Rohan saw that in the second term of the first year of college, students became more like zombies. Fear writ large on their faces; most students looked like they were standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to jump.
He knew that all students were studying hard to get a good rank in the entrance so that they could pursue a good profession. All social discussions were based on studies, professional courses, marks, entrance tests and so on. He felt suffocated and could not imagine the amount of tension that parents could take for their children’s exams.
He used to get desperate at times and wonder how he could bring about a change. In the college, he tried his best to bring his classmates out of the turmoil of exams into a more realistic world, a world where actually it was one’s basic intelligence that counted and not what marks one scored or what rank one got.
But no one would listen. They laughed and ridiculed him. One of his classmates, Nikhil told him, “Come on Rohan, get practical. Speaking of such things like you do is easy; to imagine these things happening is also quite easy. But how in the world do you think all this will actually happen? Is it even practical? What world are you living in man? Do you think we would study without being pressurized by our parents? Probably some would. But if we do not mug up the entire syllabus and do not study as well as other students, we would be left far behind in our ranks and marks. Who then would give us admission in good colleges?”
Nikhil continued, “Even if our parents put in a good sum in the form of donations, we won’t be getting a seat in reputed colleges. How would we then pursue a professional course and get a good job? Most of us want to become engineers, while some want to be doctors. It is the marks that will decide our capacity. However intelligent you are, and whatever knowledge you have about a field, it will not help you unless you score well and have completed a designated course in that subject. Rohan, come out of this idealistic attitude and start believing in what your parents and teachers advise you. You need to study only the syllabus decided by the board and nothing more. Just follow the rules to a ‘T’ and you will be able to score very well and get admission in a good college. Think about what I am saying. It is quite logical and practical. I obey my parents and do what they tell me to because they know the world better than me. They know what is good for me and how I could acquire a good position socially.”
Rohan stared at Nikhil and wondered how well his classmate had moulded himself to suit the world. Growing up was all about being conditioned. All the children were conditioned in particular patterns. There was no break in this vicious cycle.
What was life? Why were we living this life? Was life only about stress and worries? These questions bothered him. He felt that life had to be an existence where everyone was happy and satisfied. Where people laughed with joy and had a smile on their face…
Rohan badly wanted to quit the whole board exam scene and run away. But where would he go? And how would he fulfil his dream? His dreams were like a link to a life of happiness and joy and he held on to it desperately. Was there a place like the one he saw in his dreams?
He felt that it had to exist somewhere and one day, he would find it. Also he had to become a space research scientist.
He was living in a world where ‘some people made the rules for all the people to follow without questioning…’
Rohan was sad and felt that whatever he did, he could never change the people or their thoughts. The way things were going, probably he too would have to mould himself according to the rules of the world. This thought was somehow very frightening…
“When will you understand that you are in college now and you need to get good marks in the Board exam as well as the entrance tests? You will never get good marks if you waste your time like this. You have to score well to get into a good engineering college. I want you to become an engineer and get a good job. I couldn’t study because of some problems. But for you, I have made all the necessary arrangements and you just need to study. In my time, I was ready to go to any extent to become an engineer. While now I am literally begging you, my son, to study and do something in life. You just have to study and the rest of the support will come from me. Can’t you do even this much?” shouted Girish.
Rohan looked at dad who seemed to be in a bad mood. Dad always shouted at him to study. He felt sad that the people he loved the most failed to understand him.
He was not against studies or education. He wanted to study something else. He wanted to try his hand on research. But if he told dad about it, he would get angry and give him a big lecture. For dad, it was all about getting a good job and earning a good salary.
Rohan knew that money was important. But was it more important than actually living his life the way he wanted to? Dad would never understand. For dad, it was not about happiness, it was about social status. It didn’t actually matter whether a person was happy or not. It was important what one had studied, how much one had scored, where one was working, how much one was earning and so on.
Rohan had understood that what life should be about and what life actually was were two different things altogether.
The beautiful flowers, colourful butterflies and the happy people existed only in his dream.
Rohan felt very bad that he couldn’t change the world. He felt like speaking to mom and dad about leading a stress-free life. But he knew it wouldn’t matter as they would scold him; tell him to be practical and not waste time in stupid thoughts. Why were people so competitive? What were they so tensed about? Why was life all about fear, tension and unhappiness?
Rohan looked out of the window. It was raining heavily. He could hear thunder. It was very dark and gloomy outside. Just like his existence.
Dad and mom were struggling hard so that he could get an excellent education and have a great career. But, he wanted more than this. He wanted them to smile, be happy and spend time with him. He wanted some time, where they would sit and chat, relax and discuss unimportant things in life, laugh and have fun. He wanted some special time with them.
He could hear the sound of raindrops pattering on the roof. He would, at some point of time, spend some special time with dad and mom. With these thoughts, he went to sleep.
He was standing below a tree. It was raining and the grass was wet. He watched as water flowed in rivulets along the pathway. Many people were walking along the roadside holding umbrellas. Some were wearing raincoats. He sensed the joy in the people when they spoke about the rain. He saw some children sailing paper boats in the puddles. Two men were smiling and talking. One of them was animatedly telling his colleague, “How nice it will be to have a platter of bhajiyas and tea now. I will go home and I am sure my wife would have made her special onion pakoras and hot tea for me. She knows how much I love eating fried stuff when it rains. I will go a bit early and try to help her. The climate is so good. Rains are romantic, man. I just love the rains. My son would have made paper boats by now and would be waiting for me to reach home so that we can both sail those boats in the water running along the pathway. I have to rush home, man.”
Rohan saw the man hurrying down the road. He felt how lucky that man, that man’s wife and son were. A perfect family…
He heard the window banging and the sound of glass shattering. He woke up with a jolt. All that had been a dream! This was the first thought that crossed his mind. No wonder! He had never seen so many happy people in the real world.
He looked at the glass pieces. The window pane had broken. Mom and Dad were probably fast asleep in their room and had not heard the shattering sound. He slowly got up, wore his slippers and went inside to get the broom. He swept the broken glass pieces to one side. Tear drops fell on the floor. He wiped the tears with the back of his hand. He kept the broom in the corner, removed his slippers and slowly climbed back on the bed.
If only his parents would love him as much as the parents he had seen in his dream. He had always wanted to sail paper boats in the rain.
He got up and opened the shelf. In a corner, he had saved all the paper boats that he had made. He took them from the shelf and they slipped from his hand on to the floor. He bent to pick up the boats. There was silver, gold, red yellow…
Rohan loved the rain and enjoyed getting wet. Mom always scolded him for playing in the rain. He felt bad when mom shouted at him. So, he had stopped playing in the rain.
He held out his hand from the window to see if it was still raining. The night was dark and the rain had reduced to a drizzle. A few raindrops trickled onto his palm. He felt the cool comfort of the rain drops. One day, he would make his dream come true. The place had to exist somewhere…