By U. Mahesh Prabhu
When I was young, that point in time when I didn’t even understood ‘L’ of Life, I was conveyed by many of my friends, relatives and members of my family that I was ‘good for nothing’. ‘I don’t know what you would be in life Mahesh.’ was what they said to me repeatedly. That did, of course, cause resentment and unrest in my consciousness. I knew I wasn’t made for being nothing. But, what was I supposed to be? I never knew. I was befuddled, in totality.
If at a given point of time I decided I wanted to be an Engineer, bit later I would prefer to be a doctor, later solider and then even a spy, perhaps. But you can’t be all at a time. Or can you? Certainly not! But that fire in me, which was completely untamed, was smoldering my mind and spirit.
‘To be anything in life, you need to have a good brains’ I was definite. More bizarre as it was many hypnotized me that ‘good brains show up in good marks’ and hence ‘no good marks would simply mean lack of intellect’ that which leads to ‘doom’.
There were ‘varieties of eggs’ on my card, this means: I wasn’t good at studies – at all. This became more painful when generation after generations of my family members went into United States and brought back with them signs of prosperity – latest gadgets and gizmos I connote, along with crispy US Dollars. This was to begin a rat race in not just our community but in others too, for ‘inspiring’ their kids to get good marks and run towards a nation of plenty.
70–80% was consider ‘just above average’ and was completely unacceptable. They wanted no marks less than 90%. And you were deemed to doom if you didn’t get anywhere close to it. Brought up with little worldly knowledge these parents hardly ever knew any other courses, that which would bring riches, other than the big ‘M’ and another big ‘E’ – ‘M’ for Medical and ‘E’ for Engineering.
At family functions I would hardly find people talking about anything other than what they expected and thought their children would be. I hated those gatherings for a simple reason: should anyone ask my scoring in the school I would have to lie that which, though I used to speak in dozens, would never enjoy. It transpired so that once I lied to some of my farthest relative that I was scoring 90 and above. And, as the destiny wanted it to be, I was caught and had a hell of a time, though a bit later.
With ever growing age and every passing day, people were just expecting me, zilch except, to ‘fail’ not just in school exams but in life too! Sad as it was, my morale too was being brought down. To put it in a better way – the morale was tossed high up in the air and I just couldn’t make up as to whether it ever reached the ground. I was just unable to get on with the competition these people wanted me to participate in. I was just the proverbial ‘jackass’ in the race of the horses of the finest breeding. Yet, in the one final attempt I was even given the ‘cane’ treatment, both in house and school. Alas, nothing worked much. My mind was just suffering. My heart was crying for someone, just someone, to come and spare few words of kindness and courage. But the destiny wanted it otherwise.
Thank God! I passed my 10th standard examination and in first class. But that was not to get me into science in pre-university, unless a hefty donation was paid to the college – something that which my parents would never afford to. So what would I do? Someone would tell me that I could easily get into Engineering via Diploma also. And there I got into diploma, but you would like to know my subject? Won’t you? Well, it was in Automobile Engineering.
‘Why did you choose Automobile Engineering?’ was the question I was asked and I could never answer. The Practical/Lab, in particular, was just irritating, precisely when the grease of the vehicle would fall on my ‘white’ palms. I found that I was not even physically fit to attend the workshop with my small hand in proportion to my huge body. Black smithy in specific was just out of the question for me. The hard labor it demanded was too much. Somehow I passed my first year in Diploma. But the second year was just not getting on. I was confirmed I didn’t wanted to pass and find a job for myself in garage where these ‘big shots’ from ‘Americas’ would come with their imported cars to clean or repair, and fart few jokes of insanity to make fun of my ‘doom’.
I found some aptitude for myself in computers. I could write good codes and develop programs. I did find a job for myself and quit the Diploma. Lo and behold, there was a celebration in the minds of the many over my dropping off from the Diploma. Did these people distributed sweets? Well I never know.
