The Message of 'After 5 Years'

If you have not read the short story ‘After 5 Years’, please click on the link, read it (It takes only 2 minutes) and then come to this analysis.


While I thank the readers for coming up with many valid interpretations to that story, the message I wanted to convey was not simple. I am an expert in complicating simple things 🙂

Imagine this situation: You go to a restaurant, you have a buffet lunch. You have eaten to your stomach full and had desserts too… When you want to leave, the waiter comes with a lemon juice. You don’t want to miss it (as you have paid a good amount for the buffet) and somehow manage to drink it fully. Here, the act of drinking the lemon juice, which normally would have a positive feel about it, became negative (or at best neutral) because you have just eaten a lot of other tasty stuff.

Now imagine this situation: You have not taken you lunch (maybe because of the work), then you need to walk down for half an hour in hot sun to reach your favourite restaurant, and find out that you are late and they have closed the lunch section. There is nothing there in the surroundings to eat/drink. You are so tired and start thinking how tough it is going to be to walk to the next eat-out joint, which would take another half an hour of walking in the hot sun. Now the waiter comes and offers you a lemon juice, as you might be a regular customer for them. How happy would you feel! in this situation. You might even give him a nice tip for a very simple gesture!! (Even if he charges you for the lemon juice) as he is serving you something that is very much needed by you at that moment.

So, have you noticed how the same lemon juice has evoked such mixed reactions! Your mixed reaction is entirely based on your situation just prior to the incident (of receiving the lemon juice). So, in a sense, your happiness of enjoying the lemon juice depends on how much you are deprived of it.

In our story, in the first case, the person was just casually chatting (perhaps with a friend) and might have been young enough (though there is no such explicit mention in the story) not to be exposed to the hardships of life. So, the extra 20 rupees charged to him looks like big cheating to him. (Let us not get in to whether the charging of 20 rupees extra by the auto driver was right or wrong – it is clearly wrong and I am not supporting that, and the focus of the story was not that point).

But in the second case, the person is perhaps running a business and is introduced to the perils of making money in the big competitive world. When people are suddenly subjected to such situations (after having been pampered endlessly in their homes, etc), they tend to react in two ways: One set think that all the world cares is about bad things only and everyone in this world are bad and hence becoming bad like them is our only best defence or means to growth. Another set think that what a lot of people are doing is wrong and we should try and be different and set a positive example, inspite of the hassles involved. I am not getting in to which is better as both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Without deviating much from the story, in the second case the person is simply introduced to bigger perils of life and hence the overcharging of 20 rupees doesn’t look that big a sin to him any more (This, was suggested by the readers too). But the core message that I wanted to convey is : Nature gives us trouble to understand the value of goodness. Good and Bad just cannot exist individually. You need one to understand/realize the other. That is why the “They lived happily ever after” concept propagated by the movies/novels is totally false. If you are always happy, you would forget what happiness feels like and the happiness in itself would become a profound state of sadness.

The argument against this would be: “What if I have happiness always and I keep increasing the happiness at every stage of my life. Then, it would be a total bliss – right?” Think about it and you answer that question (to yourself).

Destination Infinity

“Cut your own wood and it will warm you twice” – Ancient Chinese proverb.

You could visit the ‘Concepts and Ideas’ section of this blog for reading more such articles.


  • An alien Earthling

    I'm the first! 🙂

    I am an expert in complicating simple things.

    I wholeheatedly agree! You ARE an expert indeed! ;-P

    Hmmm…. in the whole post, you have noticed part! But it is true nevertheless 🙂

  • Smitha

    That was amazing! Yes circumstances definitely make us respond differently to the similar incidents.. That was very insightful.

    Sometimes I think if we are a perfect victim of 'circumstances'!!


    Human reactions will always vary depending upon how much they been deprived of.It also depends upon the place and the company one is in.

    The place and the company is a part of the circumstances… and the circumstances do control how we react and feel

  • Ashwathy

    i read ur last post but cudnt find time to comment on it. just read the explanation now…

    and i agree with u…
    as they say: the darkest hour of the night is just before dawn 🙂
    the bad times happen so that u appreciate the good times more….

    what is important is to not lose faith during the bad times … too many ppl do…

    Yeah, that is an important point – Losing faith/poise in the bad times. I think people should learn from the bad times, but it takes a long time for one to accept that they are in bad times and starting to learn out of it! But in a sense, there is perfect justice in all that, I feel

  • Indian Homemaker

    I agree, many things will be behind why we react with joy or indifference to that glass of lemon. Deprivation can make us appreciate more… and also some of us are by nature generous, sharing whatever little we have… Some won't part with a penny, even if they have plenty… No?

