Thursday, December 15, 2011

Here's To The Asshole In All Of Us

...or maybe just the one in me.

December's not been very kind. I've had one health related mishap after another. First my back gave out on me. Then, a mysterious illness that had my mom sticking needles in my bum (it's ok, she's a doctor), a Masterchef-inspired finger massacre with a butcher's knife and finally a sprained wrist caused due to incorrect techniques employed in hooking a bra. I tried gaining perspective on my troubles by reading Christopher Reeve's autobiography 'Still Me' but since physical setbacks don't frequently occur in my life, suffice it to say, I was not a happy camper.

Of course there was the discomfort. But I was also frustrated because every evening I spent in bed was an evening not spent outside. I'm not a terribly physical person (by which I mean, I'm a sloth) but I do love walking. Summers, terrible as they are in Delhi, aren't feasible for long walks. So each winter day is extremely precious.

(The above is a prologue that, I'm hoping, will justify the upcoming telling of my assholey-ness.)

I didn't wait for the back to heal. I did a pilates class with a friend, experienced temporary relief and decided I was cured. A few evenings ago, I hobbled across to the colony's walking track and began a gentle round. Within minutes an elderly gentleman caught up from behind. He must've been in his 80's and was quite sprightly. As we walked shoulder to shoulder, he smiled at me. I smiled back but inside I was seething. The old guy hadn't just caught up, but would soon overtake me. What was that? A pity smile?! I pressed my aching bones into action and made a few feeble attempts to increase my pace. It was tragic, really.

For about five minutes, I pretended to be in a race with the gentleman, who by now had decoded my insanity. He wasn't looking for competition, he was just out for a walk. Now here was this crazy lady trying to out-walk him. There was a bit of a dance, a dialogue without words as our respective speeds did the talking. At some point the wiser one (not me) prevailed and he began peeling off to the right as I veered left. Unfortunately for him, in order to successfully complete this maneuver we'd both have to cross each other.

I should've let him pass but I was still raging in my mind. So I decided to turn left before he could turn right and cut him off sharply. In trying to avoid a collision, he stumbled slightly, then regained his step. As I sped away, like a renegade Salman Khan after mowing down innocents, I looked back shamefaced & mouthed an apology. The octogenarian, who'd reverted to his nimble stride, gave me the kindest 'It's ok, don't worry about it' grin.

This was hardly the first time I'd been an asshole. This summer something weird happened. Something shifted the value system I'd built carefully over the years. A situation presented itself & I wanted to be an asshole. I wanted to be selfish & uncaring. I no longer wished to see the larger picture. I was in full control of my mental faculties. I made a decision to be bad.
The joke was - I did unto others as I'd had done unto me (which had then undone me for a long time). I did the same thing. It was a decision, cold & calculated.

What made me do it? A sense of entitlement that I'd earned the right to be bad after years of being good. Or maybe, I got too impatient with internal debates. Perhaps I thought - 'If I could survive that, others would survive this.' I was definitely greedy.
I deluded myself into thinking that the past justified my present. It was a scary moment and in many ways it burst my little bubble of moral uprightness. Once the bubble burst, I had to question everything I'd been so sure about. If I wasn't good then what was I really? Suddenly words like 'sensible', 'silly', 'intelligent', 'dimwitted', 'honest', 'cruel', & 'thoughtful' seemed too lofty. They needed to be broken down into terms that were less loaded.

So in the spirit of keeping things simple and hoping I don't go rogue again, it's important to say this: I'm a woman who likes to trip up old men to feel better about her trivial problems.
I'm an asshole but I promise I'm trying not to be.



  1. Assholes Anonymous ... where to I sign up?


  2. Wow! That is brutally honest. We all trip up, but it's hard to admit that sometimes, we trip other people up too.

  3. @Arvind: Yo.

    @Banno: Kya karoon, shrink ke paise nahi hain and in the absence of religion, I have no other way to deal with my sins :D

  4. And there's a song about it too..