A caterpillar for ever


Mentally subnormal people are happy. This is what I have seen in my practice .In clinical medicine, there are many conditions where we link this phenomenon to illnesses. Mongols are universally acclaimed to be happy . And that is considered to be part of their clinical spectrum. Whenever I see them in the clinic, they smile at me, even at the extremes of their illness and suffering. They have fewer expressions other than happiness. They smile through their tears.I always used to think that the life of a mentally subnormal is like that of a caterpillar in a cocoon, never having the chance to grow to a butterfly and fly.

The more intelligent always find reasons to be unhappy. There are innumerable reasons in life. We only have to find reasons to be happy. The rest is all for unhappiness.

I had known Marwan (Not his real name) from the time I joined this hospital . He was very short and morbidly obese with very short arms and legs. In his traditional Arabic dress, he used to look like a  penguin flipping around. He would walk very fast, as if he were very busy at something .I had seen him panting when he walked around the corridors, but he would never stop. He had bronchial asthma to start with, and would come to me for treatment, and that is how I became friendly with him .I always used to think that he was mentally subnormal. But the interesting thing was that he could communicate in English language. With his broken English, combined with many unique gestures, he could easily put messages across to me that I could understand.

We had evening clinics those days and he  would come to the clinic to chat when the clinic was free. And slowly he tried to make a friendship with me .He would tell me many stories of his adventures to impress up on me. He must have been around thirty years of age at that time .He had married four times and divorced all of them because “they were not good enough”( Actually they all had  left him, from what I came to know later).So he was on the lookout for a better girl. And that is when he started telling me stories of his Dubai trips. During weekends, he would go to Dubai, where his friends would take him to 'wonderful ' girls.  And I asked him “for what?”

“ Jig Jiga” was the answer

That was something which was not in my dictionary

I asked him again. He said again “Jig Jiga”, this time with some gestures to show me what it was, and I got the message. I had thought when I met him first,that the gods must have been in a very non generous mood when he was created.He had neither the looks or the brains. But then,if he was gifted with something,this must be it! 

He said he would’ Jig Jiga’ five and six times over the week end. I was surprised at his skills and secretly admired him for his capabilities .And then he would go in to the finer details of his activities, to which I was not much interested. Anyway, he convinced me that he was a very capable man, when it came to matters of sexual activity.

During one of his trips looking for a wife, he got married to a girl from Hyderabad and brought her to this place. He would hide her from outsiders .It was a week after he brought her that she fell ill and I was asked to see her .I was really sad when I found that the woman had a serious heart problem needing urgent surgery. She was incapable of even looking after herself. Someone had cheated him, extracting money from him and had got him married to her. Marwan was really angry when he heard the news. With the background stories of his Dubai trips, I could understand his desperation. He promptly divorced her and sent her back home.

Over the following few years Marwan became progressively ill. He was found to have a heart condition which didn’t have much treatment. His heart was enlarged but weak to pump, and he was admitted with serious shortness of breath and had to be placed on ventilator. It was when I was trying to pass a urinary catheter that  I was taken in for surprise. He had a rudimentary genital which was hardly visible. His testicles were atrophic  and I guessed he would be impotent, for sure.

Marwan was always happy. I had never seen him sad or depressed . He fabricated stories out of his fantasies. And he lived in a fantasy world which he had made for himself. Even in conditions of serious illnesses, he never gave me any trouble, instead, entertained me with his fantasy stories when he was comfortable enough to speak.

Feelings and desires can easily mislead us since they have nothing to do with wisdom or logic.Our emotions tug at us to give way to fantacies and longings that were not meant to be.I often wonder about the way people deal with their personal problems for which there are no actual solutions.Being depressed and angry at the world is one way.We can make others feel miserable too. To convert the problems to be reasons for happiness for others,is another way,but nearly impossible.

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”- Aristotle


  1. How do you come up with such apt images and sayings for your post! “The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” This is so true.

  2. nice...world is full of different models God has made!
    everyone is different and blessed!

  3. Reading through the "jig Jag" story, I cannot but agree with the quote of Aristotle.
    Who knows it the gentleman was living happily in self-delusion or was only a facade.
    I guess that your profession access you to very interesting samples.

  4. Felt sad to read about Marwan. Life had been cruel to him and denied him of common happiness that we take for granted. Was he not evolved enough to feel the pain or was he delusional? Either way, he was better off than wallowing in self pity. He made the best of what life had offered him.

  5. Interesting personality. Most of us get buried deep in self pity and languish. But this man modeled his fantasies around his inabilities and kept going with his life.

  6. well.. he has developed his own way to be happy, which is quite difficult for others.

  7. I guess he knows himself much better then others and has molded himself likewise ..
    Sad ot hear about what happened and how someone cheated him.. but the women she shud have told him about this...



  8. good post!!! Its true.. People who think too much will always end up unhappy!!

  9. Marwan was a very interesting person.Good to read about him.Jig jiga was :)))Sad to know about his heart problems.Doc ,what do you mean by he created stories out of fantasy?Was he bluffing all about his wives and other things?

  10. To you,the caterpillar is a stage in its evolution;
    But ask the caterpillar -
    It would,if it could, say - 'I am complete.
    I am fulfilled, I am content to be in my cocoon.
    If I turn to a butterfly tomorrow
    And drink honey and feast on flowers
    And if a lizard should grab me -
    why, that's tomorrow - today I am complete.

