A moment of hatred
Anand got up early morning and suddenly felt an urge to love the world. No, perhaps it was not so sudden, for he had been meditating on various aspects of humanitarian love for several days, but never before had he felt this strong a thrust from within to throw his heart out onto the world around. He gave his room mates a friendly hug, shared a few jokes with them, tried to gift each of them a happy moment and left for work. On his way he smiled at people, had a melody on his lips, kept the traffic away from his head, and drove slowly and happily to office. At the gate he saluted the guard and at the reception he greeted the receptionist. He smiled at the office boys running around and his other colleagues whether he knew them personally or not.
He had the usual interaction with his team, but was more lively and active in the discussions. He also observed keenly and enjoyed the variety of characters around him. He realized that his observations had no real surprise elements for he had felt almost all of them before. But this day he felt like making no classifications and no judgments and he simply wanted to love each trait of character he saw in them. He had no interest in politics, no high ambitions, no concerns about positions, no memories of wrong decisions, inconsistencies or injustice, and so he could even like the managers. He however soon began to feel that the office is too small, familiar and technical a world for this wonderful day. When lunch time arrived he applied leave for the rest half day and left office. He decided to take lunch from a nearby hotel which is usually full of life but which he had never been to, instead of the office canteen, and then think of plans for the rest of the day. He did not take his bike and started walking towards the hotel enjoying the life on the road.
He walked slowly and steadily observing as many persons he could on the way meeting them straight in their eyes. Of course, the first recipients of his glances of love were, as usual, girls in their youth. But this day he had decided to have no prejudices and his heart went out to every type of girl he saw, simple or not, confident or not, fair or not, smiling or not to name a few. Next major recipients of his love were kids. He displayed playful faces when he met small kids in their parents arm. He smiled at the kids who were running after school, caressed some on their heads, offered sweets and enquired about their day in school. He showed love and respect to the old people walking on the road, making way for them to walk past him, smiling and slightly bowing to them, and feeling fondness for their child like expressions. He observed the big boys smartly driving bicycles, and followed their glances on to the girls who looked even more smarter amidst a few blushes. And he celebrated this observation with memories of his own teenage days. He looked at the middle aged folks with admiration, lading in his mind their efforts to keep their family healthy and their employers satisfied at the same time. Perhaps among them would be people who have made great contributions to his field of work and hence the society, he thought, and his admiration grew even stronger. But the most common people he met on the road were youths close to his age, active and energetic and taking on the world. In them he saw variations of his room mates, colleagues and college mates. Many of them have left their home and come here to help himself, his family and the world move forward.
He went to the roadside fruit vendor, near the restaurant, asked for the price of mangoes and told him he would return after his lunch and buy some. It was then he noticed an old woman sitting on the pavement and begging for alms. She looked weak and tired and her voice was feeble. She told him that she has not been able to eat anything substantial during the past three days. He felt his high spirits come crashing down. All along the walk he had not noticed any hapless person on the roadside. Had he ignored them willfully? He drew his purse and gave her a few coins but that did not satisfy him. Was it sympathy, love or guilt he was feeling, he did not know. He asked her to come along with him offering her lunch. She looked surprised and her face brightened and he helped her get up from her seat. He got a lunch coupon for her, made her sit at the table facing him and asked her to eat until she is satisfied. As she started with her lunch, he felt happier but still felt inadequate. He started talking with her and asking her questions about her life. At first she was silent and concentrated on her food alone, but as her hunger began to subside she thanked him and started talking about her life. Emotional solace comes next only to food, he reflected, as she started narrating her miserable story.
She had grown up in a village far away and, though amidst poverty, was happily married with two children. Her husband loved her, her girl was sweet and her boy obedient. The trouble started after her husband's untimely death due to illness. She had managed to recover quickly from the loss for her children were her strength and her weakness. However, in spite of her efforts, she began to slowly lose control over the affairs of the household. The income never grew above expenses. Her children started drifting away from her as they grew older, and she felt this with pain but her priority was to give her children at the least one good meal a day. One day she returned home only to find that her girl had run away from her and she had to face accusations of neglect from her neighbor's, and more gravely, from her son. The next day her son returned drunk and out of sense, and he cursed her for everything. She advised him the next morning and he listened, but in the evening came back more drunk and beat her up. She learned he had fallen into bad company, and did all what she could do to save him but failed. Her life became miserable day by day and finally she was driven out of the house, which had become a hideout for scoundrels, and from the life of her son.
