One look, even a quick glance, at your Facebook account is enough to overwhelm you, especially if you are a struggling writer, or a struggling anybody. And, I am both, and I have just committed that crime.
In the photographs, all my friends, as I dreaded, appear to be leading a great life, almost otherworldly. A pang of jealousy courses through my veins, and I want to close the page, immediately. But, a divine intervention takes place, and my finger develops a brain of its own, and I find myself scrolling down the page. Helpless, I am forced to see more pictures. Everyone seems ecstatic about something – smiling, giggling, laughing their hearts out.
Promotions are happening.
World tours are common.
Marriages, I mean honeymoons basically, are giving people reasons to feel happy again.
Newborn babies are completing the lives of some others.
Alumni meets display the camaraderie that interestingly was so missing in the days when they all actually graduated, ten years back.
Bottles clinking. Laughters ringing. (Yes, I could hear them laugh.)
Friends. I mutter to myself, and smile. They truly are everything.
Where the hell are my friends?
I mean, I see them on facebook, all right, they are there, somewhere. But why am I not with them in the pictures?
I can’t help but recall wistfully, the time when friends were all I lived for. School, college, work, and at home – they were everywhere.
Quite a contrast to the current situation.
I know we have all grown up, and today, we are all busy.
But the others still manage to meet and enjoy drinks – and hell, post the pictures too.
When exactly did I become an outcast?
Well, my work is lonely, I reason with myself. I like being within myself – contemplating, reading and writing, that’s true. And, people have a tendency to forget you if you are not social – or in today’s times, if you are not a social media addict. And, as far as I am concerned, I only post one picture a year on facebook, primarily to let all know that I am still alive, and ageing.
But, as I mentioned before, I too had life, once. I remember clearly, how it all began:
In my final year of college, my father wanted me to prepare for some extremely tough competitive exams, for a job in the Indian Civil Services. And – since that required a lot of preparation, persistence, doggedness, and focus, as he described it – I decided to opt out, almost immediately.
But, this decision still needed to be conveyed to the hopeful father. And, that required a lot of courage on my part.
Luckily, I didn’t have it.
So I thought about a way of communication where I wouldn’t need to be facing him.
Writing! I thought.
Yes, I could write all that and slip the letter under his pillow one night.
I did exactly that.
I wrote him a big five-page letter (front and back), detailing all the reasons why I was not cut out for that job (in reality for the exam itself – God, only Indians know how tough it is).
That letter, written, edited, and then rewritten several times, involved a great deal of hard work, clarity of thoughts, honesty, and focus. It squeezed every ounce of energy out of me. It was probably the first time in my life that I had done anything like that.
And, in its final finished form, it impressed someone. Guess who?
Oh God! No. Are you crazy?
Not my father. No. He was beyond the petty concept of getting impressed with his own offsprings. He was way too impressed with himself for that. It was always his fitness, his language prowess, his looks (seriously dad?), his oratory, and his achievements. From his height, it was hard to see my tiny existence, let alone appreciate it.
So, of course, the person it impressed – was me.
Yes, I absolutely loved the way I had written that letter. And, quietly that night, I left my magnum-opus in his room.
Soon enough, the next morning, my father barged into my room, and threw on my face the crumpled papers. “Good, if that’s what you want,” he snarled, his face contorted, and flushed. I know he wanted to say much more, but probably he was thinking of writing me a letter in return just to show how it was done.
I picked it up as soon as he was gone, and carefully smoothed it on my lap. As I had expected, he had molested the dignity of my beautiful letter. Circles all around marking the errors, proclaiming his victory, even in his defeat. And, on the last page, a royal dictum read:
As it turns out, you are not brilliant enough to appear for as reputed an exam as this. You should have written me a letter years ago.
I felt so relieved. I let out a deep, contented sigh. I was free!
And, with freedom had come the realization that I could write. I know, I know – the errors. But, that was acceptable to me. I could always improve on that part. The important thing was that I liked the process of writing. To express with my inner voice, that came alive and took over. Something inside of us all, is very wise indeed. I loved that voice. I began to yearn to hear it again and again. And, like that, an ambition was conceived inside of me – a far-fetched dream.
I immediately aborted all I was doing, and scampered out to share my eureka moment with my very alive friends. The ones, I was sure would care.
I found them enjoying cold drinks and snacks in the college canteen, as usual.
“What!” they all shrieked in unison, once I jabbered it all out – not the reaction I was hoping for. Every head in the canteen turned towards us.
“F**k my a*s, you can become a writer!” one of my dear friends spat. I think he took it as some kind of personal insult.
Shocked, I looked at another one, for some consolatory words. But, he couldn’t stop laughing for… I think, a very very long time. He ceased to be my best friend, right then and there.
I wanted to simply go back home, when I felt a glass full of cold water splashed hard on my face. Dripping, and angry, I looked around madly to find one of them standing with his hands up in defence, an empty glass held in one. He screamed that he just wanted to wake me up as he ran for his life.
Then, as I was about to go away dejected, I heard someone saying, “Wow! A writer. How very romantic.” This girl seemed to be looking right through the wall, at the horizon, smiling dreamily. She was instantly pulled by her boyfriend (the same one who took it as a personal insult), and given a death-stare. She never said a word about it after that. She is married today – not with this psycho, though.
Another girl, already alerted to a possible boyfriend’s wrath, just eyed hers from the corner of her eye, scared, and noticed him scowling at her, daring her to say something – anything. She clapped a hand over her mouth, and closed her eyes, shuddering.
Well, all that was good enough indication for me never to tell about my ambition to another human being. Therefore, in hiding, I kept scribbling – working all along, and gradually developing a solid shell around me that no one was allowed to enter. Friends, I told myself, were no more than distraction. They were anyway doing very well in life, and could do with one less friend. I was sure they wouldn’t even notice my absence from their world.
And, they never did…