Thursday, October 24, 2013

Every Person Has a Story

Every person has a story.

So they say.

For a long time, I took that to be a literal statement. I thought of the story as being a finished work, written and published, a novel, a short story, a play. I couldn’t understand how that could be true. How could every person have a story?

Did that mean we were all writers waiting to happen?

Did that mean that there were publishers out there waiting to be interested in our stories?

Did that mean our lives were bestsellers that were going to make us famous?

It was only when I grew older and wiser that I realised the nature of those stories. That was when I learned to keep my mouth shut and my ears open.

I saw that everywhere, all around me there were stories happening. Every moment of every day of every week, month and year. Down the ages, there were stories. 

The big ones were designated as histories. 

The smaller ones slipped through the cracks.
Every day we hear a number of those stories but not all of them leave an imprint on our hearts.

Why is that so?

Perhaps we do not let them.

Yesterday on my way home, I shut my novel, and began to read the stories around me instead. It was a privilege to be able to get a glimpse of some of these stories. There’s a lot you can learn if you’re willing to shut up and listen.
One woman was telling a stranger how nothing she did ever earned her mother-in-law’s approval.
An old woman in her 70s was talking about her daily struggle, how she left home at 6.30 am every day to reach the place she worked in at 8 am, how she struggled all day and then left for home late in the evening. How after a hard day’s work, she could not bear to stand on her feet on the hour-and-counting commute, and how the young things wouldn’t get up and offer her the seat that was reserved for senior citizens.

A young newlywed bride, her plastic red bridal bangles still tinkling on her hand, looked out of the window with unseeing eyes. Her kohl was smudged, and the remnants of tears still hovered in her eyes.

A woman, on the phone with her ex-husband, pleaded, begged, threatened, too distraught to care that her co-passengers may hear her and worse, judge her. “Give me my son,” she said, “I shall give up my plea for maintenance.”

A vendor of plastic folders spoke of the husband who left her for another woman because she bore him four daughters. Presumably the other woman would guarantee him a son. So here she was, having married off two daughters and looking after the younger two. A gold chain she once owned was now in the safe of a local jeweler. Every day it seemed to recede further out of her reach. Already it was three months. In another three months, the interest would overtake the sum she borrowed.

These snatches of conversations, some of which I eavesdropped upon, some of which clamoured for my attention, gave me a glimpse of the untold stories that we all bear within ourselves.

Stories of secret sorrows and joys, betrayals and promises, loves and hates, fears and insecurities.

Stories that are at once heroic and ordinary.

Mundane yet sublime.

Stories of struggle and death and mortgage and making a rupee stretch as far as it will go.

So like the pearl that the oyster carries within its shell. The world sees the pearl as a thing of immense value, but to the oyster it is nothing but a hard reminder of the pain it has endured. A bauble that was formed when it sought to protect itself from the grain of sand or other irritant that cut into its flesh and wounded it.

And that is how pearls are made.

Is the making of stories any different?

But who cares for these untold stories?

Each of us, immersed in ourselves, sees nothing of the pain embedded in the flesh and being of those around us. We grunt and growl our way through life, believing that we bear the heaviest burdens, that others have it easier. If we could only see, hear and experience others’ stories, we would know how blessed we truly are.

From now on, I’m not giving up any good opportunity to shut up and listen to the wealth of stories floating unwanted around me.


  1. So true this is. These days I too try and read people. I am not sure what I read about them is right or wrong, but they are stories indeed. Only if we listened more, we all would be great writers. :)

  2. Very true. Stories of people right in front of us are always more interesting than n books. I used to ignore people esp when in public transport but Offlate I try to open my eyes n ears more. And it sure left an impression in me that we live in a beautiful world yet sad.

    Loved this writing. :)

  3. Very, very true. We all think our own problems are bigger - because they're ours. But everyone has a story to tell, and it would behove us to listen, just once in a while.

    This was very well written. I enjoyed it :)

  4. We remain too immersed in ourselves and unmindful of the lives of others.And each life has a story to tell - sad or happy .. we can learn from them all !

  5. At times I do this. Shutting up and listening to others. It all togther changes my perspective on life.
    Lovely piece cynth



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