by Kiran Jhamb
It has always worked this way with me – the topics choose me, I don’t choose topics. Now with the change in the editorial policy of IWW regarding giving themes for short stories I am at a loss, I have nothing to contribute to that section. So I turned towards Perspective. I concentrated on the words ‘Perspective’ first.
Perspective is a point of view, an attitude, standpoint, position, angle, approach, vantage point, interpretation. You are often advised to put things in perspective, to keep things in perspective, change your perspective, etc. And believe me, your perspective keeps on changing, altering.
Perspective is connected to maturity. Maturity is connected to experience in the sense that experience is not what happens to you but what you make out of what happens to you. Generally, the more you have lived, the more will be your experience. So perspective is connected to your age.
Let us take the example of wedding celebrations. At any colorful wedding, a youthful person looking at the bride and bridegroom will think of a bed of roses, romance, soul-mate ship, etc. Okay! We tell them to get a proper perspective. Maybe then they would try to be objective and think of the clashes, financial tussle, grabbing the control, break-up, make-up, etc. etc. which a marriage may involve. But what about someone in their sixties? Perhaps they would think of how the wedding anniversary (it is a wedding anniversary, not marriage anniversary!) turns into death anniversary; who would die first the husband or the wife? It’s not macabre; it’s the reality. So perspective is connected with age.
“Distance not only gives nostalgia but perspective and maybe objectivity” (Robert Morgan). With age, old people lose their social filters. They feel as death is a reality and their end is nearing they have nothing much to lose. They can do without social niceties, networking and speak the truth as they see it. They concentrate on the basics.
For example, say you tell them to change the décor of the room. Their response may be - Oh, what’s the use? New items will soon lose their novelty value, will also gather dust, lose shine, and become faded. It’s okay; what I have is okay. Let me declutter, let me throw the not so badly needed things - that will give my room a new look. They spot the pitfalls first. They are risk-averse. Feeling out of control is terrifying. They don’t dare because they remember it can land them in foolish predicaments. The winged chariot of time is nearing the destination.
If you are standing at the edge of the rooftop of a multi-storied building, your perspective is bound to be different from what it will be if you are in a room of an apartment in the same building. With age comes acceptance. With acceptance comes a feeling of almost indifference. Okay, ‘indifference’ is too strong; it can be replaced with a lack of intensity. They stop having the ever-present expectations. They stop dreaming of happiness. No, they are not unhappy or sad. Rather they are content because they realize happiness is a mirage. They are content because they lack the thrill, the yearning, the impulse to soar. No more leaps of faith based on their own stamina, acumen! They don’t want to lose what they have. The nostalgia of bygone days keeps them emotionally active.
To come back from old age, to just ‘age’. Age is a determining factor of a person’s perspective because the person’s cognitive development makes them perceive things differently. The oft-given advice to put things in perspective means compare some things to other things so that they can be accurately and fairly judged. Look at everyone around you; they all have problems, anxieties, tensions, worries. This will put your worries into perspective (feel better?) when you realize there are others much worse off than you (tragedy an entertainment?).
We all see shadows and assume them to be our reality, but sometimes we see reality and refuse to recognize it as such. We all have done our sojourn, through Plato’s cave going through ‘myself-projecting-what-I-saw’ process because we lacked perspective.
So to keep things in perspective means to look at the whole picture, to see the relation of parts to the whole; seeing things in their proper relation/proportion to everything else. The difference between the choices we make and the abilities that we have, peer pressure, societal expectations, pride and ego, our self-limiting thoughts all mar our perspective. They stop us from shifting gears.
Gender, race (read caste in our country), appearance, religion, nationality all determine our perspective. Gender influences how men and women rationalize things. The rest of the above mentioned, do not fall in the scope of this article.
To conclude, we should keep on reading different articles published in the column ‘Perspective’ because they may give us an alternative way of looking at things. ***