Man who wasn’t there: Back from the brink

There’s this gem of a movie by Coen brothers shot entirely in black and white: The Man Who Wasn’t There. I remember experiencing an extra resonance with Billy Bob’s character Ed Crane, who’s a barber in the movie and feels invisible to the rest of the world: “I was a ghost. I didn’t see anyone. No one saw me. I was the barber”. Now I am obviously not a barber, but I have spent the last few years feeling like a ghost. I was watching myself from afar in the movie of my life going thru the motions. And all this while a storm raged inside my mind. I was questioning my whole belief system, values, hopes, dreams, aspirations and all that jazz. I didn’t mean to start this new journey on such a dark note but it is necessary to state what went before and then one can truly look forward to the future.  So here’s a very abridged version of what happened before: A boy was born. Boy grew up in a sleepy little village. All the boy wanted to do was just play outside but had to move to the big city to pursue bigger and better things. Then without any real thought boy followed others like a sheep and came to a foreign land. Now this foreign land was very different from boy’s own experiences but he had brought some friends with him and that kept him sheltered from the world for a little longer, thereby delaying the inevitable. Then reality took over and boy had to move from the middle of the foreign land to the western shores for the sole expedient of making a living. And that’s when it all got very interesting. Boy resented having to work a regular, regular meaning getting up everyday in the morning, job to make money. Boy used to frequent local watering holes after his work and was trying to sort out a few things in his mind when out of the blue boy met a girl at one of these establishments. The chemistry was instantaneous, sparks flew and angels sang in the heavens. But spontaneous chemistry is a dangerous thing if not managed well. And for a long time it was mis-managed in a spectacular fashion. Boy and girl stayed together through the chemical storm and got hitched. What was supposed to be a new and fresh beginning did not turn out to be so. Boy had been grappling with multi-headed demons in his mind and he started resenting everybody who he thought was happier than he was. One can only imagine the effect it had on the girl. The situation grew from bad to worse and now the boy was positively seething with anger till one day he could not hold it all inside anymore and quite literally exploded, causing a lot of emotional damage in the process. In the aftermath, the boy was shameful and the girl was able to make the boy realize that he was angry and unhappy. And that realization started the beginning of the end of the man who wasn’t there. Boy sought professional help, found it and was able to break free from the prison of his mind with the girl’s support. And that’s how the boy came back from the brink.

Why did it happen the way it did? I believe I experienced a very acute form of culture shock. Going from one extreme of an emotionally sheltered existence, one in which most decisions in life were practically made for me, to the opposite spectrum of consciously choosing to marry a woman from a diametrically opposite culture. I was a product of a very traditional culture that valued (and still does) conformity over individual thought and expression. No surprise then that I always felt restricted and was yearning to be free without quite knowing how to go about it. My wife on the other hand embodies the spirit of individual better than anybody else I know. I harbored a secret hope that I will be able to access my own spirit through her. But I had not taken into account the emotional turmoil one must necessarily go through to force such a drastic change in one’s mindset. So I struggled to be free, failed for a long time, was disappointed and that led to resentment and anger. My anger was the more acute since I was in close proximity with a person who was already at a stage in her life where I longed to be and was failing in my efforts quite dramatically. This would not have been quite so difficult if I could only have told somebody how I really felt. But I was not raised in a society that indulged in this sort of tomfoolery. It kills me to think that a lot of the issues I had could have been resolved so easily, by the mere act of expression. But I suppose it had to happen the way it did. You really have to pass through fire to become solid gold.


 A slumbering giant has been awakened from a deep sleep. I feel more alive than I have in a very very long time and unfortunately for you all, I have a lot to say. I am going to talk your ear off digitally speaking of course and you would probably regret the misfortune of having made my acquaintance. But you would be ignoring my proclamations at the pain of endangering your soul. I know of a very wise old soul and I will be quoting him a lot on this blog (In case you didn’t get it, I was just tooting my own horn).


9 comments on “Man who wasn’t there: Back from the brink

  1. Kapil! This is wonderful! I got chills reading this and feel such a sense of excitement for you as you enter into this new stage of life. I am encouraged every time I learn of a person in our lives who takes the leap to seek outside help with whatever life matters they are dealing it. It gives me hope for human-kind 🙂

  2. Kapil, I am so happy you have decided to write a blog and share all these incredible thoughts! Your writing is animated, engaged, and intelligent. I look forward to reading more!

  3. Kapil that was beautiful. You are an amazing writer and appreciate you sharing your story. I’m looking forward to reading more.

  4. Spot on!
    Reading this makes me hopeful!!
    There is always a war between past/present,
    Comfortable status quo/uncomfortable unknown,
    In our minds.
    And all of us go through it, and your post
    Accurately portrays it!

    You know that you have reached rock bottom when
    You start resenting anyone whom
    You perceive to be happy
    Reading this, as I said, gives hope,
    That there is only one way to go from here…

    Ok, now I am going to the next!

  5. We need to talk 🙂

    Sounds to me that the entrance to the cave is the same, and so might be the darkness (although hard to see ;-P) , but the exits seem different!

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