Venerated and Enshrined

Mitali threw herself down on the stone slab under her favourite tree in the park. The park was a serene and soothing place. She thought she’ll sit there for a while and let her office seep out of her before going home. She’d had a long and tiring day.

She was vaguely surprised to find the park empty. Then she remembered it was seven o’clock on a Wednesday evening. People must be sitting glued to their TV sets watching one of those sickening reality shows… something inane called somebody’s swayamwar. She grinned mirthlessly. Yeah, that one was crowd puller. People adjusted their schedules to make sure they didn’t miss it. The slow flame of anger burst into flame within her again.

She was tired. It was not a tiredness born of overwork, nor was it new. The quantum and quality of her work did not justify this exhaustion. The exhaustion was like a separate physical presence, like a shadow in strong light. No matter what, she hadn’t been able to shake it off from herself for the past few months. She felt as if she had a lead ball tied to her feet- one which was growing heavier inexorably.

She knew she needed to think things through. She decided not to go home until she had found a way of dealing with the challenge she found staring her in the face on a daily basis. She lived alone, there was nobody to inform if she went home late.

She put her laptop bag under her head and stretched out, looking up into the tree. The dark tree above became the screen on which she could project her life. Every time she became bogged down with a challenge, she would do this. She would see only those events which had a bearing on her current challenge. It was as if a higher intelligence selected snippets of her life and strung them together to make an uninterrupted movie for her. Sometimes it included events she did not even remember herself- at least not consciously. The movie began to play, her age during the event becoming the subtitle.

11 years old: She was sitting alone in her class during lunch break, deeply engrossed in a math question. She forgot she had to wolf down her lunch box and then play with her friends. Her friends kept calling her, but when she didn’t even look up, they got angry and left. She solved the problem in 15 minutes, just as the lunch break got over. The question was not from her curriculum, but from an 11th class refresher she had found lying in her teacher’s desk. She had excitedly told her teacher that she had solved a tricky question. After looking at the book and the copy, the teacher had slapped her- for lying. Mitali stared at her puzzled, tears running down unnoticed down her stinging cheeks.

16 years old: Her 10th class results were out. Her performance had been extraordinary with 96% aggregate. Her highest marks were in science and math. Her parents had decided that she would be an engineer. She neither agreed nor disagreed. She came home from school the next day and told them quietly that she had chosen humanities because she wanted to be a journalist. When the storm broke over her, she sat looking at her parents with an open, polite and quizzical expression. Their pleas broke into smithereens against the rock of her placid will. Almost a month of constants appeals and pleadings had not shaken her. She had sat through them all, looking at them with the same unmoving, puzzled glance.

21 years old: It was her final year of graduation. She was majoring in Journalism. The head of her department was a lady who had held the post for seventeen years. She was reading a report she had written on the squatters of the biggest slum in the city. The report was part of her mid-term assignment. The rest of her class had written brilliant pieces using the milk of human kindness for ink. She had merely written the truth. She had mentioned that the government gave them flats to go to, which they stayed in for a couple of months and then gave out on rent. Then they returned back to the slums. She wrote that most squatters had a TV, a couple of fans and fridge. But they paid the minimum one blub charge for the power they used. The HOD read it through and looked up at Mitali, glaring. Holding her glance, she slashed angry red lines across the neat printout. In her remarks she wrote that the piece was substandard and could not be allowed for submission. Then she told her to re-write it, in two hours. Mitali refused courteously and sat quietly while the HOD raved and ranted at her. There was a quality of a personal affront in her anger, as if Mitali had slapped her. Mitali looked at her puzzled, unable to understand her outburst.

22 years old: She was in the second semester of her post-graduation. There was a writing contest organized by a top European newspaper. The winner would get not only a prize of $5000 but also an apprenticeship with the newspaper. The entry was to be submitted through the college department with the recommendation of the HOD attached. None of her batch mates were participating in the contest. There were only twenty-four entries from India. She had been requesting her HOD to write her the letter of recommendation. The HOD kept postponing it. Now there were just three days left for the emailed entries to reach the newspaper head office. She was determined to obtain the letter today. When she reached the college, she was told that the HOD was on leave and gone out of station. She would return the day after the deadline would get over. She tried to call her on her cell phone- but her cell was switched off. She sat looking at her cell, puzzled. Her entry was rejected.

