He was often perceived as the proverbial rotten apple among his friends since school days by the teaching faculty. Parents named him Vijay(victory), naively hoping the name would be a harbinger of conventional victory. So his red flag status at the school’s staff room wasn’t exactly the thing, the family elder who named him told would be the fond after effect of the proper noun.
One fine evening, their superstition around names died along with the sun light.
His intelligence was never under scrutiny. What was under the scanner was its application and the orderliness, the way he defied or toyed with it in the process. He would generate conversations with the kid next to him when three tables was taught in class much to the teacher’s dismay. But would exactly make ten columns of three kids out of his class of thirty odd pupils, to assist his class teacher during excursion nonchalantly.
Sometimes, he would question the relevance of history involving conquests and fallen emperors to his day to day life in the city and place the story of a regional movie from previous day’s 9.30 slot over Merchant of Venice the other times.
In short, he was the ersatz labour pain to the teaching faculty, independent of their pregnancy.
Abishek was an antithesis to Vijay. Same school, same age, same height; yet so diametrically different from him. Chalk & cheese kind of doppelgangers they were. Teachers appreciated his uncontested obedience to the school rules & syllabus, through good scores and cherry picked nepotism. He was a model student or the student modeled whimsically from the staff room to be a flagship face of the school.
This phase and the inferences attached got indelibly imprinted onto his conscience. Adherence to a rule, faithful acknowledgement of a functional system and the fruits that came along blurred the thin line between goodness and obedience, intelligence and knowledge.
School came to an end with the prodigall board exams. Vijay came out an educated mind; a wild horse unleashed into the woods with endless freedom. Abishek was an academic dart that seldom missed the bull’s eye of results & rewards; the extent of which confined his scope of ambition.
College days were an encore of School days; with both Vijay & Abishek continuing to be outstanding students. Just that in the former’s case alone it was literal.
Vijay couldn’t contract to the inflexible jurisdictions of his nine to five jobs; as rewarding as they came and kept jumping from organisation to another like a drunken monkey in pursuit of peanuts on a banana plantation. Frustration had the better of the monkey and it started looking for peanuts in another place. Writing challenged him, kept his spirit of adventure vigil and most importantly; made him feel alive.
Abishek was enamored by the nine to five cliche and the template fitted his aspirations to a T. He turned out to be a wonderful resource and why wouldn’t he. For he was still the popular school kid at heart; proficient with the art of subservience to flow of authority. His individuality was a flimsy excuse; that would dissolve diligently at the warmth of his organisational needs. His ambitions were merrily dovetailed to that of his organisation; like the frog’s soul to its well.
Vijay fell in love with someone outside of him, a girl who turned out to be a soothing fuel to the fire within. Abishek got committed to the idea of love and fitted his fiancee into this template. Vijay moved in with her and Abishek married her.
Vijay loved to write, she was an animal activist and together they inspired each other in their parallel pursuits. They were so dissimilar, yet so palpably compatible. For instance,she was a firm believer in the concept of God, he was a person who worshiped the bandwidth of goodness and narcissism around; declaring himself as an agnost proudly. But he would accompany her to religious places to only sarcastically point out the faux pas in everything animate or inanimate there; which she sportingly would whisk off. His sarcasm never meant malice and her belief system wasn’t a touch-me-not either.
Over the span of their relationship they fought a lot, loved a lot more till a point was reached. The point where he became increasingly becoming dependent on her at a cerebral and visceral level; much to his dismay. This relation was making him absolve the very nucleus of his being,self love. He dispassionately pulled the plug off it; deaf to her endless reasoning.
She was left broken heart; but little did she know that he had left his behind with her.
Abishek’s relationship err..marriage was everything commercials were made of; candle light dinners, treks to exotic locations, treasure hunts involving expensive jewelry, exclusive couple picnics etc. These were layers of deceit laid out systematically between them to compensate the vacuum in their compatibility. They were content binging on extramural ways of constructing togetherness; like family dinners and lousy trips with mutual friends whenever they felt restless all by themselves.
Often their arguments ended with assumptions, their fondness was a collage of conveniently overlooked differences and their mutual respect was formed out of overbearing fondness to the institution of matrimony; than personal virtues.
A couple of years into the wedding; they begot a love child; without being sure about their birthdays.
There are some places that bring the lurking beast out of even the most meditated of monks. One such place is the Anna Salai stretch in Chennai from 10-11 on a weekday’s morning, notorious for its frenzied traffic. The pandemonium just got better with the snail-paced metro project occupying half the width of this stretch; which already seemed like it was about to burst due to over capacity.
This is from where Abishek was honking incessantly from the cozy confines of his hatchback that was in the front of the group of vehicles counting down the last few seconds to green. He was visibly late to his workplace. Vijay was at the same signal; a little behind Abishek. He was late again to yet another book reading of his and the retaliation of the peeved publisher could be felt as vibrations ; courtesy his mobile phone.
A bike that couldn’t go past this signal from the diagonally opposite signal in the last few seconds had trickled down to the line of attack of incoming traffic from this end. This clumsy endeavor was manned by a fragile man in his late fifties. Being the first incoming vehicle towards the man, Abishek could’ve briefly halted for this man to tiptoe to the other end of the road and others behind would’ve waited; but bending a rule just was out of question.
He vroomed past him without an iota of guilt, inspiring the other commuters to follow suit. Did I say guilt? In his head he was a model citizen who paid his taxes duly and obeyed every single rule laid out by the system. He didn’t owe any courtesy to a person who had failed a signal.
When Vijay came near this man, he had already lost his balance and was about to fall from his bike. Pink faced and limbs shivering ; he was a motley of shame, helplessness and intimidation. Vijay stopped his car, got down and signaled towards the approaching vehicles to go around them .The aggression in the approaching vehicles paved way for empathy, for they went around them.He helped the man with his bike and weaved a way for him to the other end. He was late to yet another place, but had gone out of his comfort zone another time to stand for something that he believed in.
Compassion is often a discounted virtue that doesn’t derive its luster from a charter, like a rule or a regulation does. He was a firm practitioner of the same and was construed to be a willful violator, more often than not.
Schools are the primary influencers of the human mind. But most of them seem content in slaying down a child’s individuality by attaching metrics and yardsticks to success and morals in order to make a functional, homogeneous resource who would effortlessly fit in as a well lubricated cog in the wheel of the society.
If only they were pampered to be curious,taught virtues before grammar, morals before multiplication, discretion before laying out of prescriptions and the difference between obedience and goodness, Abishek would’ve probably stopped.
Evolution of one’s individuality is his path to self discovery; the course of which shouldn’t be altered inorganically in lieu of conventional acceptance .