A couple of days back, a friend of mine insisted on me coming along for a play in Bandra. It was supposed to be a solo act – a single actor portraying multiple characters on stage. Initially, I felt lazy, having to travel all the way. However, its name did catch my attention – “The Loser: A Writer’s Struggle in the Merciless Corporate World”. I knew I had to see this story unfold.
What triggered the urge? You might ask. The answer is simple: the relatable theme. For most of us, compromised ambitions are quite close to reality. And our tryst with this reality begins rather early in life, as we are conveniently persuaded into it by our own parents. We are expected to conform to their expectations in every sense of the word. ‘Discipline’, ‘for our betterment’ and ‘our greater good’ – these are the sort of phrases one gets to hear and they are assumed to be unquestionable.
We are forbidden to question. We forget to desire. And we forego all drive to strive for what we want.
Isn’t it ironic that as a child we are free to imagine ourselves to be anyone – an astronaut, a scientist, a truck driver, a doctor, a painter, or all of them together, and everyone plays along with our act? But when we are judicious enough to take the call of what we really want to be, they all turn against us. And what do we do? We compromise and end up as another loser. In a world which has no shortage of them.
Yes, I admit to having been a loser once. Just like most of us.
Like everyone else, my parents also began their mornings telling me to study hard in order to secure a ‘good job’. After all, a good job equals good money, which equals better prospective marital alliances. This equation had always been fairly linear to them. For me, it was always a conceited chokehold. At one point I, along with all of my friends, wondered if our parents would take some inspiration from “3 Idiots” and some day lovingly surprise us with, “Beta paiso ke peeche mat bhaago, khushi ke peeche bhaago. Success saala jhak maar ke peeche aayegi.” (Son, don’t run after money, run after happiness. Success will follow you.) They never did.
Three years ago, I was absolutely bored and frustrated with my not-so-happy work environment. I feared getting institutionalised. I tried to muster my courage each day, only for it to be crushed to smithereens by the end of it. And then came the day when all of my fears disappeared. Remember well: financial independence will be your ace weapon the day you choose to fight for your passion. I was convinced that this was it. This had to be it.
I quit the job, not otherwise. I went ahead and joined the Teach For India (TFI) fellowship that brings together people with all sorts of life experiences, and a shared passion for making a difference to the lives of those who have had less opportunities than us. That day onwards, my love for life was rekindled. From walking into an office full of exhausted people to walking into a classroom full of 50 crazy kids was a beautiful transition. And it was not just me but countless others who abandoned their seemingly easy and untaxing lives to teach children.
Yes. My passion was teaching. And I got to live my passion every single day.
Cutting back to “The Loser”, when the performer Debanshu Shekhar – who also happens to be the writer and director of the play – talks about the mundane things you face in an office, I could feel it all flash in front of me. I felt hurt when his character, Dipen Mishra, an ambitious writer, murders his desires to follow the league of software engineers. You could truly glimpse a part of you in the young man, who is hoping to achieve his dreams, but at the same time feeling like a complete loser. The play’s satirical take is so well cooked and heartfelt that I was overwhelmed with nostalgia, and bursting into roaring laughter just a few moments apart.
At the end of it, I was proud that I had triumphed. The ‘this was it’ moment made all the difference for me. “This was it!” must have been Debanshu’s thought when he decided to pursue theatre professionally, and it is this feeling alone that looks after all those who refuse someone else’s idea of life to be stuffed down their throat. They stand up to transform their lives into something they’ll enjoy living.
The ifs and buts hold us back from taking that one daring step. Once we start pursuing our desires, we just wish someone had told us earlier, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”.
Debanshu, with his group Naatakwaale, is bringing “The Loser” to Delhi over the weekend of 1st and 2nd July. You can catch the play and related updates through their official event page here.