Our ancestors frequently encountered mammoths, sabre toothed cats and other prehistoric predators on their jungle walks. They did not gape at these predators or stay frozen in their position; instead they acted wisely and ran away as fast as they could. If they felt that the land they were staying in was no longer fertile or the ladies had migrated elsewhere, they packed their bags and followed suit. No one purchased a cave and declared that from henceforth this is my permanent address, I shall live here and so shall my children.
Here in the 21st century we no longer encounter giant beasts but we have our own predators and our flight response is lurking inside waiting to be activated. This is the tale of Ankit, a fine young man who lived in Gurgaon at the turn of the century. At the end of his high school graduation, Ankit watched his friends join various colleges and universities while he embarked on a path much more tedious. His parents had convinced him to study for the Chartered Accountancy exam and he plunged headfirst firmly believing that he working towards a professional career while his friends were partying in college. Soon he joined the daylong coaching classes and became one of the faceless many in the sea of aspirants chasing success. His parents supported him, his friends admired him and he didn’t want to let anyone down. The classes soon began to feel forced, the list of books began to pile on and the months seemed to pass slowly. Ankit put himself under tremendous pressure and retreated into a cocoon. He was seldom spotted except on late night pizza runs to satisfy his cheese cravings, which were exacerbated under the pressure of the looming examination. He failed his first few attempts, which was fairly typical considering the abysmal success rate of the examination. Gradually six months passed and then a year.
Life seemed to become a pressure cooker for Ankit, only difference being that the steam was never released. He was stuck in a Sisyphean cycle where he wrote the exam, waited and then repeated. He felt that there was a grand ending after the great effort where the fruits were sweet and the harvest would be reaped. However, quitting would mean letting down many people; his parents, his friends, faraway relatives. It was at this point that he had an epiphany, and the tunnel vision that had thus far impeded any progress began to be replaced by a broader view. He was missing out on the essential college experience and had been unfocused for way too long. Unknown to his parents, he applied to various universities in the U.K. and secured admission in one of them. Armed with an acceptance letter and firm resolve, he informed his parents about his decision and obtained their approval. And just like that in a span of a few weeks, Ankit boarded a plane for the U.K. thereby escaping the harsh clutches of expectations and the C.A. examination. From reports received later, it is certain that he achieved great success in his college and met a nice girl. Today he still enjoys his cheese pizzas albeit not as an escape. He isn’t coming back anytime soon, like any successful migratory bird he flocked to greener pastures.
All of us have our own demons, the weight of expectations and sometimes they become too big a burden to bear. But the experience of millennia tells us that running is always an option. A fresh start with a clear head is sometimes the right thing to do. As William Blake famously said, one must break free from these “Mind Forged Manacles”.