Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Guilt trips and stolen thunder

I saw an amazing movie last weekend. An engaging movie is always a rare occurrence, yet Reservation Road was truly different. For it actually made me think - beyond the Intermission food choices, the post-movie options and other 'loo'ming decisions.

This is the story in short. Dwight is a single dad with visitation rights to his son Lucas. One fateful night, driving back from a game with his son, Dwight runs over 10-year old Josh, killing him instantly. Dwight hesitates for a mere second, before leaving a bereaved Ethan weeping over his son's body. What follows is an amazing portrayal of suffering, of guilt and pain, with some unwavering and true-to-life performances from the cast.

It led me to think - how much guilt can a person handle?

Frankly, if I were in Dwight's position I would have definitely considered, at least for a whole hour, the option of hiding the whole thing away. Of acting like it never happened and then beginning to believe in it. After all, it is the option of free life over no life. If you can ignore the guilt. If only.

How much hidden guilt can a person live with? When does it start hurting? How big should a sin be to actually matter? What counts?
Lying to your parents? Stealing a good -looking pen? How about reading your best friend's diary?
Fine. Let's go by the global rule that no one should be harmed in the process or as a result of it. Then, does stealing office stationary count? How about poisoning (God forbid) your neighbour's pet. Or ruining someone's chances at an interview? Really, where does one draw the line. And then, when you decide to stash those memories away, does one ever feel like letting it go? To someone, to anyone?

While this was merely a mind stirring thought, the wonderful piece of cinema had more in store. Ethan is slowly eaten away at the lack of response from the Police. With just one clue, they hang on, make a few inquiries and are ready to throw the towel in without, according to Ethan and most of us, any substantial effort.

For heaven's sake, that's America. One thing they've managed to get right is the Policing. Or so we thought. They would be glad to know they have good company in their fellow compatriots here.

A couple of months ago, at my wedding, an uninvited guest took off with my mom's handbag. It contained gifts of gold and cash worth a fair bit. For hours the whole wedding party were immersed in all kinds of basic investigation, rummaging through wedding gifts, asking people, calling the misplaced phone, drawing out suspects, going through videos, etc. Wasn't much use. A complaint was duly filed at the nearest police station. "Forget about it" - public voice.

The next day we scanned the hundreds of pictures that were collectively taken and watched the video for the millionth time, drawing out at least 23 different suspects among the eleven of us family members (aged 8 to 80). I must admit that it was quite some fun, turning into prime investigators, coming up with hypotheses to why the lift operator could have teamed up with the priest in the master plot to steal the bride's gold. There were some hilarious moments too, like when the whole family was lined up in front of the video, ready to take a picture of the stolen handbag to give as evidence. Hardly a few minutes later, the stolen bag was found under a coconut tree in the porch. Without the valuables, of course. The perpetrator had been just a few metres away from us, inside our premises, dropping off the bag, all while I was busy clicking pictures of a TV screen.

Anyway, like the tech-savvy new age family we are, we scanned the hall's CCTV videos and got a long shot of the culprit. (Of course, he was not part of the elite 23 suspects circle). So we took the bag and the video clips to the police with a brief description of what the guy looked like. Well, I must say they weren't too happy with our efforts. They told us they would like a clearer, close up shot, preferably in white background with his eyes no less than 12 mm away from the top of the picture.

While the rest of moved away from the scene of crime after the holidays ran out, my supermom was still on the trail. No one messes with her. She unearthed more videos and actually worked with some visual graphic professionals to get this shot of the culprit.

Now that we got the police got the matrimonial picture they wanted, they still aren't ready to move their well-fed behinds. We are now working on getting his current and permanent addresses, PAN card number, family tree, current salary and job description, bank account details, besides a well written accurate horoscope.

If you do see him anywhere, please buy him a ticket for Reservation Road. I will reimburse you and even buy you a free ticket. He should know my pepper spray is still unused and so are my karate skills.

For the larger sin, mister, was stealing my wedding thunder.