Sunday, February 01, 2015

Carpe Diem. Really.

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Carpe diem (Sieze the day) is a concept that dates back to 23 BC and YOLO - You only live once. A concept that is fast catching up today.
People take up piano lessons. People go scuba diving or do bungee jumping. There are people who start travelling across the world. There are people who walk out of 'seemingly' perfect marriages.

Basically, people start living their dreams. They go and out do everything that they've been wanting to do all their lives because YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.

Well, it has been a much debated philosophy. While some people accept it and appreciate people who follow it, there are some that don't. Salsa and Spanish lessons or a one-off trip to Tibet often gets a tap on the back. But travelling all alone leaving behind a family, walking out of marriages back into singledom is frowned upon and even openly criticised. Such people are tagged as 'selfish'. Two recent articles that I read, come to my mind:
This article is about a woman who left home because marriage made no sense to her anymore. She wanted breathing space. She went ahead and did all the things she always wanted to do. She claims she is at peace with herself now.
This article is about a man who just wants to wander. He wanted to leave America but his wife didn't want to. So he left his wife and daughter and went wander.

We have also heard of people giving up their cushy executive jobs to take up organic farming.

Back home many of us have heard atleast one story of a distant uncle who just left upped and left one fine morning to take up sanyas.

The society is quick to label these people selfish, irresponsible, foolish or just escapists. They say they have left their families to suffer, particularly the children. My question is weren't we all born individuals? Didn't marriage, kids and  top-jobs happen much later?

This is still a question I am thinking of and so I am not judging anyone or taking sides. (More than writing with an idea, I more often write to get ideas. :))

Right from childhood, a person is always told what to do. Right from when to eat, when to study, when to play, what to wear, right up to when to marry and when to have kids. Not just that, our decisions about most of these things are also influenced directly or indirectly by the people around us. We are raised with this fear of "take up the first and the best that comes your way." "Don't give up the present for an unknown future." So, all the time, people just jump into things - be it academics, marriage or career choices. Many of them somehow slip into their roles and settle in. But then there are a few who are never able to settle down in the paths chosen by them. So, what then?

While at this self-questioning juncture, they have nowhere to go because all they get as advice (solicited or unsolicited) is a shrug of the shoulders and an accusatory "You chose this path. You'd better stick to it." Or a philosophical "Its all destiny. Just go with the flow." That is where a person feels completely alone, with a numb-buzz around him.

While there is constant doubt about their own judgements, people also fear being judged. What will people say? Is it the right thing to do? I ask, who defines what is right and what is wrong? Each person has his own truth. What makes one happy might not make the other happy. For some, having two children might give the ultimate happiness even if it doesn't leave them any time to pursue their own interests. For some, owning a home might give the maximum joy, though they are trapped in the loan cycle for life. And for someone else, its not their definition of happiness.

Yes, it is a well-paying top executive job but what if a person is not happy doing it? What if his/her calling lies elsewhere? Yes, there are 15 years of marriage and 2 children behind them, abandoning isn't the intention but what if the person wants to travel, to explore the world and in the process do some self discovery? If living in a 'trapped' existence makes a person restless, what's the point in living as a family? Are you being fair to the family that way? Being there and yet not there is unfair in my opinion. I don't mean to stereotype but a man isn't an earning machine. Similarly a woman isn't a sacrificing angel. Beneath each person's adapted role, there is an individual still there, perhaps suppressed beyond the point of recognition, leaving both the body and the soul dull and grey.

I have heard and seen people throwing short-time suggestions like, "You don't have to leave home to learn Jiu Jitsu. You just need to balance out your day." A woman who leaves her kids for a couple of hours every evening to go for classes is labelled irresponsible. A man who does the same is labelled selfish. What is a person to do? You are paid more than a  lakh of rupees each month but you don't even have the time to stand and admire the sunrise. So, we have already stressed men and women stressing themselves further with packing every minute of the day with some activity or the other. This leads to a conflict between the subtle body and the physical body.

