33 years is not a long time. It is in fact infinitesimally smaller than infinitesimally small in the grand scheme of things. But 33 years is time enough for a lowly human being to learn a lesson or two or thirty three about life. You learn all your lessons in life from the mistakes you do, only because it will help humankind to learn from those mistakes so that coming generations will be able to avoid those mistakes and make new ones. 33 times has the Earth circled the Sun since I took avatar on this planet, and within these time I have realized that almost everything I did was a mistake. I chronicle them here in two parts in no particular order, some of which are observations, some come from hard life experiences and some from enlightenment. All of these are hard truths gained from MY personal experience which may or may not seem true to you. Here are the first seventeen out of thirty three.
1. Money is Everything
Life in India has today become a no-holds barred rat race to accumulate the most number of digits on your bank statement through any means possible. The way people gauge you, respect you, look up to (or down upon) you, interact with you, form their relationships with you all are unbashedly dependent on not just how wealthy you are but also on how you flaunt that wealth. Even love and marriage in this country are directly dependent on your wealth. I have had numerous experiences where it was made clear that no matter how good you are or how successful you might be non-monetarily, if you do not have the bling to show for it, you are worth next to nothing. You have enough money, you can get away with anything.
2. You will not get a Second Chance
A split second opportunity presents itself to you. You don’t see it or don’t realize it or just stare at it open mouthed while it moves on. You the regret this and having learned the lesson wait for the opportunity to present itself again. It never will. Never again. Even as you see others seizing the same opportunity, you will live your life in regret. If you like that girl, go tell her. Now. Tomorrow will be too late.
3. Knowledge is of not much Practical Value
At least in India, which ironically was once the birthplace of much knowledge. Today, any real knowledge, scientific or philosophical holds almost no value at all in India. Forget inventing or discovering stuff, you can’t even assure the means for your daily existence in a country ruled by rapturous greed, pomp, selfishness and materialism where the only “knowledge” you need is memorizing, rote-learning, ass-licking, jugaad and an absolute absence of conscience to get rich quick through loot and plunder. But still, gather all the knowledge you can, which what sets us apart from those animals. It could maybe give you dividends in the long run.
4. All this does not Really Matter.
What looks Important Today will not Matter Tomorrow. Look back 5 years and see what mattered to you then. Finishing some video game? Watching some sitcom/soap? Some dumb rivalry? Finishing a college assignment? Getting laid? Does any of that matter today? Nope. All that stuff you thought would decide the course of the Universe doesn’t matter for crud in the long run. All that was insignificant. Every day you are faced with more and more tougher challenges, some of which are about survival and some are about existence, compared to which your trivial pursuits of yesterday will suddenly seem so immaterial and even laughable. In end, it doesn’t even matter.
5. Nice Guys Indeed Finish Last
And I am not talking about just getting the girls. The more nice, helpful, kind, supportive etc you are to people, you will only be taken for granted in all fields. Be the player, take the middle path, help only selectively. I have seen lots of girls hang on to abusive, leeching boyfriends and husbands while all the nice guys went to bed alone. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but stop being a nice guy. Being Friendzoned is like checking into Hotel California. Once you are branded a nice guy, there is no going back, you will be stuck with the moniker forever while the jerks and the rich guys take the girls home.
6. Do not get Attached to Anything
Serious attachments do the same effect of mind altering drugs. They create a false sense of reality which will appear to last forever. And when these attachments break, they will create untold grief and misery from which some people will never recover and for others the scars will take years to heal. This does not just apply to romantic relationships but also to workplaces, friendships, ownerships and even with places. Do not fall in love with anything expecting everyone to live happily ever after. Keep your armor on and guard up at all times. Being attached to people will also make you being taken for granted which you will not realize until it is too late.
7. Nothing is what it Seems
Do not trust or believe anything or anyone you “hear” without conclusive proof. There is always a story that is not told, a background act that is not seen, a scheme that is not known or a plan that is not shown. The entire thing might be just the facade of a grand plan decidedly made to blind people from the real thing. The real thing when revealed will only leave you with egg on the face. This especially goes for family feuds. Do Not get involved.
8. Family Comes First
No, it does, no matter what. Nothing is worth enough for you to sacrifice your family or your time with them for it. Not your hobbies, not your friends, not your pursuits, not some intangible gains like culture and especially not your career. Do not send your little kids away on their own to boarding schools in distant lands. No, they value your presence more than money and fancy schools. No, the “better education” they would apparently will gain through that is really not worth it. Keep your family together, spend time with your children as they grow up, the greatest gift you can give them. If you expect you will be able to enjoy life and spend time with your family after you are 60 and retired, you won’t even have any family left by then.
