THERE is an acronym in computer language: WYSIWYG — ‘what you see is what you get’. When we are young and inexperienced, life is in black and white. We make inferences based on what we see without trying to understand the nuances associated with it.
As a young schoolteacher, I used to teach pre-primary classes. The annual day was fast approaching and the theme was animal world. Most of the characters were in place, but I lacked a cute teddy bear. Luckily, some new admissions had taken place. A chubby toddler was assigned to my class. He was perfect for the part! I thanked the Punjabi culture of feeding children well, especially sons. I immediately got in touch with the parents in order to spell out my plan. However, even before I could say anything, they informed me that their child had a chronic kidney problem because of which there was water retention in his body. This gave him a chubby appearance. The truth was that he was sick and needed dialysis on a regular basis. I was wrong in judging the child by his appearance.
Life has a way of repeating lessons. A couple of years later, I was working in another school. A pretty, newly married teacher joined us. Her husband, who was in a government job, would drop her to school and pick her up every day. We would tease her about how lucky she was to have such a devoted husband. She would just smile and nod. After three months, we were shocked when she ran away from home and filed an FIR, complaining of domestic violence. Only then did the truth come out.
The husband did not trust her and wanted her earnings. To ensure that she never got an opportunity to meet anyone before or after school, he would personally pick and drop her. At home, CCTV cameras were installed and a full-time help kept track of his wife’s activities. He was affectionate as long as she agreed to whatever he said. If she tried to assert herself, physical or mental abuse followed. One evening, when her husband was at home, she received a phone call from a male colleague whose son was studying in her class. It was an innocent query related to project work but her husband did not like it. Initially, he directed a few barbs at her and when she tried to justify herself, he hit her hard. That is when she decided to leave the abusive relationship.
Once again, I had made an erroneous judgment of them being a loving couple.
Incidents like these taught me that one can never judge a book by its cover. Sometimes, we depend on a single aspect of the situation to form our opinion. It may blind us to the truth. The fact is there are so many dimensions to life… so many shades of grey. Life lived is rarely in black and white. It is the shades of grey that give depth and story to a painting. The same holds true of life. Before judging others, let us pause. The story is often different from what it appears to be.
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