Never a Hero: An Existential Question

The morning nightmares:

It happens to me in the early mornings. Somewhere, unleashed from the deep recesses of my mind, they grow and glow like an ivy tree. I wriggle and writhe in my bed, tossing and turning on my sides, affected by the scenes that run in my mind. My throat goes dry and my body pains and constricts.

I wake up. In the mildly lit ambiance of my bedroom, I am fully awake. The vivid scenes have left, but the tailing credits still are on my mind. I don’t react, but I know that I have been totally consumed by my participation in these scenes already.

The scenes are varied, but they reflect the problems in their worst-case scenarios in my life. The effects are vivid and so I wake up with blaring nostrils, a heaving chest, and sweating. My wife is on a carefree slumber.

I always wondered how I perform in these nightmares as if they are scenes shot as part of life as a movie. I think I am a lousy actor, but as a viewer, I am consumed. I hate this position. I don’t want to see this movie, but still here I am.

What do they mean?

I am not a dream whisperer or whatever they call that profession, but I endeavor not to think about them during the day. The day presents its own challenges, transactions, and situations, so life goes on.

I think the nightmares reflect the unresolved issues in my life, but they don’t provide a solution but act as reminders of where I should focus.  The unresolved issues are there because I have not endeavored to act, but have been sweeping them under the proverbial carpet.

Even the carpet is bulging, and therefore the nightmares occur again. Each time is a new dream or an old dream recast into a new form. But I am a lousy actor with so many gigs. Forget it, I don’t want to act in these scenes, even if I were to be paid.

If I don’t want to be part of these, I have to face them during the day.

How they have consumed me?

The acting in nightmarish scenes has cost me my sleep and appetite. I have stopped running and yoga, but instead, drag myself from bed to my writing table with some effort. But somewhere, like a podgy hamster on a wheel, I find that incredible solace in the writing.

Of late, Netflix has crept in, eating into the time that I would be writing or reading, but the effect is that I suffer from indigestion and a puffy stomach.

Of course, add COVID to this; I got infected and it took almost 3 weeks for me to recover. But when my every breath is an effort, and I focus on taking it slow, from one breath to another, I learn to be patient. The pain comes when I breathe in, and goes when I breathe out.

Existential question:

Inside me, through these last months of 2021, questions around raison d’etre started to grow.  My mother passed away, adding this compounding feeling of purposelessness. I wrote the long story ‘the End of Innocence’, as part of my manuscript for the next one in the ‘A City Full of Stories’ series, which made me clutch to life, as I wrote about characters that exploit the trust of the family as means to their own ends, and I got the answer I wanted.

My existential purpose was my family. In fact, my three families.  One is the family by birth and knot, the other through business, and the third family, my readers. As I am on my next manuscript, which explores characters in a mythological epic on their prejudices and predicaments in situations that the normal storytellers have avoided.

Nobody is a hero or a superhero, but a character with their own fallacies, yet if somebody prevails it is an act of heroism. A hero is not wholesome, but with flaws and it is fair upon them that they don’t have to carry the burden of perfectionism. However the faithful would eulogize, it is the human that can connect with another, as long as they understand that their ‘heroes’ or ‘Gods’ are flawed and vulnerable, and not ‘plastic’ perfect.

I find purpose in unshackling the heroes of their burden, yet we can see their acts of decision-making while being predicated with complexities, that define their character.  This act of shining the mirror on the heroes gives me wings in my writings, and there lies in my role in those nightmarish gigs. I am flawed and vulnerable too, but I don’t need to be consumed about the flaws, but if I accept them, then I am just a character.

My heroes – Nah, characters – have taught this valuable lesson to me:

I am a character in my story, but not a hero. I may have heroic thoughts and acts, but as a character, I remain.

It connects back to my earlier article; ‘The Wisdom of Nothing’, where we can remain a character and that is fine.


Ashok Subramanian
Ashok Subramanian
Ashok Subramanian is a Poet and Fiction Author based in Chennai, India. Ashok has been writing blogs and content since 2011. From technology and management articles, and to website content, Ashok has written articles on businesses, finance, funding, capital markets, management, strategy, and sustainability over the years. His poems and articles, which were published in blogs got a publishing turn when he had time in hand to put together his poetry and short story collections. He publishes short stories and poetry reviews regularly in his blog. His published works so far: a) Maritime Heritage of India - Contributing Writer - b) Poetarrati Volume 1 &2: Self-published on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback; Ranked #8 in Amazon Hot Releases in May 2020. c) A City Full of Stories: A Short fiction Collection based on people and events of Mumbai: Self-published in Amazon in Kindle and Paperback. d) Poetarrati Ponder 2020 - A collection of Poem Reviews He is currently working with his creative advisor and publisher on his next poetry collection. His second short story collection about Kolkata, India, and his first novel are in the manuscript stage. He is a graduate in Engineering from Madurai Kamaraj University, India, and a post-graduate in Management from IIM Calcutta, India. He currently runs Strategic Advisory and Investment Banking companies headquartered in Bengaluru. He lives with his wife Gayathri and son Anirudh in Chennai, India.

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