23 years old: There were still three months for the semester- and her post-graduation- to be completed. The day before she had received a call from a reputed English daily with a strong national presence. They had offered her the position of management trainee for their city news section. The Editor had read her article on slum- dwellers, in which Mitali had scored a dismal D grade, thanks to her HOD. She had attended the interview- and had bagged the position. Two weeks later someone told her that the HOD was going around saying that she had obtained the position through pull and bribe. The Editor had read the article on the college website. No one knew how her article had been uploaded to the site, even though it had scored a low grade. Mitali was very puzzled about the mysterious uploading of the article.

27 years: The Editor who had hired her, died suddenly of a heart attack six months ago. In four years, Mitali had moved steadily upward on the paper. Under the tutelage of the old Editor, she had gone from brilliant to exceptional, as if purified. She now had sole charge of the city section with her own by-line. The new editor had a totally different thought process from the old one. For the past three months, Mitali was conscious of a one-sided antagonism from him. It was not visible to others because there was hardly any cause for it. Mitali was competent, dedicated and very responsible. Though others were not aware of it, each time Mitali entered the editor’s room she could feel the putrid stench of the silent malevolence clogging her throat. In the beginning she had thought she was imagining things. Imperceptibly though, her best assignments and stories were either quashed or given to someone else. Mitali watched on helplessly, puzzled.

Today: After four months of patient probing, Mitali had finally uncovered a fake degree scandal involving her old college. Her old HOD was in it neck deep along with many others. They were supplying fake college degrees to people. The city was flooded with graduates and post-graduates who had not even cleared class 10th. She had submitted the story to the editor two days ago. Today, it had been published. Only, it had been re-written by a supposed freelancer no one on the paper had ever heard of. The story had been watered down AND the names of all the big fish had been removed.

Once her imaginary movie had finished, she remained still- waiting. She seemed to have fallen into a trance. She was breathing deeply and slowly. After almost twenty minutes she heard The Voice. It was a deep voice, quiet and serene. Mitali didn’t know where it came from or whether it was a male voice or female. It had never mattered. All that mattered was that the voice spoke, resolving her issues, giving her solutions.

“The world enshrines mediocrity”, the voice said. “Exceptional people like you are misfits in the world and you make others uncomfortable. The world’s eyes are accustomed only to the dull sheen of the average. Your brilliance shines too brightly and hurts their eyes. Your self- confidence is like a slap in the face to them. You walk unchartered paths, but others feel safe on paths well-trodden. You know what you want, while others have never dared to hold an opinion not shared by their mates. You are a brilliant original painting, while others are mirrors- reflecting the blankness of each other.

“You are a threat and reproach to them. Simply by existing, you remind them of what they could have been. They feel cheated because to them you seem specially privileged, as if you have a hidden pull. This makes them very angry and they look around for someone to accuse. Loath to blame themselves, they conclude that it is YOUR fault… somehow.

“You are impelled by the desire to move towards a positive value because your central impulse is love. They are impelled by the desire to get away from a negative value because their central impulse is fear. Of the two, you will always be stronger. The course of your life will ever be unwavering and steady- albeit slow, whereas theirs will be a saga of detours and sporadic, jerking movements.

“By virtue of sheer multitude they will succeed in slowing you down. You will feel as if you are wading through wads upon wads of cotton. This cotton is not solid and it seems silly to accord it the dignity of a serious antagonist. That is your mistake. This loose, harmless looking cotton clings to your legs and floats around your nose and clogs your lungs. It sticks to you eyelashes and gets into your eyes. You always feel as if there is a mist around you. This cotton is present everywhere, you must learn to deal with it.

“Cotton cannot survive against fire. A day will come when you brilliance will shine like the fire it is and will wipe out all the cloying, clinging cotton around you. Until that happens you must use preventive tactics. The first thing you have to do is to accept its presence and become aware of the extent of the damage it can do. This mental preparation is essential. Then you must wear a mask over your nose and cover your limbs with clothing which doesn’t encourage the cotton to cling. Lastly, don’t give power to the cotton by conceding defeat and giving up. Don’t envy it as if it holds some secret of the universe. Recognize its true nature, which is inertia and impotence.”