    That's something that I have always wondered. When we have very little money, we sometimes share it with others. But when we start getting a lot of money, we dont want to give even few rupees. strange, this behaviour

  • Vimmuuu

    and I thought I understood the inner message in that post !!! Its NOW that im confused 😉

    I think the second lemon juice story was more appropriate… don't bother, i am myself confused

  • Ambi

    I will probably complicate this further, I guess.

    Is there something called 'Darkness'?


    Absence of light is darkness.

    So, absence of goodness is 'badness' (if there is such a word).

    “What if I have happiness always and I keep increasing the happiness at every stage of my life. Then, it would be a total bliss – right?”

    My teacher was giving a lecture on how happiness and the lack of it are like seasons… coming and going.

    A lady, with her husband sitting nearby, didn't agree.

    Lady: *forcefully* I was happy, am happy and will be happy hereafter'.
    Teacher: Are you sure?
    Lady: Yes! How dare you question me? I will be happy, always!
    Teacher: Are you very sure?
    Lady: *angry* YES!
    Teacher: Will you be happy if your husband dies?
    Lady: *open mouthed, fumbling for a response, quietly sits down*

    🙂 I like that seasonal idea of happiness and sadness coming and going… fits in my picture!

  • Rakesh Vanamali

    Very powerful message here! Completely agree with your view that "Nature gives us trouble to understand the value of goodness."

    How else can we evolve mentally and spiritually?

    Most importantly, it is the lessons that we learn that will take us forward in time to be better people and eventually able to attain a higher level of consciousness, which I firmly believe in!

    I think the troubles create two types of people – one who believes in goodness excessively, and the other who believes in badness (lack of goodness) excessively. People struggle their whole lives proving to the other group that they are correct but at the end both of them are right – that's the irony of life!

  • Reema

    oh yes I believe in this concept..without any hardships we cant enjoy happiness.

    Yeah, in a basic level that's what I was saying. Even though we know it, sometimes we are not able to accept certain things when it happens to us. Practical life is always more difficult than theoretical life!

  • oorja

    i don't believe it but i have to agree with Vimmuuu here…

    i am more confused now….

    i totally agree to what message u have given but i don't understand how u connected it here…

    what was the goodness here..? his troubles in business were bad enough and now he had to part with 20 more Rs…

    ok it didn't seem like a big amount to him (as per the story)… but what if we look at it as the 'last straw' that it could have been (if he was the negative kind of person as u have suggested above)… then…? would it still have been a good thing….

    Actually, the connecting part even I am confused! But the message was more important, and the lemon juice story here seems to connect more with the message, than the previous story!

  • oorja

    u r talkin about goodness in general that we must understand and value inspite of all the bad things that happen to us… 🙂

    Actually, there was something else also that I wanted to say: How easy it is for some people to become happy, than others. And also how even after a huge loss, life still goes on for some people unlike others who are not able to come to terms with it

  • vishesh unni raghuna

    hmm..well if the guy is big Business fellow, than he would be going in a car 😛 And since this would be a one of case, he is not going to mind paying the extra money. In the first case for all you know, the person might be taking an auto everyday, so for him it means he is spending above the value he got in his mind.

    I wouldn't drink that lemon juice in the buffet case. Of course we paid for it, but then I paid for it all inclusive and it is still cheaper than ordering all those individuals, so mentally I would have been satisfied. In the second case if someone was to offer me a drink, what you say is true. I might actually tip him 🙂

    Anyway I got your point. Then again we are not going to be more liberal unless it is a sort of one time thing. And as for having faced hardships and the stereotypes, they agree. But then we can use the same logic than, for bribing people, like say in the Income Tax department?

    There comes a question of whether you are spoiling the person by paying them more. You can be liberal to a certain extent but then the person should not get used to getting money easily as well. There should be some basis of Quantum Merit , if not in terms of work performed maybe in terms of other factors, like loyalty, ethics etc.

    Bribing or not bribing, losing some money or not losing it – all these are very small factors in life. Your assumption here is that after taking a bribe(or lots of it), the official is very happy or happier than the ppl who don't take bribes. I am not sure if I would come to such a conclusion

  • Preeti

    Hi DI… i m a first timer in ur blog…
    I always feel people who can sing and write, are the blessed ones…as both can express (personal view ;)…So u r also the one friend…

    U make a reader think…the above story and its continuation was cool !!..Especially the lemon and story helped u a lot in correlating things and THINK… Good One friend.. Cheers
    Preeti 🙂

    I like comments like this 🙂 Actually I tried singing also, but no one is hearing! I think the lemon story was more closer to the message i wanted to convey, then the previous story… should have worked on the correlation, but never thought I might have to put up an explanation!