    Like God, if there is one, we look down upon the caterpillar and we sit on judgement,for we know that he was once an egg, now a caterpillar, then a pupa and then a butterfly and then one day his wings would fade and drop off and he would be fed on by ants...

    What is to the caterpillar? For all he knows and cares, he is happy...

    What does it matter to us if Marwan was happy or not? Maybe he was fantasizing - what is real and what is fantasy?

    You know what, DOc? I think your Marwan is a piece of fiction! :-) - and it is one of best allegorical stories that I have ever read!

    Doc, I could write and write about this!!!!

  11. Balan's comments provoked me to read the post again.
    Is Marwan a protagonist, a fiction?
    I think the pupal stage of the butterfly must be a content state for it. The caterpillar wriggling and crawling on the green must be content. The butterfly with a short, ephemeral life span must be content too. The honey bees yes.
    I guess all these creatures live the moment oblivious of their nemesis around the corner.But they live. And they do not delude do they?But we the Marwans...!

  12. Interesting character...he has made his best to be happy..
    Tasty appetite

  13. I thought I was reading one such a thousand of Arabian Tales..

    But intelligent people are made like that..there is no solution for their unhappiness..the only remedy is to suffer..and suffer..

    doc you have very great n interesting experiences..please share more like this..

  14. The more intelligent always find reasons to be unhappy..exactly the same thing my sis tells me and I have seen also many average people leading more satisfied life than those brilliant ones.

  15. marwan was indeed a great person to think of imaginary escapades to keep himself and others happy. Jig jigga indeed was the height of his imagination. Anyway i feel that we make a grave mistake when we burden others with our problems when we look for a shoulder to cry on. it really does not benefit anyone else.Kudos to Marwan.

  16. intelligent people look for reason to be happy,i dont think so, people who look for reason to be happy are could not be intelligent if they cannot find the countless reasons to be happy around them,
    in life each of us spend his whole life in various efforts which he thinks will be the reasons of his happiness,in his efforts he bear so many miserable situations created by his wisdom,so i will be happily join the fool ones who find finger of their feet to hair of head reason of happiness, they see breathing the biggest reason of happiness,i think such people are really blessed.
    god bless

  17. Thanks a lot for your lovely comment. During my college days I used to visit library but nowadays I do not get much time. You are a very good doctor as well as a good writer and must be always busy reading books and visiting library. Attendance is very good in this library though I do not visit frequently.

  18. A most interesting commentary. You have told the story beautifully and caused your readers to question and reflect. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  19. @Jyothi
    Thanks for the encouragement. You do it often better than me. I have often thought how you come up with your beautiful posts.
    Yes, indeed. That is the beauty of life. Imagine a world full of only clever people!
    I cant say he would be happy. But there was something different about his attitudes. Probably the level of his intelligence would have made it easy for him to take things at a different level.
    There is no justice in the world. Some people are lucky to enjoy all that the world has to offer. Others live in cocoons.
    I am sure he was aware of his limitations .He never wanted anyone to know about his problems. To the extent that he would even tear away pages from his case file, when he had access to it. He dealt with his problems in his own ways.
    Thanks for the visit.
    Welcome to the blog. He was not that idiotic, but was not normal as well. He knew his limitations and dealt with them in his own ways. Can’t say, if it was right or not. Others would have had problems from his attitudes, hard to say.
    That is not unusual here. Someone knew of his nature and took him for a ride. He was financially sound. The agent would have told the girl a different story!
    A simple life is happier. The very intelligent is very critical of life .
    His Dubai escapades were all cooked up stories. He had married thrice, but the women apparently had left him. He was funny, but can’t say was kind to the women in his life.
    It might appear so. But I knew him and he is no fiction. I had changed minor details, that’s all.
    How do we know at all about the lives of these living forms? But isn’t a caterpillar destined to become a butterfly, grow colorful wings and fly around flowers? Does the length of its life matter? Isn’t it true that it is how you live that is important than how long you live?
    What do we know of life? And do we know the way other living beings feel? Or ,do they have feelings at all? A journey and a destination in itself.
    He was cooking up stories!
    Thanks for the visit. The more intelligent always look at life in a critical way. He will aim very high and compare himself with others and that is the reason for all unhappiness.
    True. I think it is easier to live in fantasy world than in reality. You don’t face problems there.
    I meant different. There are more reasons for the intelligent to be unhappy. Their aims are difficult to attain, they aspire for perfection in life and also compare themselves with others. In life, the important thing is to be contented with what one has. Comparisons always lead to unhappiness.
    Looking at it another way, what you said could appear true. If one is really clever, he has to know how to take happiness all along the journey, and not look for it.
    You come up with interesting posts. The electronic media and internet are replacing conventional libraries. But I don’t get the pleasure of holding and reading a book, from any other forms of reading, like the e books.

  20. @Mary
    Thanks for the visit.Come as often as time permits.Yours is a wonderful blog !

  21. Anthony Sir, I certainly did not see that ending coming. Unbelievable, wasnt it from what Marwan used to say. He certainly is the type of person who believes in making the most of his life.

    Thank you for sharing it with us.


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