Mitali sat up with a start, refreshed. She resolved she will not be defeated by cottonno matter how venerated.

Venerated and Enshrined

21 thoughts on “Venerated and Enshrined”

  1. Hi..

    Thanks for the post!

    Its gonna make me feel even more stronger to deal with hurdles which may, on their face, look as benign as cotton!


  2. Arshad…

    It is gratifying to see your comment here. I used your name in the post… but removed it later because I hadn’t taken your permission.

    Thank you for inspiring this story. All credit to you… 😀

    Yeah… cotton looks benign and innocent. 🙂



  3. wow!
    It is indeed wonderful.
    A character has lot of shades of me, for examples he lives alone, but he is not as brilliant as me, err, i mean vice versa, LOL
    Its quiet painful to see people bringing you down, once you do not comply by what they have set for everyone. If you are not everyone, you will be bothered. Be invisible, keep a low profile, be a sheep. that is the manatra, where is the individual, he is not to be seen.

    I have been fighting to keep myself as is, with a lot of people including my kiths and kins.
    I have not shown much of radiance though, else no one could have questioned anything out of me. But do I look like as if I care?

    1. Anuz…

      No… you don’t look as if you care… except sometimes… 😀

      Your kith and kin are the most difficult people to stand up against… if you are able to do that you are already miles ahead of 80% humanity… 🙂

      All the best to you… for remaining YOU. I kinda like you as you are… 😛

      Thanks for the visit… and the comment…


  4. Arjun means some one who is focussed in life 🙂

    It’s wonderful to know that the parents finally agreed for him to opt for humanities, not many kids can have their say.

    It’s sad that he met injustice early in life. But happy to know that he kept progressing.

    I like this reel of real life.

    1. Chandra…

      This isn’t really real life… the story this was inspired by is very different in specific events… but the principle both cover is the same.

      But yes… they won too… in the real story… 🙂

      It’s lovely to see you here… as always… 🙂


  5. have given words to the true feeling of an individual who starts afresh and wants to make a dent in the sysytem and gets beaten everyday!!
    Cotton is our system and we all need to burn it some time or the other..if we u said the brillance dosent show.. do u insert smileys here..wanted to clap for this one..a roaring applause..

    1. Raj….

      The Arjuns of the world may feel defeated and beaten by the system on a daily basis… but the defeat is temporary. Sooner or later Arjuns learn the way to beat the cotton down.

      And in the long run.. it is the Arjuns that win… always… 🙂

      Thanks for the visit.. and appreciate the claps… 😀


  6. The story is really good and clearely tells that Literature is the reflection of whats prevailing in the society. The flow is pretty good and it could keep the reader glued to it through out. The best part is that most of the people in someway or the other may relate themselves with the story.

    Its a like pursuing a war where winning or loosing a few battles is of no significance as long as final victroy is visible and attainable….. surkhru hota hain insa thokrein khane ke baad…..I join Arjun in his endaevour to beat the cotton. THE FIRE IS ETERNAL!!!!!

    1. Monk…!

      I am very pleased to see you here. Your comment validates the story… and since the story is a reflection of my world-view… it validates me too. I don’t have much else to say… nor do I need to I know.

      Aur rang laati hai hina… 😀

      Thank you for being here… its a pleasure that robs me of words…


  7. U have prolifically & precisely narrated the inner thoughts of character, the thought process you described is so through, your analysis of human mind is amazing!! It’s a story of almost every young individual of India, the name Arjun perfectly suits to character here, the dilemma he is going through reminds me the Arjun of Mahabharat. Story displays that how our system got corrupted from top to bottom. The theme of story is like a pea-nut and out of it you drew the whole Banyaan tree, i mean without any sequences U deciphered the profound, core social issue from it, and with your detail narration of each sequences & background….is surely glued the reader until the last line. A thorough inspiring & motivational story Dag, many thanx for sharing, good luck to U :)))

    1. Pratyax…

      Your comment has filled me with delight. 🙂

      As you said, it is the story of every young individual in India. It is SO like you to note the name of the protagonist, I used that name deliberately. Really, I am so surprised at the meticulous way in which you have read the story. What could be a bigger compliment than it…?

      Thank you for sparing time not only to read but also to comment in such detail.

