Lessons for life…. from books

It was sometime in 1986 or so when I obtained my first unabridged and comprehensive edition of Alexandre Dumas père’s Les Trois Mousquetaires …. I mean The Three Musketeers, after years of depending on comics or abridged versions. These faithfully recounted the action but skipped all the other parts – especially the rather cerebral passages – which make the book a classic. As I write this, I remember one particular version which ends at a grim moment near the climax, and even at that tender age, I used to wonder where I would know what happend next…. but then that version was acquired….. I still have it and it is among my most prized possessions as one of the first books I remember buying for myself. At that time, I recall it cost Rs.20 – a princely sum which used to be roughly my monthly allowance……

However, let me return to the topic – the book itself, which set in the early 17th century, is a rollicking and (as I observed in some parts, quite grim and morbid…. not out of the norm for those treacherous and violent times) and bittersweet account of the adventures of a young man named d’Artagnan after he leaves home to become a guard of the musketeers. D’Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those are Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, inseparable friends who live by the motto “all for one, one for all” (“tous pour un, un pour tous”).

This was one of the first lessons I learnt from the book…. even though when you as the one is all for the all, but most of the all or even all the all may not be for you.

However, there were two or three other things I learnt….. and co-incidentally two of them were from the same chapter. (No 48, titled A Family Affair).

Before I go on to them, I must tell you that when I first read the book, my favourite character was Aramis and later this place was taken over by the aristocratic and mournful Athos, who still retains this position. For some reason, I did not like much Porthos as I never could identify with his qualities…. (and a quarter of century or more, I have never had reason to change my opinion).

However, I return to the points I mentioned….. All are around Athos. Lets start with the two in a single chapter.

The first is when it is said about him that he  ~~was an optimist when things were concerned, and a pessimist when men were in question. Down all these years, this had always lingered on in my memory and more so, these last two years or so, when my faith in my fellow humans was sorely challenged and tested. However, the second is more enduring and it is when Athos remarks – as the four are framing a rather delicate communication and d’Artagnan offers a suggestion, which is somewhat indelicate, and this is immediately cut down by Athos, who remarks: “A benefit reproached is an offense committed.” 

“A benefit reproached is an offense committed”….. This has been a fundamental article of faith for me all these years, even when I struggled in myself to keep true to it. It is hard and the first thing that suggests itself to you – when faced by an act of betrayal or something else unexpected from someone you consider close is too list what you did. However, when they forget it themselves, it would probably imply the lack of value they deem it and reminding them would serve no purpose…….

However, there is one good way…. but before that, let me finish with Dumas’s famous work.

To be continued….


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