Attending family functions became an unbarring pain in my ass. I just began to hate the members of the family. For what I came to know they just didn’t love me though I wasn’t sure they hated me. I was lonely and without a direction, without support. I need a hug and words of confidence. But the times proved to be too costly for them.
The ‘petty’ IT firm where I was employed owned by my own community fellow ditched me. He took my program sold it to the client took his money and said that he didn’t have money to pay my remuneration. I knew he was rascal before, but I the final tryst proved to me that he was a crook too. At home, I was forced to beg. Rs. 20.00 per week. Small amount as it may seem was a royalty to my parents who themselves were going through a very tough time. The circumstances impressed on them to push on me to find a job at a time when I was keen on being an entrepreneur.
I did try few jobs but none would settle me down. I was getting failures and failures, and just nothing else. There was not a word of inspiration or kindness from any. And with this painful life I marched forward. The software industry too was getting crowded and competitive. It was very true that great patriarchs of the IT world weren’t engineers, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs I mean, but this didn’t impress those employers. So I had to bid the industry adieu – forever. I did form a company with a premier conglomerate in the region, but at the time of profits I was just booted out, mercilessly. I wasn’t sure as to on whom was I to show my frustration the conglomerate or the destiny. A well established enterprise was taken away from me, for which I gave my flesh and blood with just no remuneration.
Days passed into months and months transgressed into years. I found myself in marketing, after graduation from an open university, and then into management. I was somewhere. Here I was interviewing and recruiting people. Yet those people, who envied with me for ages, weren’t really happy with what I had achieved, for it was completely difficult for them after having made jealousy a habit for years together.
Ultimately I found for myself that with a post graduation in Management and two fellowships I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. But what did I want to do? I wasn’t still obvious. Mystification was upon me for another time. Here I was at the peak of my profession as a management man and not sure whether, or not, I wanted to continue in it.
But this time, I decided to crack to code. I was hell bent to find what I wanted to do. I spent days in loneliness, speaking to myself to find out what I wanted to be.
I knew I didn’t want to run behind money, at the cost of my values and love for country. I didn’t wanted to be a mercenary doing anything for a price. I knew I wanted to make my mark somewhere. I knew I wanted to be someone. I wanted to be a person who was self-made, who would be recognized for his talents, work and positive contributions than for his family he was born in or riches he gathered. I wanted to be ‘U. Mahesh Prabhu’ a man whom world will respect if not honor. But it took me decades to find what I wanted to be. But as the saying in Hindi goes ‘DER AYE DURUST AYE’ – ‘Better late than never’.
But why am I telling this story to you. ‘Do you think you are a great and accomplished person?’ if you ask me, ‘I am certainly not’ would be my just answer. I am writing this story not to tell about my greatness or success. I neither of the two in the first instance – mark my words. But just to tell you that occasionally it takes time to find your way. It is difficult and very painful too, at times if not all the times. But perseverance must never me given up.
Well, I don’t know whether I am successful or not. But I can say today with a level of satisfaction, if not pride, that I have become a recognized journalist-editor contributing articles and columns to over 19 publications in India and abroad, running a magazine which is, perhaps, the only one in the country carrying articles of 12 of the most influential minds in the world. Success is not a destination as a wise has told us, it’s a journey. So keep travelling and be successful. But don’t loose heart, even while others show down upon you hold you line. Be strong, be persevering and never give up. Hang on my friend and tell to yourself ‘look at the goals… not the obstacles.’
And yes, life has also taught me one important lesson that I will share with you: never give a damn to what others say. If in turbulences they make fun, hold on until when your good time arrives, for they will salute. Our challenge in life is not to fall to their praise or disgrace but to stay cool and calm in whatever the life has to offer and those people have to chuck at us. Hope this helps someone out there. Neither the Good nor the Bad times last bear that on top of mind.
And Remember ‘Never give up… come what may!’ This is the lesson, I have learnt, in entirety and forever.
Author is Editor-In-Chief of Aseemaa: Journal for National Resurgence