      My best wishes to you too… 😀


  8. Dagny,
    Yet another brilliant piece from you after “the driver” 🙂
    I find this one equally power packed and thought provoking, an apt subject matter that I think is a must read by all. And beautifully narrated!

    “The world enshrines mediocrity” how nicely put! 🙂 Well, it is the same world we are in too. …and being among misfits, we too have to be one! Else, the misfits take us as “odd woman/man out!” 😀 but we can be smart to learn and identify the cotton, develop our own techniques and strategies as to how to handle the situation and steer clear of them!

    It’s sad Mitali’s parents didn’t recognize her wish.. and undermined her confidence. Her HOD was corrupt to the core, devious and slippery… and didn’t want to see Mitali gain popularity and was jealous too. A bear with a sore head!:( Thank God she comes only in your fiction. She would otherwise have been probed by CBI! 😉 (I thank Mr Gopal, my sulz political guru) 😀

    Mitali’s story seems to be a bit of a case study here. And in the end, your analysis of the story and conclusion is simply mind blowing.. and now, believe me, am seriously considering going back to the drawing board to make some changes in my ways (yeah I really have to) to be more smarter/assertive to deal with “heavies” and nerdy plain janes in my circle who are neither smart nor intelligent. ..but pretend to be smart/intelligent.:D
    Thank you for this gem Dagny! ..learning a lot from you. sorry! my comment turned out to be a mini blog! 😉
    Love and regards aalways..

    1. Bharathi,

      This was the story that got published in Ripples- an anthology of 48 stories from 26 women writers.

      Mitali’s story IS a case study. The real life character is the wife of a friend. He discussed the HOD variant with me and said his wife was very upset, and didn’t know how to handle the situation or even to keep her cool. What I told him on chat that night is whole ‘cotton’ theory and how to deal with it. It was he who asked me to write a story and put all the ‘wisdom’ in there. So I did… 😀

      My friend and his wife also went to the drawing board and made a few changes, tweaked a few things. I am pleased to report that life has been a lot easier for them since then. I do hope you will apply this and share with me the changes it brought about for you- good OR bad.

      As for your comment turning into mini-blogs, well, don’t you know I love them…? 🙂 I don’t think this is the first, or the last, time your comment has turned into a blog by itself. You know I love your comments… so are you fishing for a compliment here girl…?! 😀

      Love and hugs,

  9. Dagny,
    I am very pleased to hear that your story got published! I wish you write many more stories and articles and get them all published in magazines and news papers. I want to see your work published! .. all of them! 🙂
    Some of your stuff you write are surely enriched with wisdom. ..and for me, there are lots to learn from this one and The Driver. Both of ‘em my fav! 🙂
    sure, I will apply them in life and let you know how I fared..and it’s gonna be good! 😀
    fishing for complement? well, when you say you love to read my comments itself is a great complement from you my beloved tutor!! 😀 😀

    My love and regds.. always.

    1. Bharathi,

      Inshallah..! Someday I hope all my stories get published. Or at least to find readers like you. There is nothing else I wish for… but for them to be used as you are using them. That is their justification… that is their sanction.

      Do you have any idea what you have given me…?

      Much love and loads of hugs…

  10. It is an absolutely outstanding piece that reflect the low level of thinking in colleges and even offices. As a former journo, I could relate with this post and few times, my stories didn’t go through and some newspapers refused to hire me for being frank. My motto: Truth be told as it is.
    Superb lines, Exceptional people like you are misfits in the world and you make others uncomfortable. The world’s eyes are accustomed only to the dull sheen of the average. Your brilliance shines too brightly and hurts their eyes. Your self- confidence is like a slap in the face to them. You walk unchartered paths, but others feel safe on paths well-trodden. You know what you want, while others have never dared to hold an opinion not shared by their mates. You are a brilliant original painting, while others are mirrors- reflecting the blankness of each other.
    “You are a threat and reproach to them. Simply by existing, you remind them of what they could have been. They feel cheated because to them you seem specially privileged, as if you have a hidden pull. This makes them very angry and they look around for someone to accuse. Loath to blame themselves, they conclude that it is YOUR fault… somehow.

    1. The lines you have picked are the crux of the story Vishal. I am so happy that you’ve found resonance with them.

      Happy to see you on these pages. 🙂

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