It was early morning of September, three years ago in Teheran, as we were about to leave for the airport when the black cat crossed our path. It was not until we reached the airport and saw the enormous (eight hours) delay in our flight that we three, Manish, Harleen and I looked at each other with a knowing recognition. We didn’t speak about it until much later. Few days back, I had picked Sakhi, who was returning from Ahmedabad on another of those bleak September mornings, when I noticed a small grey cat, about five meters ahead about to cross my path. Sakhi’s red suitcase was in the front, dangling on the edge of the scooter and Sakhi was sitting behind with a haversack on her back. Immediately, I made a decision. Perhaps, the Tehran incident prompted it. I increased the speed to avoid the cat and next thing I know was I was hitting the ground on my face. I should not have abruptly braked on seeing the cat in front of me. I should have kept going, trusting the earlier decision, which was one of those snap decisions we make unconsciously. In retrospect, I think we both would have been safe – I as well as the cat! Or, I should have slowed the scooter and allowed her the right of the road immediately after I first saw her. Ifs and Buts have no value. As Malcolm Gladwell, the author of ‘Blink’ says “by blocking out what’s irrelevant and focusing on narrow slice of experience, we can read a seemingly complex situation in the blink of an eye – and discover a radically new way of understanding the world. I believe that the task of making sense of ourselves and our behavior requires that we acknowledge there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” I know I should have trusted my instinct!
But what about my irrational belief that cats crossing the path bodes ill- luck? Isn’t that significant as well in understanding myself and my behavior? Rationally, I should not have put too much value in the bad-luck thing. What does it indicate about me when I believe in such myths? Why do I remember the Teheran incident and not those occasions when the cat did cross my way and nothing untoward happened? Yeah, why not those hundreds of occasions?
A hard lesson learnt at what cost? Broken teeth, torn lips and fractured ankle (a month’s rest at home) and two days in the hospital plus the risk I put Sakhi in – it’s another story that she escaped unhurt due to her haversack which took the brunt of her fall. In addition, the anxiety of near and dear ones, their adjustments and the efforts they are taking to put me back into shape – how do I account for all this?
I am still grappling to come to terms with the tragedy, and the philosophical quip people utter on seeing my condition, “It happened because it had to happen!”