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One rainy morning, Gregor gets up in the morning and finds out that he has turned into an insect! Instead of panicking over how he turned into a bug and how he can get back into his original form, he was worried how to get to the work as soon as possible. Metamorphosis is a masterpiece by Franz Kafka which is inspired by his own life. The novel revolves around an event which seems to be absurd and unrealistic in real world but has been dealt with utmost practicality. Metamorphosis is a story that has forced me to think about a lot of issues that’s going around in the contemporary world even though the story was written almost a century ago. This post is not a book review but my retrospection over few relevant issues.
The hackneyed term “WLB”- Work Life Balance
Let’s accept this fact that most of the good intentioned organizations also do not understand this term. Even though companies are serious about the work timings, annual block leaves, Do Not Disturb policy after office hours, people who are rewarded at work are often those who are able to put their personal needs at the backburner and work their ass off to achieve their goal. Sadly, this is the definition of dedication and perseverance that’s thrown towards you during induction and orientation programs. The balance of work and life shouldn’t signify only your time-table but also the share of your mind and unfortunately, for most of us it is tilted towards work because we are in a race and we have to keep planning, strategizing and prioritizing even while we are sleeping. What choice did Gregor had other than mulling over his job when he was constantly under pressure to do better no matter how much he did.
The hidden metamorphosis
Gregor suddenly turned into an insect. A new body, new emotions, changed circumstances- there were so many things Gregor had to go through. The only people he could bank on were his family. But how did the family react? Instead of supporting Gregor in getting through this rough phase, they judged him, hid him, felt ashamed of him and finally shunned him. Recently there have been a lot of hues and cries over mental illness or depression. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Deepika Padukone came forward and spoke about depression as a common phenomenon. Movies like Dear Zindagi have tried to establish the fact that it can happen to the strongest people but the society is still rife with stories of people misunderstood and let down by their own family.
The societal definition of duties
I have been a bright student all through my academic life. However, so many times during my graduation and post graduation, I have been subjected to comments like “its ok for you girls to not have a job. You already have a fallback plan of getting married but we boys are always under pressure to prove ourselves.” Countless times I have been offended by such derogatory thoughts carried by my near and dear ones. After all I had to put the same amount of efforts to crack the entrance exams, my parents too had to sell off their property to afford my education and I too feel the pressure of repaying my education loan. But pondering over it a little more, I can see their point too. All through our childhood, my sister and I felt that it’s our dad’s job to earn money and our mom’s duty to stay at home and look after us. We hardly found our dad at home and we were so used to it that we sometimes felt uncomfortable when he stayed at home for longer never realizing how much he misses to be with his family. That’s the felony of societal definitions. Gregor worked so hard to fend off his family’s misfortune but in its course diminishes his importance to merely a money earner. When the tragedy strikes him and he becomes incapable of earning any more, he becomes worthless because he no more fits into the definition of a good son.
The best thing about the novel is that even though it has a sad ending, no one is left sad. The abrupt end to Gregor’s life brings out the hero hidden inside Gregor’s seventeen year old sister Grete and she steps up to assume her brother’s responsibility. It definitely doesn’t do justice with Gregor but leaves the reader hanging with a lot of challenging questions about the society and complexity of human life. It might not have changed my life but it indeed made me stop for a while and question myself about my choices.