The Pressure Phase – In Quest of the Last Victory

Coming into Existence 19
The miss at athletics
I had been running for years now. Although my physical build did
not support competitive athletics much, I wanted to try my hand at
athletics in a track event one day. I might have been running and ex-
ercising a lot and working hard but the best were still better than me.
I had to work very hard to be able to compete. I felt the 1500-metre
track event would be the best bet for me. I had practised for it well.
One day I came to know that the trials for the school team were to
take place in a stadium in a short while. I was not prepared. I did
not have my athletics or running shoes with me. I ran home to fetch
them. When I reached home, I saw that no one was home and that
the door was locked. I did not want to lose this chance. After contem-
plating for a while I approached one of the windows and punched
the glass of one small window with my fi st. My knuckle got cut and
bled badly. I tied a kerchief over it and put my hand in to open the
latch of the window. I squeezed myself through the small space be-
tween the patterns of iron grill and got inside. I picked my shoes and
ran to the stadium just in time for the trials. The fi rst two runners
would be picked up to represent the school in the inter-school, zonal
athletics meet. I came in a close third.
The Pressure Phase
As I headed towards the senior classes and the end of my schooling,
a lot of pressure came on me from all circles for getting into a pro-
fessional course. It was a time when getting into a professional
course was made out to be the best and the only goal of a student's
life. Everybody would try to pull you and direct you into different
directions and usually successfully too. I wanted to do so many
things in my life. Picking up one or dedicating my entire life to one
20 In Quest of the Last Victory
seemed like a bad idea most of the time. One could aim to become
a doctor or an engineer or join the army as an offi cer. Other careers
meant more years of study and an uncertain future. A career in the
corporate world wasn’t a common choice then and getting a job
wasn’t easy. Suddenly I found myself faced with so much pressure
to decide the goal of my life and make a career choice that I wanted
to break free.
As a child I had got used to making my choices to suit other
people’s expectations from me, the good child that I wanted to be.
This pressure really got to me. It made me make choices I did not
want to make. In fact it was others who were making the choices for
me. When the choices were being made by others all factors were
not being taken into consideration. It was I who was better aware of
my interests and abilities. Others were not. Having been a sportsman
I had had to deal with successes and failures in the past. I knew
for sure that success was improbable if not impossible with such an
unclear vision. I wanted to do things with defi niteness and certainty
but no one was letting me do that. It was also a time when I had
started thinking about ‘life’ and there were so many things to think
about and so much to do. It was an analytical approach that had
made me improve my performance in sports and other academic and
non-academic fi elds. I started adopting an analytic approach to life
too. However, I did not have enough time. With the school-fi nal
board exams approaching, there was a sense of urgency to choose a
career path.
Answers were needed and there weren’t any. I was at a point in
time when I could look back at life and also look forward to it. It was
one of the most crucial thresholds in my life, not only in terms of
career choices but also regarding personal choices I would be required
to make. I wanted to grow as a person. I wanted to get away from home
and face the real world. Like most others of my age, I also wanted
to do something meaningful with my life. But would I be able to?
Coming into Existence 21
Above all, I didn’t even know what I wanted with my life. I had gone
through my schooling, or rather my schooling had taken me through
it very spontaneously; and now the time, situation and people were
throwing options at me with a sense of extreme urgency. They were
not giving me the time to think. Yes, as a child, I had dreamt of
being a teacher, an army offi cer, a doctor, an engineer and an umpteen
number of other things but they were dreams with a dreamy, laid-
back mindset. I enjoyed day-dreaming about what all I would do in
each case. But here I was now, in the real world, with an urgent need
to choose one option and dedicate my life to it.
During those times, to become a doctor or an engineer was con-
sidered to be the best career option and almost every child would be
forced in that direction. Now everybody cannot become an engineer
or a doctor but no one seemed to understand that. And the comedy
of errors was when you were expected to try for both. It all boiled
down to the pressure of the expectations, the need for acceptance and
appreciation, your own dreams of life and the tension arising out of
the need to be able to take the right decision. It was the toughest of
times for me.
As per my mindset, I wanted to do everything and anything only
with perfect defi niteness. I did not like uncertainty. It was not like
‘I want to become something and let me try and see if I can become
that’. It was like ‘If I want to become something, I would become that
come what may. But I was sure being a doctor wasn’t what I wanted
at that point of time in my life. I was studying botany, zoology
and chemistry to become a doctor; something I actually didn’t
want to do. I was not being able to pay attention to mathematics
which I had taken because of pressure, since it was considered an
important subject. Decisions taken then were not out of my free
will but under pressure or as a compromise. As a result, I was in a
complete mess.
22 In Quest of the Last Victory
Mathematics had been my personal success story. As a child who
was considered dumb, my being good in mathematics was proof to
me that I wasn’t dumb. However, not getting infl uenced by others
in taking decisions was something I hadn’t learnt at all. I needed
acceptance and that meant compromises. The result for the fi nal year
of schooling (and the national, centrally conducted board exam) came
out. I had scored a dismal 54% in medical-related subjects and I had
failed in mathematics. The last and fi nal exams of my schooling, and
there I was—a failure. In a moment, the world that I had been creating
brick by brick, moment by moment, step by step, came crashing
down. I had failed when and where success was needed the most.
I, the dumb child, had fi nally, as expected, proved dumb. It seemed
like a situation of no recovery. I knew I was not dumb. I could do
anything that anyone else could but with such a failure in my hand,
who would believe me now?
It was a dark, morose and silent evening as I sat alone on the steps
of my house looking at the road ahead going and turning around the
corner and the open ground in front. At seventeen, I was at the end
of nowhere. I had been brought back to square one. Would I give up?
There was no way one could better a board exam result in the fi nal
year. After contemplating for a long while with closed eyes, I decided
that I would not let anything come in between me and what I wanted
to do with my life. I had committed a mistake by not taking my own
decisions at this crucial phase of my life. My career, the choice of my
subjects, should have been my decision. At that minute, I decided it
would be so from now on. This was a time I had to keep my utmost
calm, focus and patience if at all I wanted to come out of this situ-
ation. It was sports that had taught me to be calm and focused in
toughest times. I went in and wore my running shoes and went for a
long run into the night.