Posts Tagged ‘2012’

My quest for the last

 

You know what the problem with life’s lessons is?

They are like Technology.

Just when you think you have mastered one, life reveals its newer versions- Truer versions of truths.

Sometimes they are just upgrades. But often they are completely new, and change your old beliefs so much that it feels stupid to have clung on to them stubbornly all along.

Happens to me all the time. So if you spot contradictions in my posts, remember, they aren’t conversations of a confused soul, but new, improved, updated versions of my beliefs.

Look at 2012, for instance. I started the year eagerly with ‘First, at last’. But grew wiser through the year, and am ending with ‘My quest for the last’.

Coming to think of it, this is a lesson life has been desperately trying to tutor me unsuccessfully for five decades.

Take First Love- a concept that the world has unnecessarily romanticised, given undue importance and immortalised. In a moment I’ll tell you how meaningless it can be.

Mine happened quite early in life. I remember it vividly. I had fallen for that dimpled, giggling, bundle of ecstasy in the cradle next to mine, at the Baby Room in a maternity home. I think I was two days old and she, one. On the third day as the head matron came to take me away, mercilessly separately us young hearts, I remember, I bawled and flapped my tiny hands around in an uneven fight. As I was taken out of the room, I threw one last glance back at my love, just for keeps. She was kicking the air in protest. It was then that her diaper fell off and I saw her stark naked.

She was a he.

Forget the First, no matter how many loves you have in life, the only one that really matters is the last, because that’s the one you get married to and live with for the rest of your life.

Life is clear about its lessons. “It’s not the first, but the last that matters.”

In cricket, it’s not the first, but the last ball that counts. It’s not the first, but the last run that becomes the winning run.

In a race, it’s not how well you start, but how well you finish.

In life, it’s not who you were born as, but who you die as.

In a chocolate box, it’s not the first, but the lone last slab that’s the sweetest.

In your wallet, it’s not the first, but the last coin that’s most precious.

In school, it’s not the first, but the last day of exams that is most memorable.

Dumb me, life was so blatant about its clues and yet I didn’t catch them.

I used to come home from school and say that I was the 35th ranker in class or finished 8th in the 1500-meter heats. But I would never admit I was the last.

This, in spite of the obvious rewards that life doles out to those who finish last.

The last ranker enjoys every day of his school, and has just one bad day in a year- the day of the results. Whereas the first ranker slogs the whole year for that one good day.

But the world continues to equate finishing last to losing.

Which is why 31st December isn’t the last day of the year, but the new year’s eve.

It is never about bidding a fond farewell to the last, but always about ushering in the first.

As I write this, even the precious last seconds of the year have been reduced to just a countdown to 2013.

Not for me. At least, not this year.

I am dwelling in this last moments of 2012, slowing it down, stretching it to an eternity and delaying the year’s last tock after its last tick, as much as I can.

So much, that I have all the time in the world to publish this post.

Whoever thinks that finishing last is easy, should try finishing last in Slow Cycling.

Or, refuse to budge from the end of a bungee jumping queue.

Or, get the last word with his wife, boss or news anchor- that’s like trying to win a shouting match with your echo.

Or simply do what I have just done- become the world’s last blogger of 2012 by publishing the last post of the year in the whole World Wide Web at 11:59:59 on 31st December.

First, at last!

12:00:01 a.m. on 1st January, 2012.

This should officially qualify as the world’s first blog post of 2012.

(Unless there are loners like me who have nothing better to do on New Year’s eve, in New Zealand, Australia, Japan or in any country where the year dawned earlier.)

Imagine, no one in front, millions following.

Guess this is how leadership feels. It’s true what they say, it’s kinda lonely at the front. Hello…hello…hello…anybody here!

The first in WordPress. The first in the blogosphere. Perhaps, the first in the whole world wide web, too.

What if the world froze or ended just now.

By virtue of this being the only post, the only written document, would I bag all the World’s Best Blogger awards? Maybe even the Nobel prize for Literature?

But let me confess, I am not much of a victory-stand guy.

