It took me a long time to learn how to complain or comment about the weather. I have figured out that the subject of weather is something that can start pretty much every conversation like a leader-sequence on an mRNA — especially on the Western Longitudes I occupy these days. But even though I have managed to complain about it, I am yet to assimilate weather as an entity to take notice of.
I suppose an argument could be made about me being born in a fairly prosperous society where I got to experience stability; stability that allowed me to be completely oblivious of the effects of weather in my day to day life. If I was a farmer I would probably take more heed of the weather. But I can’t seem to find myself perturbed enough with the weather compared to what people around me experience. I could attribute such nonchalance to the climate I grew up in, but even that falls short. You could say, my perception of weather is a learned behaviour — thanks to British influences and years of conditioning, the idea of physical comfort was incongruent with hard work; a forty-degree celsius classroom was something so normal, that such physical duress was something that neither I nor my peers ever cared about. Fainting under the scorching Sun — grim as it sounds — was something that didn’t make the news. The heat was something that one simply dealt with. Complaining about it was as pointless as Pink Floyd’s Writing on the wall. When one dared to complain, the usual reproach was that there are worse conditions in the world; counterproductive but oddly effective.
A friend of mine has developed a habit of complaining about not being able to live her pre-pandemic life, with all the snazz, jazz, parties and bars. Even though I could superficially relate to her, but I couldn’t subscribe to the distress she was experiencing. Even though I did feel bad about the situation around me, but I never felt particularly sad about it for myself — I was oddly content. From my perspective, people were dying and I had a house, electricity, a job and running water. It seemed to me that my friend was more affected than I was. For me, the lockdown, the pandemic, the social distance, the travel restrictions all of it was something one simply dealt with. The psychological duress was far from my general comprehension. I feel mildly guilty for not being able to connect to my friends’ distress but thankfully I am borderline incapable of letting external loci of control run amock.
I don’t want to be a weekend preacher popularising the notion of taking control. Neither do I want to imply that I didn’t have my fair share of negativity during the last year. And there are very few things more toxic than disregarding someone’s distress. But if my reasoning is sound — however biased — I am thankful for the cultural conditioning that doesn't let me let my environment get under my skin.
Bart, a character in the TV series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency said,
I am like a leaf in the stream of creation
As poetic as it sounds, there’s more truth to it than its comedy of misplaced intellect. Weathering — is an unavoidable aspect of our lives. Things are always changing, evolving, oscillating and it would be completely unreasonable to be perpetually happy and positive or sad and anxious. I am not an expert in stoicism, but I think it’s categorically more sustainable to acknowledge changes in ourselves as well as our environments as a state of being instead of vehemently resisting it. It’s easy to fall into a trap of expectations and synthetic desires, corroborated by pop culture, poor literature, and social media. I think one should not feel the need to feel anything in any circumstances. That’s the thing about emotions, they are more of a state of being than a metric. Much like when one doesn’t use weather as an indicator for anything without a specific agenda, one probably shouldn’t use their raw emotional state as an indicator of their well being.
If you have never experienced warm tarmac against your cheeks on a hot South Asian summer day, I guess I can’t convincingly say that it’s life-changing, but in retrospect it is. One day on a hot summer afternoon, I was riding my bike home after half a day of school. As I rode outside the compound of our school, I saw my classmate on his bike swerving on the road — quite dehydrated. When he eventually fell with his bike, I was riding right next to him. He fell on me, and I fell on the road. Luckily there were enough people around to take care of him, and me for that matter. We had walked home that day.
Funny enough — I still remember him saying that he should have drunk more water, but neither of us talked about the heat. When I recall that afternoon, I recall a very specific kind of determinism in him. The kind that is seen in protagonists in horror films — neither bold, neither strong but scared to bits, all the while simply refusing to give up. The kind of determinism that accepts the situation, inwards and outwards, but never breaking.
I am not very good at practising what I preach myself. And there’s a good deal of points that can be made about how hardship feeds my ego. Having said that, stressing about one’s emotional state is like trying to put out a gasoline fire with a blanket — it takes quite long. Much like real weather, acknowledging and accepting it is probably better than outright rejecting it. In that light dealing with it is not a reflection of faux machismo ignoring the problem — but a call for soft-determinism. Soft-determinism like my friend exhibited nearly fifteen years ago, instead of incessant self-care.
P.S. This is not an indictment for pushing through depression or anxiety by oneself. Mental health is important!