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Here’s a story I heard about a modern day dude:

He went by the name of Narcissus. What was exceptional about him was his stunning good looks. When people came face to face with him, they stared open-mouthed and promptly fell in love with him. Narcissus though couldn’t care less. You see, Narcissus also had fallen in love like the rest of them, with Narcissus himself.

This is how it came about.

One day the dude Narcissus went and got himself a phone that is known to be really smart, smarter than humans. Tinkering with it, he discovered the front facing camera and stopped short. WHO was that on the phone screen? He was amazed at the beauty he was seeing.

Suddenly the truth hit him. OMG, it was he himself! He was so beautiful. Narcissus could not take his eyes away from his own image. He wanted to gaze forever and ever and ever at his own beautiful self. Shush, don’t ask inconvenient questions like whether he had never seen himself in a mirror considering that mirrors have been around since centuries. And while we are at it, no, he hadn’t seen himself in polished metal surfaces or the still waters of the lake either. So there!

As days went by, he turned this way and that, pouted, grinned, made cute faces and clicked away. Then he chose the best among them (he thought they were all good, but sometimes the stupid camera blurred some pictures and so he had to discard some), and used it as profile pictures on Facebook, or simply shared them on his timeline so he could see himself all over again. His ‘friends’ flocked to ‘like’ his pictures (after all he was a looker and they loved him) and Narcissus also ‘liked’ his own pictures. How could he not?

His mother, like most out there wanted him to fall in love with some nice girl and marry her. She needed someone to take over the kitchen, bring water from the public tap at the corner of the street, and to press her legs when they ached, which are some of the important reasons mothers want sons to marry. There are more important ones of course like gold and money that come as dowry. We’ll not go into that now.

Anyways, she showed him photos by the dozen each day. But what did her putr do? He spurned them all. He loved himself. Nothing wrong with that for in the modern times we believe loving oneself is the first step towards a better life. How can we love others when we don’t love our own self? 

So, yeah, the dude loved himself first. Tough luck on all the guys and gals and others who dreamed of him that he didn’t opt for the next step, of loving someone else after that first step of loving himself. His love wasn’t one of those superficial loves common among humans: you love someone today, then the next day see someone else more alluring and so fall in love with them. Not Narcissus. He was a steadfast chap. He loved himself first and last, and also every number in-between. And this love of his was forever and ever.

His father tried to change his mind. His mother cried buckets. His friends and all those who fell in love with him also tried and cried in that order. Nothing worked. All Narcissus did was look at his smart phone screen all day and click pictures of himself. In addition to Facebook, he posted pictures also on Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Google+, on blogs on WordPress, Blogspot, then spent time looking at those pictures of himself as well. Slowly he lost the will to live because he could not have himself. He died looking at his pictures.

That’s the story of the modern Narcissus, you think? Nope, not true. But, some will have us believe so. They, these ‘some’ I speak of, refer to those who post pictures of themselves on social media as narcissistic. Wait a minute. What DO they mean narcissistic ? It is too early for the name to have been coined after our very own modern day Narcissus with his smart phone and broken heart even-though made up. Was there one before too? What the hell did HE do that he left behind this legacy of a word, narcissism?

Hmm… Yes, there was indeed another Narcissus who lived (or was made up too) in some indeterminate long ago age. Look what Wiki says about him:

There was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who was known for his beauty. He was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behavior and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died.

See, I knew it. It is just as I thought.

Even before smartphones and front-facing cameras, before social media, before steel/mirror and other shiny objects in which one could stare at one’s reflection were invented, humans could (and DID) actually stare at their own reflections in still waters. What’s more, one of them (for all we know there were others) fell in love with his goddamn reflection and obsessed over it enough to pine away till death. Sheesh, come to think of it, our dude is only a pale imitation of the original. And these doomsayers of the present will have us believe this is some MODERN affliction brought on by smart phones and social media. Tchah!

Did a human’s obsession with himself (also herself) start yesterday, the day before or even in the last hundred years or more? As if. Whole lot of people in ancient times had nothing better to do than loll in ass’ milk and apply haldi-chandan, doodh-malai,  and copious amounts of oil with herbs thrown in, assisted by sakhis or attendants. That apparently is not narcissistic behavior, because it happened in the golden (sic!) days of the past.

One day I heard one set of people whining about how another set of people changed their profile pictures too often and how it was such a crime against humanity, how tsunami, earthquake and such natural calamities might result, that it might trigger the next world war even, how contagious diseases would break out spontaneously and babies die in their cribs choking on air, not to mention the fact that the sky could fall on our heads and bury us beneath fluffy clouds. 

The scenario they outlined was so scary that one was wont to delete one’s Facebook account and go live in a cave or under a rock. But I am not one so easily scared. So I decided to take on the arrogant doomsayers with their sense of superiority (both qualities narcissistic, aah, the irony!) and test their theory. For the next one hundred days, I changed my profile picture every goddamn single day on Facebook. At the end of it I waited with trepidation for things to start happening, for a meteor to strike, or at the very least for my head to explode as I had become *gasp* so narcissistic as to change a hundred profile pictures of myself in as many days.

Nothing happened, absolutely nothing.  Not a single thing about me had changed. Nothing in the world around me changed. Nothing in the universe changed. Maybe a star or two died and some were born, but they happened too far away for me to notice. So, yeah, stop listening to the cranks and post as many pictures as you want/like. Or not. Don’t listen to me. Or anyone. Do whatever you like. But ummm… don’t stop reading my posts. Just kidding, you don’t have to. 😉

©Shail Mohan 2016