For a moment let me take myself back to school. “Attention” screamed the Assembly leader, a skinny teenager in the 10th standard. Hands by my side, I brought my right leg down with a thud! My stomach rumbled and I could “Taste the thunder”. And then moments later, the three words that I loved to hear ….. then. “Stand-at-ease”.
But I could not. Mum had fed me an extra dose of veggies and it was easier for me to stand at attention!
It was perhaps then that the realization dawned on me that, life is a competition that does not allow you to stand at ease...the pressure is intense bro..
The pressure; it can blow your prestige to smithereens without as much as a whistle! And this not so isolated perception only strengthened with time…
I was never at ease at school - there was always pressure. It was a difficult time - but it was also a good time. It’s only as I near my grave that I’ve realised that good times make you complacent, but difficult times help you compete and make you the “complete man”. And it’s used in a gender neutral way!
The pressure started with waking up; my dad would never allow me to wake up late - He would come to my room at the dot of six and bang on the cot, and when I got used to it he would slap me under my feet! And I would be up and about. Later on in life, after he watched my wife do the same, he asked my forgiveness… this I say in lighter vein, obviously, lest she be reading this. Once I was up, my first task (allotted task I must say) is to first make make my bed neat and tidy – so impossible when you are little, but practice, whether you have the talent and gumption for it or not, does make you perfect. Check out my bed today!
Then it was breakfast time - My mom would make on some days breakfast which I didn’t like (on other days she would make stuff I loved, have to give her that!) - Some stuff with Rava and veggies built into it; I didn’t find it palatable (I was worried if I could stand at ease in School) and would push my plate away half way. Then would come the clincher - She would angrily say people in Africa are starving - as though I cared. Recently though I had been to Africa, and found they had bigger paunches than me and the experience taught me to never tell lies to my children just to get them to eat.
Then it was off to school - the packed school bus, and later the city bus - It is here I learnt the meaning of the term hanging out! The competition – even to hang out – both literally and figuratively had just getting harder.
And at school - the PT Class - I was no athlete, though I played most games before I even read the book games people play... The competition was intense, and the winner take all attitude in my friends upset me so much, that I stopped playing altogether.
I was no rat – I never ratted on my friends, ever; But I was always in a rat race for marks - I was good in “studies”, make no mistake about it, but there were those who were better, and my parents never let me forget that - they didn’t care how many marks I scored. They wanted to know how many marks Mark got....
When I passed out of school with a bare first class, I thought the competition phase was winding down, but to my misfortune (as I perceived it then) it was just beginning to intensify.
We all know that the pressures that the plus two education system has on us... It weighs two tons! I was not engineering material, nor was I medical material, and in fact I did not know what material I was - I guess a polyester blend - but I had to compete so as not to disappoint my parents – they had like Charles Dickens said, had great expectations when they were expecting me!
I did not compete in the end and let things drift, like those drifters in western movies, finishing my MSW from Roshni and then starting my career at ITI in Bangalore. There the competition just got worse - I had to compete with my own batch mates for a promotion! And as you know by now how good I am at it. I’d rather not go into the gory details of my career, because, it is all available on Linked in, suffice to say, I competed and lost regularly. But the losses, or failures as B- blood group may call them, only served one purpose – to teach humility and acceptance. But there was no escape from competition save one - It’s when I got married - I did have to compete with anyone else for her hand or her love, and I made sure that she too didn’t have to compete. Didn’t I owe her that?
All these regressive thoughts were swirling in my mind as I woke up at the dot of six this morning and walked into the kitchen for my morning routine of lime juice. Apple and Limes - My wife brings them both - she eats the apples and I drink the lime juice - They lie in the same fruit basket but don’t compete with each other for our attention - they compete against themselves to serve their purpose. They have realised their intrinsic value and rest peacefully in the basket, until the human hand slices them up. But the cut does not hurt, for it’s what they aspire for as they lie there side by side.
Those fruits, the shiny and the limy ones taught me a grave lesson – one that I will carry to my grave. That there is no need for me to compete anymore? No. I must compete, it prevents complacency. But I must compete only against myself – get better at what I do. I’ve begun to believe that that’s all I need to do to win!
Its ok if I don’t win against others in a competition or in the rat race, that we animals of various hues participate in day in and day out, or if the subtle humour in this piece bypassed you on the way to its grave (its not far away I guess) I must believe that I've bettered myself with this article. I must compete to win... but against myself.
But if I must compete against myself, I must get out of my comfort zone, I must be different, I must work hard, I must take small steps not giant leaps and above all I must never fail to compete - That’s why I wrote this article, it’s for me. Not for you. But please do take a leaf out of my book – If you want, tear off all the pages, but compete always…against yourself… soon you may be called the “compete man”. I’m sorry, did I get the spelling wrong?
Good luck folks
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