Bigger City, Bigger School – In Quest of the Last Victory

Coming into Existence 15
and I swung with all my might. A roar went through my team mates
watching me play as I saw the ball fall over the boundary for a six.
It was exhilarating. Another ball and another mighty heave and
the ball rolled over the boundary line for a four, to roars and cheers
from my team mates. I had hit two boundaries in two balls. Every one,
except the opposition, was enjoying it a lot, laughing and cracking
jokes. The third ball and another heave from me had me caught out
just inside the boundary. The three-ball stay in the centre was fun. It
was invigorating. It was self-discovery. Maybe, it was the beginning
of my discovery of the aggression needed for success. It would be a
lesson I would have to learn many times in my life. The three-ball
stay in the centre did not improve my reputation as a cricketer too
much but it defi nitely boosted my confi dence and my fear was gone
substantially. I remember myself as being much more aggressive
whenever I got a chance after that. I will always remember it as a
signifi cant event in my life. It was a milestone.
Fear of failure is usually the prime reason for failure.
The important thing about important lessons in life
is that they should always be remembered and
improved upon.
Bigger City, Bigger School
At thirteen, I had to move to a bigger city and a bigger school. This
would be my school for the remaining four years of my schooling until
the 12th grade. Maybe this changing of schools was an advantage
because it gave me an opportunity to adapt in a new environment and
start afresh. I joined this school in 9th grade. I had somewhat thought
of a plan. I wanted things to be different from what it was earlier. When
I interacted with boys here, I pretended to be good at cricket. I noticed
16 In Quest of the Last Victory
that most players were scared to open the batting and face the fi rst
ball. Being the fi rst to bat was considered the toughest job. Everyone
would be asking someone else to open. This was my chance. I
declared I was willing to be the opener. I got my chance and I even
did well. Now I was always in the team and was preferred over others.
We made our teams in the school and in the local neighbourhood
and played matches. I did well. I remember there were times when
people said, ‘If you want Gulia in your team, we want two players of
our choice in return’. This change in fortune had not come by fl uke.
I had worked really hard on myself to make this change happen. A
lot of resilience, patience and hard work had gone into making this
change happen.
No success comes easy and what comes easy is no success.
Running into the breathing problem
Be it scorching sun, rain or chilling cold, I used to run fi ve kilometres
everyday, play an hour or two of football and exercise. I was getting
tter. Then one day, after about two kilometres into my morning run,
my breathing suddenly became shallow. I was not able to breathe
properly. There was a strong wheezing sound and my breath was
getting choked. My wind pipe and lungs seemed to be clogged up.
I felt like giving up but I did not stop, clutching my throat, forcing
myself to run step after step. I completed my run and came and fell
in the grass panting. I lay there for some time till I recovered my
breath. Such breathing problem while running continued. Then after
sometime I decided to go to a doctor. The doctor checked me with a
stethoscope and found nothing wrong with me. I suggested I should
run a few kilometres and come back for a check-up. The doctor
agreed. I went out, ran a two-kilometre stretch and came back
Coming into Existence 17
choking badly with a strong wheezing sound in my breath. After
carrying out some tests and x-rays he wrote my diagnosis as ‘exercise-
induced asthma/bronchitis’.
He placed his hand on my shoulder and in a very caring voice
said to me, ‘Son, you should take it that sports and running are
not meant for you. With this breathing problem you can never
play sports. I know this may not sound good but this is a reality
and you have no choice but to accept it.’ He actually spent quite
some time trying to convince me to give up sports. Would I heed his
The next day I doubled my running distance. I noticed that
the breathing problem roughly lasted from the third kilometre to
the sixth kilometre. After that I would be back to normal, except for
a little fatigued feeling in the legs. After that I could run and play
as much as I wanted. Yes, the period of running with the breathing
problem was torture for me but I endured it and continued playing,
running and exercising. I also found interest in boxing and martial
arts. I was not exemplary at any of these but I loved doing them and I
was getting good at them. They helped me become stronger and more
confi dent. There were times I practised and exercised for hours. Dur-
ing these two years, from a very weak person of very short height, I
grew fast to become a person of average height. I was gaining strength
too. I would pick a little more height and strength in coming times.
Debating: Another close miss
In my 9th standard, I got an opportunity to take part in an inter-
house debate at school. I wanted to make the best use of this oppor-
tunity. I worked hard at preparing for it. I wrote my speech myself
and practised it a lot. I perfected every statement with its correct
18 In Quest of the Last Victory
tone, pronunciation and expression. I was determined to perform
well and this I did. I remember noticing a nearly mesmerized audi-
ence when I spoke and a roaring applause at the end of my talk.
While the results were being deliberated upon by the judges, there
were strong undercurrents that I would stand fi rst and there would
be a close battle for the second and the third position. I don’t re-
member being nervous. With the kind of effort I had put in and the
way I had performed, I was expecting to win. The announcer was
handed the result sheet and she approached the mike. Well! I was
not declared the best speaker. I stood second. Later my teacher told
me that two out of the three judges felt that my speech had too much
of an emotional aspect in it and that is why they decided to give me
the second and not the fi rst prize. I only hope that the girl who was
pushed to the fi rst position had provided equally justifi able reasons
to be adjudged the best speaker. I didn’t have any ill feelings then.
In fact I was happy to have stood second. However, I was not able to
exhibit the same enthusiasm at debating for some time to come.
Looking back, I can say, it was a mistake. One close loss shouldn’t
have discouraged me. For succeeding one needs to be consistent with
one’s efforts despite repeated setbacks. However, I did take part in a
few more debates and extempore during my school days, getting the
second or the third prize. I also took part in poetry recitation com-
petitions, dramatics and different sports. My poetry and writing were
gradually getting better. I now began to look upon my writing only
as an expression of my thoughts and feelings rather than looking for
appreciation for it. In fact I wrote a lot of poems which no one ever
read. Sadly, I have lost most of them. In academics I was ranked
third or fourth in my class, which was pretty satisfactory for me as I
never really strove for the top position in class. I don’t know why! I
was happy with my results and position. The weak student was not
weak any more.