Though I have occasional bouts of acute misanthropy; what redeems people in my eyes is that everyone past a certain age is a story.
Some of these living, breathing stories don’t know that’s what they are. Of those who do, 90% don’t know how to tell theirs (urk, don’t even get me started on how resoundingly boring people can be when they tell their life stories… “ Then I was born at 7 am, and I opened my eyes at 7:02 am…” (two hours and several wishes to die a speedy death by the auditor later)…”and then I said “…tubelight. Call the electrician.” …) but bottomline is every life is enough of a story to have a book or a movie made on it.
Of course, the movies are of all kinds -- sepia tinted, pre-independence period costume movies, arty depressing movies where the protagonist just sits in a dark room and cries, action movies, comedy movies, teen ‘coming of age’ dramas, Oscar winning movies, masala movies where the hero and heroine dance around in the rain on a weekday afternoon in Venice, or ‘slice-of-life’ quirky movies about very normal people (read: ugly) doing very, very mundane things. But they’re all still stories.
I look at a lot of people around me and wonder, “I wonder why she only wears red and black. What’s the story behind that?” (I don’t work in a colony of red ants: that was an example.)
I had a physics teacher at my school, who was as vindictive as they came. But on every weekday morning after our school bus picked her up; she would take her usual place right up against the front glass of the bus next to the driver, settle in, and then take out what appeared to be the same tattered letter everyday and read it with lingering and evident pleasure all the way to school. It made me wonder about her, and frankly I itched to know what was in that letter.
I look at extremely domesticated, traditional housewives, busy with their daily work of looking after their husband and kids; and often wonder how they were when the world with all its glorious choices held its doors open for them. Did they have different dreams? What was their story? Had they a crush on the north eastern student on the mini bus to school?* How different would their lives have been if they acted on that impulse?** Had these women thought they would make a good doctor or an actress before they were told to marry someone their parents chose for them?
The paradox of my constant wondering about people’s lives of course, is that I have a horror of acquaintances*** who volunteer a blow-by-blow as I mentioned earlier. I also shy away from asking people about their lives, disgusted as I am by some of the regrettable questions I myself have had to dodge quite often from total strangers.
Sometimes it happens that people vouchsafe interesting confidences about their life to me without any prompting, maybe BECAUSE I’m not always sniffing around for information. Sometimes such exchanges are so profound or startling, indeed, that it renews my faith in how absolutely fascinating human nature is. I live for such conversations -- but they are rare, and more importantly, cannot be forced.
So I am destined to remain eternally wondering about most people; which, if you really look at it, might be best for all concerned.
*Wait…that was me…
**NOT me. He had an acne problem, to be honest.
***note to my friends to pay especial attention to the word ‘acquaintances’. I EXPECT all the gruesome details from you guys.