It was a pensive Ponmudi Periakaruppan, towards the conclusion of a month-long visit, relaxing with his wife on a settee abutting the large bay window overlooking a forested valley of the Himalayan ranges. His host was an army man and his brother-in-law. Thirty three years of marriage had brought about a striking turnaround in Ponmudi's convictions, as it does to all men.
The focus of his thoughts today was however a shade different from those normally attributable to men of his position in the cycle of life. In fact, it was a lot many shades different and of a kind where the normally applicable rationality was turned around on its head. He was aghast at the possibility of almost desiring a state of isolation and alienation. Despite his best efforts at avoiding the uncomfortable and flawed incident from happening, he - a civilian, had been saluted by a contingent of constabulary of the armed forces, manning the gates to the residential area of the military establishment.
Generally, the sentiment of being is quite vexing and complicated, when the mood is to be so; it is simple and straight-forward during instances when thoughts ride waves of clarity within gentle emotional realms of calm and serenity. Which of the two prevails at a given moment depends on the ambience of the surroundings and their equations with the physical self. This being so, the feeling of alienation is quite an exasperating setting to negotiate. Everyone of us would have dealt with such situations multiple times, there being no existential domain without its segment of segregated undesirables - literal, falsified, real, and delusive ones included.
A reserved person in a loquacious crowd; a comedian facing an impassive audience; an atheist among believers; a liberal in a crowd of conservatives; a civilian amidst soldiers; or any of the preceding contrasts in reverse; the list of contending twains can be endless. Some may classify the estrangement between the ends of each of these dipoles as those that are intentionally enforced and those others that seem natural, considering the attributes of the two ends. Such a classification will confer upon the feature of intent, a subsistence independent of material reality, which is seemingly unreasonable. Discounting this taxonomical exertion will lay the responsibility for the distinctness upon traits of the two ends alone. Also at play will be the varying criteria of grading comparisons according to perceptions that make a particular set of traits appear to be superior to another. The fear of being counted among those sporting supposedly inferior sets of traits and its imagined consequences, is then the essential cause of any manner of alienation.
Ponmudi Periakaruppan remembered clearly the sense of being an outsider, on visiting a family friend of his in-laws immediately following his wedding. He felt that he had been sidelined on being recognized and marked as a civilian in a gathering of members of the armed forces and their accepted families. He believed that he had been treated thus because he lacked the special etiquettes that armed forces personnel vainly sport, some of which appear unfamiliar, unorthodox, and at times even unnecessary to a civilian. Their own world was not without established etiquettes either, which had been drilled into growing children by parents and drilled in even deeper by religion or societal mores into grown ones. What had been good enough for one's parents and ancestors could not be anything inferior. Hence the then convincing conclusion that armed forces personnel were an arrogant breed who strutted about with a chip on their shoulder, trampling disdainfully over cordial emotions of non-personnel.
It was perhaps a fair assessment and inference at that time, characterized by limited experiences and exposures, thoughts powered by the rush of adrenalin for incomprehensible reasons, and an oversized ego, inflated way beyond what was necessary to lead a reasonably fulfilling life. The moment and its peculiarities demanded dislike and disagreement to be energetically fostered and vehemently expressed. He had responded supportively with gusto.
Time sped, liberally dispensing changes all along its magical wake, altering landscapes - occasionally beyond recognition. In parallel followed Ponmudi Periakaruppan's impressions about the armed forces, their role in society, the outlook of its personnel, the importance of their etiquettes, and the need for their isolation from normal societal influences. A better understanding of the societal protocols that he was accustomed to also ensued. What was once fiercely despised had become rationally acceptable, and that which was presumptuously embraced was now viewed more realistically.
This was precisely why he felt that he wasn't eligible to be saluted by army guards, four of his five sense organs being buried deep under silvery white fur under the canopy of a balding pate not withstanding. This mode of greeting was appropriate and deserved only by those who were inherent to that system. He attempted surreptitious entries and exits, tried being indifferent to their martial overtures, timed movements across contentious borders during guard changeovers or strived to do so in the sly, and failed miserably every time. The civilian stayed accepted and included in a military domain, to his utter dismay.
After a final and severe bout of indecisive despondency, emerged a happily chastised Ponmudi Periakaruppan, who was convincingly goaded into acceptance of circumstances of the moment - the current as well as those past, without a sense of guilt, shame, honor, or merit. The macrocosm appeared to respond to this change in his manner of response by presenting the fledgling sophist with a bouquet of vibrant greenery, burnished constantly into resplendence by atmospheric moisture, that rose up into view across the windowpane, swaying tantalizingly in the misty mountain breeze.
Suresh srinivasan on July 01, 2019:
We all go through Ponmudi's predicament and alienation initially and then we accept it as reality and this transformation and metamorphosis helps to see the more beautiful and subtle things in life. Well written! Happy homeward bound!
Shankar on July 01, 2019:
you just seem to string together masterpieces! Enjoy your journey back home- Auf Wiedersehn!
Sharath on July 01, 2019:
When I started reading this piece I expected it to be philosophical in nature. And for an moment recalled a saying from Bhagvadgita ‘The journey of life is from loneliness to solitude’. However, as I read along Mr.PP’s perceptions that changed with age and circumstances, I rephrase another saying “ ignorance is NOT bliss at times”. Another good one Ram. Safe travels back.