Monday, June 23, 2008

Either to laugh or to cry

Probably a great talent a person can have is to be able to laugh at one's own mistakes and inabilities.

Before I start saying anything let me give a standing ovation to the marriage scene between Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean-At World's End".

The scene mesmerized and enamoured me (over and above the fact that I found Keira Knightly awesome in the 3 parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean). The bride, the groom and the priest all of them complete the formalities while in the thick of the battle and the couple hold each other and say "I do" while with their other hand they both continue to sword fight the enemies. What a scene! What a deep and subtle message! Undoubtedly it is the best marriage scene I have ever seen on the screen and probably one of the best scenes I have ever seen in any movie.

Of course this doesn't over-rule the fact that I found Jhonny Depp completely overwhelming. He is definitely one of the Gods of acting. Jack Sparrow is probably the most intriguing and complicated characters I have ever seen on screen. Apart from his continuous choice of precisely those options which are exactly midway between being black or white, what provoked me most was that all his choices seem to be disastrous in the short-run and beneficial in the long run.

There was a time when I was dead scared of mathematics and I was on the brink of deciding to quit science because of my inability to understand mathematics. I distinctly remember when I ran into a restaurant after my first algebra exam in CMI and started to cry. {Then I ordered a lot of spicy food to drown my sorrows in it. Expectedly I failed in that exam.} Today I suppose the situation has changed to some moderate extent. Life has come a long way since then and today I at least love certain topics in mathematics like Topology and Differential Geometry (advanced forms of geometry) and have also been able to give seminars in mathematics which have been appreciated by the audience. Today mathematics is an integral part of my daily life and is central to my career choice. But there are certain things about which my situation never seems to change and the chances of it changing is growing slim by the day.

I first fell in love with a class-mate of mine when I was in Class 4. That was when I for the first time wrote a letter to a lady proclaiming my love for her. That was when I should have detected my fundamental inability to understand almost half of the world called "women". But yes, I live and learn. Sometimes a bit slowly. That was obviously not the last time I fell in love and I did spend 2 days crying when a "relationship" of mine with a lady fell apart an year ago.

Over these years and more so over the past 1.5 years I have given considerable thought over this whole issue of "relationship building" and more I try to understand exponentially more it seems to be getting complicated. What happened with mathematics seems to be a rare kind of phenomenon in my life and something that seems unlikely to happen in other fields. Human relationships are undoubtedly the most non-linear dynamical system that exist and with women involved in it the system invariable tends to a singularity. {Sometimes I think I understand why mathematicians call neighbourhoods of such points as "basin of attraction" !)

There are a lot of things which somehow society assumes that "naturally" people will understand and don't need to be taught. Except for a few classes in school from my biology teacher, the education system never found it worthwhile to teach the students about the process of human reproduction. I had to myself sift through quite a bit of literature and medical text-books to understand it. But I am not sure whether most people have either the energy or the resources to read proper scientific texts about such basic things which are probably more important things to understand than the lineage of Mughal kings who ruled India or when is a locally euclidean space not a manifold or Quantum Theory.

Here I would like to note that the only time ever in school history that I got a 100/100 was in biology and almost always I scored more in biology than other subjects. All credits to my mother who is a doctor and who enthusiastically taught me a lot of biology. But somehow I was more attracted to the space-time and Quantum Theory and chose Physics as my career. Later I fell in love with Topology.

Similarly the education system also relied on fate to teach me about human relationships and how to build them successfully. Probably almost people are born with these intrinsic abilities and hence don't feel the need to be taught these things. I was probably somehow born with a complete vacuum inside me about these things. It was not until I entered college that I realized that I have fundamental problems in understanding human emotions and handling emotional bonds. Hence over the past 1 year I have been making deliberate efforts to get something done in this area.

I have spent considerable amount of time reading articles and magazines and books about human relations and emotions and how to interpret them. My lack of personal experience about most such things was a great road-block to me in understanding these things. I had t rely a lot on my imagination. Almost always I felt like a robot from some another planet trying to understand human beings or probably like the 'Tin-Man' in the 'Wizard of Oz'. I read quite a bit about topics like "stability of marriages", "marriage counselling", 'How to build a happy family?" etc etc

I spent quite some time trying to understand what a "marriage" means and what are its dynamics and needs for stability. I intrinsically have always felt convinced that there is something very good about this concept and that it is above all other things and something that distinguishes human race from all others. Humans are not the only ones to have the concept of "family" but I am not aware of any other species who have the idea of "marriage". For others things just seem to end at the level of "mating partner" but for humans it goes far beyond that. Today when the society is giving serious thoughts about the idea of homosexual marriages we really need to understand the concept of "marriage" in far greater detail.

I have a sort of firm belief in the concept of the "holy wed-lock". I can't see any argument in favour of promiscuity and domestic violence and even in their mildest forms they seem to me to be the most dastardly of all crimes. The sanctity of the marriage and mutual love and respect among the partners in it seem to be the defining lines for me for a successful civilization. Further I can't see any strong argument against being very possessive about one's love. As far as I feel and understand and what seems most logical about "love" (as in what should lead to marriages) is a mix of sexual attraction and a strong form of preference among the partners for each other for almost every sphere of life.

But then unfortunately or fortunately the above two though the most important are not the only things that can keep marriages together. It is easily possible for a person to effortlessly maintain the above 2 principles and yet fail to build relations.

Recently I read 2 more articles about such things titled "Things to do before you say 'I do' " and "How to keep your wife happy". {Probably most people understand these things "naturally" and find these things "obvious" but one must remember that there exists poor mortals like me who need to study these things to understand them.}

Mostly what were said in those articles were things I had vaguely felt through my brilliantly 'successful' relationship efforts. But what surprised me most about those articles is the following point that they had to make:

As far as I feel about the whole idea of 'love' and "marriage' is that ideally it should lead to the lives of the two people to get intimately intertwined to put into effect the lines 'What is yours is mine and what is mine is yours'. After two people are in love with each other I fail to understand what is the justification of still having a "personal space" where you still have an individual life disjoint from the life of the other person.

The articles seemed to be advocating that even post-marriage one needs and should maintain (and accept that the other person also maintains) that personal space and one shouldn't try to mix the two lives totally. They seemed to say that if two lives are totally and intimately mixed then this proximity can be choking for either of them.

I find this above philosophy very confusing and currently beyond my intelligence levels. Somehow this seems to me to be in contradiction with the philosophy that I had come to believe that love and marriage are a process of transition from thinking in terms of "I" and "You" to thinking in terms of "We".

I am currently unable to resolve the paradox between the above philosophy (which I think is right) and what the articles had to say.

Probably this article was born out of this paradox.