We are all human. Many of us make certain decisions due to some or the other kind of pressure (directly or indirectly). After taking the decision, what if we realise we actually need something else? I definitely don't think that is immaturity or frivolousness Does one have to essentially be in  a bad-job scenario or an abusive relationship to want to break free? What about wanting growth at a spiritual/emotional level?

There are possibly two things I can think of at this point. Put the decision off till a 'safe' time, perhaps when the children are settled or till you have saved up a decent amount of money for them? I don't know. Sometimes putting off decisions, gives you time to come to grips to what your true calling is. Make a plan maybe, for 5 years, 10 years?

More than anything I wish for at least our next generation to grow up with a free mind. I wish them to have enough time and mental space to think for themselves and understand themselves better. Nobody should be pressurised, even emotionally threatened, to do anything. Many European countries have a practice wherein children, after high school, are allowed time to travel, to work and then decide what their true calling is. I wish for a time when 14-year olds are not forced to 'plan' and prepare for what  they should be doing when they are 30. I wish for a generation that is raised to have a calm conviction about their own dreams and desires, to have the self-confidence to stand up to their own decisions. I definitely don't hint at anything violent or hurtful or abusive. In fact, respecting every person for an individual that he/she is, I am sure, will clear a lot of confusion in our society. Thereby, bringing a lot of the much-needed peace and calmness to this world.

Edit/Footnote: As for me I would definitely like to stand up to my own dreams sometime in my life without worrying about responsibilities. And without having to answer anybody but MY conscience.


  1. Nice writeup Priya. I agree with you word by word.

    I have never heard of any western couples who lives together without an understanding between them and/or sacrificing ones self-respect OR feeling very low and sad when they doesn't have kids OR feeling lost with their children's love marriage.

    Its only here we suffer as our society and culture stops us from these things, which is surely not a good thing. If we want to see changes,then every individual must get the right attitude and broad mind.

    Lets hope and wish for healthier generations ahead.

  2. Wonderful thoughts Sudha.
    Yes, there are western couples who do live in loveless marriages for the sake of many things, children being the top in the list. But then, the fear of society, the fear of being judged and the most important for women, self-confidence and financial independence are the most things that need to be fixed.
    As for parents that feel lost when their children find their own partner, all I can say is, it is the lack of confidence in their child's decision and the shock of a child actually taking decisions on its own. Perhaps there is a sprinkling of ego too.

  3. Wow!!!Very thought provoking and interesting write up Pipa!I know exactly from what space those thoughts and questions are coming from...Really we can spend an entire lifetime questioning society's rigid and stuckup ways but thats never going to stop the tongues from wagging everytime you step out of "society's" LAKSHMAN REKHA!!!No matter what you do "they" will have a million things to say to prove you wrong!Thats just the way our society is!But heck if we start bothering about them we will have no life whatsoever!! So lets live n let live and those who have a problem with our small or big "selfish" choices can go fly a kite or bitch which is what they are good at!!! Living a happy life is definitely about the choices we make...lets learn to make simple happy choices for ourselves and bask in the glow of our own decisions which are driven by our soul's urges and not by society's dictates! So you want to take a couple of hours each day to sing,dance or just take off to Timbuctoo in your head while you are just hanging with your it girl!!!Because you are so worth it and believe you me the tongues that wag don't matter!!! You will feel in charge of atleast a small part of your life and come back refreshed from having lived a few hours your way!!!Just care a rats ass for those who don't respect your individuality n their opinions still matter to you???!!!��

  4. Hey thanks! Yes, I'd definitely like to go out and explore the world one day and decide if I want to come back at all (LOL)
    But this piece is more about the millions of people who live a life without choices - just stuck in a rut.

  5. My comments are for every woman and man who feels stuck in a rut!! We are our own boon or bane! Yes some people are not as fortunate and come from very strict cultures and backgrounds and yet amongst them are a few brave souls who have the audacity to break the mould!!A bird thats caged and a bird that refuses to fly have two different realities...Thankfully we were born in India where inspite of the million cages every bird has a window to fly!!!And I have known people esp girls from some countries who have no window to fly the cage or nest and yet are so free within that no man can see that beautiful bird in their souls that soars beyond every imagining!!!��

  6. How wonderful is that! And so beautifully put.


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