Friends!I hope I can address you all as friends?…You see, I am a bit apprehensive in doing so because I have realised the hard way that in principle , people do avoid being friends with a loser (as advocated in TV and newspaper ads) and… Well (let me just say it) I… am a Loser! Well, that’s what people say on the sly about me and also which, even I am convinced of…
Loser- a word which has attained a cult status as an abuse. But why? I mean why use it as a derogatory word? I still can’t fathom why the girl in the TV ad calls her two timing boy friend a ‘loser’ who till then had been in a win-win situation. She could have called him a Dog, an Idiot, but loser? What has losing got anything to do with that guy? Well, I guess I am rambling and making little sense. My apologies, but I do get touchy when I hear that word…So, where was I?
Yes… A loser! That’s what I am and always have been since I can remember. I don’t remember winning any lottery, games, contests…Wait, Did I say contests? Oh yes! I did win a contest once – The third prize in a literary contest. Ah! I can hear a smart retort, saying – there must have been only three contestants, but no, there weren’t three contestants, rather I was the only contestant. Unbelievably funny, isn’t it? But it’s true. My entry was supposedly an inferior one; hence they decided to award me the third prize instead, as awarding the first or the second would have been a gross injustice! What a shame! The win too was a lose for me. Sigh! And that’s what my life has been! – A shame.
So why am I saying all this? I was not sure about doing this, but lying on the hospital bed (yes, I am recuperating in a hospital bed. I had a mild angina attack few days back but nothing serious they had said), doing nothing, one tends to get retrospective and analytical and watching all the “loser” words flying around on the TV ,made me think some more. Yes, you heard right, the TV. I told you it wasn’t a serious one and am not in the ICU. In all probability I might be discharged tomorrow and there I go again rambling. I wish I could be diverted from my focus so easily in real life too… Maybe I would not find the need to write this today then…I still wouldn’t be writing this, but for what my teenage son said to me today, when in an emotional moment, I broke down and wept bitterly about being a loser. He had at that moment said defiantly (as is normal in a teenager), “Yeah! I know you are a loser. So? Big deal!” And that shut me up, but opened up my mind and got me thinking- Yes! Big deal. Really! Is it not? Big Deal!
But oh no! This isn’t about ‘damning’ winning or about promoting losing. This is not about glorifying losing or about an excuse for laziness. I am not proud to be a loser, but neither am I ashamed of it. I have risen above the fear of losing. The adrenaline rush for a win doesn’t bother me anymore and for the first time in my life I feel a peace and calmness. I think I am at that state of my mind now, where I don’t care anymore about winning and losing and …shouldn’t it be that way?
I can sense many of you nodding your head in assent and murmuring that it’s all about giving your best shot and not winning, (but hang on, I have some reservations about that too.) while some of you are maybe feeling outraged at this preposterous anti progressive statement. “Not caring about a win” is a bit vague a statement and I guess I won’t be clear about what I want to say without some examples (not for nothing was my entry considered inferior). So let me narrate my life story ,for nothing can be a better example than that, for whatever I want to say.
Life becomes a bit tough when you are marked by fate to mess things up and it doesn’t help if you have a super achiever as your brother. My brother was a math whiz, a topper, teacher’s pet and… and… He just didn’t go wrong anywhere. While I started out as an average student, weak in maths and no where near to being any body’s pet let alone a teacher. But I wanted to be like him and like an obsessed person, I studied, practiced, did everything in my power to come up tops. In fact I took it as a challenge…Hah! Challenges! They say that life throws challenges at you and you should do your best to overcome them. Now that is a very stupid statement. Life does not throw challenges at you, Life just goes on. It is your choice to accept everything as challenges and be on a never ending self declared war with life. That was my first mistake I suppose. I took my situation as a challenge and fed with inspiring stuff like- “If you do not succeed once, try try again” and add to it, my father’s slighting remarks; I kept trying to be a topper and master maths. By the tenth standard I had come fifth in my class and scored a neat 80 percent in maths. I was happy with my achievement and I became the perfect example of the saying “perseverance pays” though it was not exactly a remarkable achievement and not at all anywhere near -coming tops. My brother had got into IIT (no surprise there) and so I took up the next challenge of following his footsteps (not IIT, I might be a loser, but I was no fool) and joining an engineering course. After three years of slogging hard, coaching classes and studying maniacally, I scraped through an entrance test and got admission in an engineering college 2000 kms away from home in a stream that hardly had takers, but yes I had to prove myself , didn’t I, and that I did. Finally I too was on my way to becoming an engineer.
I often wonder why we are so full of self doubt that we need to keep on proving ourselves to the world. I mean, no body- civic or governing, had demanded for a proof but I still took it upon myself to prove to the world that I had it in me to be successful.
Though a few days of classes brought me back to reality. The initial high of joining college disappeared and for the first time I felt like a loser. I hated engineering and I realized that I was in the wrong stream. All the while, I was so obsessed with winning and proving that somewhere along the line, I had lost myself and I just didn’t know what I actually wanted. I just knew that this was not what I wanted. But I couldn’t quit just like that, could I? Didn’t they say, – A winner never quits and a quitter never wins? So I just gritted my teeth and went on with what I had. I could have salvaged my life even then, by crossing over somewhere else, but I wasn’t sure where and secondly- didn’t I have to prove that I had it in me? So I went on. Life went on… Somehow I managed to go on…
In my third year I met Niharika, a vivacious lovely lady and I fell in love with her. We were already good friends and with great hopes, I proposed to her one day, but as fate could have it, I hit a negative even there. She just shook her head slowly and replied, “It’s impossible. I don’t feel that way for you and please don’t pursue this matter any more” Now who was that had said- “Impossible is a word found in a fool’s dictionary” Was it Napoleon? Maybe there hadn’t been toothpaste back then or else I am sure he wouldn’t have said so. Impossible very much exists in every body’s dictionary, after all humans are not limitless, For some, it exists in the first few pages of the dictionary while for others it might exist as footnotes, but it does exist.
