Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Biases and us..

American History X. One of the most powerful movies I have ever seen in my life. For those of you who've not seen it before, it's all about the Black - White conflict in many suburbs in Amaerica. I've seen it twice before, and I saw it again today on my San Fransisco - Hong Kong flight. I knew what was in the movie. I knew what it was all about. And still it had the same effect on me as the first time. Every time I see that movie, I am deeply moved. So many of us have pre-judices against certain kind of people, certain sects of people, certain religions, certain castes, etc. etc. Even though we don't really know anything about them.
It's all about simple people finally. They're defined only by their actions, and not by where they come from or which group of people we slot them into.

I am very lucky in many ways. It has almost been 4 years now since I moved back to Chennai. I get to meet someone new almost EVERY week. There is always someone new showing up to try out Ultimate, or someone wanting to learn Cuban Salsa or a new intern/full time at office. I get to meet all sorts of people: people from different backgrounds, different religions, different ethnicity, different countries, different states, different sexes, different sexual preferences, different colours; some very good looking, some not at all; some who can speak fluent English, some who can't put a single sentence together; some who talk a lot, some who just stand silent and stare in a very discomforting way; etc. etc. All walks of life.
And not only do I get to meet someone new, but I'm lucky enough to be in a situation where I get to know them over an extended period of time. Most people would probably meet 1 or 2 people in a year at the max.. who they get to know. I've had a chance to observe my own reactions to new people, and also the reactions of those around me to the same new people. Its interesting how almost 90% of the time people get it wrong.. they/we are incorrectly scared of/dismissive about certain kinds of people. Or incorrectly confident/trusting about certain kinds of people. Over the years, I am am learning to let go of the biases to a large extent. Its very hard, but it's possible to put aside the urge to slot someone into a category and the need to interact with someone only on the basis of where I slotted them.

American History X reminded me today of all those things. The movie just got done, and I leant back in my seat reflecting at nothing in particular. Somewhat happy that I've come a long way from 6-7 years ago, from being a very judgemental & reactive person. And then I realized that there is someone I know now.. one of my friends... someone much younger than me, who does an AMAZING job at this. Someone I met less than a year ago through Ultimate. I've played on the same team as him a couple of times, travelled with him, been a mentor/coach for a short while, and now a peer. But, at this point, I find myself marveling at his amazing ability to interact with anyone with zero bias.. (or at least thats what it looks like to me). I find myself being the student learning from him. It is this ability of his which reinforces into so much good that happens around him. I have watched people I have written off performing superbly just because they are playing on his team. He brings out the best in them. He gives them self-belief. He is genuinely interested in seeing them progress. Doesn't matter if it's the most unfit person, or the oldest person, or the youngest kid from the nearby slum that turns up to play. They all love him. They want to play for him, they all want to play with him. They all enjoy his company.
For those of you who play Ultimate and haven't figured out who this is yet.. I'm sure you will now. Just keep your eyes and ears open. You will observe what I see.

And sir, if you yourself are reading this note.. :-). Kudos. This is your strength. This defines a big part of what you are. Hopefully this part of you will change only for the better as you grow older. The last couple of months has been great learning for me. I still continue to learn, just by being around you. You inspire me to look at people as people, even more. To trust them. And just to try and bring out the best in them, and hence myself. Finally I think I'm the one who stands to gain.

p.s. On a totally different note.. anyone who thought Surya did a great job in Vaaranam Ayiram. You gotta check out Edward Norton in this. How he plays an action hero, 14 year old, 17 year old.. all very very convincingly!

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