On December 26, in Lucknow, when little Chintu woke up from his sleep; he was happy. Very happy, in fact. The weather was cloudy and a few drops of rain inadvertently made their way from the heavens to his balcony. He loved the rainy winter mornings. There was chillness in the air; a slight nip that was time and again entering the body and pinching it. This was good enough. Today, he need not ask his mother if he can skip his bath. His loving mother would herself stop her only child to enter the bathroom with water, cold like the glaciers of Siachen. And if she is in a really loving mood, she might even allow him to stay back at home and nurture him with her unending affection.

But in Chandigarh, Vicky was tensed. Terrified would suit more for his then state. It was 9 AM and he was trembling. He had genuine reasons with him. 1) His semester exam ended yesterday and after boozing for half the night, he was wide awake early to meet Nikki, his girlfriend who was leaving for Delhi by the afternoon train. 2) In the process of freshening up, he touched the ice cold water, which sent his entire body shivering. 3) He had to take a bath or Nikki would sniff the slightest lax in his readiness or the slightest hint of last booze night will be enough to ruin his after exam days. Yes, he loved Nikki but his freedom of being an “engineer” and doing what they want and the pride in living un-hygienically were being taken away. So much for stupid love, he murmured, and got up to switch on the geyser.

Netaji was not happy either. Delhi was freezing and foggy and he had a speech in a medical college in his constituency at 8 AM. Being one of the best leaders, his only weakness was winters. What if the students’ sense he has not bathed? That would be such a bad example to set (although half of those listening to him would be coming straight to the auditorium from their bed without even washing their faces). And more than that, he feared the social media. Bad experiences of other leaders on Twitter and Facebook scared him. One of his agenda items if he ever became something was that like the West, India will too would stop in December and January. But right now, his speech was impending. 6.30 AM, his clock read. There was not much noise around his residence and that made the task of getting up more tedious. He waited; he cursed his secretary for setting up the function at such an odd time and eventually, left the bed.

Unaware of all this, a sage was following his daily routine and readying himself at the ghats of the Ganges in Banaras. He was bare-chested, except a small dhoti, the saviour of his modesty. His body was not shaking, his hands were not trembling. Nonchalantly, he entered the holy river. It felt warm to him like it had every day for last 4 decades. No hesitations, no ifs and buts. The holy bath took 25 minutes. The seths of the city were still rubbing the eyes in some affluent locality of one of the oldest cities of the world. And as the sage came out, he reminded himself- he has to be here again for the rest of his life.

Perception- is not it? How differently we all look at the same thing? What is Gray to you might be black for me. Why and when did we become so judgmental? Why do we decide everyone on the basis of our thinking and behaviour?

When I first heard of the word perception, it was in 3rd year of my engineering (so much for my English medium schooling). It was a fantasizing concept. Before that, I was too immature to understand that everyone would look at things differently. If it is raining, it is raining for everyone, is not it? But it does not work that way. The guy who just cleared the interview will enjoy every drop of it. The one who got scolded by boss will hate his shoes getting all wet. On different days, the two will have opposite feelings. I, too, change myself time to time. From my office in 6 th floor in Connaught Place; I get a good enough view of Delhi’s fast paced lifestyle. In gloomy mood, I look at the crowd and vehicles and think how everyone is busy. On happy days, I look at the sky and buildings and smile to myself. I believe everyone does that.

But these are good things about perception. The problem starts when we start judging people as per our liking. A Brahman will always dislike a non-vegetarian. A drinker will despise the traditional values of his friend who stays away from all this. These small things when manifest and finds a larger platform, create a ruckus for the whole society. You form opinions, you pass them, you preach them and you create more like you; irrespective of how good or bad you are. And a beautiful concept turns into something nobody wants to be a part of.

I will leave you with a quote about perception- “There is no truth. There is only perception.”- Gustave Flaubert.

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