This, I realize now, but back then Napoleon was my idol and I tried desperately to be ‘her types’. It’s another matter that I almost made a fool of myself in the process… Shonali my confidante and best friend stood by me like a rock, even when the whole world was laughing at me and what I was doing. She had tried to dissuade me from what I was doing and make me see sense, a couple of times, but it was a hopeless scenario and after a period of time she gave up and just let me be. Niharika migrated to the States and left my life forever. Shonali got married. On her wedding day,seeing her as a beautiful bride , blushing prettily, I realized with a pang what I had missed- what I had let go in my obsession to achieve the impossible. All along I had Shonali and I had let her go just like that… My ego took a grand beating, my heart was all shaken up and my confidence level had gone down to a good 60 percent from a 100 percent. A loser again!
I married as per my parent’s choice. Saanchi – a good person, but belonging to the same school of thought as my family- of winning and achieving. But anyhow that bitter sweet chapter of my life was finally over… And it was time to move on to the next challenge of my life- to provide happiness of all forms to my family. I got a somewhat decent job in a set up which was filled with indecent people indulging in lots of office politics. My brother’s progress in life was phenomenal and compared to him I was a poor shadow. Becoming the head of my unit was the only possible way to salvage some of the lost glory and I started working diligently on it. I was the hardest working of the lot, but I lacked in ideas. I simply did not have it in me to understand office policies and what was indeed wanted from me. In fact I confess now, that I would have made a hopeless leader as I simply wouldn’t know what to do next. My projects were never approved, promotions got delayed, but I kept at it. Many suggested job change, but no! I had to prove to these idiots that I had it in me to become a leader, an achiever, in the process maybe becoming the biggest idiot myself. And then the last week, the coveted position, for which I had been slogging for, since the last ten years, went to someone else .It was a big blow to me. I was spared the humiliation of attending office by this God send Angina attack, but for how long? Soon I have to make a decision… on whether to fight back and attempt again or quit and reconcile with the situation, or quit and start some place different, where I can do better, but where? Yes, you are right in inferring that I never had talent for this stuff, but I was so busy in pursuing with perseverance and hard work, that I never could discover where my talent could be. Recognizing your talent is a tricky affair. It is preordained before birth what you might be good at, but only the lucky few realize it early. Why luck, you may say. Let me explain why.
Consider this scenario- a boy from Himalayas has little chance of realizing his talent, if he has a latent talent for scuba diving. Or how about a boy from Afghanistan who has a gift for western classical ballet- how much chances do you think are of discovering that talent? Less than the former. So you see, success ,talent, perseverance, opportunities, circumstances are all intertwined by fate or luck or chance and only a few lucky ones can be Sachin Tendulkar or Sharukh Khan with the perfect combination of everything. Comparatively a larger number of people have it good in their life with a better permutation and combination of this factors, while the rest have to just make do with whatever available abstract resources. And a few like me, in spite of all the perseverance and determination have to stay behind ,with a messed up combination and permutation which is aggravated by our own mulishness spurred on by the fear of losing which is again powered by societies cumulative disdain for losers. I don’t know where my life is leading to. I am not even sure about my next course of action. I think I will take a decision based on a little bit of instinct and a little bit inspired from a sense of duty. I am not even saying that it will be the right decision, but I am prepared for whatever it leads to-Success. Failure. Anything ! because it doesn’t matter anymore. I have no fear of my honesty and sincerity being compromised because that is ingrained in me, but i am no more afraid of facing failures either..I am not afraid of losing or being called an underachiever anymore…I am no more under the stress of ‘performing’. As far as ‘proving myself’ is concerned, I am done with it for ever.
Maybe winning not about not quitting, rather, knows when to quit. Maybe only way of being above winning is by over coming the fear of losing. I am not saying that one shouldn’t try to win. My saying so won’t change a thing. Humans are programmed to go for a win, like it or not, as it are a sort of driving force. I guess a world without the drive to win will be like a world full of zombies, so there is no choice as such, there ,but one can always choose to like or dislike a loser. Oh no! I do not agree with you if you say- ‘we only hate those losers who do not give their best shot’ Let me again explain why! For one, your disproval will not change him one bit, rather it can make matters worse. You might be just hastening his departure from this world. Secondly best is a subjective term. His best may not be your idea of a best, and your idea of best may physically be not possible for him. The hope of winning with a Best can in fact boomerang and could only get a person caught in the vicious cycle of wrong decisions and more losing and more wrong decisions leading to failures -just like my life. Some wins, while some have to lose. We Can’t really do anything about it. A winner arises only when there are losers to win from. So there will be losers, like it or not. But a request- please, please! Spare a thought for us all, before you utter the L word with utter contempt. It hurts. It hurt me then. I did not mean this to be a moral science class nor a mass appeal, but there was a second part to my son’s statement which I had omitted back then but one which had overwhelmed me enough to pour out my feelings. In a very grown up manner he had added. – “So what if the world calls you a loser, It doesn’t change what you are-A good father”. I won’t describe in details what my response was, just that, it made me think and realize-Win or lose, it does not change what you are and who you are inherently and finally that is what that matters.