both had the same information and knowledge of my circumstances but one saw me as a failure; a victim preordained by fate and the other as a fighter; a survivor, a victor.