I was generally uncomfortable with elders and those who were dominant, I used to see some part of my father in them. I used to look at everything around me in a negative way. I had the feeling that the whole universe was designed to ruin my life and spoil my happiness, without even realizing how insignificant I was in this universe. I avoided good friends because of the fear of losing them. I was unable to study in a single school for more than year, and I was unable to stay in touch with any of my friends. All these fear and negativity subsided after my 10th grade results, my life got a semblance of stability and for the first time in my life I finished two full years in a single school.
I started looking at people without any preconceived notions and with a slightly positive mindset. Lot of changes happened due to the re-arrangement of students, Karthik, Sudha and I opted for the biology group, while Ashwin, Sethu and others opted for Computer science. I did not have any guidance back then, I loved nuclear physics and chemistry but did not know how to pursue a career in those fields. Just like a sheep flowing a herd I too said that I aspired to become a doctor or an engineer. It looks quite stupid now, how can a person aspire to become either Doctor or an Engineer.
A new group of guys, Om Prakash, Shivrajanand and Jeevan from another school, and my ex-classmates from 9th std C section Navin and Senthil kumar joined us. I instantly got acquainted with these guys. They were the typical backbenchers and it was awesome to just be a part of that group.
A well organized elections happen every year in our school, when students from the 11th grade are chosen as office bearers. It was just a general election in India, where events like candidate nomination, choosing of symbols, canvassing, voting and counting happen over a period of 2 weeks. When I was in the 10th grade, I liked a guy and his symbol was star, so I voted for him. After counting they announced the result during the morning assembly the following day, the guy I voted for got 6 votes and the students named him ‘Six Vote Super Star’. I harbored the dreams of contesting the election, but that event made me a bit nervous. I did not have the mental courage to face such a humiliation, on second thought it made more sense to contest and lose rather than not to contest at all. Karthik was the most popular guy among all the teachers and most students knew him well. He studied in the same school for 13 years. Even before contesting, I was on a sticky wicket, so I asked Karthik about his interest in contesting the election. He was reluctant and said that he would not contest. It was a big relief and I nominated myself.
I was confident of performing well as Karthik was not interested. On the day of nomination Karthik changed his mind and nominated himself. Few others nominated themselves, the other prominent guys were Ashwin and Ashok, a new comer. As I always do, I started evaluating my competition, I felt that Ashwin did not have the charisma to win the election. I was actually worried about Ashok, he looked handsome and his verbal ability was amazing. Ashok became my major worry, as I could not do much about Karthick as I assumed him to be the hot favorite. All my strategies revolved around having a connect with the crowd, there was no pressure because I was the underdog, teachers expect Karthik win hands down. I had the chance of becoming the ‘assistant school pupil leader’ even if I finished second.
I chose my symbol it, was a ‘sword and shield’, I had truck loads of energy and tirelessly campaigned. We were free to skip classes, so that we could go to other classes for canvassing. Navin accompanied me during canvassing, not because he was very keen about my victory, but to skip classes. Since I worked in printing press before I had this idea of printing notices and giving it to students to elect me. I got 300 small notices printed with my symbol and asking students to elect me. I was actually scared to issue those notices and went and asked our principal if I can issue them, he became so angry and he threatened me that he would cancel my nomination if I did such things and he snatched away those notices and kept it in his room.
It was a major blow for me, however I changed my strategy and got one energetic student from every class to campaign for me in his class. I told them my agenda and created a small manifesto for them. Those students did a great deal of work. That entire election process is the greatest learning experience of my life till date. I used to mimic the matinee idol Rajinikanth during my canvassing and a 9th grade girl came up to me and told me that I had a unique style of my own and everyone liked that. She asked me to be original and not to imitate some celebrity. It was an eye-opening conversation and gave me tremendous confidence. I could see the visible attitude change among students, and I started believing that I could end being the unlikely winner.
Ashok the other competitor was losing ground rapidly, posing himself as a studious and a disciplined guy made him look mundane. Ashwin meanwhile was very confident of winning, as Sethu told me how Ashwin felt about his chances. Karthik was silently confident. I was no more a dark horse, I got the loudest cheer whenever I entered a class, I could judge the mood of the crowd. However I was not confident, but I was satisfied as I gave my best shot. Canvassing ended, and there was a day’s break before the election. It was the election day, our class went for voting, and most of my classmates preferred me to Karthik. I felt the nervous energy, students started calling me as the school pupil leader even before they voted. Then came the shocker, several juniors came to me and told me that Asha (teacher) was forcing them not to vote for me but to vote for Karthik. She had also beaten some students who voted for me in her polling booth. I did not know what to do or how to react to that. I went to the new supervisor and told him about the issue, but he did not buy my arguments and defended the teachers.
