At a seminar once, the speaker asked us, “Why do we want to succeed in life?” A lot of people gave a lot of answers. I kept silent. Then finally, the speaker said, “Because we want attention.” I laughed at that there. But then I realised it is probably true. We are all attention-seekers, deep down inside. Those who aren’t, are saints and live in caves on mountains. I have, many a time, wondered if everything I do is futile. Because nobody is watching. Wait, let me explain. A couple of days ago, yours truly suffered a heartbreak. No wait, that isn’t a good starting point either. Let me begin from the beginning.
22nd July, 2013. First day of engineering college. I lived quite far away from the college so I left early. A little too early, it turned out. I reached the college at eight; it was to begin at ten. I didn’t know that, though. I had to look at the time-table on the notice board for that. First thing at ten was workshop. It was the first day so they wouldn’t start right away, probably. It’d probably be some kind of instructional session. Anyway, it didn’t make a difference to me.
The notice board was put up in the old building. My classes were to be in the new building. I climbed down the stairs, walked o the new building, went and stood outside the workshop room for a moment and then walked back to the old building notice board. I must have done this at least five times before it was time. I saw a couple of people reading the timetable notice. Maybe they were my classmates. I didn’t approach them. The canteen was right on the way from the old building to the new. But it didn’t occur to me to sit there and eat something. I wasn’t hungry. In those days, eating to pass the time was an alien concept to me. So anyway, once it was close to ten, I went and stood outside the workshop room. A small crowd of freshers had gathered there.
The professor arrived on time. He opened the workshop door and led us all in. The room had six tables, with four holder thingies on each table. We were supposed to do carpentry, metal works and stuff like that. The professor asked us to gather in a circle around him. After much shuffling of feet and rearrangement, the students stood still. He began his instructions and guidelines for ideal behaviour in the workshop, and I began to look at the other students’ faces. I was playing a game called trying to guess who among these would I befriend eventually. None of the faces stood out to me. They were all looking bored, and no one was very good-looking. Or maybe I sucked at the game. But I didn’t find anyone who I absolutely knew I’d befriend. A couple of minutes went by with the professor droning on and on about how he’d make life difficult for us if we didn’t follow his rules in the workshop. And then she entered.
Her hair was brown. But I will say it was golden. She was very fair. (She is, indeed. This is true.) Her eyes were brown. But to me, they were sapphire blue. She wore spectacles. She was tall. Well, not very tall, but she was tall enough. The look on her face made you want to comfort her and help her in any way you could. I do not remember what she was wearing. I don’t usually pay attention to outfits. I fell for her almost instantaneously. And I remember my next thought was, “I am not that guy.” Indeed, I wasn’t, as I had only learnt for myself a very short time before that day. And I am not, even now. It was both the happiest and the saddest day of college. I had a new crush, and I wasn’t that guy.
She was beautiful. But to the professor, she was late for class. He asked her why she was late. And she said something about trains being late. I don’t remember, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to the words. Her voice was exactly the way I had thought it would be. Soft and sweet. A voice that said she was incapable of screaming. I chuckled to myself. How could anyone be this perfect?
But strangely, I didn’t spend all morning thinking of her. When we were sent off to note down the names of the tools for workshop we’d need to buy, I had almost forgotten about her. And then at lunchtime, I met an old friend. And we skipped college and went to his place, where I met another old friend. Irrelevant. I did mention her to them.
But since then, I have fallen for her again and again, every day. But “I am not that guy”, so I never approached her. I’d go even as far as to say I intentionally avoided her, though I didn’t get many chances to do so. I’m not saying we’d have been the best of friends now if I hadn’t, but you know…
Slowly, we progressed through college. I was doing well. She was doing well. For some days in our second semester, we had reason to talk to each other. Study stuff. I could have veered the conversation towards friendship; I didn’t. I was so proud of myself. Then we drifted apart again. I watched her from afar.
I saw her make friends, I saw her busy herself with work. Meanwhile, I was berating myself for being useless. I had interests, but didn’t do anything about them. I had knowledge, but very little. I started to busy myself too, though I don’t think it was because of her. All this while, I was steadfastly opposed to making friends with her. I didn’t need any more friends. I didn’t need her. (Admittedly, by this time, I don’t think I could have made friends with her even if I wanted to.)
I started writing. I started reading. And whenever I wrote, I shared a link with her. I wasn’t making conversation, I was merely asking for help, I said to myself. Whatever floats your boat, eh? Meanwhile, she was making more friends and doing even more work. And I began wondering if everything I do is futile. Because nobody is watching (She isn’t watching). And there is always someone who is doing more. And every time, I decided to continue with whatever I was doing, whatever I could do. And many times, I saw examples of how I wasn’t below average or anything like that. Others might be doing more, but they weren’t necessarily cleverer than me, or more knowledgeable (Or maybe they were?).
Last year, I fell for her again. Well, nothing new, is it, considering how I fall every day? True, but I fell in love this time. And those thoughts of futility became stronger and more frequent. Every time I saw her talking to a person that wasn’t me (so simply every time I saw her talking), I felt my existence was futile. She wasn’t watching, so what was the use of my work? I alternated between not being in the productive mood and being a bit in the productive mood and self-doubt followed me everywhere. I don’t know, I don’t think many people would call it productive, what I think of as productive. But that’s not important. I must do what I like. Anyway…
I kicked myself for not making friends with her when I had the chance, or at least when I thought I had the chance. I don’t know if we could have been friends. I’ll never know. She was all alone at the beginning, I said to myself. I should have invited her to sit with me at lunchtime. She was a little girl who needed help, I said to myself. And she asked you for help. You should have made friends with her then. There were a thousand times you could have approached her, I said to myself. Yes, I talk to myself a lot.
All this while, there was this little part of my brain that hoped for a miracle. It hoped something would change and we would become friends. But it was modest, so it only hoped for us to become friends, like someone who’d be on talking terms. Nothing more. It was a good boy, that little part of my brain. However much I tried to hide it, deny it, ashamed of such daydreaming, it was there. And maybe that was what told me I wasn’t irrelevant? That whatever I do wasn’t futile? Or maybe it wasn’t. It’s not important.
After having seen her find friends, find work and find happiness, a couple of days ago, I saw her find love. Who am I kidding? I knew long ago that she’d found love. Or maybe I had my suspicions. It doesn’t matter. I am not a stalker, but when you have a crush, you tend to pay a little more attention to them. I hurried home, expecting the sense of uselessness to creep in.
But it didn’t. And I worked myself up trying to think of why it didn’t. I made countless theories about it, none of them completely satisfying. And the sense of uselessness still hasn’t crept in. I don’t know why. I only know it hasn’t because I am still writing. I still feel like learning. Or is it the fear of irrelevance itself that is making me feel like that? I don’t think so. I still feel a bit irrelevant every time I see her talking. But it’s not like the old times, definitely not. I’m still “not that guy”. And yeah, that little part of my brain which wanted miracles is gone. Which is sad, I guess. It was a good boy.
So it turns out I didn’t really suffer a heartbreak, and those emotions of sadness and irrelevance don’t really exist in me…now. Or maybe that little part of my brain is back and I am daydreaming again. It’s not important.
Sometimes I think it is all futile, sometimes I think it’s not.