The Imperfectionist


While the whole world prayed for Sachin’s 100th 100, I was hoping he would stay at 99. Not because I’m any less a fan of his. Not because I’m a Pakistani, as some of you suspect. It’s because of late, I have begun to worship imperfections. I think such imperfections are what make this world a world and not a drab heaven.

Had Sachin ended his career one short, posterity would have discussed the aberration forever. The way Bradman’s 99.94 average has been. But it isn’t going to be. Sachin got his 100 and now has a perfect career to retire from.

And perfect is boring.

Would you like it if the full moon rose over your terrace as a computer-generated, spotlessly white, perfect round?

How come moles on women’s faces ruin more men’s lives than blemish-free, fair & lovely faces?

That’s because perfection calls for a wow and a move-on. Nothing to discuss, nothing to debate, nothing to work on, nothing to look forward to. Imperfections are memorable, engaging.

History is littered with examples of imperfect lives.

Hitler, Che Guevara, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, The Beatles, Michael Jackson…

In contrast, take Nehru. Wealthy childhood, great education, terrific orator, respectable freedom fighter, visionary Prime Minister and a true dad. He had a perfect death, too. And he even left behind many generations of future leaders for the country.

Now, that’s what I call a perfect 10 on 10 life.

And that, my dear friends, is precisely his problem. But for his family and party, he would’ve been relegated to a dark corner of this nation’s collective memory by now. Pity, because he was as peace-loving, honest and non-violent as Gandhi. Yet, it is Gandhi’s life that makes for a blockbuster. Know why? Most of Gandhi’s life, and definitely his death, was far from perfect. His tough childhood, child marriage, not-so-successful career, luck with trains, weird dressing sense, uncommon practices and difficult-to-practice ideals have inspired many historians, writers, artists and filmmakers. Disproportionately more than those who showed interest in Nehru.

Clearly, imperfectionists create deeper impact than perfectionists. And the world is now beginning to realise it.

Cinema has a way of spotting such trends faster than society. Cinema’s most memorable characters have always been those with failings. Superman is superman only because in reality he is shown as less than a common man. Why, can you think of anyone more endearing than Charlie Chaplin? The ultimate Imperfectionist.

Today, even the world’s most valuable company realises that. Why else would their logo be a far-from-perfect bitten apple?

Take Public Speaking for instance. Until a few years ago, the world’s best speakers were those who had the perfect language, diction, posture, gait and gestures. These days, they say “Be yourself.”

Some of the best talks in recent years have been by clumsy speakers. Their imperfections are charming and their honesty makes them adorable.

But I discussed imperfections with my producer the other day, and he had this to say: “Imperfections in characters are welcome, not in the screenplay.”

When I took the debate to my wife, she said: “Are you building a case for an imperfect husband?”

That’s when I realised that the revolution for imperfection is, well, imperfect. Perfect is what the world will always aspire to become. Imperfections will continue to remain a failing, despite the trillion examples in favour of making it a design.

Last week I was summoned to my son’s school. “What do you do, Mr. Rabindranath?” asked his teacher.

“Er…well…I kind of…er…yes, write!” I said.

“In English?” she asked. I spied disbelief in her tone.

“Yes, of course!” I said, in a quickly rustled up convent accent.

“Look at your son’s English essay!” she said, flinging a paper at me.

I read it. Poor grammar, poor spellings. Understandable, because unlike his dad he doesn’t have auto-correct when he writes. However, it was the most unconventional essay I’ve ever read. Right through the two pages on the topic, he had a conversation going with the teacher in brackets.

So, he wrote: “…comited (Miss, not sure how many Ms and Ts)…” 

And: “…Then my friend came up with a funda (I know it’s a slang. Excuse me, miss.)…”

I secretly enjoyed it, but agreed with his teacher that he must copy the first-ranker’s essay at least ten times as a punishment.

It’s not as if the world is perfect. It’s just that we are shy of admitting it, celebrating it. Isn’t it strange that we are ashamed of what we are, and proud of what we want to be but might never become?

For a minute let’s imagine that we’ve evolved to a society that celebrates imperfections. Any guesses on what its impact would be like?

Suicides would be down by 82.5%.

Divorce cases would be down by 91.6%.

Those immaculately mannered gentlemen would be laughed at.

Those prim and proper ladies would look like relics.

The annoyingly ideal children at school would be asked: “Are you always this good? Or are you at times more interesting?”

Husbands will finally be able to give honest answers to questions like: “Am I looking fat in this dress?”

We will all be free to burp after a great meal, snore at nights, scratch whatever itches, yawn during meetings, laugh at a client, admit without fear: “Sorry, I goofed up.” Or “I don’t know.” Or “I am not that good.”

What a wonderfully imperfect and interesting world that would be!


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