Globalization. A level playing field. A flat playground. All these terms and phrases only highlight the fact that the world is a lot more accessible then it ever was before. Such has been the norm for centuries that people came to the east to attain salvation for eternity. West, on the other hand promised freedom from inhibitions and societal norms. Today we live in a melting pot, everything comes in contact with everything else. Hardly any culture has remained isolated. Culture is often defined as a set of underlying assumptions, reactions and means of judging people. These are so deeply ingrained in the minds and attitudes of the people in a culture that they remain unaware of them. Culture you are born in becomes your reference point. All conclusions that you draw are with respect to that reference point.
In a world as it is today you can't help but come in contact with different cultures. It might be as brief as an encounter in a shop or a train station or as extensive as actually living and breathing in a different society. That is when you become aware of differences. When you make friends outside your own culture you become conscious of different perspectives. Dig a little deeper and you uncover the underlying assumptions of different cultures. It’s a huge revelation. You become sensitive to different points of view. You look at the world around you with different eyes. You suddenly realise that you have new tools to work with. Any given situation can lead to so many different conclusions depending on how you look at it. You realise that you now have a lot more to manoeuvre with. This is because the moment you become aware of different ways of evaluating behaviours you start challenging the assumptions you grew up with!
Since time immemorial kids have grown up learning what is right and what is wrong. What is acceptable what is not, what we should and shouldn’t do. What is common place in an Indian society is a scary thought for a European. What’s a done thing in USA is preposterous to an Indian. But these are outputs drawn out of boxed-in societies. As an individual who is conscious of each of these cultures, you know why a European is scared of arranged marriages while an Indian looks forward to it. You know that Japanese would respect you for your age, gender and position in society while an American would be more interested in knowing how many medals you have won.
You are now in the middle of that melting pot. You can touch and feel every flavour in there. Now what next? Where do you fit in? Are you still part of the culture that you grew up with? Your culture is what binds you to a system. It gives you a framework to work by. When you are exposed to another culture long enough, you can’t help but imbibe it to a certain extent. The extreme would be to get completely immersed in it. Does this still remain a revelation? You now have in your hands so many means of creating perspectives. Which one is your reference point?
Is this what is called being rootless?
It is a scary thought, to be rootless. You feel like a cast away with no sense of belonging with any place. But does it really happen like that? Is it so easy to shrug off the holds of the environment you grew up in? Is it altogether healthy to do so?
I try to look for answers to these questions. I look at the lives of the people I have come across, who have had the opportunity to go on the adventure of exploring different ways of life. I wonder if they feel rootless in any way. I then realise that they don't look at themselves as being rootless. It is a shallow interpretation of what they have achieved. They have had the courage to leave their haven of security and venture ahead to discover other ways of life. In doing, so they have emerged as better individuals. They have a much wider horizon now than they did before. They have had the opportunity to challenge the beliefs that they were taught as children and re-evaluate them. They can now analyse their cultures and societies in an unbiased way and in doing so weed out the bad aspects of them. They then share their knowledge with the people around them and pass on the benefits they have discovered.
Misunderstanding breeds mistrust. It is not until people allow themselves to mingle with different kinds of people will they truly understand each other. It is heartening to see that globalization is making it possible for more and more people to do so.
I look at you, I hear your words Much as they please you, much as it hurts
I see you feel all important I watch you hate all that is distant You banish those that are different yet you call yourself a victim
I would ask you for tolerance But I feel there is none You have already punished me before For being a different one
I ask you only to hear me now I ask you not to make my decisions I tell you not what to do with yours I force you not to do my thinking I do not prescribe my thoughts on you I do not judge you for all your faults despite being repeatedly judged by you
I choose not to ask you to give me space I take it for I feel it is mine I do not let you dictate terms to me I make my own decisions For I feel I am free.
I would raise my voice Against such insularity But I’m only glad to find That there are still a precious few Who have the courage to question Who do not feel threatened By non-uniformity
By the time you reach the end of the legend of Bagger Vance you realize that there is more to the story than meets the eye. To the casual movie watcher, it is the story about how a legendary golfer from the town of Savanna lost and then found his swing. But if you dig deeper you realize that the movie actually wants to give you an answer to all your life’s problems. Problems you may have faced in the past, the ones you may be facing now and the ones that you are still to face. The movie does all this through the simple yet complicated game of golf. For those of us familiar with the Bhagwat Gita, Ranulph Junuh could well be the Pandav prince Arjun and Bagger Vance could very well be Lord Krishna.
Ranulph Junuh is cornered into a situation he can’t get out of. To walk away would be to run away. To run away would be to bring shame to his city that looked up to him almost like a Demi God. That was something he was not prepared to do under any circumstances. He was already crumbling under the sorrow of loosing his troupe mates in the war. He already felt that he’d betrayed them by surviving. He could not bear to betray anyone else again. The war was something he had no control over but this was a decision that was up to him. So he chose to play. In the words of Hardy Greaves, the narrator, he had no choice but to come to terms with his inner demons, but he had to see which demon was giving him the most aggravation.
