Being an only child, most material things were handed over to me quite easily and I wasn’t expected to share them with anybody else as a kid. Although my parents were diligent enough to ensure that I wasn’t a ‘spoilt brat’ in any sense of the word, they also ensured that I wasn’t left wanting any normal small thing that kids of my age would normally want.
However, my father almost always wanted me to excel at whatever I did, be ‘the first’ and the best in all my endeavors, both at curriculars and extra-curriculars. While I was pretty decent at studies, meaning that while I wasn’t ‘the first’ or ‘the best’ but always managed to be among the ‘first three’ in class right up to my 10th standard meant that from a curricular viewpoint I pretty much managed to keep my father’s competitive aspirations satisfied. And since I enjoyed quizzing also quite a bit and actively participated in more than a few intra school and inter school competitions, my father was ok even if I didn’t manage to win too much. He was probably happy that I was busy with these activities rather than hanging out with ‘good for nothing’ teenagers learning to smoke and drink.
One small fall-out of the ‘only child syndrome’ and being competitive at my studies was the fact that I hadn’t quite learnt to take defeat easily back in those days. This ‘competitive streak’ that my father inculcated in me peaked by the time I was probably 12-13 yrs old when the hormones were raging, and I was on the cusp of that all-important phase of my life, teenage. And this meant that if I ever faced defeat or a small hurdle in anything that I started doing, then all hell would break loose.
I studied my middle and high school in an all boys’ school and this further exacerbated this competitive streak in me. In an environment where every second day involved having a soccer match with your rival from the class or an inter class cricket match or the free period involved a hyper-competitive game of basketball, losing was not an option. Losing meant that you would be taunted at by the winning team, your ability as a captain of the team, a valuable player of the team would be laughed at, you would be treated derisively by your own team members who would not want to pick you again in their teams. You just had to be on the winning side, you had to contribute to the victory, there were no two ways about that at all.
Back in those days, winning was everything for me. Notions such as a sportsmanship, fair play, trying your best, were all terms used by losers. A true winner would win at all costs, and be willing to sacrifice anything and anybody for the cause of a victory. I strongly believed in the saying “to the victor belong the spoils” and because I was not used to sharing stuff with anybody I had to be the victor, at any cost.
A couple of friends of mine, who still remain friends till date, fondly remember the days when I used to break at least one badminton racket a day when I used to miss that crucial drop shot or be left swinging at thin air when the shuttle casually whizzed past me on the court. They remember how I have thrown the cricket bat in disgust after getting out to a particular good catch. They shudder at how I used to bowl nasty bouncers at them after they had hit my previous ball for a four or a six. And when I look back at those days I find it quite hard to believe that it was the same person that I am today, but a much younger, angrier, and a more competitive version, that’s all.
What drastically changed me was the fact that I studied my pre-university college in a co-education institution. And what was worse was that this place had two-thirds of its population as girls. Being part of a minority, and also completely tongue-tied as a gawky, bespectacled, angry 15 yr old boy meant that I simply couldn’t bring myself to compete fiercely at things as before. While I continued being aggressive on the field with other guys, my shyness, my awkwardness and my overall inability to strike up meaningful conversations with girls bothered me so much that I somehow withdrew into a shell for the first few months.
And then, of course, there was the whole new atmosphere, the freedom from uniforms, the freedom from stupid Fathers and Brothers who used to be watching over your shoulder and punish you for every small misdemeanor, the new found freedom in terms of actually getting some money to spend on buying knick-knacks from the college canteen. All of these meant that life didn’t have to be too competitive anymore.
I learnt that ‘sharing’ brought with it its own advantages, and as clichéd and naïve as it may sound, I learnt that by acting collectively instead of competitively, the benefits involved increased exponentially and everybody got more ‘bang for their buck’, so to speak. Having a decent set of folks around me meant that I was spared of the petty politics and matchmaking games where guys and girls were ‘paired’ with each other and treated as a couple. It also meant that I didn’t have to compete anymore to get noticed and to win. Winning, I learnt was more a state of mind rather than an absolute truth recorded somewhere.
This post is written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.
Today’s prompt was “What activity, task or game most brings out your competitive streak?” and the short answer for the same that was tried to be conveyed through this post was absolutely nothing at all.