Thursday, December 27, 2007

Least Likely To Succeed

Ashwin was “the least likely to succeed” in our 6th grade class and it remained that way till the 10th. He seemed to wear this badge that was collectively bestowed upon him with a certain gritty pride. He was unfazed by anyone else’s academic or extra-curricular accomplishments having in his mind checked out of the school system and all its stipulations of success. That was then and this is now.

In the last few years, Ashwin has achieved spectacular career success and has also scoured the planet for the whereabouts of at least sixty percent our graduating class. As I write, he is trawling cyberspace, looking up old address books, contacting parents scattered across India to find out those among us who are still unaccounted for. My email address is on his list and I think I know which idiot “outed” me. Since my phone numbers are unlisted and I have not been in touch with any of my former classmates since the end of high school, I think I am relatively safe. Ashwin regularly calls people and updates the distribution on the conversation. Clearly, the notions of individual space and privacy are lost on him.

His mails are a interesting – he is still funny like he used to be. There are pictures of him and his wife at his office parties – given his line of work he is often around celebrities. You get to see good old Ashwin double chin and all, flanked by wife and rising Bollywood starlet looking very pleased with himself and I don’t blame him. Then there are pictures and news of everyone else. Nandini is fund-raising for an orphanage in our town back home; there are pictures of her and her kids and in-laws from her last trip to India.

Rohit, the one time class topper is yet to find his groove the dread IIT-IIM combination notwithstanding. He recently found work in Mumbai and is seen at a fancy restaurant with Ashwin who is picking the tab with obvious relish – the bitter irony of fate and all that. Juhi used to have a fabulous singing voice, oodles of attitude and ambition. Ashwin informs the distribution that she is teaching chemistry at college in Ahmedabad and is expecting her third child. There is no mention of a parallel career in music so it is safe to assume none exists.

Avik’s wife had a still-born child a few years ago and is expecting again. Ashwin exhorts us all to pray for mother and child. He has the phone numbers of many of our teachers listed along with ours and we are routinely encouraged to get and stay in touch.

I am very happy for Ashwin – he used to be my best friend once. We shared some of the happiest days of our childhood together. Whenever he flunked an exam (which was more rule than exception in his case ) and felt low, I told him that success in school did not correlate to success in life and I am very pleased to see that I was right. I don’t know about everyone else but I always knew he would do well in life.

Back in his teens, he seemed to have it together. He never sought affirmation – he had a sense that he was different but not disabled in anyway. He was fun, flirty and generous to a fault. Now that he has arrived in life, he seems to want for our class to stand up and applaud him, undo that “least likely to succeed” tag when he has undone it long ago on his own steam. He has this terrible need prove that he has made it despite all expectations to the contrary. Who would have known, the well hidden scars of childhood can remain tender and raw so long. I think I am doing him a favor for old time’s sake by remaining silent.


** Not real names.

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