I became anxious, the results would be announced the next day. I could not sleep that night, I was seeking philosophical answers and reasons for the lack of justice and dharma in real world. It all looks silly now, but it meant a world to me back then. I waited for the results the next day and in the prayer assembly they called out my name as the school pupil leader and Karthik as the assistant school pupil leader. I had goose bumps, but did not show it off and went to receive the badges. I was pleasant surprised at seeing numbers, I got 634 votes, Karthik with 137 and Ashwin at 135. I realized that I slightly underestimated Ashwin. Ashwin was furious with his own classmates (Venkat and others, as they voted for Karthik), our counterparts among girls were Jyothi Priya and Soumyashree.
I learnt several life lessons during that election, I realized that with focus and right attitude a person can win against all odds. I also realized that there was nothing wrong with me and I had a personality that was loved by many.
Life took another 180 degree turn and some of the most happy days of my life followed. I had a great time with my friends, I learnt how to ride a motorbike. We bunked schools and spent time at Jeevan’s house. I completely forgot about the studies, teachers became a bit biased and I got more marks than what I deserved (the same case with Karthik too). However my quest for knowledge continued, I started attending temple restoration programs, and got the acquaintance of a retired professor from Germany named Prof. Gireesan. He was the first person to answer all my doubts in Chemistry none of my teachers were even able to understand my doubts. However there was no one to answer my doubts about nuclear physics and cosmology which fascinated me more than anything else. I started comprehending eastern spirituality through science.
Kathik continued to be the perfect guy, and had the opportunity to spend a lot more with him, despite having everything he had no airs about it. I started admiring him more as a person, I wanted him to be my best friend, however there was also a fear of rejection. I was worried about the fact that he was quite close to guys like Navin, Ilangnayuru and so on. So I was not sure if I could become his best friend, I was not mature enough then to understand that friendship is not a tangible asset and having friendship with many would by no means affect the strength of a friendship.
However I was not able to meet my grandmother as frequently as I used to, because my father got a job for me as sales assistant in an optical showroom during the vacations. I missed my grandmother a lot, but I was not depressed because I had good friends. However Karthik was my favorite, I tried to impress him by all means possible, he used to like small onion samosas, so I used to collect money whenever possible and buy those onion samosas whenever I went to his house. We became quite close however I had an imaginary wall between him and me.
In my native place I manged to get in to the Blue Diamond Cricket Club, the most famous cricket club of our town. I got well accustomed to playing with a leather ball and with proper cricket attire, after playing a few matches for the club my technique and temperament also improved. A cricket match was organized between Prince and New Prince. Karthik was the skipper of our team and as usual I was slated to come way down the order. That match being a match between two important schools, was conducted in a big military camp ground and with proper cricket ball and protective gears. Sethu and Venkat opened the innings as usual. I asked Karthik to send me at one down, he was reluctant but then I convinced him. A wicket fell and I joined Sethu at the crease. Sethu is a left handed player and had a great technique and exceptional bat speed. He was playing superbly when I joined him. The first ball I faced was an over pitched one and I hit it for four playing a cover drive. Everything that I hit that day came of the middle of the bat, I displayed the entire range of my shots, runs were coming thick and fast and during our partnership I out scored Sethu, I was on 47 and swept a ball straight in to deep square leg, I was out caught but for the first time I walked off happily.
Karthik appreciated me and said that he never knew that I could bat so well. Sethu got out after reaching a 50 and we won the match comfortably. I have played many good innings some match defining innings before that day and after that day and I remember most of them, however that day was the happiest day for me on a cricket field . During my post graduation I represented my college in inter-state soccer tournament and have quite a few achievements to boast about, however nothing matched the happiness that I got during that day.
The tortures of my parents did continue, I am a big Sachin Tendulkar fan and 1998 was the year when he was at his best (during my 11th grade). In addition to the regular domestic abuse, my father would not allow me to watch cricket. He would watch news channels or switch off the TV, but would not allow me to watch cricket. Probably just to show who was in control. If possible I used to watch the match at Sethu’s house else I read the newspaper the next day at Sethu’s place. However all the bad things that happened during that time was completely overshadowed by the good things. Above all from being someone with full of self doubts, I became a confident individual. Being happy and smiling can change a person’s life, my life changed completely.