My profession facilitates me to meet people of different ages, profession and culture. There is always something that is special, unique, striking about most people. Some of them leave a very strong and positive impression in my mind. I recently met one such person, whom I will always remember with admiration. After meeting him I wondered if age, education and upbringing really mattered as much as we highlight its importance.
Mohit* is 30 years old and comes from modest background. When I met him, his haircut, heavy and loud voice, mannerisms and language reminded me of Sanjay Dutt’s character “Munnabhai” in the film Munnabhai MBBS. He had come to meet me for anger management issues. Although a little uncomfortable responding in English at first, as soon as I started speaking to him in Hindi, Mohit was happy and started relaxing and opening as we continued our conversation.
Born in a small village in Maharashtra, Mohit and his sibling had been shifted to Mumbai after their father passed away. They had to live with their uncle and his family in a poor income locality, considered a rough neighbourhood. Mohit was yet to complete high school when he shifted to Mumbai but had to discontinue studies since their uncle didn’t earn enough to support two extra members in the family. He worked as a helper at a small grocery store in the beginning and gave all his earnings to his uncle. In return, he and his sibling got free food and shelter.
While narrating his initial fear filled days in Mumbai, Mohit gave vivid descriptions of the fights he would have witnessed, the bullying he had to undergo, etc. He grew up in an environment of “survival of the fittest”, in literal sense. As a young teenager, watching people beat up others and get what they want, intrigued him. He felt that life is easier if one is powerful and so he must soon acquire “Power”. He learnt to be pushy, rough, manipulative, selfish and much more to look strong and scary. As he started enjoying a fearless life, the limits of freedom got extended. Influenced by his environment, Mohit started consuming alcohol, drugs, visited prostitutes. He would be in his own world for days under the influence of substances and not know what was happening around him. Fortunately, the period of substance abuse didn’t last longer than a year in his life. He had realized that there was no future for him if he continued with the same habits. With a resolve to stop and by following through his resolution, he stopped substance abuse. Just like that!
After a couple of years, life offered a special friend to Mohit. Ragini*, who was in her teens and a couple of years younger than him, entered his life through a mutual friend. She was smart, persistent, caring, sensitive and intelligent. Mohit’s narration of his life’s anecdotes got her fascinated to understand a kind of life that was very new and different from hers. Their friendship started with him talking and she listening to him for hours. This friendship soon started developing into a romantic relationship and they started liking each other. By the time they started getting serious about each other, Ragini, who was not even 20, realized that if this relationship continues, she would not be able to accept Mohit as a life partner, just the way he was. She started persuading him to restart education. Although initially hesitant, reluctant, and unsure, he finally gave into Ragini’s nagging (as he puts it) and joined Marathi medium night school. Since his girlfriend didn’t approve of him being drunk all the time, his alcohol consumption started reducing too. He said there was not much time for alcohol anymore. He had to be at work during the day, at school late in the evening and chatting or talking to Ragini at night. Ragini gradually started pushing him to leave the company of friends, she didn’t approve of. Everything started to change for him slowly but steadily. He felt loved and needed for the first time in his life and could see life through Ragini’s eyes. To him, Ragini is the only person besides his mother, who cares and wishes well for him. He would give up anything to preserve this relationship.
When I asked him if it was only Ragini’s efforts that brought about changes in his life? He said Ragini for sure inspired, motivated, pushed and at times irritated him because of her nagging, but it was his will power and efforts that brought about the changes in him. He went on to explain that once he saw one of his friends being beaten up very badly by police. Although, on that day his friend was not at fault but because of the impression police carried about him, he fell prey to their beating. That was the day Mohit decided to change the path of his life. He didn’t want to get unnecessarily beaten up or be ill-treated by anyone in life. He wanted to be a person everyone respects. Mohit feels that day was the turning point in his life.
Tobacco, drugs, women are all in his past now. He is still not completely off alcohol. However, Mohit can abstain from alcohol on certain religious or auspicious days, including for a full month during Shravan. He is aware that he needs to be firm on his resolve to stop alcohol. What seems to have been left as a residue of his earlier life though, is his anger. There is a belief formed within him that anger is a tool to project Power. In our conversation, I tried to help him understand how anger is a sign of weakness and not power. Mohit seemed very determined to learn to manage his emotions because he doesn’t like the way he behaves when angry. He loses control and tends to use foul language and turns abusive towards his dear ones too. He says that one of the things he has learnt about interacting with people is to not take things personally. That helps in preventing anger from building up. He tries to walk away or ignore people who do not understand him or who taunt him at times. That, I thought, was a huge step towards anger management, which he had learnt on his own. During the session, he took keen interest in understanding what makes him angry and how it could be managed. He said he will surely try to follow my suggestions and is aware that actual work needs to be done by him. I told him that he needs to apply the same will power to have control over anger, the way he controlled the addictions. He smiled and said that he needed to hear this from someone like me, senior in age and education. I told him that I was confident that he would be able to work on himself without my help further.
Today, Mohit continues to study in night college, pursuing undergraduate studies. He is currently preparing for his exams and unemployed but is confident of finding a job soon after exams. He is aware of his strengths, which he listed out for me as strong willpower, persistence, sense of responsibility towards self and others, ability to not take things personally when it doesn’t matter, ability to learn from experiences in life. Lastly, he said there are two positive influences in his life, which are also his strengths, his mother and Ragini. He sees Ragini as his future partner and feels it is important for him to listen to her. He added, “they say behind every successful man, there is a woman. And hence if I listen to her, I am the one to benefit.”
People like Mohit help us realize that one may not be blessed with quality education, wealth, privileged living conditions and the like, but it is clear that one can be a good citizen, a good human being, by making the right choices in life.
*Disclaimer : To protect the identity of the subject, personal details, including the name have been changed.