Sunday 30th July, 2006

Ira Mathur
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Light in a tunnel

Call it a reluctance to face too much reality, but transience seems to be my natural state. Sitting on a train racing through countryside, glimpsing water, sunlight, greenery, stone, flashing in weaving in and out of dark tunnels, used to be my rush. Now it’s a ceasefire.

It’s a way of not having to think of what’s happening to families in Lebanon, in Israel, in Iraq, in America, in England, because of the way their egos destroy to dominate. What gene is that? The gene to gain power and territory, blindly bombing women children innocent people? Where is the requisite world indignation against the slaughter of the innocents now that it’s required. It’s scampered off huddled like a craven sycophantic beast cowed by power.

Late one night, in a Barnes and Noble in New York, my coffee neglected, I scoured through books and magazines; hands and eyes whipped through pages, titles, words with only five minutes before the shop closed, I heard a male voice, “Who do you think lies more, men or women?” He had questioning eyes, his wild black hair pressed down in a skullcap. He was dressed in the uniform of faded jeans and a t-shirt.

“Women” I said decidedly, then feeling like a traitor added hastily, “but only small lies, lots of white lies that save people’s feelings.” One eyebrow shot up. “Well we wont tell a friend we forgot her birthday. We’ll say we tried to call. Stuff like that.” He cocked his ear.

I barely knew what was coming out of my mouth then because young people are intimidating since they haven’t yet learned to dissemble. I was in front of a mass of human honesty there. One false note and he would pick it up.

“Men don’t tell many lies,” I said, “but when they do, they tell you the big ones, like Enron, phantom weapons of mass destruction, adding or taking away a couple of digits for their own benefit on a lucrative contract.”

Men make big lies

We were now joined by his tiny teenaged girlfriend who was cheering me on wanting the stuff she knew instinctively to be validated.

Out on the street, I warmed up to my monologue buoyed by the attentive strangers.

“I know someone who was told on the first day of her new job that actually there was a mistake, they’d under or over budgeted, they were sorry but she was fired but not compensated. She hadn’t put down her briefcase yet. That’s big lying.

“And a woman I know thought she was in a very happy marriage. Swore by team work to bring up her family, then found out that her husband was seeing another woman for the past ten years. She had to go into her memory bank and wipe out or edit every bit of her life with him. What was real what was not?

“Big lie. Another friend was promised by a reputable company that she’d be paid for the work she was doing as soon as ‘head office’ approved it. It turned out that she did three months work for nothing. Because they ‘forgot’ about her.

“She had no people on the side of power.

“I know women lie. We say we are 110 pounds when we are 120, pretend to be awake when sleeping, are mercurial, lie, break hearts.

“But those lies, like Enron, like Iraq, like big cheating, like using power unlawfully, those are lies.”

The boy took off his hat and looked at the girl who looked at him suspiciously.

“Bullies are cowards,” shouted the boy. “Fight them. Expose them.”

“Justice!” she said.

“Nah,” I said, “just don’t allow yourself to be crapped on because you’re young, poor, or powerless.”

They weren’t ready for that tired talk yet.

“Live strong,” said the girl, walking away with a raised fist.

That memory makes me smile, and I hope their clarity is not as fleeting as a slab of light that rumbled into darkness as we enter a dark tunnel.

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