My life, (not) my rules!

I believe everyone’s life story is interesting if appropriately told. So, today I thought that it would be fitting if I gave a brief rundown of my life and what I have been up to till now. Only the prospective reader will be able to tell if the story was exciting and worth spending time upon, but nevertheless, I will try my best to narrate a damn good story from my side.

Dear Diary,

Life is hard. Not only for me but for everyone; and different people have different ways of coping. Well, you have been here for me, since years; but I do apologize for not keeping in touch with you and today, I want to make amends. So, let’s see, since our last interaction, I have made it to a prestigious B-School, well known in the Eastern region of India. But life has not been so easy as I had hoped; bogged down by failures, and keeping a bottle of Old Monk, a pack of Flake Advanced and this Diary as witnesses, I hope to look back on my life and see how I have tackled adversities before. This would help me to address the one I am facing right now, suitably. And being an aspiring writer of sorts, I know pretty well that rum, cigarette and thoughts intermingle thoroughly together. My life has been a constant cycle of “Infatuation, love, despair, loss, anger, anguish, happiness, achievement, loneliness, silence”. Sometimes, the simplest of questions can wield a lifetime’s worth of answers. And trapped within those answers is the essence of what we indeed are, because every decision we ever took, whether knowingly or unknowingly defines us. The primary question that I should begin with should be-

“How did I make it till here?”

Tuitions & School

Tuitions were either the best or the worst possible places imaginable, and it was in one of these tuitions that I discovered love when I studied in class 9th. She was the reason for my near-perfect attendance in that tuition while in other tuition classes, I bunked at the slightest chance I could get. She was the lighthouse to my stormy sea of life, and it was she who inspired me to write this poem I named, The Lighthouse…

The sail caught the wind; as did the hull catch the tide,

Piercing the darkness, shimmered the feeble light,

A constant companion in the dark…

Wooing ships and sailors alike,

The lighthouse, keeping its forlorn promise;

Providing a sweet haven of hope, in the entrails of the devastating abyss…

Closer to the shore, the hope gets stronger,

Irrefutable to die, the sailor thinks, “A little longer…”

The scales of the dead fish brought to immediate life,

Their shining eyes reminiscing the long lost strife…

The lighthouse, keeping its forlorn promise;

Providing a sweet haven of hope, in the entrails of the devastating abyss…

“I…love…you”, I managed my best to say these three words, without fumbling my head off. I did not want to see the expression that Swarna had, because deep down, I knew she did not love me, not in a manner I did at least. And now, I realize, what one of my primary problems was- to run off from the things that I feared most, I was an escapist. Teenage angst kicked in once I realized I failed in love. Swarnalata, who once was my lighthouse, turned into an ice queen.

With my hope defeated, I changed drastically over a short period of time and started bunking classes, drinking and smoking and even getting hooked on diluter (the bottle of a clear liquid that came with the whitener- chemically it was toluene, a highly addictive and dangerous substance). The fact that I got a scummy set of friends who lured me into addiction was not a bonus point either. Thus, began my descent in intoxication, reclusive living and introversion. In fact, I had wasted more than two lakhs of my father’s hard-earned money, bunking institute coaching classes. I now shudder thinking that there was a time when I used to be proud of it. I still remember that fateful day when I was caught bunking.

I sat in front of my Physics sir’s office desk, my father beside me. Yes, I was caught red-handed and our Physics sir being our mentor had to look into my matter personally.

Sir: I must say this feat has never been achieved before, in the ten-year history of this institute. I must say he has guts.

Saying this, he puts out the register and hands it to my father fingering the trail of voids I left in the attendance column. My father breaks down at this point, sobbing and making muffled cries of despair. I did not understand which aspect my father repented more, me bunking classes and not learning a single subject or me wasting almost one and a half lakh of his precious earned money.

Both I guessed. I hated to be right in such situations.

My father: What must I do with him, sir? He seems to be beyond help-

Sir: You do realize your mistake, young boy?

I looked at him, and then towards my father, I had nothing to say. On sir’s instructions, I am told to wait in our classroom; the classroom seemed like an old memory suddenly jogged into existence. I walk towards my seat at the end edge of the room where I had scribbled a question many months ago-

“Am I destined for something bigger?”

Below the question was a faded ‘YES’ which was crossed and replaced with a big, gruesome ‘NO’.

