Imagine being provoked, tested and pushed almost to the point of tearing my hair out, by a man on New Year’s Eve.
By a man who does not even exist.
I mean by a fictitious character. I was not drunk, no not all. But then, it happened to me for real. I never thought Andy Dufresne was going to get into my thoughts the way he did.
I am talking about the same Andy Dufresne, the unbelievably positive hero of ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ one of the greatest Hollywood movies ever made, according to me. I have seen the movie – twice. It indeed had a great impact on me then and continues to be one of my favourites. But, this is not that Andy Dufresne.
I happened to chance upon Stephen King’s book ‘Different Seasons’ containing four novellas and the first story in the book was ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.’
I knew the story well, yet, I was curious about the differences that crop up when books are made to movies. There were minor ones I agree. To his credit, the director has maintained a tight grip on the storyline in the movie.
But, the story in print is like a lip smacking dessert. Every sentence was an absolute delight. And the fact that I could hear Morgan Freeman’s voice narrating the entire drama while I read the book stands as a testimony to the effectiveness of the movie in translating to such powerful script and visuals on screen.
In case one is wondering, this is not what bothered me.
I experienced a peculiar sensation while reading this tale. Some kind of inner tumult going on parallelly. I felt as if I was hypnotized. Later, I forgot about it as the vacation drew to an end.
Recently I was caught unawares by changes in the weather and, on one of those nights as I lay in the bed, slightly feverish and unable to sleep, it came back to me again. I can’t really put a finger on what it was, but it could be roughly translated as a provocation – to detach myself from self and stand as an external party observing my own thought process, my hopes, desires, beliefs and my pessimism. To question the path that is developing in my life on its own, to challenge it and dare to chart it out according to my wish. It was as if Andy Dufresne was making fun of me – his silent laughter innocently mocking my feeble attempts at making decisions, all the while worrying about the possibility of falling flat on my face. Of me trying to be safe and not rock the boat.
Of course, I chided myself: I was just getting carried away by the wonderful optimism of a story – something that is not real.
But then, that strange word stuck in my mind: Institutionalized.
I liked the way the word was used. How convenient it was to describe the way the prisoners felt! However, it exactly describes what we have turned out to be – outside a prison, living in a progressive community and free, yet, institutionalized. By the society that chains us with moral obligations, responsibilities and unrealistic expectations. Expectations that have no business to be there in the first place.
But I cannot waste time trying to question and change the way it works; I’d rather change things for me. I still have the freedom of choice between what is expected and what I want to do. It does not matter if the act of choosing is near impossible.
May be I was plain high on the feel-good factor of the fiction or, may be I was delirious; I had not been keeping well. What else would explain such thoughts bouncing off my head at 2 a.m. in the morning?
Still, somewhere in a small corner of my heart, I dared to hope that a small conflict created in the mind today could later snowball to a strong change to become a better me.
After all it took about twenty seven years, according to the book, for Andy Dufresne to dig a tunnel in the prison wall with a rock hammer.