Let us start with three completely unconnected conversations that span fictional and real spaces.
The first happens in a rather touching sequence in the episode of the Amazon series Modern Love, starring Catherine Keener and Andy Garcia. They are former lovers in their forties, married – not to one another – who bump into each other. When recollecting their doomed, “untested” romance, Keener observes, “The idea of you just got me through a lot in life.” And later adds, “It’s the purest, most concentrated stuff.”
The second is a father-son chat that happens in the Samudrakani drama, Appa. A 10th grader confides in his father the rather puzzling imbalance he experiences whenever he sees a female classmate. The Dad smiles and asks him to invite the girl to their place. He offers a cup of coffee to each of them and urges them to converse in a civil, mature manner. Having sowed the seeds of a genuine friendship, the Dad urges the son to never accumulate any ‘toxins’ in his body. That a friendship that has its roots in thoughtful conversation and deep understanding, has the power to ‘purify’ our system.
The third is a conversation that didn’t happen on screen. It was a chat with a friend about visiting a distant relative who is undergoing treatment for cancer. A few disclaimers - I had not accompanied my relative for her treatment. I had not cooked her a meal. I had not taken care of any chores while she was in the hospital. I enumerate these because I know of people that touch her life in these very definite, selfless ways. What I did was nothing special or particularly tangible, I confess. During a recent trip to my hometown, I had just visited her, spent some quality time with her and shared several moments of mirth. She has a stupendous fighting spirit. So, it’s not even as though I lifted the morale of a morose person. But the positive vibe of that meeting has lasted with me for the two weeks that have elapsed since the meetup happened. Her smiling face has meant something to me. And the hopeful visage of her caregivers refuses to leave my mind as well. In these past two weeks, when I have started to complain or get crabby about things that are far less daunting than being the recipient of oncologic treatments, memories of that visit seem to tap me on my head as if to exclaim, “Really, are you this full of yourself?!”
You must be wondering if there is even a tenuous link that connects these three disparate conversations. To me, it is the notion of purity. It is the idea that there invariably exists something – be it an ideal love, a fulfilling friendship or a human connection – in our lives that can bring or restore a sense of equanimity and equipoise to our minds. We just have to discover it for ourselves, for it sometimes is hidden in plain sight. At times, we wrap ourselves in a blanket of meaningless mundanity when we should be discovering beauty in the big picture that astonishingly steely human beings draw right in front of our eyes. A case in point are the survivor and her supporters that I mentioned above. The truth is that the ‘big’ picture is comprised of smaller strokes of meaningful minutiae sketched out jointly by people and their loved ones. As seen above, this could be a true friend, a love interest, a caring relative. In each instance, there is something very pristine, giving and outward that in turn combine to give inner peace.
As somebody that has rarely been able to find an internal anchor in an invisible supreme power, I feel an urge to depend on abiding bonds with people to keep myself grounded and centered. Through blood relationships or otherwise, I have certainly been blessed with the presence of several people who, through just being themselves, give me an anchor of purity. That, as Catherine Keener acutely observed, can get us through life in a way that feels not just good but also right.