Cowardice

I have a problem – I let drafts ferment and rot in my dashboard too long. Usually, It is a good thing because you end up writing something better, but after a point you just don’t resonate with an idea as deeply as you did when you wrote it first. My new mission is to get the older drafts out faster than I create new ones. Here is one post which has been fermenting at the draft stage for long.

If you have driven on Delhi’s roads for any period of time, there is a very high probability that you have hit someone’s car or have been hit by someone else’ car. The Filmi/Raj Comics version of the usual scene following such an incident is as follows: people concerned battering each other to death till someone intervenes (in the case of Raj Comics that might be Dhruv or Nagraj). And surely we have seen several such brawls in front of our very own eyes.

The key question is what do you do, when this happens to you. Here is what goes through my mind: The damage is done now, this guy is not going to pay for my car repairs, so there is no point in fighting and wasting time. Of course, this often is a first mover question, but I usually try and talk my way out of it.

The problem with this decision is this: you feel like a coward. It bothers me a lot less now, but used to bother me a lot when I was younger.

Diversion: Sometime last year I read the book Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Though you need to have Wikipedia handy when you are reading it, it is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. Beyond being a thriller par excellence, it has incredibly brilliant insights into life, touched up with delightful humor. The story runs in flashback, the memory of past days often coming to Casaubon, the lead protagonist, through the diary entries of another one of the key characters called Jacopo Belbo. It is here that some of these insights come to life and how.

One such insight relates to cowardice of the above variety. And I think it is best discovered than stated – which means you have to read the rest of this post and the book excerpt.

The context is this (with help from Wikipedia): In 1970s Milan, Casaubon is a student writing a thesis in the midst of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary activities of the students around him. During the course of his research he forms a friendship with an editor in a publishing house called Jacopo Belbo and his colleague Diotallevi. At one revolutionary march of the sort commonplace then, Casaubon bumps into Belbo and a friend of his. After a series of events, the police starts firing, and Casaubon, Belbo and his friend manage to run away. Belbo explains to Casaubon his escape strategy, and how that is something he learnt as a child. However, when he relates his childhood story and his exposure to the Resistance, he reveals how he was eleven then and thus a mere spectator, though an astute one at that. In Belbo’s words, “What else could I do? I watched. And ran. Like today.”

It is not revealed to Casaubon if Belbo’s remorse related to a specific incident in his life, until much later when he finds a diary entry about it. (The reader on the other hand learns about it immediately).

Read it here. Poetic.

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One thought on “Cowardice

  1. […] Crystallizing Ideas: Basically there are so many things and ideas you think about/know about/have an intuitive sense of – but it become more tangible when someone says it. Sometimes it gives a framework to your thoughts. Sometimes makes you aware of a connetion between notions which you hadn’t thought of. It brings a clarity which you had failed to achieve. The one I can think of is the cowardice and wisdom wala funda which I had read about in Foucault’s Pendulum and had blogged about it earlier. […]

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