Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Struggle

Struggle is such a futile feeling. When one meets people who are ‘struggling’, one gets a sense of wheedling, beseeching neediness. A feeling of lack. A sense of a big gaping black hole that will always be there, no matter how much or what one fills into it. A struggle is an indication of misalignment. It’s the result of grating incongruity.

And at the basis of all struggle is a lack of clarity. And lack of clarity means lack of control.

I was thinking about all this when I drove my mum and cousin to Mount Mary and back. We started from Vashi around 4 p.m. We sailed over a formidable bridge, with a bright sun glinting over the sea. There was family chatter in the background and some good music on radio.

We reached Chembur, and it was easy driving through that area as well. There were a few instances of rickshaws angling to cut lanes and some big Scorpios nipping against my car, but over all, it was okay.

There was a glorious stretch on the Bandra flyover where the sky spread like a panel of pink cellophane paper.

S.V. Road was simple enough, for most of the way.

But then we hit Hill Road. And….

No lanes, plenty of cars, haphazard swarms of people, stalls oozing out on to the roads, boulders serving as dividers. Angry, impatient honking, endless wait on the bend to Bandstand...and beyond the fracas, a stunning sunset molted away to reveal a nubile, fledgling night.

Inside my car, tempers were short and people were getting impatient. I clumsily tried to angle my car this way and that, just to avoid getting blocked by another rickshaw or pedestrian or biker. At the time, I thought that people without cars have no business being on the roads. If they can’t afford to be in a vehicle, let them be at home. I spewed curses at pedestrians – those frustrating imbeciles who cross the road just as it seems a little free and hold out their hands in a bid to stop a car. Such stupidity must not exist. These people should be run over.

On the way back, the traffic had gotten worse. I was tired and my neck was tight with tension. Sion circle was choked and the Chunnabhatti flyover was a spread of metallic Bingo mad-angles. Mankhurd was a mess and the Vashi bridge was vile. All the while, a silent cloud of suffocation was enveloping my head and there came a point when, I think, I was not even breathing anymore.

This is too much. Driving shouldn’t be this hard. And given the way traffic is, it is most important to enjoy the process because it’s not as if you are reaching anywhere quickly. For the most part of the journey, the experience of being behind the wheel is going to remain distinct and individual. So, sharing the misery is not really an option, and if you have to swallow and wallow in any kind of turpitude, it may as well be the pleasant type. (This of course goes against the very grain of ‘turpitude’, but still.)

That’s when I figured I was approaching all this the wrong way. I am not a skilful driver. I don’t change gears quickly enough, I always brake too close to a car, and I almost always forget to see a traffic signal. (In my side of town, they are hardly ever working, so…) If I just managed a steady pace, I wouldn’t be troubled by the manic swerving auto rickshaws or pedestrian thrusts. A lot of my discomfiture stems from my inability. It’s a pretty universal cause for defensiveness and conflict. When you cannot handle something smoothly, you are going to be wrestling against one kind of conflict or the other. And that’s bound to make you testy.

So, close to home, I decided to be pleasant and not get agitated. I would just focus on what I was doing, and ensure that I don’t force my way through the task. So, I decided to change gears smoothly instead of grunting and pushing it around. I decided to gently slow down instead of grinding to a halt, and I basically decided to let things go. In a crowded road in busy traffic, I decided to think of calm, breezy islands. It’s a pleasant feeling – to have such a stark contradiction in your imagination; to have an impossibly peaceful destination in the midst of such crazy blitzkrieg. There’s no decision as momentous as taking things nice and slow.

I was much better by the time I got into the driveway. And what’s more, I parallel parked in the first glide.

Bliss. It’s better to master than to struggle.

14 comments:

SilentOne said...

Well said.. agree totally. Its wonderful how unbearable situations become so pleasant once we change our attitude.

Mukta said...

Yep..and you know what really amazes me sometimes..that we all know this, and yet every single time we see the evidence of attitude determining outcome, we are amazed. :-)

Anonymous said...

"I thought that people without cars have no business being on the roads. If they can’t afford to be in a vehicle, let them be at home. I spewed curses at pedestrians – those frustrating imbeciles who cross the road just as it seems a little free and hold out their hands in a bid to stop a car. Such stupidity must not exist. These people should be run over."

