July 27th, 2015
Image Courtesy: Pagdandi
Bibliographers share the trait of empathizing with the characters about whom they read in a book. The book presents them with another world, where they put themselves into the shoes of protagonists. But sometimes, we need not get into the character’s skin to feel what he or she is going through or trying to convey. We come across words or passages which seem to be specially written for us. It seems as if they are conveying a message carved out for us, synchronizing with the circumstances we find ourselves in, in real life.
This is how I felt when I read about this youngster who has been spreading hope and positivity in Pune armed just with a piece of cardboard. In October, 2014, Tarun Gidwani cut a lonely figure when he stood Koregaon Park flashing a signboard that reads YOU’RE PERFECT. He had followed this routine for over five months at different locations in Koregaon Park.
The beginning of this journey dated three years earlier when Gidwani and his friend lodged at an Ashram in Bangalore for eight months, in search of enlightenment. He is unable to explain the reason why their quest for a higher truth came to an end at the Ashram. “My friend and I experienced a deep sense of relief when our spiritual search got over. We wanted to share the feeling with others to the extent of letting them know that in essence they are already perfect. That’s when we decided to make the sign,” says Gidwani
He had started by holding the placard at the ashram itself for around an hour. One day, an Italian woman at the ashram knelt beside him and broke down. She confessed that she was moved by what she had read which had made all the difference in her life. That was the Eureka moment for Gidwani as he realized “the power behind the piece of cardboard we had created” and he continued flashing the sign when he returned home to Hyderabad.
When he joined work in a law firm in Pune he again felt the urge to carry the sign around in the city and that was the restart of the journey he continued. He used to hold the signboard religiously daily after work between 6 pm and 9 pm.
Image Courtesy: Pagdandi
Presently, “a woman thanked me for helping her son, who had threatened to harm himself over an argument at home. She claims he changed his mind after he read the note on my signboard, when I was standing in front of German Bakery.” as quoted in punemirror. There has been no looking back. People also get in touch with him on Facebook thanking him for his gesture
Can one imagine getting a negative response for this positive message of joy and acceptance? Ironically, he has heard disparaging reactions. From being told by well-meaning adults that it was a waste of time, to being shown the middle finger and even receiving threats to have his legs broken by youngsters on FC Road, the negative attention has been sporadic. Once the boys told him that they were not so good looking and Gidwani ended up getting all the attention from the girls! Respecting their predicament he stopped carrying the sign to FC Road, but he never had any hard feelings for any of his critiques. He has the foresight to go beyond their malice and understand that people encountered something quite contrary to the ideals flashed by cultural norms, expectations, and standards raised by media and society – that you are not there yet, not perfect. And there was Gidwani who says “You Are Perfect” – frustrating for those who are trying hard to emulate the humanly impossible standards.
What keeps him going is the support meted out to him by his family, friends and spectators. He has pleasant memories of taxi drivers at Dadar station in Mumbai who were kind enough to buy him vada pavs, mineral water and fruit juice.
The son of a Hyderabad-based builder, Gidwani started searching for meaning in life at the age of 17. He is happy being a loner, reading books by the poet Khalil Gibran ad listening to ghazals by Pakistani singers and songs by Michael Jackson. He started out using acrylic paints to make numerous signboards but switched over to black and white ones because the shades are visible even by night. He even uses waterproof signboards when it rains!
He is often asked why he is doing this. He has only one reply: “For you”. The signboards convey his radical philosophy: “The message on the signboard is inspired by the fact that every human being alive right now is a one-time phenomenon. There never was and there never will be someone quite like you. Leaving aside our social constructions, you as an individual can’t be compared to anything and that’s the reason why I feel all of us are perfect just the way we are”.
Well, Giawani, you have won over another fan. Till I read about you, I was a bit unsure about whether I was heading in the right direction in my life. When my marriage broke down and till my divorce I had faced an internal storm almost every single day, while awake or even when I was sleeping. It is true that much of the depression vanished since the divorce in December, 2014, but I still had a lingering feeling that may be I was not an ideal Indian woman, having broken away from marriage, thus stepping out of the institution considered to be the most sanctimonious one for anyone in India. However, reading about your mission of spreading hope and joy reassures me that I am perfect in my imperfection. There is no dearth of options and the whole life is there before me, ready to unfold as I wish. I may be flawed, but to quote from Urdu, “Chand par bhi daag hai” – (even the moon has a blot on it) and yet it is cherished. I am on my journey, enjoying every bit and headed towards my goals. In the end, that is what matters