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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Perspective

 

In a story, the author writes in thirds person and becomes the GOD. He can see through all the characters and know their most intimate thoughts and feelings. He can write about all of them and you can read about all of them getting a balanced picture in mind.

What happens when a story is told in first person account? A perspective is added. The person narrating the story adds his own thoughts and feelings to the story and 'cannot' focus too much on the thoughts and feelings of the other characters in the story. He can narrate only what is visible to him/her and the story is biased now. You can feel what the narrator feels and empathize with him/her.  

What happens when a story is told in first person by another person? Another perspective is added. Now you see the same set of circumstances from the different set of eyes and different set of feelings and thoughts; hence a different bias. You can now empathize with this character and also pick up a few places where the earlier perspective was wrong/distorted/mistaken.

And these diverse perspectives can make all the difference.

During the school days, I heard a riddle/joke which I would often ask/tell my friends. It was like "What would have happened if Ravana would have won the war against Rama in Ramayan?" … and the answer was "We would have Ravanayan instead of Ramayan"

Give it a thought. The Ravanayan would be written from the perspective of Ravana as the HERO and Rama as the villain; a villain who was instrumental in the disfiguration of Ravana's sister and attack on Lanka. The villain was so bad that he was banished from his kingdom for 14 years by his very own father along with his wife and brother. The Ravanayan would talk about all the virtues of Ravana (Don't be surprised. He indeed had many virtues) and would talk about his knowledge (he had immense) and his penance (tapasya) to gain the favours from the Gods. He would have been acknowledged as the Hero amongst the Rakshashas, someone who spent his entire lifetime for the upliftment of Rakshashas and slaying to trecherous 'rishi muni' who conspired against Rakshashas and held pooja/worshipping/yagna against them. Rama on the other hand would be a villain who attacked the peaceful life of Lanka and killed countless soldiers and Ravana's Brother and Son. Hanuman would be the Terrorist who set the city on fire and killed hundreds of men, women and children. Ravana then kills Ram and exacts revenge on behalf of his sister, brothers and citizens. The 'kidnapping' of Sita being protrayed as a strategic move to lure Rama to Lanka and the fact that he never touched Sita during her tenure at Ashok Vatika being highlighted as a virtue of Ravana. After slaying Rama in the war; he then married Sita who would be a widow and had nowhere to go. Such was the greatness of Ravana. Think about it. If the author (and his sponsor) changes, the story changes.

Take another example - the British Raj in India. For over 150 years, the British ruled India and its people. We have read it in our history books; how Indians were oppressed by the British, tortured, deprived of rights and thrown into jail. We have read about our 'Freedom Fighters' who fought with the British (violently as well as non-violently) to get us a Free India and so on. Remember that these 'history books' are written by Indians and although they are supposed to be unbiased third person accounts; they end up being biased third person accounts since the basic premise is that the Indians were the victims and the British were the oppressors.  NOW, let's change the perspective.

What if a British guy wrote this? What if we read the British History written by one of 'them'? In that history, British would be glorified as a supreme race amongst humans who possess the vision and intelligence to lead the rest of the human race(s) towards a progressive future. They would talk about their quest to go around the world and show the world a better way to live life and run countries. They would talk about the 'technological' and 'civil' advancement they brought to the countries they went to. They would then talk about some individuals and groups who did not like this and went against them and caused trouble; rightfully labeling them as 'terrorists' and 'terrorist groups'!!
Consider the fact that when Bhagat Singh threw a Bomb in the court, he was nothing less than a Terrorist for the British. They were not exactly wrong in hanging him 'from their perspective'. Dont we ourselves condemn the Parliament bombing. Gandhi would seem a nuisance to British due to his strange non-violent approach (making it difficult for British to charge him for anything and label as terrorist) so they might even call him a 'shrewd man'.
Do you see the perspective? Do you see how different would be this history?
Even history cannot be completely trusted to tell us the 'facts' …

NOW, consider the terrorists and terrorist groups that you know of including the ones from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka … the Al Qaida's and LTTE's of the world … think about it … are they really terrorists or they are terrorists because they are against the forces that control the media! If the history or news was written by one of 'them', they would talk of the success (bombings and assassinations) and failures (failed bombings and assassinations) of their 'freedom struggle'. 9/11 would be a celebration for them. Kasab would be a martyr, a war hero ... a la Bhagat Singh for them?

So what is the TRUTH? Truth is relative.

Even the so called 'facts' are often presented with the bias brought in by who is presenting it and who is sponsoring the thought. Even story and event has multiple perspectives and we tend to believe the 'perspective' that we hear and want to hear.

Of course, I am not saying the 'terrorists' are right and not wrong. All I am trying to say is that perspectives matter and once you have a different perspective of a subject; the same thing can seem very very different.

On the lighter note: Think about Cindrella's story … what if her step-mom was to narrate the story. She would surely portray Cindrella as an ungrateful girl who sneaked out of your house (without permission) and 'stole' the clothes and the carriage and all … to attend the prince's ball where she mesmerized the prince using (black) magic so that her own daughters never had a chance. The next day, when the prince came to her house and discovered her, she told him a sob story of torture. The prince takes her away, marries her and you don't even get invited to the wedding of the girl whose care you had taken for over 20 years (in spite of having 2 daughters of your own). How ungrateful!

As I said … Perspectives are everything. 

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