Anand reflected that her story seemed common and familiar and fitted into his conceptions about a poor village household. But he also realized that he was feeling genuinely sorry for her. He asked no more questions and just sat observing and listening to her as she narrated incidents of cruelty that she had to endure. At the end of each such narration she cursed her son's friends who were the real culprits behind her son's actions. They had hijacked and enslaved her son in liquor and would no doubt soon get the biggest of punishments from God. She was sure that her son would soon escape from them and come in search of her. She would give him a fine slap on his face and then forgive him for all that he has done to her, get him a sweet wife even though he is slightly over age, and live with him ever after. Anand felt his heart becoming heavy, his stomach losing appetite, and himself sharing her sorrow, her rage, her prayer and her hope. He tried to console her and keep her hope long alive and felt his inadequacy at the job. He waited until she finished her lunch by which time she had also become very silent. Then he took leave of her with a gentle press of the hand, as he gave her some money, and with deeply sympathetic but somewhat reassuring eyes. Her eyes were now overflowing with tears, and she half raised her hands to bless him but then withdrew from it, returned to her position on the pavement and after a few moments of thought, returned to her posture.
He walked past her with a final glance of sympathy. His mind was filled with the miserable life story of that old woman. He recollected each incident, thought about the role fate and man have played in it. He could not escape from the typical middle-class deliberations on the state of the poor villages across his country, as well as on the moral aspects of the relationships within a family with the outside. As he walked slowly and thoughtfully he noticed almost no one who went past him. He heard their voices and felt their proximity but he did not meet a single eye. He missed the fruit vendor, glided his way through a crowd near the bus stop interested in no one, crossed the road irritated by the honks of the vehicles and continued to walk slowly talking to himself. He was becoming more and more oblivious of the world around him when he almost ran into someone. That shook into him into his senses and he raised his head and looked at the man. He was middle-aged, fat, black, wearing a white shirt with slightly rolled up sleeves, and had wide eyebrows and a big moustache. The man started saying something but Anand did not decipher a single word and just looked at him with a blank face. Noticing this the man walked away in anger talking loudly to the rest of the world about the carelessness of today's youth.
Anand stood motionless. He had just realized something that he did not want to agree with but from the truth of which he could not escape. What he realized with pain was that at the moment his eyes fell on the face of that man, he had felt an instant hate for him. It was perhaps his first hate of the day. And it was a day when he did not want to hate at all. He started searching for reasons for his momentary hatred. That man was just another stranger who did no wrong (it was himself who ran onto thay guy) It was surely not because of his words which actually sounded more of an advice than a curse and moreover the hate had happened before those words came out. And that face had no aggressive expression that he can remember now. Then why, why did he have that miserable feeling of hate even if only for a moment?
Did he, at that instant, take this man to represent the son, or any of his friends. of that old woman on the street? The image of the cruel son he had formed in his over-cinema-fed mind had some likeness to this man. But if so, does that mean he had already started hating her son much before this momentary hste happened? Does every love have an element of hate in it? Feeling love is like sharing knowledge, the wise say, for every time you feel love your capacity to feel love increases even more. And perhaps every time you feel hate your overall capacity to love comes down. But if loving someone necessitates hating someone else (or something, say an idealogy, an institution. the society etc) then what happens? And does love for one justify hate for another, even when we have no visibility into the whole truth? How could he hate her son without hearing his version of the story?
He decided to leave that thread of thought which was getting complex. Perhaps it is just that he had already reached the limits of his capacity to observe and love for the day? Every one has his limits but if this is true, it would mean that his limit is indeed low and far below what he wished to possess. No wonder, he concluded, that he has become an engineer and not a social activist or a writer. Nothing happens purely by chance, everything is natural and reasonable. No choice is made in a moment, it would have already been made and is just signed at that moment.
Or is it just that the heat of the blazing sun above (he was indeed now full of sweat) was decapacitating him of any deep humane feeling, burning down his small monument of love to the ash of hate? Well, if an external reason is to be found, even the noise on the road and the unruly traffic can suffice, he noted with contempt for himself. But there may be some truth even there, for he has been seeing so much hate every day on the roads.
He did not get any single answer to the question and grew tired of reasoning. He at once realized that this was the end of his walk. He hastened his steps, reached his office cubicle, logged on to the computer, gave that lifeless executable a heavy run and waited for its response.
And as soon as he reached his residence in the evening he gave his mother, living in his native place far away, the longest call he had ever made to her.