Growing up

Growing up in life, I have heard a lot of adages. One of the things my dad used to say whenever I demanded things, just because my friends had or did, was — “If your friends ran and jumped into a well, would you do the same?”

I wasn’t bold enough to tell my dad this but I thought — “Of course. I have intelligent friends. If they’re jumping into a well, they would surely have good reason to do so.”

I think, growing up in life does not happen overnight. But it happens so gradually that you often don’t notice and from a person who’s at the receiving end of advices, you’re one day giving advices.

But some incidents in life (like this one), some peculiarly insignificant, makes you feel that you’ve grown up a little. In a moment’s passing, you feel you’re no longer the person you were just an instant ago.

One such, inconsequential incident occurred during my school days. While young, we were taught to be respectful to elders (sometimes to a fault) and admonished if we weren’t — so it was rather unusual to have youngsters argue or talk back.

Public buses on some routes were always full and getting a seat meant you had to hurry to be one of the first to board it. Many buses have a wider middle door with support bar in the middle that acted to split the crowd — people that alighted from the bus took one side and the ones getting on, took the other.

I remember hurrying and being the first, waiting for the door to open. When the door opened, I stepped inside and got irritated that a middle-aged man entered from the other side of the bus door blocking people from exiting. This caused mini-chaos. I turned to the man sharply and demanded why he did that. He replied saying — “So what? Everybody does it.” To which, I promptly, as if I was waiting for this moment to occur all my life, replied — “If everybody runs and jumps into a well, will you also do it?”

The person felt insulted and I realized I had done something that wasn’t expected of a person my age and froze. I quickly found an empty seat and sat. In that moment I had grown up a little. I realized I could question people when they’re wrong, irrespective of their age.

Now, after a dozen more years of growing up, I’ve realized that questioning such stupid people is of no use. Reminds me of a quote (allegedly attributed to Mark Twain) — “Never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

Oh, the person from the bus did say something back to me along the lines of — “Hot blood. You’ll know better when you grow up”. I listed it down as another adage. *shrug*

The Greatest Insult

‘Insult’ isn’t a very hard word to define. In fact, its easy to describe it when you insult; and easier when you get insulted. Formally, insult can be defined as: a rude expression intended to offend or hurt. This rude remark may not be deliberate, but 90% of the times, it is.

For me, insult means something different. Something that is inside you; rather than the effect of a remark made by someone. I define insult as an attack on the ego. And as a direct consequence of this attack, there is anger, humiliation, embarrassment, and restlessness that gets developed. These feelings, many times end up putting a person on a tensioned spring, awaiting to pounce on an opportunity to get back even with the insulter. In short: revenge mode. Apart from the direct effects, insults, especially to kids, mean discouragement, deprivation of hope, a lapse of confidence, and also a big reason for disheartening and dispiriting them.

Instead of delving into the philosophy of an insult or ego, I would present an incident that happened in my school days, but before that, this was how I was at school:

I was a person who gave more importance to knowledge rather than the marks that my report card reflected. The marks or grades that I obtained at school did not affect me at all – be it high or low. When many of my friends (especially girls) wept because they lost 2 marks, I used to laugh at them; I would have lost 10 marks! I used to get irritated and amused at the same time when sometimes my friends (specially girls, again) wept inconsolably for obtaining 98 out of 100! I would be over the clouds with marks like that!

Anyways, coming to the incident that I was going to narrate to you: this happened on the eve of my 10th Standard results. We got our results over the internet on the previous day. I had obtained 90.08%, which is pretty good; though I knew I could have done better. But like I was, it did not matter to me. Next day, I went to the school, all happy and smiling. The first teacher I met was my favorite teacher. She was my English teacher in 9th Standard; the one who had praised me before. I happily told her my result percentage and waited for her to say something. I expected a word of appreciation, or even criticizing me not to have performed even better. But as fate would have it, the greatest insult actually came from my favorite teacher! She said: “You surprised us all, Manoj”. I was dazzled for a moment and blinked at her. The sarcasm in her voice hit me so hard that I still remember the incident. I still don’t understand why she expected me to get lesser marks. I was so involved into what she said, that I don’t remember what I replied to that.

Sometimes, when I look back into all the incidents that had happened in my life, I wonder if I had lived life assuming that everyone around me *liked* me and was comfortable with me. And sometimes, I wonder if I’m still living life that way…