It was war!
The air was thick with dust and the acrid, metallic stink of gun- powder. The heat was scalding and steamy. Sounds of heavy artillery drowned out hoarse voice shouting orders; orders which carried an edge of horrified terror. My heart pounded uncomfortably in my chest; the lance of panic held me impaled. I felt a ball of dread rise in my throat, making me gag. I was a student, not a solider. What on earth was I doing in the middle of a war, for God’s sake?!
In cold sweat and throat hurting terribly as if I’d swallowed an elephant, I woke up in my narrow bed. It was a dream! Oh, what a relief!
I swung my legs down and sat looking at my feet, my breath coming in ragged rasps through my raw throat.
I’m nineteen years old and am preparing for my engineering entrance exams. I appeared for this exam last year too, but wasn’t able to get through. I mean, I got admitted to ‘a’ engineering college, but I wanted to study in ‘the’ college- at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). A lesser college was no use.
Getting into IIT wasn’t my parents’ idea. Unlike my friends’ parents, my parents had never pushed me into fulfilling their own unrealized dreams. I had the freedom to choose any career, any field. After going through a perfunctory career counseling session after I cleared my higher secondary, I had decided to go for engineering. I chose the Math stream for my senior secondary.
For two years, I kept debating which engineering college I would study in. I searched the internet for the best colleges in the country. My high expectations from myself forbid me from even considering a lesser institution. So IIT it was.
My parents had been surprised, especially my mother. She kept asking me if I was sure. I tried hard to assure them that I really wanted to be an engineer, but they were not convinced. My mother was particularly vociferous. She kept insisting that I was making a big mistake. I got exasperated and I am ashamed to say that I snapped at her.
I know she was more than a little hurt. In a small voice she said, “I only want you to be happy Gautam. Your career isn’t only going to be your profession- it is a means of self- expression. If you choose wisely, it will define you and become your calling. Yes, I am surprised you want to go for engineering. I always thought you loved to dance- you are so exceptionally good at it!”
My mom is really a tad naive! What kind of a career option was dance? Where would I find work except in the movies? Everyone knows how tough it is to get into the movies. People far more talented than I have languished at the portals of the film industry, never once having crossed the threshold! I certainly have no taste for a life of deprivation and unending struggle. All I wanted was a good life. Money- loads of it and the quicker the better- was certainly a pivotal part of my future plans.
In a way I could understand my mother too. I know I am a good dancer. With practice, I had the potential to become great. I forget the world when I dance. I feel as if I own the earth; as if she infuses energy into me through my feet. I feel neither hunger nor thirst; neither exhaustion nor sleep. I become one with the music as it flows through me, making me rise and fall with its melodious notes.
As a career option, dance was a dicey proposition at best. Not everyone could be a Michael Jackson. To make the kind of money I wanted to make, I would need to devote many, many years to intense practice. After that I would need to wait endlessly until some big- wig gave me a break in the movies.
I don’t want to wait so long to make my pile of money! I want to get rich- like stinking, obnoxiously rich- as soon as I can! Once I’ve made my pile, I’ll have the rest of my life to dance in! That was the only sensible thing to do. I didn’t understand why my parents couldn’t understand something so simple!
It took me awhile, but I managed to convey this to my parents. They didn’t really understand. Or rather, they understood but couldn’t accept my choice. According to them, I was making a huge mistake, throwing away my talent, as my mom said. Dad went tight- lipped and mom quietly wiped her eyes with the edge of her sari. Neither of them argued with me, thankfully. They’ll understand some day, I’m sure of that.
The clink of money is a comforting argument.
To be continued…
First? 😛 🙂
Well, considering I was half hour behind, I thought someone might have got ahead 🙂
I can see the reverse scenario playing out with ease, with the parents going for the money option. So the tale already a twist and I can’t wait to see where it leads. 😀
With an engineering entrance looming, I can understand the nightmare of war though 😀 seems very apt. I had one where I was shooting arrows that kept landing on my foot 😛
Leo, This story isn’t so much about a twist as a paradigm shift, in a way. I am sure the story is predictable… or will be after the second part is posted. The purpose of this story is to make you think, to reconsider a few things, take another look at your life through a new lens. 🙂
I understood the purpose 😉 Just saying the reverse is more believable so this way feels like a twist.
