6 mins


Or so it seemed, as I sat there staring at the assortment of letters and numbers that lay before me. I had a vague memory of me opening a seal that said ‘Chemistry Test’ and taking out this booklet that I had. As soon as I looked into the paper, I became oblivious of everything.

Some people call this getting serious. I have heard a lot of those in the past couple of years.“You’re in 12th now. It’s high time you get serious!” or “Are you taking your studies the least bit seriously? This one  year can make or break your life you know...!” Something along those lines……… Indifferent to everything else, some of my classmates sit in front of a certain piece of paper they call the answer script with their heart and soul buried deep in the fathoms of the subject. The mystical workshop known as the mind whirring and rotating its gears scavenging equations and formulae long forgotten. I felt something like that, only it wasn’t equations I was searching for. It was something else…….

What is it? The question has been haunting me for days. What is it that I am going to do with myself? Ever since I screwed up my finals, my so called study sessions for the University Entrance Tests have been a mockery of the name. Studies. Bah! I used to find myself staring at a blank computer screen and salvage some satisfaction for reasons I cannot explain. 

I lifted my pencil to begin writing at least something. A wise man is once known to have said: If you begin running a race, the finish line is but a few strides away. As I copied down the values I had to do the math with, I had my ‘mystical workshop’ wandering off again. I saw myself juggling balls in the temple street with Cotton-Eye Joe playing in the background. I saw myself washing dishes at a roadside motel hiding my face now and then when acquaintances passed by. I saw myself again, working at a gas station, my friends riding in and out in their fancy cars and even fancier tattoos. What am I going to do? The first question I actually made an effort to answer in all the time I sat in contemplation.

I decided to shake it off and get back to answering the questions I was asked. Still no luck. I could see letters. I could see words but I couldn’t make out head or tail of them. It was like staring into a mirror and feeling as though you should know the face staring back at you perfectly, yet not recognizing who it is. I closed the booklet and slammed my face on the desk earning a few frowns from those around me. Why am I even doing this? I had half a mind to just leave everything there and run out of the room. Far away. From everything. And everyone. And then? I didn’t know. Probably I would never. Because I didn’t have guts enough to do something like that. Run away? Me? What a laugh!

What is the enthalpy of SO3 in the reaction……? Hey! I know that one. I quickly brushed aside all thoughts and put myself to solving the problem. I could solve this one. But what about the bigger one? The one that would supposedly make or break my life. Bah! Humbug……..

Tell me if this sounds familiar – In the beginning of 12th grade you approach someone. Anyone – Parent, teacher, senior. You ask him/her the same question that Socrates once asked his peers – “What ought I to do?” You get an answer: Study hard now. Things will be clearer as December approaches.

December’s here. You go to god-knows-how-many career counseling and guidance programs. Half of them saying Engineering and the other half saying Medicine. And by the time you are finished with you exams you still don’t have the answer. 

What ought I to do? I. Me. The first person. 

Nobody knows that better than you, comes the answer. 

If I knew that, then why bother asking you? In the world of emoticons I would be....... Colon- Forward Slash. That is :/

Why do colloidal particles…… When does the equimolar solution of…….. How is the enthalpy subject to change in…….. Each one of the questions appeared to be asking me something. A premonition maybe? Of the silly questions, unwanted suggestions, counterfeit condolences and sham congratulations that are a part and parcel of public exams and their results.

“What next….? Where…..? Oh there….? No, no that’s not good. How about here? No? Why not? That’s not reason enough………What I think is......” 

Do you think I give a damn what you think? Screw you. If I’m screwing up my life then so be it. At least I’ll do that correctly. I don’t want you poking your nose, sniffing around me like I'm a prey to be relished, teaching me how to do something that I’ve been doing for the past 17 years! Screw things up!

“15 minutes more,” said the invigilator briskly pacing around the classroom. Pity. Just as I was about to get a hold of some answers I was looking for. Reminiscing a nostalgic memory that lay faded and uncared for in the flurry of others being recalled every day, I picked up a certain nursery rhyme that I used not once too often.

“Inky, pinky, ponkey,
Father had a donkey,
Donkey died, father cried,
Inky, pinky, ponkey.”

I found my finger stopping on option ‘D’. So be it, I said to myself as I darkened the circle not wanting to bother about the fact that one wrong answer would be enough to throw me from designing satellite dishes down to washing dirty dishes. Not a reliable method of answering, I know. But a man’s got to do SOMETHING……

“Done already?” asked an incredulous voice apparently uncertain of the reason behind me being so careless. Sometimes your school's name takes you a long way.

“I believe so”, I said with a wry smile as I pressed my inky thumb on the answer script.

I walked out the door possibly shutting all chances of getting into a decent university or engineering school. I asked myself this last question – Did I regret any ‘choice’ I made? For once, I had a definitive answer. Hell no! Someone once told me, Time and distance are the only ones who can give you answers. Speed is a trickster that comes time and again. Incapable of predicting definitive results. He who waits, wins.

If I’m not yet sure of what I want to do, then it’s probably because it’s not yet time for me. Maybe I have a longer distance to go and I need to prepare for that. And I shall……. 

Some people call me a dreamer. A deluded dimwit who believes that life is a garden of flowers. A fool who is unable to see the thorns in their midst. I'd say there is more to life then security and safety. And there is more to safety than shying away from a fragrant flower fearing a few thorns.

“What do you see when you look at that basketball hoop man? Gallows and an executioner? asked a classmate apparently amused by my glazed expression.

No. I see a gaping hole in the world that I need to fill. One that I need to be ready to fill; that I need to be willing to fill.

And to all things comes a beginning.

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