Why did I leave halfway through a critically acclaimed movie with a hot star?
It is completely my fault.
For someone whose recent favorite movie is “How to train your dragon” and all time favorite movie is “Pretty woman”, its quite clear which way my movie-watching tastes run. But marriage does strange things to you. HH wanted to watch it. He was going with another couple. Without me, the situation would have been a little awkward for him. “Don’t be such a loser” said DQ when she noticed I wasn’t getting ready for the 9 p.m. show. Like a good wife (and obedient mother), I impulsively decided to do it. By leaving midway with HH, I ended up making it even worse for him. But my intentions were good, even if I didn’t have the stomach to follow up on it.
I don’t watch war movies for the same reason I don’t read crime or horror fiction. I read the news but avoid digging up disturbing details of rapes and terrorist atrocities. I watched “House of Cards” with HH but declined to join him for viewing the “Game of Thrones” series. I prefer Percy Jackson’s adventures to Fifty Shades of Grey. Why?
An obvious answer is that I am a wimp.
In my youth, I wasn’t a particularly discriminating reader and moviegoer. I read everything from Tintin comic books to tales from Indian mythology, R.K. Narayan to Ayn Rand, James Hadley Chase to Gone with the Wind, Bhagavad Gita to John Grisham. I liked murder mysteries, detective novels, crime fiction and “chick-lit” well before the term was coined. Like a fast food junkie, I consumed mindless drivel in print and on TV.
At some point in the intervening years, I opted out of the tough stuff that is engrained in today’s pop culture. Is it because I did not watch violent TV shows or play vicious video games as a child? Did growing up in an era where school shootings and terrorist attacks did not appear in the daily news make me soft? Was I spoiled by my humble upbringing in a peaceful family? Have I lost my edge by choosing a life where my excitement comes from personal challenges and not from passive consumption of large doses of violence and despair?
My childhood does have a bearing on who I am today but my choices as an adult are a bigger determinant of who I would like to be. The better version of me that I aspire towards becoming is one who is aware of suffering in the world without vicariously devouring the gory details. I didn’t read the horrifying details of the famous Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi but I participated in the candlelight vigil and participated in a women’s group that taught self-defense to young girls. I chose to contribute to the “rice bucket challenge” in Hyderabad last month knowing that hunger is a daily problem for many in my home country.
Yes, I have become soft, unable to digest harsh details in newspapers and horrific visuals on large screens. Instead of building a hard façade by constant exposure to mind-numbing violence, I choose to build a softness grounded in compassion. I haven’t undertaken a media fast because I don’t need to. I am connected to the greater world and aware of it. However, I have chosen to free my mind from the agitation that follows consumption of heavy doses of unpalatable information.
Choice is a strange kind of freedom. It involves responsibility.
Every choice comes with its consequence.
Every choice may lead to labels. Wimp. Loser. Coward.
Making an unpopular choice is simply a personal statement, not necessarily an act of courage. My decision to abstain from books and movies that drain my energy is essential for my inner peace. It creates a space from which I can operate with kindness towards others.
As for reacting to those who do not approve, I choose to handle them with compassion. Like charity, compassion begins at home. In the words of Gautam Buddha,
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”