Oh ok! I just thought I’ll deter you from building your hopes on this being a story with a twist… 🙂
Good try 😛
Nice tale with a twist where the son himself wants the money and chooses to aspire for the IITs rather than the parents wanting him to. Interesting to see where this heads to …
As I said to Leo, this story isn’t so much about a twist as a paradigm shift. Lets see where it goes… and in its journey, which valleys it traverses. Thank you. 🙂
What a role reversal 🙂 These lines that you penned.. all of us should feel these about our passion
I feel as if I own the earth; as if she infuses energy into me through my feet. I feel neither hunger nor thirst; neither exhaustion nor sleep. I become one with the music as it flows through me, making me rise and fall with its melodious notes
Awaiting the next part now…
We all have something for which we feel that way, don’t we Seeta? For me that trance- like state comes when I am engrossed in training a group or am deep into a one-on-one session with someone. Pure magic… unadulterated joy! 😀
Next part coming soon Seeta! 🙂
..and another fiction sees the light of day 🙂 I agree, the role reversal was quite a surprising instance and I suppose quite common in today’s India where kids choose what they want to do.. Promising start…looking forward to the next
Thanks Sid. Another fiction does see the light of day. I have many who lie supine though, languishing. I bet you do too… Poor things! 🙂
The parents seem to play the reverse role of what happens in general. I like that kid. He is practical and knows what works out and what doesn’t.
Glad you like the kid Prudhvi. He is indeed practical and very clear about his options. It is refreshing to see in a youngster. 🙂
Very sensitive take, Dagny and I wonder where the urge to make fast money will take us. A gripping narration and can’t wait to read more:)
bravo Vishal, you nailed the point I was trying to me. I find it a very disturbing trend, this obsession youngsters have with a quick buck. They seem ready to sacrifice anything for it.
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Aha! Looks like this story of yours is going to communicate the same message that I dress up in various ways in a lot of my posts 🙂 I try to sneak up on the reader, you highlight it rather effectively.
Your technique works fabulously Suresh. Your unerring talent to give a humorous twist to your post make it so easy on the ego. 🙂
I agree Dagny when you tried to convey thru your post the second options or the alternate ones to be at-least considered rather than rushing where the crowd throngs. This story is in reverse gear where the parents do not stress on an IIT degree.
I hope you like the rest of the story too Kalpana. Thanks for reading this… 🙂
A very interesting weave so far! Sometimes I wonder from where are these so-called “practical” ideas getting into kids’ heads…especially at the age when they should be dreaming of dancing away with their dreams, especially like the kid in this story who is actually a good dancer 🙂
On to the second part now….
Beloo, you HAD to get it, didn’t you? I too am alarmed at the pseudo- pragmatism the kids are sporting nowadays like a badge of wisdom. It makes me so worried. Where do they think they will reach by focusing on material success which is divorced from the quest of their soul?
Once again, you have given me a fulfilling moment of resonance! Thank you!
Ah, the child seems so sensible yet naive can be expected from one who barely has any experience and wisdom but loads of intelligence and practicality definitely. I guess, in life, no matter how much it pains us, we have to allow the kids to make their choices.I am talking loudly here to myself. That the boy is named Gautam endears him to me. That he is chasing money is not surprising. It is a fact of life that penniless pursuit of passion can sometimes defeat the spirit and make one bitter. Alas, it is a tough call for the child and the parents.
Tougher for the parents than for the child. He doesn’t have any idea of the challenges ahead of him, they do. Yet to stand by and let your child take the wrong step, that’s true courage. While I was writing this, I asked myself if I was capable of it. And I remembered times when I’ve done just this… but also that it was so very difficult.