Lies That Help Us Live

Taken from Pixabay

Many of us look down upon fiction. You will hear many people say smugly: Fiction is not for me. What is there to learn? They are stories after all. But those of us who do that don’t understand that fiction serves a vital need of our lives: it gives us the lies we need to live. It’s not that only those who read fiction resort to living in lies. All of us need our  fantasies.

Either we get them from the novels we read or movies we watch or we manufacture them ourselves. Remember the guy at the school whose uncle brought him things from around the world, or never stopped travelling to beyond-the-horizon locations, or did more incredible things, or the college friend or office colleague with a friend who partook in sexual escapades with wives of rich men and celebrities?

There are two things that characterize these lies. One is they are always about things we aspire to at a social or individual level and the other one is platforms used to set the lies on – it’s always an uncle or aunt, people who have floating presence in our lives, our lack of accountability for their actions making them perfect figures to build stories around or a distant friend who no one has seen and will never see because the person doesn’t exist just like the uncle.

The aspirational part is worth exploring. These lies or fantasies may come from unfulfilled (and in some cases unfulfillable) aspirations, but they also come from a yearning for social/economic equity. It can sometimes be targeted at an individual but that individual is a representative of a social class or is someone who aspires to a higher social class (pretention in fact is more enraging – because it adds an extra thing to the mixture – pseudo-ism).

These sentiments cut across age. With age, in some cases, the stories become more grounded.

However, it’s not that people who don’t wage their proxy wars through fantastical lies – and most of us don’t – don’t need lies. They also have their own lies – the only way their lies differ from those of their more colourful counterparts (like the ones told by the imaginative school or college friend) is that they are subtler.

Unlike their more colorful and incredulous counterparts which stem from iconoclastic convictions, the subtler lies enjoy greater social acceptability, questioning them can be frowned upon collectively.

Infallibility of community beliefs, glorification of simplicity (which can be anything from low brow-ness, general ignorance to earthiness), an extremely pious concept of honesty, dishonesty (which comes from an ‘ends being more important than means’ conviction – people subscribing to this belief generally look down upon honesty but they will support a govt on social media which claims to stand for it).

In fact, these sentiments are so universal that they sustain industries and careers. People idolize public figures – mainly film stars and cricketers – who they believe embody these attributes and take any criticism against them personally.

These lies are not eternal beliefs. They change or lose their hold on us but it mostly takes a generation. The subsequent generation looks back upon the follies and foibles of the prior generation with a critical approach. But then the subsequent generation falls prey to its own lies depending on the needs and aspirations of the times. And the cycle continues.

Short Reads: Ops – It’s Someone Else’s

Taken from Pixabay

Have you ever worn a stranger’s trouser? I have – and have even attended an interview wearing it roughly seven years ago.

I had two formal trousers and a pair of jeans back then to take me through a week.

For my vacation in Calcutta my home town, I had carried all three of them with me. The three trousers together with the few trousers I had at home would be enough to take me through the two-week long vacation. It proved to be a little more than sufficient.

I went through the vacation, with one day to go, without even having to touch the brown corduroy trouser I had carried with me from Bangalore.  It was my costliest one which I wore only if I felt the occasion warranted it.  On my last day in Calcutta, an occasion rose which made the cut.

At that time, I was searching for a job in Calcutta so that I could finally return home ending my stay away from home for several years.  I am still trying. On my third day in Calcutta I got a job interview. It was a test I had to go through to qualify for further rounds of selection.

I fared alright and felt I would get a call for an interview but when even after a week or so I didn’t hear from them I dropped the hope and then forgot about it. The call arrived on my last day in Calcutta, later that day I was to fly back to Bangalore.

I asked for a telephonic interview later but the caller insisted it wouldn’t take very long and that they would arrange for my drop at the airport, the office being not very far from there. I was flattered. It was not the convenience but the honor. It must be the test, I felt.

As I was putting on the brown corduroy trouser, my legs zipped through it to the other side with an unusual pace and ease. After putting on the waist button I realized it didn’t quite fit me – it was a little too loose. I tied my belt tighter – and the trouser looked like a tent. It was originally a comfort fit – and I was at a loss how it had metamorphosed into a lungi.  Was it magic?

When the interview was over, quite happy with my performance, I swaggered to the reception having been asked to wait there. My performance in the interview had put me in such a buoyant mood that when I spotted the receptionist seeing the strange thing I was wearing, it didn’t make me uneasy.

After sometime when no one approached me about the promised drop to the airport, I felt reluctant to check with the receptionist and decided to leave – later I could call up and check the status. The company contacted me later but it didn’t materialize.

The next morning, in Bangalore, when I went to the laundry to give my clothes for wash, the laundry man said what I had remotely suspected: that when I had collected my clothes from him before I went to Calcutta, he had mistakenly given me someone else’s trouser. “The colour and texture of the other trouser were exactly the same as yours, sir.”