[There was an essay competition held in the school sometime last year. It was conducted by some national organisation whose name I cannot recall right now. I found the topic a little strange and very vague: "If it is necessary for us to change to become what we want to be, why not initiate that change immediately, that which needs to be done at the earliest". I participated in the competition more due to the teacher's insistence than from my own wish. I was not very happy with what I wrote. I have written far better pieces than this. However, I'd like to know my readers' comments on the essay.]
To Change the World, I Change Myself
When I was in primary school, I was one of the most careless girls in the class. On an average, I would lose a dozen pencils and erasers in school every month. My mathematics examinations routinely went badly because I would fill the papers with careless mistakes. My evenings would be spent bulldozing the house looking for exercise books I had adeptly misplaced. Then, when I was in class five, something clicked within me, and I asked myself, “What exactly do you think you are doing? You are turning out to be a good-for-nothing little brat. Is that how you want your parents to think about you?” This is it, I decided. Things have to change.
Today, I am a much more disciplined and well-organized person. I rarely have to hunt around wildly for my belongings, and my grades have improved considerably. I have been able to bring about these changes in my life by some observations and realizations, like, one of the commonest of human flaws is that one often forgets that one is guilty of umpteen shortcomings, and starts imagining oneself as perfection personified. However, that is arguably the biggest barrier in one’s pursuit of perfection. According to the Bible, the seven deadly sins are anger, pride, envy, lust, avarice and gluttony and sloth. Every human being carries the seeds of these sins. Only when one accepts and identifies one’s imperfection can one begin making a conscious effort to eliminate one’s flaws and work towards a more fulfilling life, and ultimately, towards attaining salvation.
Very few of us are fortunate enough to know exactly how we want to spend our lives and see ourselves ten years from now. Gerald Durrell, the renowned author and naturalist knew at the age of two that he wanted to spend his life with animals. Sachin Tendulkar knew his life had to be spent in the cricket stadium, Lata Mangeshkar knew she wanted to sing throughout her life. But most of us commoners have only this vague notion of wanting to be ‘successful’ in life. Most of us love to think of ourselves as ‘different’ and ‘special’, but in reality, most human beings are not only perfectly happy being mediocre and common, but try desperately to follow the herd and be exactly like one another. Very few people have any definite dreams and visions: they simply spend their lives drifting around and being carried by the current like a leaf in a river. These are people who are blissfully unaware of their flaws, and have no intention of being woken up to reality.
Even for those of us who are not so indifferent to our flaws, another great barrier to betterment is procrastination. Yes, this is THE word. The word which we fear and despise, the word which all of us knows to be an arch enemy of progress, yet the word which finds a silent yet substantial position in most peoples’ lives. All of us know that ‘tomorrow never comes’, yet we keep waiting for that tomorrow to get our work done.
As a sixteen year old student standing at the close of school life, if there is one thing that I have come to understand well, it is that it is on myself alone that I have the greatest amount of control. It is only myself whom I can mould to my liking to a great extent. Gandhiji once said, “Be the change that you want to see around you”. I try to follow his dictate and live the kind of life that I would like to see others around me leading. For the last few years, I have been trying to live by a routine. Sure, there have been blunders and slip-ups, but I have not given up, and I count that as part of my success.
However, my quest for a better life has certainly not ended. This is only the beginning. Very soon, I shall be leaving the haven of my parents’ protection and entering the real world. There are so many things that I would like to change about the way my society, my country works. For example, most western countries are so much quieter, cleaner and greener than ours. When Indians are told about these bitter truths, they grow green with envy, yet only a handful of people actually do anything to change the circumstances. It is thanks to them, people like Bittu Sehgal, Subhas Dutta, M. C. Mehta and Chandiprasad Bhatt that the country is not entirely engulfed in ugliness and dirt. I aspire to follow in their footsteps and contribute something to the social and cultural development of India, and I am proud to say that I have begun already. I make it a point not to accept polythene bags from shopkeepers, and turn off taps and switch off lights and fans whenever they are not in use. I know these are small steps, but if enough people can be persuaded to follow these small steps, India will become a much greener and lovelier country.
Sherlock Holmes, probably the most famous of fictional detectives, once outraged his friend and assistant Dr. Watson by saying that he had not known that the planets moved around the sun in the solar system, and had no remorse whatsoever for not knowing it. To Watson’s shocked exclamation of “But every schoolboy knows this!”, Holmes had replied that he was not every schoolboy; he was the great Sherlock Holmes. This can be dismissed as an unsavoury show of pride, but I will always maintain, it is the Sherlock Holmes’ who matter in this world, and not ‘every schoolboy’. That day in class five, I had decided to start being what I wanted to be afterwards in life. Hopefully, my decision has allowed me an access to the world of the Sherlock Holmes’ and the M. C. Mehtas, and when the day comes when my life’s movie flashes before my eyes, it will be worth watching.