Forget finishing first, I’m not even into starting or doing anything first. It’s scary, that’s why.

What if the craters on the moon were man-gobblers? Not even the strong-arm tactics of the US would have saved poor Armstrong. Mid-way through his famous one-liner, he would have disappeared forever. The first man on moon, the last man ever.

It takes guts to be the first. How the hell did Sir Edmund Hillary know what he’d encounter on Everest? What if there was a 4000-year-old naked Yogi meditating there? “Excuse me, what era is this?”

Or worse, what if it was actually the abode of Hindu Gods and Goddesses as mythologies say? In heaven before death? God knows what the heavenly laws say about illegal immigrants.

My fear of the First is not unfounded. I have many bad experiences. The worst of those was in my first job.

The agency was taken over and the new management sacked our old bosses. About ten of us decided to rebel. We marched to the new Chairman’s office to protest. We marched down the road, up the elevator, through the plush corridor, past his corner office, into his room, towards his table. I stood triumphantly waving my resignation and shouting slogans as planned. It sounded meek, croaky and familiar. Of course it was. It was my lone voice, not a chorus as planned. I was the only one standing there. Others had been stopped at the reception by security. What made it worse was that he readily agreed to all our- sorry- my demands. Everyone rejoiced. I was the only one who had to look for another job that week.

There’s too much uncertainty around the first, too much responsibility on the leader, too much spotlight on the No.1 and too much pressure on the winner.

Crowns give me a headache. The throne is such an uncomfortable chair. And permanent fame can get as agonising as Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th ton.

Which is why I, at best, accept only fleeting fame. Enjoy it, and let go of it before it becomes a burden.

Cinderella taught us this lesson many years ago.

I now run only the first 100 m of marathons. I bolt off the block like Bolt himself, while others are ambling. For a full 100 m I am the one that the onlookers first see and cheer. Some even discuss if I am the dark horse who is going to leave even the Kenyans behind.

By 150 m I am panting and others are catching up. By 200 m, I snatch a free drink and go home. Like they say, the time to quit is when you are on top!

Look at this space now. In a matter of minutes thousands of blogs, pokes, tweets, posts have flooded what was just a while ago solely my domain. This post looks like a speck in an ocean already. Hundreds of bloggers have gone ahead. Most, I am sure, are bigger and better. New firsts, winners, leaders will emerge from them. That’s the way life should be.

But this year, if you ever get to the hot-seat and are asked the million dollar question “Who was the first blogger of 2012?” make no mistake.

Who > What

 

“School’s unfair. It expects teachers to be good in just one subject, but students to be brilliant in all.”

When my son narrated this joke that he had heard in school the other day, all of us broke into a big laugh.

How true, I thought.

Imagine asking your Biology teacher to take a Geography test.

Latitude and Longitude? Aren’t they the skeletal system of the Earth?” she might ask.

Or, asking your Hindi sir to do Algebra.

Obviously my answer would be different from yours. I learnt Maths in Hindi,” he might say.

A little later I asked my son, still laughing, “Who’s the one who cracked this joke in class?”

My son just shrugged his shoulders and continued eating and talking.

“What’s the name of the friend who said this joke?” I asked, hoping that rephrasing would help.

“I don’t remember who said it,” my son replied a little impatiently, as if to ask how that mattered.

What do you mean you don’t remember, I wanted to ask but didn’t, not knowing how much pushing would be too much pushing.

He remembered the joke but not the one who said it?

When did jokes become more important than the person who said it?

It wasn’t like this when I was in school for sure. I remember I’d rush home to tell who did what, where the who was equally, if not more, important than the what.

It hadn’t changed even in my college days. Who eloped with whom.

Today, has What replaced Who to become the new king?

Rabindranath Tagore > Jana Gana Mana, then.

But Kolaveri > Anirudh, today?

No other month typifies this more than December.

Look around.

Reds, whites and greens. Shiny bells, gift-laden trees and glowing stars. The weather is pleasant and the mood is cheerful. It is the month of the world’s biggest festival and the universe’s grandest party.

