He was about to enter college. To an Engineering College, no less. He was rewarded with good rank in the Entrance Exam. He was happy with himself. Content. Missing out on IIT seat did not weigh much on his mind. He knew, he could have done better, but settling on a 2nd best option was a thing, he was not much bothered about.Innocence Personified. Well behaved. Academically Oriented. Eager to learn new things equipped with ability to grasp, retain things. Good Habits galore. Bath every day. Each meal on time. Playing in the evening. Though lazy in the morning, but knowing the importance to get up early and doing things with fresh mind. Not Much TV. Movies limited to what came on Friday and Saturday Nights on DD1(by Papa’s permission). Talking with Respect. Doesn’t know any gallis. Conversation with girls limited to ‘May I have your Chemistry Copy, please’ once in a while in the class. Regular School. No bunking. Every Subject having a separate copy. Each Book covered with brown paper. Neatly Maintained. With all these habits, he enters college. It would be simple, he hopes. He would do it his way, the good way, he thinks. He steps away from home for the first time in his life. His parents leave him at the college, far from home. He carries their hopes too. He is given an ATM card from which he can withdraw a maximum fixed sum of money each month. He gets cheques from home(enclosed with a letter), every now and then, to cover his semester fees and other expenses. He is confused to start with, in an alone world. But he is confident that he will make it.
It did not turn out the way he had hoped. It was simple, just not in the way he had thought. Bunking a few classes here and there progressed into bunking the complete first half almost every day. Running for the class in a hurry, bleary eyed, without taking baths. With one register accounting for the whole semester, for all the subjects. He skipped breakfast, because he was getting late for class. He skipped lunch in hostel mess because he was bored of rajma. He sat on the roadside khokha for 3 hrs, drank 5 cups of ‘patti’, with his group of friends. Once, who did not knew the meaning of gallis, now uses them in every sentence, cursing everything and everyone. From boring teachers to meaningless subjects to useless exams. Even makes his own brand of gallis. He gets a mobile from Dad and gets a SIM with unlimited free SMS and sends the forwards to all his friends. He watches girls in the evening, standing by that corner, frustoo chowk. While mental work is done only on the night before exams and in copying assignments, he does not forget to go to Gym to build his muscles. He tries understanding the tough subjects, but then mugs up the things, taking the easy way out. He tries smoking. Coughs badly the first time. Coughs badly the second time too. But he tries again and again, until he masters the bloody smoke. Drinking comes easy. He says No the first time. Tries it with friends and recoils with the unpleasant taste. Taste will develop, his friends say. He trusts them. He makes friends…for Life. His degree is on a downward curve. But he is not bothered. He knows he has done enough to pass out and get a job in the campus selection. He gets drunk on the last day of the college, with a degree in one hand and a job in the other, goes senti, proclaim his mates as their best friends, sends sms to a girl, as a last resort to get her approval and forgets about all these in the morning. The boy from school emerges as a man from college.
He was again happy as he graduated out of college. His parents were happy too. He had a job with a decent salary. Now, about 4 years into his salaried-life, he senses something is missing. But he does not know, what. His friends have switched jobs, done MBA, doubling, tripling, quadrupling their starting salaries. Some of them have got girl friends and planning to settle. He wonders about them, ‘That soon?’ He worked hard in the first few years, but the increment in the salary was not proportionate. He fights, shouts, frustrates and finally settles with what he gets. He lives away from home. Visits parents twice a year or on festivals and family celebrations. Money comes and goes. He does not know where. He gets a postpaid connection instead of his previous prepaid one. He calls his friends from college and they discuss the same thing they discussed the last time –Lets do something different, something meaningful. They curse each other for the sheer inaction in doing something different and then cut the phone and again do nothing. He goes philosophical when ever he is near the oceans, atop a mountain or hill, or when he is just alone. His trousers are getting tighter. He sees himself in the mirror while trying hard to button his trouser(which was prefect fit couple of years back) and wonders if his waist line has increased. He hears the dreaded word from his parents for the first time,’so beta, what about marriage?’ He goes nervous and then just shrugs it off by saying ‘its too early’.
He has been hearing the word marriage a lot of times over the past year and gets scared every time. Many of his friends have got married and he still does not know, if it is about time. He has gotten his dad an email id and chats with him often. His dad informs him about few of his relatives or sons/daughters of neighbors getting married soon. Then he gently slips the question about his own marriage. He knows, he can not avoid the question for indefinitely long and says, he will think when he is home. His job has gotten worse, but he atleast has a steady income, he thinks. All his thoughts, ideas as a 16 year would not work now. He is not always honest. Not even with himself. He has learnt to be manipulative. To survive. The rising prices of everything make him more scared. 50 Lacs for House? Is his salary enough to start family? His friends urge him to switch job. He thinks and then inaction catches up. People around him talk about their investment in real estate and shares. He has neither. He wonders what went wrong. Where did it went wrong? While coming down this path, he did not knew, he will face this conjuncture. Why his friends can think clearly about investments, marriage, settling down, salary and he can not. He is as confused as he was 10 years back. Only in a way which is worse than before. This time, confidence alone will not suffice. He will need inspiration. He will need a strategy. He will need to trust himself. He will need to get up early in the morning and start afresh. To regain the lost ground. Which was once his for the taking. He found the job and money, but lost himself in the process. He will have to listen to himself. Closely.