Nevertheless, I put my specs on and peered into the screen my eyes still adjusting to the light. I honestly wonder why people frown at the very prospect of catching a wink or two during day. I personally sleep for 6 hours straight most afternoons. And when someone asks, “Don’t your afternoon naps disturb a good night’s sleep?” I coolly reply with the same tempo – “No, rather a good night’s sleep interferes with my afternoon naps…”
“Dude… I just got Uncled…!”
And I was like, What? I rubbed my eyes to make sure what I saw was right. Uncled? What does that mean? Like I said I was in no mood for a lengthy conversation so I just sent a ‘?’ Hey, I’m not lazy. I just like to think of myself as… highly motivated to do nothing!
No such luck though, he texted me almost instantly. “You once said that you’ll know exactly what to do with your life until your parents call up a mighty relative to ‘counsel’ you and he totally messes it up! Remember?”
“Yeah…” Now I was very interested. It’s easy to tell big things to your peers and act as if you have everything you want to do scheduled perfectly. But you’ll always dread the day when your ‘schedule’ gets seriously messed up.
“Well, I wanted to do journalism but guess what? Maybe, just maybe I’ll get to do that after my engineering. Aint I the lucky one? :/ :P”
“I’m still sticking with B.Sc.” I said unsure of what would come next. After a moment’s thought I added “Waiting to get Uncled.”
An emoticon popped up on screen but I didn’t bother to see it. I was busy thinking about something else.
Why did I say that? Was it to put him at ease – wanting him to know he wasn’t alone in this world? Was it because I saw a possibility in the near future that I would join him? The elite assemblage of high school graduates who held their passion in something but were herded into engineering… Or was it because I wanted to prepare myself for the inevitable? None of it mattered because I knew it was coming and it was coming fast!
Now, I haven’t always been a science enthusiast. I like to say enthusiast because ‘geek’ is not the perfect word for it. Or ‘nerd’ or ‘drip’ for that matter. There was a time I wanted to be a writer, a sailor, a soldier… hell, at one point I wanted to be a bus driver. Because, you know it seemed cool at the time – driving people around, and getting bus rides for free!
But seriously, when I passed my Xth and had probably somewhere in a 90th percentile I got into what was easily one of the best high schools in the state and I was pretty happy. Many of my friends were there and everything was fine. But I hadn’t the least idea what I was going to do next. I mean, who did? We were all enjoying our newly found freedom! New school. New (read as no) rules!
Okay, so let me bring you up to speed… Up until last year B.Sc never crossed my mind. Not once! I didn’t know what it was anyway and I didn’t care. Then, popular opinion was my opinion and I essentially thought it was a stream for losers and weaklings. Guys who screwed up CET and JEE, not having any other thing to do go for the basic Sciences, I was made to believe.
People change. Times change. Change for me came in guise of a call… From our Principal. I was given an opportunity to take part in INSPIRE, a government funded science program to ‘inspire’ students (as the name suggests) and show them a path in the basic sciences and research.
I wasn’t particularly interested in it but I chose to go anyway because I was truly fed up of the boring vacation sessions in my coaching centre. 3 months of 8 hour sessions with a half hour break in a stuffy closed room filled with 80 students is enough to drive anyone insane. And I? I was 5 days away from jumping into the loony bin, trust me.
I mean why call it vacation if you’re just going to fit some special classes in there, huh?
Maybe I’m laying it on thick but it’s worth every unnecessary adjective because honestly, in a word – the time there was magical. I was motivated after a long, long time. Maybe even for the first time ever. The last I remembered being this excited was during the weekly Shaktimaan show. And I used to have Parle-G and milk every day, hoping one day I would be able to fly like him. Nothing happened though.
I was told about what research was. How it’s done and the sea of opportunities that lay before me should I choose the stream... 1 day. 2 days. 3 days. A week before it was finally over.
I came home with an idea planted in my head. An idea that never hit me before. Sure I wanted to do a lot of things. But what THING wanted ME to do IT? Umm… Poor choice of words, but you get the drift! What was my soulmate of sorts?
I did not tell this to anyone of course, especially not to my parents who probably had seen me in a brilliant white lab coat; brighter than the ones in the Tide ads; with a fancy M.D to flaunt with it. Or in a corporate suit yelling orders to my employees long before I was even born…
One day I asked one of my lecturers what he thought of the research field. “Beta research sirf woh logon ke liye hote hai jo financially sound hote hai.”
And BAM! Reality Check!
Months passed but I was least interested in CET, AIPMT or JEE… Read something about this, that and whatnot here and there...
