As kids, we used to imagine ourselves as some superhero and savior of the world. As we grow up, the situation doesn’t change much. The only difference would be that we dream of ourselves as someone who does something extraordinary, but still real, instead of flying or spinning webs or crawling through rooftops.
The following is a real-life incident which occurred to me recently. But it turned into a daydream midway through the incident. Curiously enough, I didn’t do it in reality; I just imagined doing that. Now, that was something which required some mulling over. This is no fiction.
Scene: National Games Village, Bangalore
I go to NGV for an hour of Badminton every weekend. That one evening was sunny and warm. I had just finished my game and was exiting the Builder’s club with AM. So were 4 other people who were playing in an adjacent court. Three guys and a girl. One of the guys was drinking water from a PET bottle as they were chatting. He finished the water, and he casually threw the bottle under a tree. I looked at the bottle for a few seconds, then noticed that he was busy talking to others.
A sudden rage started erupting in my mind. How could a person, who looked educated enough to me, be such an imbecile? The other part of me said… Curb your anger, but don’t leave this case as it is. Teach him a lesson. Teach him the right thing to do.
Deciding to teach that guy a lesson, I slowly went near the tree, took the bottle from the ground, and looked at the person who threw it. He had noticed me taking the bottle. He was looking at me, completely puzzled. His friends were alternately looking at him and me in disbelief, possibly because I didn’t even remotely look like a tramp. I just smirked at him and started walking.
“What are you doing?”, the guy apparently decided to go ahead and ask me the reason for my irrational behavior, as I strode past him.
“Putting this thing in its rightful place”, I said, pointing to a waste bin which was about 20 feet away.
The guy was blushing red by this time. He mustered whatever dignity was left in him and said, “Please. Let me do that. It was really stupid of me to litter, and I want to correct my error.”
I gave the bottle to him. His friends were nodding at me approvingly. I smiled vaguely.
“What are you staring at?”, asked AM.
I was still looking at the tree trunk. The bottle was still there. I turned around to see the guy still in conversation with his partner, the girl.
That was just a daydream. But I still had a chance to actualize it. Instead, I chose to wait for them to leave before picking up the bottle.
“We’ll just go for a walk before we return home”, said AM.
And as it happened, by the time we returned, the group of 4 had gone and a cleaner was already clearing the litter.
I went home and pondered over this for quite some time.
Many of us want to do something extraordinary for the society. To do that extraordinary thing, we need a lot of kindness and altruism, and from what I learned through the above incident, a hell lot of courage.
Now, many people are good and altruistic, but I think that they are not really courageous.
That singular act in my hallucination carried a very strong message. We can only stagnate the process of societal degradation, but never revert it, unless we spread awareness in others also. The hero in my dream (Ahem..that would be the “surreal me”) was courageous enough to insult a stranger, because he had done something which I thought was wrong.
But even stronger was the message that my realization carried. That we are all robots, but our subconscious mind is not. The real me didn’t do it. I just didn’t have the courage to do it to a stranger. I didn’t have the courage to stand out in the crowd; be an oddball.
We always want to be in the zone that we consider to be safe. It would have been a different ball game if someone asked me to do something which deviates from what I believe. Because the doer in that case would be me, and I would strongly resist.
But in this case, I was weighing the consequences of confronting a stranger for a matter that had no direct impact on me, with what I believed to be just. Of course, the first plate weighed more, because our society has degraded to such an insolent level of courtesy, which makes any mildly offensive gesture indistinguishable from disrespect.
There are a lot of do-gooders around. But an improvement in the society will be expedited if they teach others a lesson or two about their misdemeanors. But very few people dare to go that extra mile, because it is a murky forest full of hostile creatures out there. I realized that I’m definitely not among those courageous ones, although my daydream suggests that I want to be. But what good are thoughts or words, if they are not enforced by deeds?