03 July 2009

Black And White...Or Shades of Grey?

The class fell silent when John entered. It was always like that. No one spoke much in John's presence. After all, he was the infamous backbencher, the perinnial failure, the guy who dared to back answer teachers. Some even said he was a chain smoker. I didnt know what to believe. But one thing was for sure. John was a bad fellow.

A bad fellow. My cousin, who was studying in the same school as my senior, heard me mention about John one day. He laughed. "Funny how you treat life like a Lord of the Rings movie." He remarked. What do you mean?

Well, you've seemed to lable John as a bad guy havent you? Meaning you know some people who are good?"

That was an absurb question. Of course I knew good fellows in my class. There were plenty. Like Philip, the class topper for example.

My cousin shook his head, realising I wouldnt understand. Just before leaving though, he said. "Maybe you should know more about John. It might change your opinion about him...."

Three weeks later, I had just finished my Maths examination. I was waiting for my friends outside the hall, when my cousin met me. "Ah, just the person I wanted to talk to. Wanna know more about John?"

I didnt mind.

Fine, then here's a good intro for the guy. Till 9th Grade, he was amongst the toppers in class."

I laughed so hard my cousin hit me on my head. "It isnt a joke. And you dont have to mock me so much, too."

"I'm sorry. I just found that too hard to believe."

"Yes, so did I. Well, turns out till 9th he was in Bahrain. That is, until his parents had a falling out with some of his relatives and decided to leave. He didnt want to leave. He loved his school, his friends and most of all, his relatives. It wasnt him who had a fight with them after all. But against his wishes, he was made to join this school. The first two months were terrible for him. He was emotionally wrecked, and that showed on his mark sheet. Everyone was quick to label him a back bencher.

And that's where he's been ever since. At the back bench."

My smile had vanished, and I looked at my cousin seriously. "But then, if John was a brilliant fellow, why couldnt he prove himself?"

"I dont know. There could be many reasons. Firstly, he had a deep grudge against his father for forcing him to shift schools. Then there was the lack of motivation. For a guy whose lost all that he loved, getting 100 in Maths isnt excatly exciting, is it? But that's not how the teachers saw it. They piled on the pressure. So did his parents. They made sure he didnt have any of the freedom normal teenagers had. And it was bound to happen."

"What would happen?" I asked.

"John took to smoking. Believe me, it wasnt to prove himself or become a big shot. No, it was because he couldnt bear it all. Yes, it was a bad decision. But sometimes I wonder, if I myself would have done the same thing, if I had gone through what he had."

"So, he's been like this ever since?"

"Yes. Why would things change? He's labled that way isnt he? He is the bad guy, the guy who never studies, the guy who's good for nothing. In the wonderful class heirachy we've formed, he's below the Super Nerds, below the All Rounders, below the Sports Stars, below the Average Joes. He's at the bottom of the rung. And that's where he'll stay perhaps."

My cousin had to leave suddenly, since a teacher was looking for him. As I waited for my friends, I thought to myself: We spend so much time seeing the world in Black and White. Everyone's either purely good or purely bad to us. We praise those who are impeccable, and shun those who have flaws. So many of us can easily point out the bad in someone. How many of us try to figure out how he became so 'bad' in the first place?

We're not either black or white. We're not either completely good, or completely bad. We're shades of grey. Some lighter than others. But sadly, we've forgotten that. We've begun treating people in contrasting colours....

My impression of John had changed drastically. I could see him for who he really was. A brillant student, caught in the troubles of life. A fellow who reacted in the best possible way, to deal with all the pain he had to face. Yes, he smoked. Yes, he back answered a teacher once, out of frustration. Sure, he had utter disregard for marks or exams. But I wonder: wouldnt I have reacted the same way, if I went through all that he did? Maybe not. But maybe....just maybe....yes. I would have.

I went back into the hall to collect my hall ticket. That's when I saw John chuck his question paper into the bin. "How did you do?" I asked, trying to sound polite.

He shrugged his shoulders, and looked at me in the eye. "What does it matter", he asked. Philip commented as he saw him leave, "He's probably going to fail again this time. He wouldnt know half the answers anyway."

