By Soumya Singh
Looking at the mail….I wondered, what could I write for ‘Chance’?
I shut down my laptop, turned the lights off and jumped into my bed, feeling snug in my blanket. After a long, hectic day, I felt at peace. As I closed my eyes, a deluge of thoughts flooded my mind all of a sudden.
I began to remember the time two years back, when I was busy preparing for my engineering entrance examinations back in India. I finally found the answer to this question as my fuddled thoughts gradually began to take shape.
The last two years of my life were dreadful – yes, dreadful! Not just me, millions of students vying for a handful of seats. I never understood the Indian obsession with engineering (and perhaps, never will!) but I myself was part of the insane rat race.
Competition exists everywhere, and I do agree that a healthy rivalry is important. But I was running a mad race – a race for marks – a desire to score more and more – by hook or by crook!
My classmates (we were once friends) and I toiled relentlessly – and we all had our eyes on just one thing – to get into one of those prestigious engineering colleges, which every single engineering aspirant dreamt of, day in and day out.
Further back, our first step in senior secondary school had started with some apprehensions and lots of excitement that we had grown up. My friends and I, who had been together since kindergarten were now just two years away from stepping into the real world!
And as we had done up till now, we promised to stay together and help each other – come what may!
How I wish we knew at that time that promises are meant to be broken. Our ‘passion to help each other’ faded away; being ahead of everyone gradually took over as priority. We had to be at the top – not just in school but in every single entrance exam. We dreaded to even think of what would happen if we did not qualify the engineering exam – we will not get into a good college, a not-so-good college meant a not-so-good value of your degree, a not-so-good degree meant a not-so-good job and a not-so-good job meant no father would give you his daughter’s hand…
The pressure was high, but things took an ugly turn when we had reached the threshold of our efforts and the only way we could now see to reach the top was to pull others down.
And very blatantly, none of us hesitated to trample upon one another – from destroying others’ notes to disturbing them during study hours, we did everything possible to drag others to the bottom and push ourselves to the top.
Extracurricular activities were now a waste of time for us. We had no time to play football, write poems or do anything, except Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
And this went on for two years….the best of friends, who had been together through thick and thin for a whopping ten years were now mere competitors. And nowhere in between did we realise what we were actually gaining, whether it was what we wanted. And neither did we realise all that we had lost.
The results came out, I was finally at peace. Not only did I qualify for the entrance exam in India, I also got into 5 universities in the UK, for my favourite subject.
I had nothing to do now…and plenty of time to pursue my hobbies. I grabbed my paintbrush, pencils and my drawing notebook, that lay covered with dust amongst odds and ends, and started to draw. As I reached the end of my drawing, it looked good – but not as good as I had expected. Evidently, it lacked the perfection that my sketches once possessed. After multiple attempts, I did manage to get the perfect lines and curves, but somewhere deep down, it irked me. Rather I should say, hurt my ego, for I was unable to do something I did so easily as a kid.
Something similar happened with my writing skills – my stories were no longer emotive nor rhetoric, but they once appealed to my classmates and schoolteachers. I was disappointed, but I convinced myself that it was perhaps a result of cutting-off from my extra-curricular activities for a long while.
Weeks passed by…I was preparing for my arrival in the UK. I was busy packing my things when I came across an old class photograph. I smiled at the younger versions of my friends and I and it suddenly clicked in my mind that I had absolutely no clue where and how they are. None of them in the last two months bothered to find out my whereabouts, and neither did I think of them, not even once. I must admit, a part of me died as I looked back – not only had I lost some of my skills, but also some of the people whom I valued a lot.
Till today, those memories continue to haunt me. I achieved what I wanted, but I had no one to celebrate my success with. I had clicked hundreds of photographs posing with A-listers at Madam Tussaud’s, I had enjoyed a boat cruise on the Thames, but I had no one to flaunt all these to. Somewhere between playing hide-and-seek together and solving complex mathematical problems, we all lost our innocence.
We like each other’s posts on Facebook and occasionally exchange hellos, good mornings and Happy Birthdays. Yet somewhere deep down, I feel disgusted and I wonder if it was really necessary to bring in those bitter feelings then. We could have achieved the same success, without envy and selfishness. It often reminds me of a poem:
Friendship is like a diamond, so beautiful and rare;
If broken, can be mended, but the crack still remains there.
Well, life did give me a chance to mend my writing and drawing skills, to learn from my mistake and make new relationships as I meet people from all around the world. However, I wonder if I will ever get a chance to experience the same relationships I had with those friends, and relive those moments again.
Photograph: Shreyas Murali