Then what? I managed the boards somehow. Didn’t give much thought to the All India Entrance Tests. As if I stood a chance! The only wall left to scale; war left to fight; fort left to conquer – CET.
And so I sat there on the fine morning of May 12th ready to screw up – One last time. Had only Furious 7 in mind so let’s do it!
The Battle of CET was a disaster. I probably felt what Napoleon felt at Waterloo only I wasn’t going to be exiled to Elba. I was going to be sent to some place worse!
I knew there was no chance of me getting a merit seat in a good Med school. Engineering? Compared to engineering, Elba was probably paradise!
Let’s fast forward a few more weeks. The results out. Most people scrounging through brochures, yearbooks, flyers and whatnot in hope of finding the ‘perfect’ college after the chances of getting into their dream colleges got crushed like a lizard under a road roller.
I began to hint to my folks about my interest in the Basic Sciences. I don’t think they took it seriously though. The kid’s unsettled and apprehensive of his marks – they probably thought.
Soon, I mustered up enough courage to tell it to them man-o man. I couldn’t look up not wanting to face the slideshow of expressions that I had coming.
“This is when things get real...,” I said to myself. I looked up slowly half expecting an understanding smile that said – Do what your heart desires.
But I glanced up to see tensed expressions that seemed to bore holes right through my eyes and reach into the nadir of my mind screaming SHAME as they did.
I could see the disappointment writ on their faces. Let’s give them some credit - They tried their best to convince me to take some other stream of study. But just as hard as it is to get me interested in something; it’s harder to pull me away from it.
And then began the ritual of ‘Emotional Atyachaar’
It was a daily farce. A stale routine.
Calls from ‘genuinely concerned’ neighbours and relatives. (who never called me on my birthday)
The wide opportunity in engineering.
The fame, name and rain of money it brings with it.
The prospect of a well settled life – a beautiful house, a car, a wife and kids. A perfect future.
But every time I tried to see something of value, something worth going for, a higher calling, I failed miserably.
Just another hot, wet day in June . I was trying to get something done in these horribly long vacations of mine. Last year I’d spent my 3 months complaining about classes and this time, I’m complaining about no classes! There’s just no pleasing me!
My mother was home doing her chores and I, as always was super hungry. It was around 1:45 and there was nothing to hint that this day would be different. But the screeching of a gazillion tires at once told my sixth sense, something was up!
Footsteps. I got up only to see a throng of my relatives most of whom I didn’t even know existed! Almost all of them had at least one child working in this-that company in this-that country.
We weren’t expecting guests as far as I knew but one look at my mother made me go “Oh Shi…”
It was a goddamn conspiracy. And I was the guinea pig!
I was made to sit somewhere in the centre of the room with my parents in front and my relatives around me like beasts of prey surrounding… well, prey. 2 hours of advice. Guidance, Counsel. Call it what you want. 2 hours of hell!
How my life would fall to bits and my memory fade to oblivion… How my very existence would be nullified if I continued on my chosen path. Big words for someone who runs a pawn shop…
I was bombarded with question after question about what I planned to do with my B.Sc degree. The answers I wanted to give were blocked by the bullets notched deep in the holes. The ones I managed to give were easily sidelined by the more impressive artillery they had in their arsenal.
None of what I said seemed to make any sense to the barbarians.
Death does not wait for you to be ready. I was lost. And defeated. No glimmering ray of hope; no shaft of sunlight; no light in the darkest abyss I was thrown into. I felt the Pandora’s jar growing warmer in my hands, the spirit of hope fluttering weakly. Desperate for its release. “Give up hope,” it seemed to say.
I was empty. Literally empty.
I decided to go for it. Open the jar and let hope out. To find some moments of respite from my predators.
I’d liked it if it had gone my way… I’d liked to have said, “They tried to crack me open and have my guts for garters... But I was concrete and they finally gave in!” But this was no Bollywood teen film. This was hardcore reality and if not today they’d find another day to break me! Probably why the post-boards vacations are so long…!
I told them in a feeble voice so forlorn and broken that it could scarcely be heard by anyone save the ones who’d forced me to it. Part of me told that they could only hear it because that was what they wanted to hear!
“I could go for… civil engineering…”
The memory is etched deep. Like the dark tattoo ink on unscarred skin. The relaxed visage my parents showed. The satisfied smug smiles the others bore. I could almost hear the maniacal laughter of the Moirai having broken yet another young kid’s dreams…
I took my phone in my hands and decided to spread the light. Before I pressed send, I gave a thought to how I came to be part of this ploy. I smiled, finally seeing the truth. Life is one BIG CONSPIRACY. And everyone’s a part of it!
“Dude…, I just got Uncled…!”
Deekshith MC with
The Ghost Writer