A minute later though, John's words had a new meaning. I had caught a glimpse of his question paper before he chucked it. It had scribblings all over it. As I took it out from the bin and straigthened it, I saw the answers to the six mark questions, written on the side of the margin. They were merely rough calculations. But they were almost fully correct.

John knew the answers to the questions. He was smart enough to calculate them on his own. But I had a feeling he never wrote them onto his answer paper. Why? Because, as he said, 'What does it matter?". Everyone expected him to fail. In their eyes, he wasnt a kid with a lot of potential. For them, he was one of those people who would never succeed, who would never pass. One of those people who would never be correct, who would never be 'Good'. For them the world was just Black and White...

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  1. Very well written I must say :)Thoroughly impressed!
    'We're not either black or white. We're not either completely good, or completely bad. We're shades of grey. Some lighter than others. But sadly, we've forgotten that. We've begun treating people in contrasting colours....'
    Well written!I totally agree with you, theres no good or bad in this world theres always a greay where each of us stand!
    Great going!Keep up,Hope the books coming along well!
    Take care!

  2. Hey Muthu....it's well written. u have been able 2 get the message to all of us..

    These words are thought provoking-
    "We spend so much time.. ..........contrasting colours"

    At this moment,i have one of my friend's face in my mind who have gone through exactly the same situation due to the same reasons for past 4years and is still the same..

  3. Lovely..I liked the way in which you tried to show a "Bad guy" in a better light. I've always thought all or atleast most of these guys have faced something tough in life and that's the only reason they can go bad.
    Nice one.

  4. Brilliant muthu! thanks for teaching us this ....i think now i will surely always remember this b4 making remark on any1!!!....

  5. bloody brilliant!!!!

    you really made me wonder once again.. we really brand people as good or bad jus by their behaviour, outlook etc... strange we never try to find out about things. if someone jus happens to be bad, we never speak to him - we hold a social boycott. prejudice is a part of human soul.

    i remember something vry similar happenin with a boy i knw. now... i 'll find out about him as well. thanks for techin me something we all overlook

    p.s. you used the title "black and white" which also happened to be one of the most popular songs of the pop king Michael jackson. and even he taught us a lot.

    long live the king...

  6. A well expressed thought!...It's difficult to find the white in the black..but easy to find the black in the white..well written!..Keep writing!

  7. thought provoking...

  8. Really good.. The theme was nice. As usual in such stories, u didnt try a climax where john would be brought back to normal. Instead, u sticked to the reality..

  9. GREY a color formed through varying combinations of black and white.
    Putting it in terms of your writing...I would have to say these combinations are that make up a person.
    Unfortunately, people don't understand that they too are one among these combinations. Just that they have been able to adjust the color variations to match up to the lives that the people around them want them to live.
    They live a life not knowing,never knowing those experiences that make a person better or worse.

    Hope this post lets those who read it think hard about how they look at a person...
    In the Dark / In the Light

  10. dude hats off to it..this is the best story according to me from u..really touching and true
    crzly b4 measuring others in sum scale,we shud even measure ourselves on the same scale...
    i pity john though,though he may be a character bt truly it was bad to him n to many more ppl hu r considered to be dull just coz they dont score marks
    really shows the situation of our ridiculous society

  11. We judge others by their actions and us by our intentions.

    Awesome post.

  12. Fabulous...... Strikes a chord somewhere !!!

  13. This is a wonderful message. You're absolutely right. We have indeed labeled people as "good" or "bad". Little do we realize that these are only relative terms.

  14. dude, how can u write so welll..?? and that too wich is soo gud that it makes the reader think twice before judging someone from then on..??
    IM proud of wat u have become bro..!!!

  15. well what do i say .... u've outdone urself bro..... i donon wht to say..... hats off to you maestro...........

  16. This is great Musthafa..You'll know how i like this one :)..Very well written..the part in italics and the use of black, grey and white was nice!..Loved it..

  17. You'll know why i like this :) This is awesome..loved the italics and how well you used the black, white and grey..great one :)

  18. You'll know why i like this one :) Great one here..Loved the italics and how well you used the black, white and grey..

  19. Now this is wat i LIKE ........smthng new style.........n i liked the use of colors t represent life but maybe........just maybe u cud hav used smthng better.....XD......none tht i can think of now but will comment if i can think of one....