It is already late, but the night is still young,
But my mind can’t go on, already high-strung,
When the words begin to find the dawn, the day,
I know that tonight, sleep has found its way.
The morning brings me a paper I nearly seem to know,
And so I begin writing, furiously from the word go,
I try to remember the order, down to the last thought,
I can only do so much, the fate of the result, I know not.
Day after day, every morning, I religiously ran the run,
All for this one day, when I had to even faster run,
Short of breath, I pushed myself with one final burst of speed,
Useless, maybe next year, another attempt to try and lead.
Standing near the podium, I begin to uncontrollably cry,
The winner steps down to console, saying, atleast I did try,
I hold my medal hard, feeling its heart, already stone cold,
Wondering how long I had to stare, to turn it into gold.
Every attempt I made, there was already somebody better,
And his record, tomorrow somebody else is going to better,
Is that what life is all about, always being ahead of the rest?
If so, I must admit, life is a very very badly designed test.
Is that all that matters, setting goals and achieving?
Running against yourself, against the world, competing,
To put every moment of life on a scale, upon a benchmark,
To compare and consider, before you can again embark.
Why can’t life be about enjoying the second, the moment?
About learning and sharing and improving your talent,
About the surprise of letting each moment lead the way,
And giving our satisfaction, the chance to forever play.
This one is also dedicated to Aamir Khan and Amol Gupte, already among the Beacons. Had earlier written one that not only was too much abstract for my own good, but it also failed to cover another important aspect of the drama, the human angle. The unquenchable thirst for betterment, for rising above the mundane, and conquering the stars.
It often used to make me wonder, why we need to compete. To prove to others what we have got. Why can’t we just do what we do, at the best we can do, and let the results speak for our efforts, rather than have a benchmark appreciate our efforts. Why must the yardstick of one’s effort always be the measure of another’s effort? Why cannot people find the satisfaction of having done the best we could do, as a good enough yardstick? Why must the reward for our efforts be always contingent upon the comparision with somebody else’s efforts? Why cannot the joy of watching our efforts fructify itself be the reward?
The poem was titled after that invisible barrier we set for ourselves, and spend an entire lifetime trying to cross it. In the end we will never know even if we have, because it is invisible. It is the end beyond which we can never go, and yet we refuse to believe it, and expend every valuable second we can trying to accomplish just that. There is nothing wrong, with such an effort, infact it is a very complementary part of human nature called endeavour. The problem begins when in the process of endeavour, we forget the simplest of joys, the smallest of joys that life holds. When we forget the satisfaction that effort itself is supposed to generate, and find solace only in the accomplishment, rather than the journey, that is when, competition becomes death itself. For without finding true joy, there is no greater purpose for life. That is the moment when the very accomplishment itself is the death knell.
I still remember the 100M running race in school, when one guy(I somehow managed to forget his name, like always) was competing for the all-rounder medal and had to win this race compulsorily(it was the last of the track events) to get the medal. While practising the previous day of the race, he happened to sprain his ankle, which put paid to his hopes of the medal, something he had worked for every single day of the year. Race day. The whistle was blown. I saw something I will never forget for the rest of my life. All the runners held hands and walked the entire distance, step by step, and slowly, lest that guy’s ankle get more strained, and at the very end, lifted their right foot, and at the count of three, set it down. It is another matter that in a highly controversial decision, Praveena Sir adjudged that since Ravi Kanth’s foot had come down a fraction of a millisecond before the others, he was the winner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Well, nobody said life was fair. But it is moments and gestures like these that aim to set right that imbalance that matter more than winning or losing.
How many times have we seen Donovan Bailey stop running to attend to a fellow-runner who twisted his ankle? How many times have we seen Lance Armstrong get off his cycle to help someone who had fallen off theirs? That day, in school, I learnt what sports was about, what sportsmanship was about. It definitely was more than today, now and gold. It was about life, about living, caring and sharing. About humanity.
It is this same feeling I get when I remember my Board Exams. How many people can you mention, who were studying to be rankers, and how many people can you mention, who could-have-been rankers, and yet set that aside to help others who could barely pass to do so. I can mention a minimum of two, off-hand, Harshavardhan Dawar and Sainath Choudary. These were two guys who could have aced any exam centum, every time they wrote it, and yet chose to spend the days before the exams helping clarify other guys’ doubts. Anytime was never an interruption, the night before the exam, the day of the exam, the hour before the exam, no time was an interruption, and no doubt was too silly. It was this humanity, that anyway we can pass, atleast let us help others also do so, that touched my heart, and even today, I never send back anybody who comes to me for help in a subject. If I don’t know what that means, I will take it upon myself to first perfect it, and then teach the person, but never send them away saying, I am competing myself, sorry can’t afford to spend time on you.
But sometimes, many things just remain dreams. All shouted and done, absolutely nothing will change about this scenario. Only new actors, new backdrops, the story will always be the same, self-improvement over community-improvement.
P.S. Thought this would do it, unfortunately, there are still some more angles to cover, so you can expect the Part-3 some time soon.