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The thing was that Shanky wanted to be a writer. He had finally realised this, and counted himself lucky that he had, for many others his age were still struggling. They rarely emphasise about this aspect – the self discovery – of growing up in schools, don’t they? With all the sciences and the geography and god awful math that they teach you, they invest neither sufficient resources nor the time in helping kids find their proverbial “selves.”

All they do is just dip them in the water coloured with all the knowledge they in all likelihood will never be using in their lives, hang them out to dry in the sun, and… that’s it. The knowledge soon evaporates, leaving you – the product of a system you’ve been forced into – with… nothing.

So you teach yourself the ways of the world, arm yourself with the skills you actually need, and start the never ending journey towards…

Well, towards where?

Only those who have found it, those lucky ones, know of it.

To the others, it’s just a mystery they haven’t deciphered yet.

Shanky, who just turned 17 last month, had recently realised what he wanted to do in life. A year earlier, hunched over the form he was given by his school to fill out his intended specialisation in, he had found himself asking those dreaded questions for the first time. “What do I want to do?” “What am I meant to do?” “What’s my purpose?”

Maybe he knew what he wanted then. He did keep a secret diary of his jottings and scribblings and idle verses he made every now and then. But until when he was asked where he saw himself in the future, he never thought about it anymore than what it was; and what it was was passion.

Everybody has a passion, don’t they? Some like to travel, some like to go to the cinema, some like to play sports. He did enjoy cricket. Until a couple of years ago, before Adya had beaten him badly, he was the best batter in The Four Boys Club; and the opener in any neighbourhood games they played. And, since the altercation with Adya, he had started watching football religiously; becoming an eternal Arsenal fan.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean – “necessarily” being an operative word here – that people made careers out of their passions, did they?

But, in the words of the saint that was his father, The Chill Dad, the bitch of it was that despite knowing where he was destined to be, he couldn’t find a way to row his boat till there.

And that wasn’t because his mother, who after her husband’s death due to kidney failure a few years ago had become more uptight than she already was, kept pushing him to take up anything but arts. “Your dad left me with quite a few debts. I don’t want to spend my entire life supporting you,” she had said to him two days ago, when he first brought the form from school; and the first time they had ever had a real discussion about his impending career.

Even though Shanky’s sisters were facing the brunt of her rigid disciplining more than he was, she had become difficult towards him too.

No, his mother wasn’t what was prohibiting him.


The thing – the bitch of it, he would tell himself – was that lately another Shanky had started branching out from him. One that was markedly different from him. One that yearned to get out of the clutches he – the Real Shanky – had bound himself with; clutches imposed on him by his mum, for starters. One who didn’t want to care for a successful career, for a high paying job, or a big lavish apartment.

One who recognised the beat of his heart, of its rhythm, of… what it spoke.

The Real Shanky knew about The Other Shanky’s presence. But more than that, it understood its presence, why it had hatched from the corner of his subconscious to become… well, to become a separate entity.

The Other Shanky didn’t care if he didn’t become a writer. Careers were a matter of insignificance – even triviality – for him. At the heart of it, all he, in the words of Freddy Mercury, wanted was to be free. To be happy. To be… satisfied.

To go to bed each night in the knowledge that he was exactly where he wanted to be, that he was who he wanted to be. Becoming a writer was just a means to an end. And the means made no difference.

And, so, when the bullies in The Real Shanky’s high school class found out he listened to Avril Lavigne, he took the razing without saying anything in return. High school boys can be merciless, and they left no stone unturned in giving him a really difficult time. It wasn’t a surprise when one of these bullies nicknamed Shanky “Avy’s boyfriend.” The name caught on like wildfire, as things do in high schools; and, soon, everyone was on it.

The thing was, he liked Avril Lavigne; what people called a “guilty pleasure.”

Yet, if one were to ask The Real Shanky – the one who would keep up appearances in front of people, the one who was pragmatic about not just his decisions but also his feelings – he would deny it outright. For the culprit here, the one who would uncaringly sing Complicated aloud, which drew the bullies’ attention in the first place, was The Other Shanky.

The unbothered, unfettered, Other Shanky.

Avril Lavigne was just another way The Other Shanky freed The Real Shanky. Of course, if you asked The Real Shanky, he would have used the word “disrupted,” maybe even “corrupted,” instead of “freed.”

So when his mum told him he should be considering anything but arts, because of the mountain of debt she expected him to assist her with in the years to come, The Other Shanky kicked up a fuss. He didn’t care which career Shanky picked, but he did become, for the lack of a better word, afraid. Afraid that the life of carefreeness he had envisaged for Shanky was now in the shadow of a definitive threat.

And from here rose what we can call the Mr. Hyde to Shanky’s prevalent Dr. Jekyll. Oh, it wasn’t the case of his personality splitting. Nothing psychiatric in Shanky’s case. But it was a rebellious, a defiant, and – worst of all – an impulsive adolescent. He who, because of this very defiance, did go on to shift his career direction from an investment banker to a writer; and, after he turned 40, something that still was many years ahead, a successful one.

We can debate whether The Other Shanky, with its unending pursuit towards the most elemental of objectives, was an antagonist here. But it got him to where he always wanted to be.

And that can’t be a bad thing, right?



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