Jekyll & Hyde

December 5, 2009

The only time I read R L Stevenson’s “The stange case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” was when it was part of my English syllabus during my 7th or 8th standard in school. The abridged version was the only one that I have read. At a time when reading time was devoted, almost exclusively, to Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators and Nancy Drew it was impossible for the classics to compete for their share in a boy’s reading time. Strangely and almost inexplicably, the book left a deep impression on me.

Over the years, I have always wondered if there was a Hyde lurking somewhere inside of me. On the other hand, people who have met me during this period can be pardoned for wondering conversely i.e. is it possible that this Hyde has shades of Dr. Jekyll somewhere buried deep inside him. Either way, the point that I am trying to make remains the same. Duality of human character is a given. It is only the degrees that change from one to the other.

On any given day, I am a non-violent person, in thought and in action. Yet, I can recall moments of complete loss of self control during which I was capable of exercising extreme violence. I could have killed, maimed, or been killed or maimed. This streak was particularly pronounced during India’s abysmal campaigns at the 2007 cricket world cup in the carribean. More seriously, I feel similar emotions when I am forced to see the behaviours of my 8 and 5 year old daughters. The realisation that my parents endured similar behaviour (I think I am being liberal in rating my own behavior here) and did not let frequent momentary lapses of reason cloud their desire for seeing me alive, restrains any manifestation of these powerful violent urges. The Hyde in me is allowed a scream, directed more at himself and his helplessness, and nothing more.

This duality, or even plurality, is what I guess is being referred to as split personality in haute language. But the concept and its attraction to writers has long existed. Indian mythology has always accepted this an inherent in any character. The characterisation of Indian gods, be it the Holy Trinity or the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu reiterates this. With the possible exception of Lord Rama, the rest have strong shades of vilified “negative” tendencies. There appears to be very little effort in portraying divinity as purer than driven snow. This from a mythological perspective adds to their credibility and thereby their allure. Even the Gods are human after all. I have come to accept that it is the realisation that such baser emotions need to be fought and conquered and the willingness to accept this reality as opposed to the very denial of their existence which is more relevant. There is no place for puritanism in judging oneself or anyone else.

In my own case, I have decided that exercising patience is one way of overcoming the demons within. “This too shall pass” has become an abiding mantra. The pervasiveness of impermanence takes over after a point in time and there is very little that one needs to do. At the same time an honest acceptance of oneself, warts and all, brings in the equanimity to confine Mr. Hyde to the deepest burrows. This is a process and not a result. Because you never know when Mr. Hyde will decide to make a comeback.


3 Responses to “Jekyll & Hyde”

  1. Ronak M Soni Says:

    My experience with this book has been exactly the same as yours. I too read an abridged version when I was more into Hardy Boys etc.

    My Hyde got out, you know. I’ve been in a hostel since my seventh, and I used to let myself fly for the first couple of years.
    Nowadays, if I get angry, I just do things, normak things; I can’t sustain anger. I just get bored of it, you know.

    • Gani Says:

      I am still struggling with my Hyde. Anger and other baser emotions are still very much a part of my persona. Atleast there is a realisation that these have to be overcome.

  2. Mary Thomas Says:

    Glad you are embracing your baser instincts ;-)..
    Who said an unexamined life is one not worth living? Cant remember but something I really believe in.

    When you get a chance read Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh.
    Its really insightful and I highly recommend it(along with the Dalai Lama and a few others ;-))..I keep a copy on hand all the time

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