Continued from Betrayal (I)
Chandini powered up her laptop, murmured a short prayer and began pouring her soul out on the cold glass of her screen.
My dear Vasudha,
I read your mail. You know my love and regard for you well enough to know what the knowledge of your pain is doing to me. But that is not what I wanted to talk about. Nor am I going to offer you empty platitudes. I know when one is in pain words of encouragement sound manipulative and hollow. I will not insult your intelligence by uttering them. I know you won’t need them after a while- you are too strong to be broken by a pain that’s inherently impotent.
Your mail reminded me of a wound I sustained sometime back. Don’t worry, my wound hasn’t reopened. The pain has lost its sting because it has been dissected, analysed and discarded.
Who he was is not really important. What struck me when I read your mail was the similarity in our experiences. You got cheated, lied to and taken for a ride by a sleaze-ball, so did I. You loved the liar with all you had, so did I. The betrayal depleted your will to live, so did it mine.
The only difference between us was: I met the sleaze-ball offline. This point is important. You got taken for a ride not because ‘online people’ are bad. Online people are as bad- and as wonderful- as offline people. There IS a bit of difference, but not too much. What you need to remember is that the rules which govern offline interactions are not enough to monitor online interactions. You need a more exhaustive set of rules- that’s the only difference.
What I am saying is: don’t punish yourself by cutting off from all your online friends. This could have happened to you offline and hurt you even more. Now you have the excuse to say… “Oh, I wasn’t able to fathom his lies because of the distance.” I had no such excuse.
I met him everyday and talked to him for hours. I looked into his eyes. Yet I got duped.
I clearly remember two instances when he looked into my eyes… held my gaze… and lied to me. I not only believed him; I cursed myself for having doubted him. The guilt of misjudging him made bitter bile rise in my throat.
All this is not easy for me to write. You know me to be a proud woman but my pride is nothing in the face of your pain. I am not writing to you in order to show you my pain and imply, “This happens to everyone, what the hell are YOU crying about?” I find the thought monstrously unfair.
I am also not writing this so that we can compare notes and be miserable together. I am writing this to share the process of analysis and dissection I made myself go through so that I could discard the pain as something too puny to make me miserable. In time, when your hurts has eased a bit, perhaps you too would follow these steps and find out how diminutive the dimensions of the core issue were.
A state of giving up in despair is alien to my nature. It is too contemptible for words besides being such a terrible blow to my pride. I can never renege on my life by smothering myself in such a disempowered state. I had to learn how to get myself out of it. I was sick of wallowing in it after a while. I began to realize that staying miserable was like trying to punish the world for the mud that got splashed on my face. Why on earth didn’t I get up and wash it off?
I know you think as I do and will understand what I am saying. You too love your life. I have loved your verve and spirit right from the time we ‘met’ online. We speak the same language- you and I. I know right now it seems to you that life is only a never ending saga of pain. You don’t give a whit for your life. I hope what I am saying will not come across as insensitively pompous, but I know what you are going through. I KNOW. Trust me, I really do.
I know the word torturing you the most is WHY. Let me share my thoughts with you.
When I found out his lies, I felt very embarrassed- for him..! I thought it was monstrously stupid for him to have been so blind. Surely he must have known he would be found out one day? Why… how… could he permit himself to get in such a false position? Despite being a liar, how was he able to pretend to be honest and upright? How was he able to face his own lie?
There is no way a person of integrity- as he projected himself- could do what he did. To lie to another person, one must first lie to oneself. A person of integrity doesn’t permit a lie to himself. He can never perpetrate such a sham on himself.
But I was applying the wrong premise to this man. He wasn’t a man of integrity. My biggest error was to assume that his value system was the same as mine when it wasn’t. Boy, did I pay for that lesson..!
To maintain a façade of uprightness he must have learned to cleave himself into two people. The dichotomy had to be seamless enough so he could pretend it didn’t exist. Then he could know himself as an honest man AND lie with impunity. I don’t claim to understand the exact process, my mind freezes with revulsion at the thought of someone cheating himself in that soul damaging way. Someone going through the trouble of creating an elaborate system with which to cheat himself seems too terrible to me even now. Imagine cutting out a part of your soul and holding it hostage for life! All this for what? To earn a temporary, undeserved love from another person? How sad and sordid and small this would be! Is the price worth it?!
A part of him believed himself to be honest. That is why, even after he was found out, he saw himself as the injured party… the victim. Hence his malevolence and belligerence towards me. He hated me for not staying caught in his game… and for not rescuing him from his own trap.
I am sure you blame yourself for getting duped, but you mustn’t. How could you not be duped? You were clean and innocent. People who understand that kind of crookedness are either crooked themselves, or have had experience in dealing with crookedness- and even then they’d not really be terribly competent at handling it. Your mind needs to be able to travel the slippery paths of deceit for you to understand its twists. You had never walked those paths, is it any wonder you slipped the first time you ventured into them? To maintain your footing would have shown your ease with those paths. Frankly, I’d rather have you clueless about the twisting lanes of deceit than to see you traverse those with familiarity and expertise.
I asked God why he brought that man into my life. I had never seen duplicity in my life before and then to come close to such a master of camouflage..!! I suppose God knew I’ll need to talk to you one day… that is why I had to go through it. The truth is, all my pain would be justified today if my words prove to be of help to you.
I will write to you again tomorrow. For today, all I want you to do is to remember one thing. It is NOT your fault that a habitual liar managed to fool you. His evil is not a reflection on your goodness. I will leave you with a quote from Ayn Rand. She said:
In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.
(Part Three / Chapter 7 This is John Galt Speaking. Atlas Shrugged)
I have always found immense solace from this passage. I no longer make the ugly, the cowardly and the mindless a part of MY world. They may exist in the world… I may have to deal with them from time to time… but to me they are NOT representatives of humanity. The people whom I can look up to and respect, who inspire me to be the best I can be, who make me want to accomplish mighty things just so I can win a smile of approval from them… those are the people who now populate my world. My doors are closed to the mealy- mouthed hypocrites whose corruption cannot fathom their own double standards.
Take care of yourself for you are precious… and you know it..!
To be continued… here