How deep and what an empathy!!!By the way who are you to judge and decide for others? Or is it alright to judge the unfortunate ones? How your maid comes to your house? Do you pay her enough to be inside a vehicle?

"It’s better to master than to struggle."

Do you have an infant of your own? TELL HIM/HER NOT TO LEARN WALKING BUT SPRINT LIKE AN ATHLETE STRAIGHTAWAY.

Saritha.

Ajeya said...

I think it is through struggle that one gains mastery. BTW, I completely identify with your emotions while driving. :) But I love driving in Mumbai. I think of the drive to work and back as little game. The constant fight for space, the edging, the aggression, the bungling idiots, the experts... I love the drama! :)

Mukta said...

Hi Saritha,

You seem to have missed the point of the post. Do you drive? If you do, then you will know just how much your consciousness shifts when you are behind the wheel. My point here was that things just seem so much better when your perspective changes.

And as far as infants go, they don't struggle. They explore, they discover...they learn. Struggle is a somewhat stiffling connotation. Babies don't do that. They are taken into their world with a kind of delight. And that is the way to approach things - not struggle, not force, not co-erce.

Hi Ajeya,

I believe that you gain mastery through mindfulness, not struggle. But that's P.O.V. And if you love driving in Mumbai, may be the force be with you. There should be more people like you on the roads! :-)

Ajeya said...

Interesting. What do you mean when you say mindfulness? I'm genuinely asking. I repsect your P.O.V. either way :)

Anonymous said...

"You seem to have missed the point of the post. Do you drive? If you do, then you will know just how much your consciousness shifts when you are behind the wheel. My point here was that things just seem so much better when your perspective changes."

No! Read your blog again. Inanimate objects get all of your attention. food, clothes,eating joints decor, sofa, curtains any damn thing. Not even a glimpse of the cook or maid or waiter who prepares and serves the food to you. If we read about lesser mortals at all here its just how you yelled at them or things like above.

"And as far as infants go, they don't struggle. They explore, they discover...they learn. Struggle is a somewhat stiffling connotation. Babies don't do that. They are taken into their world with a kind of delight. And that is the way to approach things - not struggle, not force, not co-erce."
Clearly shows you don't have one. Probably you have never played with one for two whole days!!!
Saritha.

Mukta said...

umm, if babies around you are not having fun, maybe you're doing something wrong? he he!

and its amusing how one assumes a person's blog is a person's life. There is a difference, in case you are wondering...

And Sarita, I don't have a baby yet, but have spent lots of time around toddlers. In fact, I'll probably be spending some time with my baby nephew soon. Maybe I can just sense the delight in children because I bring that out in them. :-D

Anonymous said...

Hey Ram! You DON'T even seem married. For how long you sustain any relationship, apart from you blood relations, (because they are struck with you)? And as you seem so aversion to struggle, do you still keep running to your parents when in trouble, even after becoming an adult? like a typical rural illiterate Indian women? :-)
Saritha

Mukta said...

Well, if mature, intelligent adults turn out to be commenters like you, I'll stick to my provincial, rustic guile. Much more pleasant, I think. (By the way, I can now get a sense of what kind of anguish kids must experience when they are around you. he he he!)

And like I said, I try not to struggle. I aim to master.

Anonymous said...

he he he honey, when your salary is your pocket money while you are in your late twenties or early thirties and you don't have to worry about paying the bills, of course you are the most delightful person walking on this earth. With whomever you are living are delighting you enough to treat your salary like pocket money. Its called delightful cocooning or guardianship my little girl :-)I don't know how much they are delighted in return with your deeds!!! Keep it up! I am going to stop here. And honey, no amount of baiting will extract any comments from me about kids. So stop trying you literate uneducated kid. Bye little kid!

Mukta said...

Hmm....goes to show how much you think you know about my life. (With regard to the no bills, salary as pocket money, etc.)

And perhaps it has been my good fortune, but I have met loads of people with lots of responsibility who are good, strong, and happy. I suppose it may work for some others to use 'perceived responsibility' as a shield or a garb to comment on other people's happiness. That's fine. But I don't see how that gives one the right to comment on someone's life. Or wait...maybe paying rent gives one the license to do that?

anumita said...

who saritha? blog police?

Mukta said...

hey anumita!

so good to see you here! :-D

Hey, do let me know if you and he watch any of those DVDs.

Especially Motorcycle Diaries. Have heard a lot about it.