This post has been contributed by Anish Anandaram, a Class 10 student from Bangalore.
Imagine this situation. You’re seventeen years old and you’re going to graduate from High School, en route to college. You’re a voracious reader, an ardent admirer of literature and an avid writer yourself. You are the epitome of a bookworm. Now, take for instance, the innovative and coherent writing style of Yann Martel. Or the compelling, captivating storylines of Agatha Christie. You have been blessed with both these abilities of these two magnificent authors which enables you to write in an extraordinary fashion. As a result, you’ve gotten endless number of articles, essays and even a few novels published in different forms of media, be it the newspaper or the internet. So, you decide to become an author. And it’s not only this powerful talent which is motivating you to become an author. You have that burning passion to do so. A desire like no other. A euphoria you couldn’t have thought possible. It’s a zero-gravity feeling which can’t be described in words. It makes your heart beat faster than when you’re in love, makes your head spin quicker than when you’re dizzy and it lights up your world more than any source of illumination possibly could. This is your undying love for writing. It’s the sweat dripping down your skin, the blood flowing through your veins and the adrenaline secreted from your glands.
But there are numerous obstacles in your path. Your family, for example. They don’t particularly detest the idea of you becoming a writer but as they have so explicitly elaborated before, they want you to take up a profession which is going to fetch you some money. You tell them you have what it takes to be the next J.K. Rowling, but they are adamant in their decision. They tell you how J.K. Rowling worked really hard to be who she is and the struggles and hardships she faced before that. And how she was really lucky to meet a great publishing company which agreed to endorse her. But you don’t really get their point and maintain your stubborn stand. Then, there are your friends, while pursuing a variety of careers in Medicine, Law, Accountancy…they begin to jeer at your idea of writing for a living. They make an absolute mockery of it. And lastly, you start going for counseling on what subjects you should take and what line of employment you should follow. They all say the same thing as well. That you should always take up a solid university degree, so you get an assured livelihood.
So after much thought and consideration, you take a somewhat forced decision. You succumb to your peer group and concede to your parents’ wishes. You study reasonably well for an exam comprising of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. The hard work pays off and you earn yourself an engineering seat at a well-known university. Those jeers from your friends are now replaced by cheers. And the worry and anxiety from your father’s and mother’s faces disappears completely. So you pretend to be happy. But that fake smile etched on your face isn’t going to mask how you really feel. You just witnessed your dreams come crumbling down. So the four years at college pass by in a jiffy. You’re twenty-one years old, going on twenty-two. You’ve got a ‘B-Tech’ degree in your pocket which gives you a sense of accomplishment and sorrow. Mostly sorrow. Three years pass by and you’ve gotten a job at a famous IT company. You program software and fix machines for them. They pay you well, but face it. Writing code isn’t the same as writing novels.
However, for the sake of your job, you start paying more attention to you work. You start caring about every minor detail which involves your company. As time goes by, you’ve toiled at your workplace for long hours for a lengthy period of time. But it isn’t in vain. You are lauded for your efforts by the board of directors. You’re thirty-five years old and you get a promotion and a significant pay hike. And soon, you’re in love with your job. The field of engineering, the baffling mysteries of science, couldn’t have possibly seemed more interesting to you. You also become very popular at work. Your colleagues respect you, your seniors admire you and your juniors idolize you. You also become very popular outside your work area .
You get married to a lovely woman, have two children with her and you soon happen to be in possession of a fancy car and a nice four-bedroom house. Then, you turn fifty years old. Half a century old, but you feel like you can go on for another fifty years. And so, the most awaited moment in your life thus far. You are being rewarded justly for those innovative ideas, your immense contributions and those relentless hours of toil and hard work. You are now appointed CEO of your company. Your whole family is here to witness this moment. You can see the tears of joy rolling down your old parents’ cheeks and the adoration in your wife’s and children’s eyes. It makes your heart beat with happiness and gives you great satisfaction. And then, you have no boundaries. The sky becomes the limit. You start giving top-notch keynotes and your ideas are publicized around the globe and the media is after you every day. Your name becomes a brand.
Years later, you decide to retire. And everybody near and dear to you wants the inside story of your life. So, you decide to write a book. Your very own autobiography. And when you sit down and begin to write it, you feel calm and serene whilst narrating the anecdotes and fascinating incidents of your life. But it isn’t a new feeling. You’ve felt it before. Suddenly those magical days when you were a seventeen year old youth begin to come back to you. You can’t confine your imagination within yourself any longer. The words begin to flow out of you like a confessional. It felt so good to write again. Eventually, the book is released. And your autobiography becomes a best-seller. Not just for the content, which though good, was apparently secondary. What really got people going was your writing style. Your brilliant use of vocabulary and your ability to express your feelings. Your skills as a story-teller. People start telling each other, “Wow! What a book! He should’ve become a writer instead!” The comments haunt you. They sting you and inject a poison which reaches every part of your body. That feeling of elation which you had experienced for so long was now replaced by one of melancholy. What if you had become a writer?
You’re seventy-five years old now. Your parents have passed away and so has your wife. Your kids are all grown up and they have family to tend to elsewhere. You’re sitting in your armchair in front of your fireplace while stroking the fur of your cat. You’re gazing into the flames in your fireplace, deep in thought. Pondering about what could’ve been…
There are crossroads at all stages in a person’s life. Right from when you’re an excited young boy till you’re a wise old man with a fat wallet in his pocket. As legendary musician Eric Clapton said in his song “Crossroads”: “You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown, that I’m standing at the crossroads and I believe I’m sinking down.” The road not taken at the crossroad, never ceases to inhabit our minds. Because, at a crossroad, the journey never ends.