9. Education? What Good is it?
Just like knowledge, education has long since lost its value. Study, study, study to become “successful in life later”, we were told. As we crammed past levels of school and colleges amassing degrees and diplomas on the way, we were told repeatedly that the “success” we were aspiring for was nigh well within reach, just another milestone to go after which we could “rest”. But that “successful tomorrow” never came even after earning piles of degrees and diplomas. Though we live a life of a bare minimum existence struggling through life forgoing most of the good things in life, we had the contention that we were leading a honest life, paying our taxes and obeying the law. But then we see those who are not educated, do not pay taxes or follow the law leading the lives of our dreams and wonder where we all went wrong. Our education did not get us anywhere in terms of comparable results to those lesser educated.
10. Early Career Choices are Pointless
You are 22 and are about to start your career. What in the World do you know what you want to do with your life? I am 33 and I am just about starting to grasp what I like. Careers in India are seldom chosen out of conviction but mostly out of compulsion because of the limited career choices available and the stigma attached to non-professional careers. Everyone who is not a doctor will end up on an ambiguous career which has usually little to do with what they studied in the first place. Almost never will you end up doing what you like, if you really know what you “like” in the first place.
11. Don’t Give a Damn
There are just too many distractions around you with millions of causes and cacophony to make any sense of it all. Trying to lend your ears to everyone’s cause is not be distracting but also will sap you of your energy and unsettle your balance. To lead a peaceful life, chose your causes wisely, put your and your family’s interests first and don’t give a damn to anything else. Do not give in to negative energy, just block out all the noise that does not matters. Concentrate on a good life, do not get distracted and sucked into the vortex of the cacophony around you so much that others will use you to meet their own selfish ends. Also, stop living trying to “impress people”. The opinion of “other people” about you will not make the difference of a rodent’s posterior in your life. Live your life true to yourself and tell those immaterial people to go take a hike. In the end you will be answerable only to yourself and not to them.
12. Be Humble
Humility is a great weapon to win people over, so much so that some people use it like a superpower. People usually do not like overbearing, egoistic people and are quick to denounce them. Being humble and meek will not just land you in the favorable books of many, but will also help you get out of many tight situations. Chest thumpers who refuse to acknowledge this will find themselves blocked by people more powerful than them, while the humble will be able to wriggle through. Always remember that there will be people more powerful than you and they are not the best people to show your brashfulness to. However, be firm in claiming what is yours.
13. Keep Away from Debt
Any kind of debt, be it credit cards, personal loans, home loans, car loans, shark loans or any kind of monetary obligation will ruin your life. Your options will become severely limited with your life revolving around those EMIs turning you into a bonded slave working to pay off your debtors for perceived gains at the expense of your entire life and peace of mind. None of these apparent gains are really worth it. No loans will mean lesser goodies but will also mean lesser headaches and accountability and more flexibility and freedom. Also, spend your money wisely. Do not blow it all on things you don’t really need, like fancy phones and other gadgets.
14. It Sucks Being an Introvert
Of all the talents and gifts that once can get, the most invaluable one has to be the gift of the gab. I always was amazed at the way how some people can talk, and I don’t mean stupid people who spew bullshit all the time. Extroverts are blessed with being able to achieve so much while introverts are often denied equal share in participation and other benefits in a societal setting, even if they are eligible and equally deserving. Reserved and shy people are often made fun of, are seen as boring, anti-social or even weak and end up being denied their share and bullied. And no, we do not turn into superheroes in real life.
15. Friendships Inevitably End
What Airtel does not mention in its ad is that within two to three years after the class ends, most of those “friends” in that class will have no idea about and also won’t even be bothered to know what 80% of the others are doing, even in these days of digital networking. Forget random classmates, even great friendships which featured seemingly inseparable people also fade away over time, though they will swear that they will keep in touch no matter what. But as time goes on, places and priorities change and new people come into the picture, distances between people, meetings and phone calls will invariably increase. If you have friendships that have survived the test of time, cherish them and never let them go – they are your greatest possessions!
16. Do Epic Shit. Be Young and Stupid
Life is short and your youth, even shorter. Enjoy what it brings to you. Go out in the sunshine and live your life while you can, rather than sitting in front of the computer or TV and cribbing about your parents, government, life or whatever. Go places, do crazy things things, break some confines and dogma (but not the law), commit stupid mistakes (which you invariably will), enjoy the spur of the moment, which you can look back later and laugh at, at your own stupidity or impulsiveness. Years later you should not look back at your life and see a boring landscape stretching behind you, scattered with regrets of a life not lived. Your youth is a gift, the only time when you really have the energy and time to really do what you want. DO NOT waste it.
17. Enjoy while it Lasts
Everything – Your experiences, good times, bad times, relationships, careers, ownerships and even your life, all come with a pre-stamped, unerasable expiry date. Instead of worrying and fretting away your present time make good use of it because this moment will never come back again. You will never know when you will see people again or when you will go to that place again. That nothing lasts forever and everything will invariably come to an end is the most unchanging of the laws of the Universe. So make the most of today, now, and do not wait for some imaginary time in the future. That moment might never even arrive.