At Life’s Discretion

Erich Segal’s The Class has been a delightful read for me, and I expressly penned down the awe for this writer in one of my recent articles. However, what inspired me to write today was an indelible mark that a certain character of this particular novel left on me.

In his introduction, Gyuri Kolozsdi questions why he is always flagellated by his father. Perhaps, that was his destiny – being lashed by the whip of circumstances.

At that point in life, Gyuri was, like most, a teenager who found it difficult to strike a balance between his dreams and his father’s demands. Perhaps, this is the paradox of youth. When one wants to fly high in sky, he is expected to be grounded to the earth. Few, skillfully manage to bring that balance and few are branded ‘rebels’ for obvious reasons; whereas for others destiny, comes to their rescue. So was the case with Gyuri.

Hungary was attacked by the Soviets. Gyuri and Aniko, his girlfriend, reach the border to break away from the soviets. While crossing the border they run for their lives from the gunmen firing rounds of bullets at them. But nothing comes without a price. Gyuri’s savior – destiny – had negotiated his freedom from his father with the absence of his love of life –Aniko. She was gone; leaving Gyuri feel guilty somewhere deep down in his heart, for killing the girl who had loved him so much. However, Gyuri was not guilty for being alive and that’s what kept him going.

On the other side of the border, Gyuri Kolozsdi becomes George Keller. His ambitions and luck both help him get a scholarship seat at Harvard University, a dream destination for many scholars.

Nothing in life is to be taken for granted. George seemed to have comprehended that. For the favors life did to him, he was determined to do justice to those. To keep up in the race of merits, he mastered English within a short span even though he was an absolute stranger to English language and gradually commanded over his subject completely. Life invested more on him and George became a Government official. Also came his way a chance to correct things that had gone wrong in the past. George reconciled with his father. In fact, his father reconciled with him. The same father who always criticized his son was now proud of him. Perhaps, this is what professional success brings home! Who cares if one is Gyuri or George, one is wanted if one is in the Government with one’s pictures on the newspapers every now and then.

Like always life played her game. This time George got a father but lost the forgiveness of his sister and the supposedly dead Aniko. Nevertheless, George moved on. He left behind the people from his past.

Eventually, he became the special advisor of the President. As usual, George has to negotiate yet again. This time it was morality being exchanged for might. George had everything – the White House, work and a stunning wife. However, there was no peace. Maybe he was at peace but time and again people pointed out that what he considered peace was hazardous to others.

Gradually, as life unfolded, George is criticized by people and also by his conscience for achieving things he did, for being what he was. One can ignore the outside world but one’s own conscious cannot be dispelled. Helpless, George Keller has to find his refuge in a new world altogether. The author aptly dedicated these words in his introduction:

Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret must be known
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad
Word I was in my life alone
Word I had no one left but God

George Keller’s life was happy, sad, painful, victorious but never dull. His life is a metaphor of those who might rule their inner world but whose outer world is at life’s discretion.

Suhani Dewra
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