The ConfessionI was born in this city. Most of the people here know me. Well actually, “knowing me” would be an overstatement. Let’s be honest. They’ve either read about me in the papers, or perhaps seen me on television. And, that’s it.
I was born in this city. Most of the people here know me. Well actually, “knowing me” would be an overstatement. Let’s be honest. They’ve either read about me in the papers, or perhaps seen me on television. And, that’s it. Surprisingly nowadays, it’s all that’s required to conjure up an impression of actually knowing someone. A few dull programmes now and then, occasional speeches filled with huge promises that mostly go unfulfilled, routine criticism of the opposite faction and, of course the regular face time with the media—oh I love that. I defy expectations as I listen to their dumb questions while somehow coming up with even dumber replies—mainly because that’s the only option left apart from keeping silent. When you add all of that up you’ll get the perceived lifestyle of the people in my occupation. And if you’re wondering, stop. No, we didn’t start this way. Well, not me at least. In an atmosphere, otherwise so open and hostile, adaptation turns out to be not just a biological principle but rather a way of life.
When it comes to getting acquainted with something, the start is always the part with the most turbulence and energy. The possibility of getting your name engraved in the hall of fame, the thrill of receiving attention from the mass and on top of that, the idea of having power and actually exerting influence. Just thinking of these seductive prospects made the hair on my back stand up.
Fast forward into the future, I feel so stupid for being positive about these unwarranted expectations turning true. A mistake from my part for being an optimist, rather than a realist. When anyone looks into the distant future, out of all possible outcomes, we somehow latch on to scenarios that are most appealing, rather than leaning towards something a bit more plausible and pragmatic. A pit that generation after generation seems to casually fall into. A flaw in human nature perhaps? We invented the term god, and ever since that day we’ve been trying ever so hard to justify his existence, so that when our efforts fail to reap rewards, we can blame the misfortune on a higher power.
Not many succeed at being the person they set out to be. They just end up being a compromised version of their envisioned self. I’m not saying success is off limits. No, it’s right there. The paths to achieving great feats in life are not shrouded under some mystery blanket. It’s simple. But just not easy. People don’t realise that. It’s perseverance more than anything. When we start winning little battles in our life- nailing tests, getting a job, enrolling into a college and what have you, we get ourselves trapped under an illusion that prevents us from seeing the truth. Truth that these small battles are but a tiny part of a larger war, and until you win that, there’s no point partaking in premature celebrations.
There is no such thing as breathing space. Some might argue of having a better plan than the rest, which in fact was what I said at the start. However, such a thing is a rare occurrence. Perhaps Mike Tyson can explain it better. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” The thing about having a plan is that it’s perfect in theory—almost too perfect. But if there are forces helping us to gain something, then automatically, no matter how noble the cause, there will be forces, twice the number, trying to prevent us from reaching that goal.
No matter how good or bad a person is, they always wish to do something for the society where they were brought up in. Whether they are able to do it, is a different question altogether.
At first I tried to help the people in my hometown. I asked them what sort of change they’d wish to see. The opinions I received were of course variegated but would converge towards a point of mutual benefit sometime in the near future. But the problem was that people were neither willing to take turns nor ready to brace themselves for costs that would be incurred as a result of pursuing a certain plan of action. A population that, at a glance, appeared to be a big happy family in itself now started to show signs of envy and egotism.
It’s actually quite fascinating how a smile can cover one’s agony, how a pleasant talk can make one feel okay when its actually not, and how easily a promise can make the desperate do things which even themselves would under normal circumstances find disgraceful. A society will almost always have problems, even if they somehow don’t, they will rarely want to remain passive. They can’t sweep issues like poverty, unemployment and violence under the rug indefinitely.
I know I am no messiah but sometimes I wonder: do my people feel the same? I want to help but I can’t do everything at once. I get caught up in a dilemma of what to do and what not to. For the first time, I start to panic. People’s lives will be affected by my decision. It would have been a lot easier if everyone wanted the same thing. Every minute I spend thinking about it, makes the public more anxious and agitated. And then there’s the media.
The clock starts ticking and I begin to sweat. The media wants a response, the public wants action. I go on a press conference to clear some air. To be honest I am not prepared. The microphone’s ready, photographers swarm the room and I reluctantly take to the stage. I want to stay calm but those glaring eyes make me uncomfortable. I succumb to the building pressure and end up blurting out an absurd statement. I try to correct myself but they’re drooling over my error. Negative news always sells.
The next day is a nightmare. Everyone I pass by gives me a second look. As I pick up a paper I find myself as the attraction of the day, as if there was nothing else worth reporting—no poverty, violence, nothing. And what I read is simply fascinating, almost fiction really. The day after that, I organise another conference as if nothing had happened and try to tell the public about the dilemma. Surprisingly, honesty is not nearly as enticing as a fabricated tale of promise. The only option that keeps both the media and the public at bay is to give them something to hold on to. Basically, anything will do.
And then there are our colleagues from the opposite faction who are facing the same crisis as we are. For us, the easiest way to maintain or gain popularity in this business is by pulling the other one down. No one tries the hard way. Mainly because it rarely works. You want to see a change? First you vouch for it within your circle which consists of people who, in the first place, are in the circle mainly to compete against you and therefore hate the guts out of you. After that you take your ideas to the higher ups. More bureaucracy.
Their first reaction will be of slight irritation and when asked what’s wrong with the idea, the answers you get constitutes of them being older than you and hence somehow smarter. They say you’re overreaching and therefore, will not accept your proposal. But if your project is somehow exceptionally good then they will probably give you the green light, but there is no reason to flaunt that smile just yet. When the project is confirmed and the applause starts raining in, and they’re taking pictures, you will be standing outside the frame if not holding the camera yourself. Imagine all the hard work and dedication you put in, just to see some other guy bask in glory. Alas.
I become so engaged just to survive in this shark pool that I fail to recognise how much I have changed. I have a family, a family who I rarely see. If I have my problems, then they have theirs too. My wife does not get my full attention and my kids have to tolerate being the joke of the day. Of course there are perks associated with my job, but it simply doesn’t add up. All the excitement and energy now soaked up. The dreams and ambitions slowly fading away. People start to lose faith in me with each passing moment. But what do they know? Every day I have to tolerate a parade of pretention. All they see is me roaming around in a sedan, giving them a smile which barely qualifies as one. And worst of all, they think I enjoy living like this. People say reality’s cruel. I don’t think so—even at this moment. Reality is just real. It’s our unwarranted expectations and desires that make it a lot worse than its supposed to be. We just have to improvise, adapt and overcome. Its evolution all over again. First you survive, then only can you thrive.