Eleanor Roosevelt once said “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” and I agree because I have lived it.
I was born in a family where it was a matter of fact, being talented. My father, a government employee by profession, had talents of being a good orator, had excellent command on languages like English and Bengali to the extent that he used to read, write and discuss literary works, being an accomplished playwright, an ardent poet and a voracious reader. My mother, a homemaker, has expertise in Drawing, Painting, Handicrafts, Singing apart from being an accomplished cook. My brother, who is 6 years elder to me, used to be a competent Cricketer (which he gave up in due course), is a voracious reader, a very versatile actor, a columnist and is actively participating in Debates. And all three of them had excellent handwriting.
So I was born, under some huge shadows of highly talented individuals at home. And it took no time for anyone to realize who the black sheep was in the family – I wasn’t good in any language, I was miles away from anything remotely similar to the act of reading, I used to play cricket but loved to play it in an unorthodox manner, so no question of being a master at that, I was acting in plays but got the roles of a tree, a mountain, a king who was mute etc etc. Outside home in my friend circle I was prominent; I did accomplish a few negligible feats like winning a debate competition occasionally, winning a quiz competition once, being the school captain for a couple of years, being a compere in a school orchestra and at home each of these feats generated a lot of surprise as if they were never expected of me. I had grades that only I could have been proud of because I was aware the Herculean effort I put to get them, for others it was just about average.
Now, I did not have a lonely ridiculed or troubled childhood, as it may come across. On the contrary I had a wonderful childhood amidst loving parents and a very caring brother, but even though it was never made clear, I could get the feeling that I wasn’t as good as anyone else at home. …..Or maybe that’s what I told myself. I didn’t worry too much about it though. It was just there in the back of my mind.
And then one fine day my worst fears came true. I was out of the comfort zone of my home, my parents and had to go to a newer and bigger city for my college. I had to meet strangers who spoke in a strange language i.e. English and that too with amazing fluency. They even cracked jokes in English!!! They saw English movies and listened to English songs. It was a completely utopian planet for me. I found myself to be the most lost alien in this planet. I was increasingly quiet during friendly conversations; in fact I never initiated conversations because of the fear of using wrong language with people. I never spoke in a group because I didn’t know anything about western music (which was the most common topic of engagement) or MTV or Star TV and M.A.S.H. To top it I started finding newer avenues of making myself feel like a misfit, like I didn’t have a great dress sense, I didn’t have a hip hairstyle, I didn’t have a good pair jeans and all these emotions made me increasingly silent and clumsy and most importantly severely under confident. And it never got easier. I went for movies – English ones, and didn’t understand a word and could never participate in the post movie analysis. I had to even chicken out of a date (can you believe it) because I got scared. All in all, I had myself in a hole and I was making it bigger and deeper by the day.
Dramatic it may sound, but its true, that I do not recollect my college days with any fondness or nostalgia. When I completed college I had grown down rather than growing up. And it took a humiliating experience for me to realize that I was not going anywhere. I went to Mumbai for attending the Group Discussion and Personal Interview for getting admission for MBA in one of the reputed colleges. And in the Group Discussion I just kept quite, because I was scared. All my fears were in full splendor. I got completely bottled up and finally (as if this wasn’t enough) I was asked to leave the room. I knew it was all over.
During my journey back from Mumbai, in the train I did some thinking. I realized that the reason I was in this state because I had let myself into it, in fact I had forced myself into it. No one had ever told me anything derogatory like I was clumsy, or I was bad or I was incompetent, it was me who did that continuously to myself.
I knew I had to change.
I got into my first job. This was in year 1993 and without being bothered about being right or wrong I started speaking. It was a sales job, and I had no option but to speak. My bread and butter depended on it. And I tried hard. It was painful, to think in Hindi and speak in English. But I kept at. Closed myself in a room and kept giving fictitious interviews as if I am the Indian Cricket Captain, or I am the next Bollywood Superstar, I even tried being an Oscar recipient once. Thankfully I met some great people on the way who would go onto become some of the best friends of my life, who made me realize that I am extremely talented – That I am a very gifted singer, I have a good voice, have a good sense of humor, I can mimic people, I am creative, I write well, I have a good taste for music, and I cook well. I realized how much I have, yet I was ignoring. All of a sudden I realized I wasn’t a loser after all, it’s just that my perspective was flawed.
Today, I train hundreds of people in English. Have worked for close to 14 years and have been a winner as Sales, Marketing, Strategy and Training professional. I see English movies, without subtitles and understand western music from Beethoven to Bon Jovi. I read literary works which are as abstract as Occult and as normal as Frederick Forsyth. I talk to people without any hiccups, in fact the impression people get is that I am a complete extrovert. I paint, design, make PowerPoints (have been awarded internationally for that), act (both in theatre and movies), write (blogs, columns, am even trying my hand at writing a book), do calligraphy and of course I don’t chicken out of dates anymore, though they are only with the most precious person of my life, my wife, who everyday makes me feel proud of myself the way I am.
Today the monsters have gone. They have been put to rest. But I thank them that they were there, so that I recognize them well. I can see them in other people and that today enables me to walk upto these people and say “Hey, no monster can make you feel inferior, without your permission!!!!”