The indicator displayed the next train to be Kalyan-bound. Located on the outskirts of Mumbai, Kalyan is a tiny, clumsy town and a train going there is never empty. So, I decided to skip that train. I checked my watch. It showed quarter past eleven. "Lots of time", I thought to myself.
I made my way towards the first-class section of the platform. It was a bright sunny day and the people around seemed to be a pleasant mood. With a heavy bag around my shoulders, I stood near the biscuit vendor. "Is it the bag or the other thing that has caused my shoulders to drop?” I wondered.
The Kalyan-bound train arrived. A group of four students alighted the train, joking and laughing.
"Why is it always me?" I murmured. "How is it that of the 6 billion people in the world, I am the only one who gets picked every time? What have I done wrong?"
The indicator flickered. The next train was heading towards a relatively quiet city named Thane. This one's perfect, I concluded. The perfect train to jump out of!
How could I possibly fail in Hindi and Science? Science! How did I commit such a blunder in the first preliminary examination? What is left now? If I am not able to clear my preliminary examination, how can I expect to pass the main test? But what happened?
The Thane train marked its arrival with a loud honk. I put my hands in my pockets and boarded the train. It was empty. I stood near the door.
Let me wait for the next station to arrive. My path will be clearer then. I took the bag off my shoulders and occupied the window seat. The train began to move. Nice, warm breeze blew through my hair and in turn, opened a can of questions in my head.
How will Dad react? How much more will I disappoint him? How thorny will his words become this time around? He disconnected the television cable service at the start of the year. Will he now permanently switch off the computer? Will he lock the telephone? He will definitely blame mom for this. How many more tears will she shed for my idiocy? How many more taunts of the neighbors will she bear? How will I face my colony friends? Ramesh will definitely tell them everything. Now, he will become the eye-candy of the group while nobody will even inquire about me.
The train arrived at Kurla. I took a deep breath. Closing my eyes, I remembered my parents and bid them a final adieu. The train had already begun to quicken its pace. I put the bag back on my shoulders and stood up. But two steps ahead, disappointment welcomed me. On the footboard of both the doors stood a pack of college boys. I cursed them under my breath. Why are people so enthusiastic to stand in an empty train? I went back to my seat.
How will I face Mrs. Pereira now? Unlike other teachers, she was the only one who had showed faith and confidence in me. I had promised her that I will earn a first class in this examination. How do I tell her that I have broken her promise? Why didn't I think about the occurrence of such a situation while I went about breaking her trust? Her previous record shows that every child that she has put her trust in has left the school a transformed student. How do I live as being the only red mark in her report card?
I also saw the look on Priya's face. It was a disheartened one. No, you fool! It was filled with abomination and disgust. Yes, that was what it was filled with! I doubt whether she will talk to me again. Anyways, after having scored an enviable distinction, Omkar is sure to prise her away from me. She was the last string on which I was balancing my life. What is left of life now?
The train began to slow down. The huge board on the platform read 'Ghatkopar'. I took a glance at the door. The students were still there. "No worries! Five more stations to go Lots of time!" I reassured myself.
I definitely know what I did wrong. The daily hours of Counter Strike is what I did wrong. The weekly sneak out for a movie is what I did wrong. The countless hours of day dreaming about Priya is what I did wrong. The meaningless phone chats with friends is what I did wrong. The mindless surfing day in and day out is what I did wrong. The countless days wasted without putting a finger on the textbooks is what I did wrong. But was I the only one who was wrong?
Wasn't it wrong on my parents' part to harbor a dream of their child becoming an IIT engineer when he had showed the least interest in it? Weren't they wrong in sending me to that nonsensical IIT tutorial which left me completely disillusioned with my studies? Weren't they wrong in their unwillingness to listen to what my heart had to say?
Weren't my teachers wrong in constantly nagging me about my shortcomings when they could have done in an affectionate way? Weren't they wrong in launching insults after insults in my direction in front of the entire class thereby allowing my classmates to have a nice laugh at my misery? Weren't they wrong in laughing at my questions instead of providing answers to them?
Weren't my friends wrong in displaying a smug look on their faces when I approached them with a difficulty? Weren't they wrong in not placing their hands over my shoulders during my times of distress?
Isn't this world wrong in not allowing children to be children? Unfortunately, none of the earthlings were able to answer my questions. So I come to you, God! I come to seek answers to my questions!
I felt a pat on my shoulder. "Hey, wake up! We've reached Thane", an old man whispered. I woke up with a start. I smiled at him and rose from my seat. My head felt numb. My vision was blurred. Stepping out of the train, I rubbed my eyes. And then I realized! I have reached Thane! I slept! But how? When? Why does it always happen with me? I just couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe that I had failed here as well. I shook my head in anger. And my head went numb again. A few moments later, out of nowhere, the answers appeared in my brain. Answers to the questions meant for God!
The answers made me hate myself all over again. But not for the failures that I had earned. Rather for the ridiculous act that I almost committed. While reading about Electricity in standard 8th, I had learnt that Thomas Edison failed twenty thousand times before he finally invented the bulb. If he had committed suicide after his first failure, like me, the world would probably still be living in darkness at night. In standard 7th, I had read that Rishi Valmiki had to face numerous taunts of the villagers upon his conversion from a dacoit into a saint. If he had ended his life due to this, the world would never have heard of The Mahabharata.
I realized that I couldn't change myself if I continued being ashamed of my mistakes. I understood that, in order to achieve the goals of my life, I had to be shameless and thick-skinned after a certain point. I discerned that the more I thought about my delusions, the more likely I was to repeat them. I recognized that if I am to compete with my peers in any respect, I needed to defeat them in their strengths. I learned that I should be more firm with myself as well as others so that I carry out only those actions that I believe are in my best interests. But most importantly, I fathomed that I needed to Act. Till date, I was high on words. Now, I needed to be high on actions as well. Because without that, I will never be able to swim across the ocean of Life!