Accept your brutal reality – only then can you hope to change it.

However unpalatable the truth may be, once you accept it, you can work on changing it. This applies in all contexts to all of us.
Image Courtesy: Outlook Magazine Website

In a recent issue of Outlook, Tarun Tejpal, founder-editor of Tehelka and a former Managing Editor of Outlook, pays a beautiful tribute to his former boss Vinod Mehta who passed away earlier this month. Tejpal is facing charges of rape in a Goa court filed by a former colleague, a young lady who was also his daughter’s best friend. I have always been a great admirer of Tejpal the writer and the journalist. He was a senior colleague of mine when I was in India Today between 1990 and 1992. So, naturally, I was keen to read what he had to say about another man I greatly admired – who doesn’t? – Vinod Mehta. The tribute was vintage Tejpal – carefully chosen words to describe a man that few people can claim they knew personally and closely; each sentence painting a mental picture of the ‘last great editor’ in the reader’s mind. But what I liked most was Tejpal, with brutal honesty, referring to the six months he spent in prison (in Goa, on account of the rape charges levelled against him). He referred to his incarceration as he would refer to any other aspect of his Life – very matter of fact, ‘you-know-what…it-happened’ type. Now, given the salacious overtone that a rape charge invokes, it is possible that people may rush to conclude that Tejpal is brazen, that he is pig-headed and that he is being cold-blooded in his approach to his Life and the charges he faces. But I see in Tejpal the rare ability to confront and accept a brutal reality – that he is accused of rape; that he has to prove his innocence and until then public and popular sentiment will hold against him; yet his other Life – as a writer, a journalist, a family man, a father, son, husband and brother – must go on. What’s remarkable is that Tejpal, it appears to me, is both ready and willing to face Life squarely and deal with each aspect of it on the merit of the reality that lies in front of him!

To be sure, not many can do that. Most of us, when under pressure in Life, prefer to hide behind the shadows. We are either refusing to accept our realities or even if we accept them, we are unwilling to face people – and Life. When you don’t accept what is, and either keep justifying why things have happened the way they have or keep running away from facing the reality, you suffer. Tejpal teaches us that no matter what, Life has to be faced. In a way, your past actions do cause your realities. Or circumstances, events and people conspire to create them. But no matter how or why things happen to you, unless you accept what has happened as your current, final, non-negotiable, reality, you cannot hope to change it. What comes between you and acceptance is an imagined fear of social judgment, reprisal and ostracism. What- will-people-say almost always clouds the what-can-and-must-I-do-now thinking! The only way to deal with such fears and feelings is to know that no matter who created the mess, the one on whom the mess has arrived alone has to clear it up! And, without doubt, all change, all clearing up, begins with first accepting the mess for what it is.  

Mukesh Singh is a metaphor for all remorseless people who surround us

Ignore people who have hurt you and show no remorse. There’s no point in lamenting their behavior. Forgive them if you can, and even if you can’t forgive or forget, simply move on…  

Mukesh Singh
Picture Courtesy: BBC World/Leslee Udwin/Internet
I finally watched Leslee Udwin’s controversial – and now banned – documentary India’s Daughter that tells the horrific story of the gang rape (and subsequent death) of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh on December 16, 2012. What struck me most was the remorselessness of Mukesh Singh, one of the convicts on death row. He is one of the six who is convicted of rape and murder – he has since appealed against his conviction in the Supreme Court. He tells Udwin in the film: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape.” As he says this, Mukesh’s face is expressionless, dead-pan and his tone is cold, showing no signs of either guilt or repentance. Of course, there’s a huge debate going on out there whether it is right to allow such an unrepentant and heinous view as Mukesh’s – which seeks to justify violence against women – publicly or not. Each side of this debate has its own argument. For now, the Indian government has banned the documentary. But my personal opinion is that it ought not have been banned – people must know how people who commit such crimes actually think. The film only portrays, brutally honestly, the mind of a rapist and murderer.
But if you pause to reflect and consider another perspective, Mukesh Singh is also a metaphor. He personifies anyone who tries to justify their unjust actions. And there are several people like that around us – in our families, among our friends, at our workplaces and in public, in society. These are people who continue to do what they do, often at the cost of other people’s rights, emotions and liberties, and, in almost as cold-blooded a fashion as Mukesh does in Udwin’s film, they justify that their actions are right. They believe vehemently that they did what they thought appeared to be right to them. So, there’s no question of them feeling guilty or repentant at all. And so they go on – often, mercilessly and remorselessly, trampling on people, emotionally, and at times, even physically. Now, here’s a view you may want to consider: what’s right and what’s wrong is always subjective. What appears right to you may not be so to me. And what’s wrong to me may appear right to you. Look at Mukesh – the way he looks at women is very different from the way all of us look at them. But Mukesh couldn’t care less. To him his view is the right one. So, he may as well go to the gallows, than repent – let alone reform. So, people who cause pain and suffering to others do so only because they firmly believe what they are doing is right. Period. No amount of our efforts to make them see reason, or reform them, is bound to bear fruit unless something within them changes; until their conscience awakens.

The tragic truth we must all live with is that our society and our lives abound with people like Mukesh. The best way to deal with them, if they are in your personal circle of influence, is to simply let them be. Don’t try to educate them. No education will be possible until there are both ready and willing to unlearn and learn. Don’t try to reform them. They won’t awaken unless they realize the futility of the path they have chosen. Don’t try to avenge them. This will only make you bitter – for they are likely to fight you to the end. It is best to leave such people to a higher energy, to a cosmic retribution, if you will. As for you, if you at all have one of these people in your Life, well, simply forgive them if you can. And if you can’t forgive or forget them, leave them alone and move on. This is the only way to protect your inner peace.