That extra Yes in Excesss!


A doc is no astrologer, y2k techie, falling-meteor tracker or doomsayer.

When he predicts the end, it does end.

So when the doc attending to my friend’s father said it was only a matter of hours, none protested.

“Should we take him off the ventilator?” he asked.

“No!” came the instant recoil from my friend.

“Give us a few hours,” said my friend, in a tone that reminded me of pink-slip recipients in offices.

When the doc and his entourage left the room, my friend turned to me and asked me if I could stay there for a few hours as his family needed to sort things out at home.

I agreed without thinking.

In ten minutes, I found myself alone in that hospital room, with a dying man.

They say mountains and big banyan trees make you ponder about the meaning of life.

Maybe. Haven’t climbed a mountain or sat long enough under one of those trees yet.

But I know one thing for sure.

A hospital room does make you ponder about the meaninglessness of life.

In the four hours that the family was gone, I sat there anticipating the impending gloom delayed only by hope-support systems.

God versus gadgets. Nature versus science.

Hardly an even battle this. At best, just a token resistance.

Amidst these battles raging in eerie silence broken only by the hisses and beeps of machines, I sat there, a mute spectator recollecting my only meeting with that man on the bed.

I remembered the conversation I had had with him over lunch at his place on that day, many years ago.

“Yes is more dangerous than No!” he had said, as lunch was being served.

I had at first laughed it off as a better conversation starter than ‘Today is hotter than yesterday!’ and a better ice-breaker than ‘So, what do you do these days, son?’

But when he continued and said, “One of the greatest lessons you can learn in life is to say No,” I realised he meant more.

I looked down at my plate. It was overflowing. I had been saying Yes to those generous servings.

I let out an embarrassed chuckle, and caught my friend glare at his father.

But the old man was in no mood to stop. He seemed to have a full-blown thesis on the subject ready, and had decided to premiere it on me that day.

“No is definitive. It gives a finite end to things. But Yes is infinite and invites continuation.”

“Isn’t No negative and Yes positive?” I asked, while trying to even out the pile on my plate to make it look civil.

“Maybe the first Yes is positive,” he said. “The second could be ambition. But the third is definitely greed or foolishness.”

I had five Yesses on my plate that afternoon. That’s why what he said cut like a sword.

The leftovers of the old man’s sermon through lunch that day are still fresh in my mind.

Yes is the flag-off to all excesses in our lives. Be it food, money, power, love, relationships…anything. All our problems are a result of us not being able to say No at some point in time.

We are steeped in a culture that says ‘The more the merrier’ instead of ‘Enough is enough’.

Plenty means prosperity.

Which is why glasses have to overflow. Pockets have to be stuffed. Wallets have to bulge. Bags have to burst at the seams. Love has to be unconditional. Emotions have to be unbound. Relationships have to be forever. Life has to be eternal. And we have to be immortal.

Basically, we believe happiness is about having everything unlimited.

And Yes is the floodgate to excesses.

“Excess of anything is poison,” he had summed up and concluded his sermon and lunch.

I said a meek No to a second helping of desserts that day.

That sermon might not have changed me. But it did make me more aware.

Now every time I have a problem in life, I can trace it back to a Yes that I said or to a No I didn’t.


The family was back in the hospital room. They all looked pleased at having sorted things out. Tensions and worries on faces were gone, though nothing had changed for the old man on the bed. Doctor and his entourage walked in for a review again. And repeated their hopelessness.

“So do you guys want to take him off the ventilator?”

Even before he had finished I heard most of them say, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”

The first Yes can pass off as inevitability. The second Yes, maybe, practicality. But the third?

It betrayed their excessive eagerness.





2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by vikas s malhara on April 1, 2017 at 12:15 pm



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