Life would have been drab and grey without the exciting and eclectic mix of people that we are. We are like chalk and cheese—we may look similar but that’s it.
We are made of different stuff, like the many chips in a piece of mosaic. What’s the good way to have a measure of oneself in that mosaic? Mirrors? The mirror says I am fat like a cow (sorry, no offence to anyone’s religiosity) and growing quite ungainly. I don’t believe it. Looks on a mirror can be as deceptive as real looks.
Then what? People? People say I am unorganised. Or, is it disorganised that they mean? Check out the difference for shades of meaning. As in unused and disused.
I have some people in my life who are as organised and planned as the sketch and plan of a civil engineer—every corner and ventilator spot on. Some are even precise as an astronomer. For them every millisecond or the thinnest flake of time is important. They can’t even breathe without planning and spreading it out on an Excel sheet.
They plan their vacations a year ahead, write down the itinerary with, if possible, even hotel room numbers, and with activities of every evening documented. And, the surprising thing is that the plan works perfect.
There are others, who look more like myself, who travel out of an impulse. My wife and I once sat down to plan our habitual annual visit to Kerala (from the Middle East), and ended up going on a month-long holiday in Europe. And, till we landed in Paris we didn’t inform the friend with whom we were to stay in Brussels that we were on our way. We do that. We can only do that. There are some who are prim and proper as a steaming, spotless shirt straight from the ironing board. They can’t stand a wrong crease or a false fold. They walk stiff without disturbing the peace of being ironed out. Seeing them and seeing myself, I often want to bury my head deep in sand. How can I make them understand the funny physics between a tummy and sliding trousers? I don’t want to use suspenders for fear of being branded ‘elitist’. But I increasingly feel the need of one, but I can’t imagine myself walking the streets of Kerala wearing suspenders.
Some spend money like diarrhoea. Their pocket is a bag with holes. They never know how and when money goes out of it. They will only know when it is finished as their groping hand comes up like an empty sieve. Finito! Now they wait for the next windfall to spend it like the owner of a red-coloured airline of good times-turned-bad! Old habits die hard. They don’t leave you; they only make you broke.
Some spend money like constipation. Only pretensions, nothing comes out. Frugality runs in their blood, and Mr Ebenezer Scrooge is their great uncle.
They smell of stinginess and they somehow distance themselves from their own swelling bank balance. They live and die poor, making only their bank manager happy.
Some are as insecure as a toddler. Their insecurity whispers to them at night and make them behave arrogant, for attack is the best way of defence. The logic is simple: “Before I am exposed and wounded, let me finish him.” They create a kingdom around their pettiness. A halo of self-assurance around their insecure self.
Oh yeah, there are those who are on the other side of the fence. They are so sure of themselves that they become lazy and sluggish, and wait till the deadline stares eyeball to eyeball. They declare their shortcomings in public but that too is a defensive tactic—an escape from reality. They lift up their feet of clay and limp around boasting their fallibility. The ones who have a sharp tongue are perfect examples of ‘attack before attacked’ types. Most of the time, they don’t mean what they say. Unfortunately, they don’t have the ability to realise the degree of damage their words inflict upon the ‘victim’, and how badly they crack others’ heart.
There are some others who don’t speak or retort at all. They put on such a smiling mask that you have no idea how vengeful and jealous their heart is. They secretly and lovingly water and nurture a poison tree till it flowers and bears fruit.
There are people who are kind and loving but have no clue how to express it. They are capable of expressing only anger and frown, which are not the emotions that run in their heart. They shout and scream at their wife and kids while in the heart of heart, they love them and can’t live without them. But, sadly, their wife and kids seldom realise the depth and warmth of their love. I have learnt in life that fighting spouses will miss each other so badly that they can’t survive without the intimacy of quarrelling with each other. On the other hand, affection, in its selfish form, suffocates and chokes the other to the extent that he or she wants to get away from the ‘slavery of affection’. That’s why we hear phrases like ‘private space’ and ‘time alone’. There is nothing more negative than selfish love, the love that doesn’t let go. Having said all this, imagine how boring it would be if we all think and act alike. Imagine we all are clones of ourselves! And, that’s my biggest concern against Artificial Intelligence. I put my neck on the block to say that AI is all about being ‘artificial’ or ‘programmed’. To know the difference between an AI robot and a human being, we should understand that parents don’t ‘make or create’ a child. They are just ‘instruments’ at the hands of, you know who! You can’t pinch a robot, can I? Thank God for the diversity that ‘our hearts are fashioned individually’. We make a pretty picture, don’t we? Oh, those who kill for their faith, please excuse me.
Sabin Iqbal is a Thiruvananthapuram based senior journalist.
He writes on culture, sports and business.