Growing up, my mother used to compare me with my friends.
Everytime Anytime I bought home bad grades, the first question she’d ask me was,
“How much did your friend Raj score?”
Before I tell you what my response was, let me tell you a little about my friend Raj. Raj was very studious and always stayed at the top of the class. I wanted to be like him, because I didn’t like getting bad grades or getting bruises on my face, so I asked him what his secret was.
He said his father would mercilessly whip him into shape if he didn’t bring back good grades, and it was made clear to me what his motivation was.
To Stay Alive.
Now Lets Talk About Me
I hated studying. Whenever I held my books, it felt like I was handling radioactive waste that had to be quickly disposed, and I had endeavoured tirelessly, to save humanity by dumping it in undisclosed locations, only to have my mother smack me across the face and command me to fetch it back.
My mother didn’t care about the world. All she cared about was results.
And mine were poorer that Raj’s, because while I was getting smacked into line, Raj was getting whipped into ribbons.
Life was tough for the both of us, and I even came to resent Raj for being so darn studious. In those moments of misery, I’d have many such thoughts floating about my head, “If it weren’t for him, my mother wouldn’t hit me so much. I’d be happier.”
I thought about dissolving our friendship, thinking it would put an end to my misery, but before I could put anything into action, Raj’s parents decided to travel back to India to continue his education there.
Although I was sad and heartbroken, I THANKED ALL MY LUCKY STARS that he was gone.
“I was free from it all! Now my mother will never trouble me again!”
How naïve I was at the time.
What I failed to realize was even with Raj gone, my mother would find someone else to compare my grades to. And she did. It was a girl.
And this girl would one day become the mother of my children, except the last part was a lie.
This girl was an updated version of Raj and scored perfect grades. I was still running on the same outdated program that fetched me the exact same grades. And my mother? She wants me to be just like her.
What, now she wants be to become a girl? Does she want to see me cross-dress and play with dolls? Would that make her happy?
“In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, my lucky stars hid behind the almost infinite interstellar clouds, refusing to greet me with their presence as I scoured the sky, desperately looking for them.”
Those bastards tricked me and made a run for it into outer space.
Moral of the Story: Life has a way of screwing you over. Get used to it.
Oh! I didn’t tell you what my response was.
If Raj scored better marks, which he always did, I’d tell my mother that he didn’t write the exam because he fell ill. I’d say that every time, and my mother would nod and tell me to carry on with whatever I was doing. She’d then forget to call me down for dinner and refuse to talk with me. Its like she knew I was lying.
That’s when I learnt my Second Lesson,
Lying to your mother can omit a meal from your day. Lie again, and you could risk losing your life. It’s a life or death situation when dealing with mothers.
I’ll Tell You What I Hated
I didn’t like being compared.
Me and Raj were really good buddies, but this constant comparing made me resent him. While many of the cool kids in my class had cartoon tattoos pasted on their tiny arms, Raj had tattoos across his body while I had some across my face.
Some of those cool kids would walk up to us and ask us where we got them from.
I’d respond “Try lying to your mother.” Raj’s response, “Bring home bad grades.”
That response would leave them puzzled, thinking if they were words that hid a much deeper and esoteric meaning which could potentially lead them right to the gates of nirvana, or whether we were playing with them.
They thought we were playing.
Those brats couldn’t understand our suffering. Its by transcending pain that you get to experience nirvana. And that pain comes from facing the consequences of your actions. That’s how you get tattoos.
But the funny thing is, Raj actually liked studying, and made an effort to learn as much as he could by asking doubts during class and writing everything down. I on the other hand, didn’t. I hated sitting in class, hated taking notes and hated what was being taught. It sounded so dry and felt barren of meaning. If things went my way, I’d spend the entire day watching Dragon Ball Z. I’d often picture myself as Goku and live my life in their universe using my imagination as a vehicle to guide me across various scenarios that required little to no effort to create. I enjoyed creating them and it showed me what was possible when you put your mind to it.
If I was being compared with him in that area, I’d definitely beat Raj, because he didn’t have a TV set at home and couldn’t watch any shows. His imagination was restricted to the books he had to study. Now that I think about it, I believe it was this situation of his that led him to develop an interest in his studies.
That, or his father’s cane.
But even if he did watch shows, I’m sure I would enjoy it, because in that situation, I’d be competing with him instead of comparing myself to him.
Competing happens when interests intersect, but proficiency varies. I’ve watched most episodes of Dragon Ball Z, and Raj only listened to stories of it from me, so I know more than Raj ever will. Even if the roles were reversed, with Raj having the upper hand, I’d still find myself completely immersed in the subject because it interests me.
Competing Takes place.
And when you compete, you strive to improve yourself because it enriches your relation with the subject and draws you into a trance of wanting more. This is productive since competing means looking for opportunities to grow. You look at your opponent and wonder how he made his way up to the height he’s currently reigning over. You strive to learn and emulate him to become as successful. You view him as someone you can learn a lot from, which is why you contend with him.
When you compare, you look at what you have, and look at what the other guy has. If the guy has more to his name, then it saddens you. It angers you. And you remain in that cesspool of negativity, drowning as you clutch onto the very thing responsible for your slow and painful descend into the abyss.
“Comparing results in droughts, while competing sprouts forests that everyone can obtain nourishment from.”
I wonder how Raj is doing. He might have made his way up to an IAS by now. I bet he must be whipping his kids into cute little ribbons, hoping they’ll turn out to be like him.
Oh, the horror.