Saturday, October 28, 2023

Hearing the unspoken word

It was heartbreaking to watch director Vikraman’s interview today.  The filmmaker who once churned out blockbusters on a yearly basis, spoke with great pain - and one must say, with immense grace - about the plight of his wife.  A dancer, she has been bedridden for five years.  As a result, Vikraman took the decision to stay away from films or film union activities to be by his wife’s side.  What was especially poignant was how he spoke about the distress with such equanimity.  As was the case with his films, his words were filled with hope for a better tomorrow.  But amidst this deeply moving conversation, one set of questions and Vikraman’s answers made me pause.  It was the portion on the Tamil film fraternity.

When the anchor asked him if people in the film world had reached out to him to offer support, he mentioned a few names.  But you could see that the majority of the actors that he had worked with have not made him feel supported.  Vikraman tried his best to be tactful and sensitive.  But if you observe closely, you could feel his pain.  He did not complain or sound resentful.  It was just impossible though, to look past the apparent lack of care and concern from an industry that he had been such an important part of.  Again, my intention is to not berate anyone in particular.  I shall not engage in an exercise to take names.  Because my intent is to go beyond the actual stars and directors to talk about something deeper.  And that is the notion of reaching out.

The busyness of our lives is the reason that we mostly cite for not reaching out.  But I am firmly convinced that we can make time for the things that we want.  We make the mistake of assuming that the depth and meaning of every conversation are directly proportional to the time that it will take out of our schedule.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We only have to revisit in our mind those brief exchanges, on Whatsapp or the phone, to realize how someone’s words or gestures gave us a respite from our woes.  

The other reason (excuse?) that I often hear is, “I wasn’t sure if you would be okay if I inquired about you.”  If we break it down, there are just three scenarios here.  One is, we had no idea that someone is going through a tough phase.  Two is, we are not sure.  And three, we know with absolute certainty that they are beset by some issue, personal or professional.  The three scenarios have something in common.  None of these scenarios prevents us from asking a simple question, “Are you doing okay?”  Worst case, the other person might not be ready to open up.  And that is fine.  In the deeply thought-provoking book, “Option B”, authors Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant make a distinction between the golden rule of relationships and the platinum rule of grief.  The golden rule is, treat others how you want to be treated.  The platinum rule is, when someone is going through trying times, treat others how they want to be treated.  So, if someone is not reciprocating your gesture of extending a hand to them, let them be.  The knowledge that you care will, in most cases, make them open up to you eventually.  But in my book, to not ask is to not care.

I have been the recipient of great generosity and deep thoughtfulness from people in my little world who give me the impression that I matter.  It is not something that I take for granted.  For I have had relationships where I thought that I ceased to matter.  I may be right.  I may be wrong.  But a sustained feeling of my unspoken words not being heard made me feel like the pain in my spoken words would not matter either.  But that is okay.  As we grow older, we learn.  We get better at spotting who ignores, who hears, who listens with their ears and who cares with their heart.  And it is so vitally important that we look inward to ensure that we can do our bit to make someone’s day brighter, smile wider and their burdens lighter.  That is exactly what I hope the film fraternity does for Vikraman and his family.  That is what I hope all of us do for one another.  That is when the positivity and goodness of Vikraman’s films will be recreated in the real world.