Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Plotting The Curve

Having been a student of physics and electronics, I have had to plot many a graph in the labs.
We had to take meter readings from a voltmeter, ammeter or a cathode ray oscillator. Sometimes we had to measure temperatures at regular intervals and take them for readings. We were expected to first mark the readings on the graph sheet (these would be the dots or points). And then we were expected to draw a curve through these points. If the experiment had been done correctly, the curve would be a straight line or an exponential curve or a sinusoidal wave or whatever was expected.

But we were not the most sincere of students.

Most of the time, we knew what to expect. We knew that we expected a straight line or a sinusoidal wave etc. So we would take only those readings which would be on the curve. Sometimes we would truncate a reading; other times, round it off to the next digit. We would mark all the dots on the graph sheet and then select a few that helped us to draw a straight line. In the end there would a sufficient number of dots on either side of the line, which we would delete as if they had never occurred. Having a prior knowledge of the curve helped so much.

I wonder sometimes if the path traversed by us as we live, can be likened to a curve on the graph of life.
After a good amount of living, you will see that the graph of life is never a clean sheet with just a curve representing the life we have led. That would be the ideal thing to happen. But in reality, there are many stray dots, some close to the curve, some far away, and some dots of course that are On the curve; the dots that are meant to be. The curve itself is crooked more often than not.

Sometimes you are the one plotting the graph (or you presume to be doing so). Having no prior knowledge of what the curve is going to look like is a major impediment though. A straight line, a jagged line, a curve, a circle, an exponentially rising curve? Or an exponentially falling curve?
Other times the curve seems to be evolving on its own according to a preordained destiny.

In the midst of the many events that define our life, it becomes so difficult to establish a pattern. Because all the events when put together don’t seem to be taking you in any single direction but many diverging, different directions – happiness, sorrow, excitement, monotony, uncertainty, untimeliness, ecstasy, desperation, success and failure. How is the bloody curve evolving???
We don’t know. But we don’t give up. We try to find a curve, a pattern and believe in it.

We look in retrospection at the journey completed thus far, the path traversed and from the curve that we see, we build the rest of the curve connecting a point or a dot in the present to a point in future, with a lot of optimism, of course. This of course is the happy path, the curve of our dreams and not necessarily the curve that destiny has in store for us.

We go to astrologers, numerologists and palmists, not really to find out the truth but only for a verification of a preconception; preconception of the curve of our life; only because we want to be told “Yes. You will live up to 90. You will be rich. You will have a happy marriage.”

Every point or dot represents an event or an incident in our life.
Although some points don’t actually belong to the grand design, we fail to see this fact. We somehow drag every dot on to the curve, however out of place and time it may seem to be.

When I did very well in my exam for instance, the dot was definitely on the curve. There was nothing surprising about it. It fit very well into the grand design (rather what I believed to be the grand design). But when I failed in an exam, instead of admitting that I had failed and that it should not have happened, I told myself that this too had significance, that I learnt an important lesson, that failure is a stepping stone to success and so on. I should either have left out the dot calling it a stray dot (since it obviously did not belong to the happy curve) or bent the straight line, making it a crooked one, in order to accommodate the dot, admitting thereby that the curve of the grand design was crooked curve. But I kept the line straight and dragged the dot on to the line!

When I loved someone and lost, I should have moved on since it was not meant to be. But I thought there must be a reason why it had happened and held on to the memories, hoping he would come back to me one day.
And today after 10 years I can see so clearly that it was not meant to be and am glad in fact that it did not materialize into anything concrete. But since I did not have a prior knowledge of the curve or the grand design, I dwelled upon the incident for much longer than I should have. I held on to a stray dot in vain, while the curve grew in time never looking back at the stray dot.

The curve that we plot in our minds is almost always the way we would like the curve to be at that present and not necessarily the curve that destiny has already designed for us.

Some dots promote us to a higher level thus advancing the curve and some cause sorrow and distress, disrupting the curve.
Much contrary to what may seem obvious, a happy dot may actually be a stray dot and a sad dot, part of the grand design.

How else would one explain a love affair that brought great delight in the beginning and then turned out to be sweet poison? How else would one explain one’s departure from a place and people that gave a bleeding heart and then proved to be a blessing in disguise?

So how does one live life? What belief, what philosophy does one hold on to when the uncertainty of life makes it impossible to go on any further, when an idea of the future (at least a vague idea) becomes necessary to choose further direction?

After 28 years of living, I still don’t know. The confusion continues to grow.
When I look back, the once jagged, serrated line has smoothened itself considerably. (Even the straightness of the curve becomes monotonous after a while!). But out of sheer inability to move further without having a clue of what lies ahead, there arises a necessity to plot the future curve. And for lack of an alternate method to plot that curve, I will assume that the trend of the immediate past will continue and the curve will eventually smoothen itself completely.

As I continue to reflect thus, I am convinced about one thing. The curve that has evolved in all these years, is much better than the one I would have drawn if the pencil were in my hands and if I were free to design my life as I pleased. Ah! Destiny!
I had (more than once) almost sacrificed long term harmony in quest for short term gratification…
For short term gratification always disguises itself as the “bird in hand” while making long term harmony seem like “two in the bush”!

Just wondering… If you take the graph sheets of all those who have lived long, in all probability, the graphs will be unclean; one line or curve and many stray dots that do not fit the curve.
Whether the curve indicates the grand design or a combination of destiny and human efforts that fit into the grand design is debatable.
But of the stray dots, it can be certainly said, that they indicate several unsuccessful attempts by man to defy his destiny, his inability to understand the grand design and his efforts therefore (in vain) to move in a path that was never meant for him.


Li. said...

i found ur blog when i was randomly searching blog authors who's favorite books included R.K.Narayan(which matches mine).

Couldnt help smiling at the post i read cos it was like reading my own mind.

You know the adjusting of the graph happens everywhere.. biographies, stories to grand children, and with passage of time in our own memories... we start believing the cover-ups we cooked up for others.. we tend to forget where the real dots lay.. and the false curve stays.. :-)

I have saved ur blog in my favorite links.. I need to come back and read the rest of it.. Nice...bye!

Sowmya said...

Welcome to this space Li.

I agree with you. Deception is always a faithful companion. It is clarity that is so very difficult to attain.

I am flattered to know you have saved my blog in your fav links :)

I will look forward to lots of comments from you.

I will read your posts too... :)

Niva said...

hey nice post :). it beautifully reminded me of these beautiful lines that i have noted from the movie "Proof" *ing gwenneth paltrow. here are the lines :
"Sometimes in my head I think it works,
and then...
Sometimes I just think it's...
It was like connecting dots...
Some nights I could connect
three or four of them,
and some nights
they'd be really far apart.
I'd have no idea how to get to the next one.
if there was the next one." this was in a different context in the film... humm same applies to our lives isn't it... :)

Sowmya said...

Welcome back Niva....

Those words ring as really true... I have lost sleep over these dots too.... :)