We feel that it would be best to portray the movie and its message through its dialogues. Even though most of the dialogues seem to be written for the purpose of good narration of the story, every once in awhile there comes a dialogue that hits you so hard it takes your breath away.
One of the prominent scenes is when Ranulph Junuh first meets Bagger Vance. Junuh asks Bagger if he is a caddie. To this Bagger replies, “It depends, are you a golfer?” This simple statement stumps Junuh completely. It forces him to look inside himself and check who he really is. Golf and Junuh were taken for granted but Junuh was not so sure anymore.
There are so many times that Bagger teaches you about life when it seems that he’s just making stray comments about golf. “They say that a man’s grip on his club is like a man’s grip on his world”. Here the club signifies the self. Unless a person has control over himself he has no influence on the world. That is when a man becomes helpless and lost. That is when he loses his swing.
Bagger keeps emphasizing the point that we all have our role to play in this world. He calls it our game, or our one authentic shot. The one we were born with, the one only we are supposed to play. The overall game is governed by the same framework for everybody, like golf. But how we play it is only up to us. No one else can play it for us. To emphasize this point the narrator describes the playing styles of all three players in the tournament, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Ranulph Junuh. One can imagine each of these people to be normal men just leading their lives making each decision as it comes to the best of their capability, driven by their own personalities and character. Bobby Jones played each shot with the utmost concentration, contemplating and considering each and every variable involved. He was patient and thorough. He wouldn’t play a shot unless he’s absolutely sure that that is the shot to play. The other extreme was Walter Hagan. He’d take a risk and play the shot he thinks is appropriate. He leaves room for error and is not shaken by it. One shot played, he looks forward to the next one. He knows that there is always another chance to undo the damage done. Hence the quote “three lousy shots and one brilliant shot can still make par”.
If we were to interpolate the golf tournament to the business arena, we could say that each player is a corporation. They are all in the same business and are hence mutual competitors. Every shot they play is like a move they make in the market. Most of the time they are moving neck and neck, but every once in awhile someone takes a lead. However, that is not the time to get complacent, because you never know when that lead would be taken away from you. This was demonstrated time and again in the movie. Nothing can be taken for granted and no one considered worthless or unworthy of winning. The golf course is your market. The market is a live, bumbling place but the golf course is alive too. The blades of grass, the sun, the wind, the rotation of the earth are all the variables that keep changing. As Bagger puts it “the blades of grass go one way in the morning and the other in the afternoon”. One has to play the stroke that perfectly matches the variables around us and fits with the overall scheme.
There is a scene in the movie where Junuh has to play a shot from the woods. He’s standing there alone in the darkness. He’s reached the limit beyond which he can’t take anymore of his problems. He’s weak and vulnerable and all his sorrows are bearing down on him. He’s almost tempted to bend down and pick up the ball when Bagger interrupts his thoughts. Bagger forces him out of the cage he’s trapped himself in. The cage of helplessness and self pity. He makes him realise that he’s nobody’s prisoner but his own. Nobody in this world has any lighter baggage to carry. It was his choice when to stop carrying that load on his shoulders. If he made the right choice, he could get his life back just the way it used to be. And Junuh chooses. He chooses to let go the sorrows of his past and move forward. It seems that he’s got a new lease of life. He has entered the woods a dejected man and comes out of it with renewed spirit and confidence. He quickly catches up to the other two players. He’s no longer in the shadows, so to speak, but just as great as the other two world leaders.
The most crucial lesson that the movie teaches you is to play fair. No matter how big the odds are or how great things are going. There is a scene where Junuh causes the ball to move from its place. What should he do? Should he tell the others? The penalty would cause him to loose a stroke at the fag end of the game. He may well be giving up any chance he has at winning the game. He decides to tell the others about it. But none of the others want him to loose a stroke. They prompt him to say that maybe the light is playing tricks on him or maybe the ball just quivered and fell back in its place. They offered him an exit. He could have taken it and nobody would’ve blamed him for it. But he stood up for what was right, even when there was nobody to lose from it but him.
The game eventually ends of course and the movie with it. But it is important to note that the game could very well be carried on, because life carries on. One victory or one outcome doesn’t stop it. There is always another hole to put and another stroke to play. Each triumph is fickle and we must realise that so is each failure. Life of your failure only lasts till you want it to. It may be helpful to remember your losses, to learn from them, but how long you wish to carry their weight is up to you.
A writer by default, albiet one that needs a kickstart.
A thinker, an analyst, I question and rationalize every little aspect of life.
Creator of a blog to share some of my theories and beliefs as well as to challenge the way of the world with a motive to obtain a better explanation for the way things are.