Man is a social animal. No man is an island. We live in a close-knit society sharing common interests like language, culture, religion, history, tradition, so on and so forth. Proficient in different talents and trades, we are in a way forced to depend on each other; not everyone is a farmer, nor for that matter everyone a doctor, or a mason, or a tailor; we depend on each other according to our own needs. Probably, once a basic need to live together a very long time ago has led to the evolution of social administration, justice system and, with ever increasing community size, control system. We now have courts, police, politics and the list goes on.
Growing up in a community like ours where the goodness of man is still cherished and voluntary organisations work on a full non-credit basis for the welfare of the community; for instance, we take time to mourn the dead according to a proper ceremonial burial in line with tradition. Much of the orthodoxy is still active, and this shapes the up-growth of generations that followed the previous who also went through the same discipline, even though with some changes for the newer generation to adjust optimally with the ever advancing world. This is not something new, it was only tradition to have ‘zawlbuk’ which could be considered a disciplinary centre, occupational academy, youth club, administrative centre, and anything else it would have stood for. The modern Mizo Community poorly improvise in continuing tradition to certain accuracy by running non-government organisations like YMA for youths, MHIP for women, MUP for folks to name a few.
The manner in which we maintain the accuracy of the term ‘close-knit’ was what struck me when I had to finally leave home to attend college in a neighbouring state. I realized, it was not even a quarter of what it was like out here that I had thought the terminology would represent. The revelation occurred to me, when on one of my vacations at home that my dad told me, “Be careful, we hear of your whereabouts before even your own roommate get to know it”. It only meant people were quite serious in gossiping about others’ lives more than we ourselves could ever be interested. The improved communication system, where it is now possible to have a live conversation with someone on the opposite side of the globe did not help at all; rather it is like a super fast catalyst. Talking about global village, felt more like global next-door-neighbourhood!
It is a silent struggle to grow up in a community like ours where everyone has his or her opinion and thinks that it is the best. Family upbringing sets for us a standard, then comes the school or workplace, the church, then society, peer pressure, gender-wise expectations both to the same and opposite sex, and some other groups and mini-groups we get attached to. In our effort to blend in and get accepted in all of them, which often gives us contrasting standards, it is very easy to lose our true self and get lost in the desires and expectations of other people. Identity crisis comes not as a surprise but rather with a high probability. Starting from our way of dressing and going up all the way to the preferences and arguments of others eats up our life; dictating our code of conduct, strangles our original identity and shapes us into something else. We become puppet to the ways of whoever is appointed leader, who himself is no more than a puppet too. We do not think on our own anymore, we do not know what we really want, we become yes-yes to what others agree to and a no-no to whatever they do not.
We have become so engrossed in what others think, and people think, too often and too shamelessly than they ought to be given credit for. It is necessary that we take opinions, but it is often best, we keep it at that, just opinions. It has become routine and that to a sickening one when every time dad gives me counsel ‘based’ on how others would think, about reputation which again is excessively approval dependent. Who are people anyway, to approve rather than accept? They do not even sweat a single drop for you while you might barely live to struggle everyday just to survive. You may call it a ‘social’ thing, but it is starting to marginalize towards ‘abuse’, yes abuse, abnormal usage of one’s positional and opinionated advantage to shape the life and cause of other people to our own interest.
The saddest part is we still fuss over their opinions and pitifully wait for their approval. Earlier I too was not free of such trivia either. Born and brought up in a pastoral family where service to people and humility is of utmost care, too often we have been moulded to reshape into the interest of the congregation partly in support of dad’s ministry. It was but heartbreaking to see my sister, at a young age, cry when mom with no second thoughts accused her guilty over some gossip a certain thin-lips seem to have created. Yes, ours is also a community where gossip surprisingly and sadly holds a high place. I daresay I have had my fair share of gossip, on the receiving end, struggling at times in the many relationships I have had and ending up with a bad break-up. Growing up was more like slowly losing myself every day. From what dad wants, to what ‘that-lady-I-do-not-even-know’ might think, never the ‘what-I-like’ but always that ‘what-would-others-think’. We all go through this, only most of us do not even know we are becoming others and not ourselves. There is no satisfaction, no true happiness, because it is not what ‘we’ like but what ‘they’ like.
Accusation is a weapon we often are too eager to put ourselves vulnerable to. Mockery is what usually gets us down. We are so ready to justify ourselves with useless explanations that seldom comes out right. We lack the courage of ‘So what? It is not your best concern’ gut, rather we end up a stammering dolt making ourselves look a complete fool. People say this, people say that, and the next moment we are complete goners and we lose our sanity. In a social family, yes, opinions are of high value, but they still are just opinions. After all, no one who gives their trivial opinions or tries to dictate others is going to pay for a single grain of cereal to feed you.
People talk a lot, and more often they judge too much. Many times we try to live by the approval of others, and this sickens me. I’d say one thing, let them believe what they like; because what others think about me is one, what I know of me is another; your opinion, my decision.
3am 15 May 2013