Thursday, May 19, 2005

Beyond Vengeance

Watched The Interpreter. The usual movie with an unusual message... that of forgiveness. It does not make the common mistake of equating forgiveness to cowardice. It is a delightful thriller and then there is the superb Nicole Kidman, who keeps getting better with every movie and in this one manages to look her most vulnerable but yet essaying some hidden, inner strength. After her brilliant performance in 'The Hours' I can go watch a Kidman movie on the strength of that name. But then in 'The Hours' all actors performed their best. The movie is quite extraordinary, and we will save it for later. For now getting back to The Interpreter... am not reviewing it here.

Just wanted to blog about this dialogue in the movie, which caught my attention. Sylvia's (Kidman) parents and sister were killed in a landmine in Matobo, a war torn country in Africa, ruled by a dictator and a country she calls home. Later when working as a UN interpreter she overhears a whispered conversation which reveals a plot to kill this dictator when he arrives at the UN headquarters to deliver a diplomatic speech. She reports this conversation but ironically finds herself a suspect due to her tragic past for which it is assumed she blames the evil dictator. When Sean Penn alludes to his suspicion of her, she tells him about this tribal tradition, native to Matobo. When a man is killed his murderer is thrown in the river, bound head to toe so that he cannot swim to safety and save himself. And then the victim's family has a choice... they can choose to let the murderer drown and in this way justice shall be done. But in Matobo, they believe that after this the family will grieve forever. If they choose to jump in and save the drowning man, they would have accepted that life is unjust and once they do this their mourning will be over. Then she says... 'Vengeance is a lazy form of grief'

And that got me thinking... Isn't it so true? And if it is true then the world around us is so lazy. People wreak vengeance as a form of grieving, hoping that revenge will be the nostrum for their grief. Though revenge can never be a balm. It only serves to aggravate.

At the same time, we have to understand that forgiveness is not turning the left cheek towards the one who slapped your right. Am not a Gandhian, simply because it requires a different kind of person and a rare kind of wisdom to be able to understand Gandhian principles. But I do believe that at times forgiveness is the best reaction. And I don't believe this on the strength of some sublime, saintly ideals. I have my selfish reasons. I believe that a lot of stress that I carry around like an accumulating time bomb is because of my incapability to let go. I hold on to incidents and I stack up on rage. And eventually the dam bursts and overflows, upsetting me and my loved ones. Many are the times when I have regretted what I have said in the heat of the moment and wished I had bitten my tongue off before I uttered those words which have cut through the heart of someone who loves me. And many are the times I have bottled up my anger for days on end, only to have the bottle burst and destroy or badly damage priceless relationships. Finally, stress has been found to be the root cause of many an illness, both physical as well as emotional and mental.

Simply not worth it! And all it takes to escape this terrible monster is one extraordinary word... forgiveness. Indeed we are all lazy. Because, initially, it takes a lot of effort to be able to forgive. It takes superhuman strength and one goes through a lot of mental agony before he/she can learn to be forgiving. Most of us are unwilling to do the hard work it takes. We instead prefer the easy way out and hence seek revenge. Yet forgiveness is such a simple thing once mastered though so difficult to bring oneself to commit to. All one has to do is to open the clenched fist and let go. And yet don't we all hold on and bottle up, until one day, we can take it no longer?