Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Ever since I was little, all I wanted was to be best at something. Not good, but best. A summer holiday project, year-end exams, board exams, a dance competition, a calligraphy competition, an inter-house debate, high-school basketball championship (who was I kidding, sports and me have never seen each other eye to eye). Anything, really.
For years, I was possessed by a raging desire to excel at something. For once, just for once, I wanted to come home running with a giant golden trophy in my hand, like that overachiever of a kid in every Bournvita commercial.
Because the Universe suffers from selective hearing disorder, my prayers were never really heard. Despite working my ass off in school in college and then at work, I never came first at anything. I was the kid who was always off by a mark or two. I was always the kid who showed "immense potential" but it wasn’t quite reflected in the performance. I was the kid who had more A's and A minuses but never an A plus. I was the kid who eyed other people's Sundae at Nirulas with a despicable amount of envy(remember the time Delhi Nirula' dished off a free chocolate sundae to kids who scored more than 95%. Sorry Gen Z, this might be lost on you).
Now, it's not like I've been entirely bereft of my moments of glory. I had scored second and third and fourth positions, plenty of times. I made it to JNU, I got the job I thought I wanted but it never felt as good as being a first ranker. Can you really blame me for feeling this way ? I mean Shahrukh won't part from the number 1 spot even though it's been 30 long years in which he's romanced every actress in the age bracket of 17 to 71.
You see, the thing about being on top is that everything else pales in comparison. Nothing else seem to matter. You're either a star or you're not. You're either Alexander the great or you're a nobody. You could be a great entrepreneur with a sickening supply of round glasses and turtle necks, but you're not Steve Jobs. The cold truth is, no matter how talented second and consolation prize winners are, it's the number one who makes history.
This reminds me, when i was in 12th grade, I vividly remember telling myself, that it was the going be the year I was going to reverse my luck. After all, I had fought tooth and nail with mother to pursue Humanities, despite scoring grades that made me eligible for Medical Science. I was determined to succeed because unlike a lot of 12th graders I was in it for a purpose, I was in it with all my heart, and if you met my class teacher then, you would've known how bloody good I was. I was confident nothing was going going to stop me this time.
My best friend, Mr. Ill-Fate (you guessed it right!) came in the way.
When the board results came out out, I found out that I had topped Geography in my school with a stellar 95(second highest score in Delhi, I was informed later). I scored well over 90s in every subject except the one I was pinning all my hopes on. I thought I was having a stroke when i saw the number 74 sitting next to the word English. My English teacher and my best friend were convinced that this had been a monumental error on the part of State Education Board. I would've stomached a 74 in any other subject barring the one I had loved the most. And it loved me back too. Now, I might have been an above average student in general but English was my greatest strength. I was always well appraised for my reading and writing abilities. I was every English teacher's pet puppy, ever.My favourite subject hadn't just brutally betrayed me but also brought my average down, making it difficult for me to get into a literature course at creme de la creme schools of India.
So I did what all rejects do. I befriended my ill fate. I accepted my mediocre label and moved on. While it didn't stop me from trying or making an effort in college and at work but it definitely made me care less. Somewhere into adulthood, the need to be best at whatever I was doing changed to doing it well. It was like showing my inner greedy goose, a happy panda that lived in the zoo.
It's safe to say I stopped believing in the higher power of the cosmic force. A cloud of cynicism had shaped over me.
But today, it's shifted.
Because, I got to know that I've been awarded a scholarship for my entire Masters Programme at Lasalle. I didn't just beat Creative Writing candidates but an entire cohort of MA applicants, across all disciplines.
Now, it might not be a Steve Jobs level of achievement (far, far from it.) But it's something. A sign, that occasionally you might find something bigger and sweeter in the bag of lemons, life keeps throwing at you. Take that, Universe.