College & Job

The four years of my graduation went through like a haze. The streak of intoxication and addiction pretty much exponentially increased while I was in college, and I tried everything, from weed to pills to the worst possible kind of addiction, the chemical type. From popping pills to sniffing industrial adhesives, I’ve done them all. This reminds me of a specific instance I happened to encounter in college-

“Here try this”, he stretched out his arm, which held a small, white, roundish pill. I was apprehensive, hesitating even to take the pill from him. “Oh, come on! You have to take it and pop it into your mouth. And put this as well,” he scrambled all over his pocket and with great difficulty managed to draw a candy. “The pill tastes bitter, like poison, you know.” He explained. “Not that I’ve ever had poison” Rishikesh scratched his head, befuddled. Shanku was a good friend of mine; being an introvert and quite a bit of a recluse I barely had friends, though I was on good terms with everybody. He was an ardent fan and follower of Antariksh, Rishikesh’s roommate. Our college had a golden rule, every year was allotted their own hostels- although Rishikesh’s and my hostels were located at the two extremities of the campus; still, the size of the rooms was amazingly more or less the same; covered in foot-long soot hanging from the ceiling. This setting was in perfect alignment with the floor covered in ashes and ends from cigarettes and even ‘bidis’. The whole scenario was a claustrophobic one. I gulped once and looked at my ‘dear’ senior.

It was hard to say no, with Rishi forcing me to take the ‘miracle’ pill and his roommate Antariksh rummaging about the room, inebriate, searching for a glass to pour his whiskey. With dazed steps, he stood close to me asking his year mate what the matter was. Shanku had already gone outside the room in search of a glass for his beloved senior. The situation was pressing hard on me, and finally, Rishikesh suddenly became animated; with one hand, he cupped my cheeks forming a small opening and with his other hand, thrust his fingers in my mouth forcing me to ingest the pill. As time grew on, I felt disgruntled, uneasy. The drug was invariably making its way through my oesophagus and in my system. The intoxication proliferating within me by the minutes, I tried to get up but could not. Something coerced me to sit down, with a thud. Suddenly Rishikesh entered the room with an entourage of seniors followed by the ever-subservient Shanku. I shook my head well enough to make the effects of the pill wear off, but in vain. The room, which a jiffy ago was more or less empty, was incredulously packed up with several seniors of varying physiques. My world was literally spinning now, more than ever.

Suddenly somebody shouted out, “The third and fourth years have attacked our hostel, they are rallying up against us outside our gate.” At the sound of this, I heard several of them scream at the top of their lungs, which was rallied by voices from outside the room cumulating from the sum total of the hostel rooms. At this point, I do not feel very well; I do not feel myself at all, but involuntarily I give in to the screams. I shout, I shout with all my might. I charge with them to battle, my year mates become my comrades. I have completely changed now, with the pill controlling my actions and me. The next morning, I woke up battered and bruised. I’ve never been so alive before.

*One year later*

 “Here try this”, I said to the frightened junior before me stretching out my arm, holding a small, white, roundish pill.

*****

“So, Biswadeep, tell me about yourself”, the man across the table enquired all the while going through my resume, looking a bit uninterested. My whole life flashed before my very eyes, and unsurprisingly my deeds of mischief glared more than the rest, like a lighthouse shining through the dead fog of night. Slowly, alphabets coalesced to form meaningful words and words fused into tangible sentences, which must have managed to impress the person across the table, seeing how I landed with the job after all. Overnight, my status changed to that of a superstar; I managed to secure a job at the first chance that I got. The years in my job only reinforced my belief in the adage, “Everyone is out for themselves”, albeit it would be wrong for me to say that I didn’t make good friends along the way. But good friends are rare, and like all things rare, they are valuable.

Concluding remarks

In hindsight, I know I have been a screw-up and messed up badly in many places. My parents had to deal with me since my school days and right until the time I finished college. But on the other hand, over the years, I matured and learned to find happiness through my parents than through myself. And what best way to earn happiness for your parents than to achieve something fruitful. I have till now, published my poems and stories in more than fifteen anthologies, national and international, volunteered in several NGOs and have been freelancing since I was in class twelfth, and from the money I earned, have been gifting things to my parents, only to see them smile.

I now show measure in befriending others, restrict myself from all possible addictions (trying hard to quit smoking, but…), and try to work hard on any project that I lay hands on, including this one. After all, I have learned (the hard way) that life is not to be wasted away, and to face each individual challenge has to be faced head-on. There, all this writing about overcoming obstacles has given me the boost of optimism that I needed. 

[All names and their identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. This work is based on real events. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner]

~Biswadeep

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