And yet, say December and it’s none of those that come to my mind. It is the face of the world’s most loved fat, old man that symbolises this season for me.

No, not Anna. Santa.

December, like all other things in life for me, is about people. Not events, occasions or dates.

But for most of the world, it seems to be the other way around.

Festivities > People

Take the example of New Year parties.

Around this time, you will hear people beginning to ask, “So? What’s your New Year plans?”

My answer has usually been, “Nothing. Watch TV, early dinner and sleep by 11.”

“Come on Ramesh, don’t be so boring! We are having a party, why don’t you come?”

A couple of times I have fallen for that bait and actually gone for those parties.

Only to get a call from them on 2nd January: “Hey Ramesh, we missed you. You should have come yaar, it was so much fun.”

That’s why l started staying away from such parties.

But on 2nd January, they still call: “Hey thanks for coming man. Would never have been the same without you. It was such fun, na?”

That’s the problem with these parties. It is never about who came or didn’t come, but about what we did where, and how late it went on.

Events > People

Sorry, not for me. No matter how big the event, it is always etched in my mind as people’s faces and not dates.

Indian Independence = Gandhi

Bangladesh War = Field Marshal Manekshaw

Indian White Revolution = Amul Kurien

Indian Corruption = Lok Sabha group snap

My personal memories are also tagged with faces of people I was with at that time.

So both our cricket World Cup triumphs are as much about the people I watched the finals with, as they are about sporting history.

Mumbai’s floods, riots and terrorist attack, all have faces. So do Indira Gandhi’s and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassinations. All celebrations, all tragedies are about people. Family members, friends, colleagues, sometimes strangers with whom those moments, interactions, conversations and experiences were shared.

Even mundane things like going for a film, shopping, eating out and a holiday are for me, about who I am going with.

Many find this ridiculous.

Recently my cousin went with her maid to see Mission Impossible-4.

With maid? For Mission Impossible-4?

My wife didn’t find anything strange about that. For her too, it is shopping that matters. It doesn’t matter who comes along as along as that person is willing to carry her bags.

If it’s not me, then it’s our kids. If it’s not them, then it’s her friends.

That’s why when she calls me for a night show, I never refuse. Who knows who she’d ask out next.

Experiences > People

My fear is that this phenomenon is taking over all human relationships and changing them beyond recognition.

When I look at all those young couples lining Marine Drive, Worli Seaface and Bandra Bandstand, I wonder if it is the atmosphere- the setting sun, the sea, the sweet nothings and the need for romance- that is making them romance the person in their arms.

Is Love > Lover?

Think about it. These days you don’t hear about love failures as much, why?

Devadas is extinct. Forget life, today’s youngsters don’t think even their love life is worth sacrificing just because some idiot said no.

What’s the big deal? One can always get someone else to love, seems to be the logic.

Love is eternal. Lovers needn’t be.

You will see this pervade every aspect of life.

My Space > My Spouse, is the reason why marriages are failing today.

My Success > My Partner, is the reason why business partnerships don’t last today.

Religion > Its Followers, is the reason why religious fanaticism is getting out of hand.

Country’s Borders > Those who guard it, is the reason why bravehearts are sacrificed in wars fought over uninhabitable terrains.

This is funniest in office picnics.

People who see, work and tolerate each other day in and day out, meet at picnics and go “Hey Ramesh! So, how have you been?”

What do you mean how I’ve been? You and I have been in that wretched client meeting all week until last evening, dammit!

“So, how’s wifey and kids?”

They didn’t come into my life last night, you dumbo! It’s taken you all these years to ask this?

“What’s up with life?”

You should know! After all, both of us are stuck in the same place, doing the same shit.

Actually, it’s not their fault. It’s not them talking. It’s the picnic mood that’s making them behave differently.

Mood > People

This is why now when people wish 2012 > 2011, I just smile and say, “No matter how good or how bad the year, remember, you are always bigger and far more important than it.”

For me, it’s always You > Years.

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