REALITY CHECK

Light of truth

Prema Jayakumar

One keeps hearing that the younger people live in a virtual world, they don’t have any contact with reality, they just withdraw into their hand held devices wherever they are and ignore the real world. Yes, they do. So do their elders, but that is another story. Yet, it is these youngsters who have led when there were emergencies, when there were floods last year and this year, organising, collecting, distributing, trying to lessen the impact of the calamity on the unfortunate people who were worse hit. They organised themselves without any outside pressure and worked without consciousness of time and physical comfort. In fact there were so many volunteering that the resource centres were turning people away. So, we can’t in good conscience say that our youngsters lack touch with reality, that they do not respond when there is a need.

And yet, the accusation is not without any basis. It is not in emergency situations, but in the day to day commerce of life that we find this lack of touch with reality, basically, a reluctance to compromise, an unwillingness to recognize, in the telling words of the villain of Enter the Dragon that ‘there are certain realities’ and these realities are not necessarily comfortable. While holding on to principles and refusing to compromise is a laudable quality, it makes life for your own self and those around you difficult. I find a lot of youngsters I come into contact with very sure of their principles, of what they want out of life, even if they are not quite certain about how they will get there. They are also very determined on what they will not do. They don’t seem to realise that there is an opportunity cost to this, that to gain something, you have to lose something and you are forced to choose.

Because, that is what living in the world often means, making compromises, making the best of what is on offer. Bertrand Russel explains, ‘Real life is, to most men, a long second-best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible.’ It is here that the rub lies. The possible is often so different from the ideal.

Could it possibly be the parents who won’t let their youngsters come into touch with reality, who cocoon them with love and protective care, who tell them that the world exists for the fulfilment of their aspirations and desires? This was brought to my awareness rather forcibly by the wedding proposal of the children of two friends. The horoscopes matched, the families are compatible socially and economically and couple liked what they had seen of each other, all seemed set fair for a marriage made in heaven. But, they worked in different cities and neither of the two were willing to leave the very desirable jobs that they were working at. The question was ‘Why should I compromise? Why can’t he/she?’ That was natural. After all, both the young people had worked hard at their studies and their jobs to get where they had reached. What surprised me was that both sets of parents are fully supportive of their own children.

It did not seem to occur to them that if they wanted their children to get married to each other, they would have to advise them differently. They would have to explain that somewhere, something would have to give way. Marriage is an extreme case, but even matters such as long hours, exhausting schedules, with an even more exhausting social life added on, seem to need rethinking. It is a matter of making choices, of choosing to compromise, making sure that you are not missing out on something important, by thoughtless choices. And please, I don’t mean that marriage is the be-all of life.

When you are climbing a mountain and find that you are packing too much on your back, you have to discard a few things. Some of them may be precious to you, some may even be necessary for your comfort, but to go on, the difficult choices have to be made and stuck to. Similarly, life has a way of insisting that you accept realities, that things don’t work out the way you want them to just because you want them that way. Life in the real world demands compromises every so often. It would make sense to do a reality check every now and then.

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