I remember the day this post was composed (I'm merely writing it down today). I even remember the time, give or take a few minutes. I had just finished taking one of the hardest exams I had ever had the fortune to attempt. The trouble was that there still was an hour and thirty minutes to sit out. I knew I had done all I could and no amount of staring at the paper or cajoling my brain was going to help. It wasn't a question of giving up the battle. It had been a slaughter and the duty of the slain body is to lie still and let the other warriors save their heads. It was the 28th of November, 2005, and it was about 10:30 in the morning.
I did not want to leave. The simple reason was that the instructor and both TAs, having finished clarifying questions (people had questions!), had nothing to do. I did not want them to see my paper and trace it back immediately to me. It would take them one swift pass over the largely drought-hit answersheet, even before I could step out of the classroom. I resolved to stay put, to do whatever it took to pass the next excruciatingly lengthy passage of time.
Some time later, I had my own version of Edvard Munch's The Scream on my notebook. Appropriate. Stratagems evolved during concerts endured as a child bubbled up onto the surface. I counted desks, heads, books, perhaps even pixels. I drew some more. Finally, I went back to the question paper. I stared at some Gaussians. Metaphors plunged down either side of the normal curve. I realised once again that I was pretty bad at taking failure.
My classmates will tell you that I've never liked to discuss question papers at the end of an exam, sometimes vehemently so. Why spoil the rest of the day when the inevitable silly mistake bursts into view? I am not very good at participating in things that could be fun but I think I'd suck at. It crushes me to suck. That Monday, I realised I need to learn how to suck. I can't go on failing at failure.
Some two years later, I still haven't been able to fail properly. This prevents me from doing things. Being awkward, being laughed at (gently), being found out, kissing the dust. I hide away. I admire those who plunge forth and trip, but seem to get better at staying up. Most of all, I envy those who just have it; sometimes they have it all. There were times when I'd rail at the unfairness of the world that chose to hand it out to a few while we, sweat cascading out of every pore, hands on knees while we draw in long breaths, toes stuck in the mud, watch as they canter away pleasantly. It doesn't help that I find it hard to confront my failures. I look away. I cross the street and hurry into the smog. There are people and places and times that remind of battles lost, making it harder to die another day. I'm not good at amnesia either.
Still, here we are, in the bulge of the bell curve, among those claustrophobic crowds. But remember: we make the successful ones look good. If we weren't around, you couldn't make head or tail of the victory graph. Perhaps, on top of the bump, in the middle of the tracing, we can see farther than you. It's improbable that we'd get there before you, but it's not impossible, right?
There were so many ways to look at my distraught answersheet. I'm not going to say that I chose only the noble and brave option of the gallant acceptance of defeat, the resolve to fight till another sunset, to salve the scratches. The pendulum shifts from mood to mood; towels have been flung and retrieved. But one thing is clear: the game is as yet afoot. The fat lady is still a petite lass who hasn't discovered the pleasures of icecream with walnuts topped off with sinful chocolate and has just begun practising her solfege. It's only fair that we re-calculate the scores at the end of full-time.