A few of us colleagues had got together at a friend’s place for a rare Sunday lunch and an even rarer bit of socializing. Inevitably, most of the conversation revolved around the school, and soon we were discussing how we ‘were made to feel guilty’ each time we called up to inform our supervisors about taking a leave. (Teachers, as a rule, rarely took leave in the school because every leave meant we had to struggle to complete portions.) “We don’t take leave just like that, do we? It’s only when we don’t have a choice that we do. And for that, we are made to feel so bad, so guilty…” was the collective whine.
“If you need a leave, you take it – that’s all. You are entitled to it, it’s your right. Why should you bother about what somebody else thinks? No one can really understand your problem, only you can,” Aishwariya said, her expressive face conveying more indignation than her words did. “Why do you hand over the remote control of your life to somebody else? Why should another person make you feel good or bad?”
All of us laughed, without really knowing why. We certainly did not find her words funny. Maybe we laughed because there was so much truth in her words, or maybe because she had touched a raw nerve in each of us. Maybe we laughed because we did not know how else to respond to the wisdom in her words…
Alone at home, replaying the conversation in my head as is my habit, I marvel once again at the profundity of her words. Her truth goes far beyond the context of the school and the casual leave – it is about life itself.
I recall a scene from my childhood days. My cousins are playing with the ‘Ring’ – a version of today’s Frisbee that resembled a large, white doughnut – passing it to one another, shouting, screaming, having fun. I badly want to be a part of it, but I am too small, too young, to be a part of their ‘grown up’ games. That doesn’t stop me from making an almighty fuss, however. Annoyed and worried that soon some aunt or the other will insist that they include me in their game, my cousins tell me that I can join them. I’ll have to fend for myself, though. If I manage to catch the Ring, I too can pass it.
I eagerly stand in the middle, as I am told to. My cousins gleefully pass the Ring around, challenging me to catch it. I try to reach for it each time it is up in the air. I run, I jump, I fall, I pick myself up and jump again – but the Ring remains stubbornly out of my reach. Tired and frustrated, I sit down on the ground in the middle of their game and cry. Finally they relent, and one of them throws the Ring toward me. I catch it and throw it back. I am happy.
The Remote Control of My Life! When has it ever been in my hands?
My feeling good or otherwise has always depended on the responses of the people around me. Parents, relatives, husband, children, friends, classmates, bosses, colleagues, casual acquaintances, absolute strangers – much like the Ring, it passes from hand to hand, slightly out of my arms’ reach. I run, I jump, I fall, I pick myself up and jump again – but it remains elusive. I get tired and frustrated every so often, and even sit down and cry. Still, no one hands it over to me.
Now, decades through the game, I realize that no one can, either. It is up to me, and me alone. It is up to me to work towards taking charge of my well-being, my emotions, my life. Others, however well they mean, however much they care, can only help me so much. They can encourage me, support me, even hold me up when I fall – but that’s all they can do. It is up to me to rise above myself, gather every bit of courage I have, and grab it before it gets lost or damaged beyond repair – The Remote Control of My Life!