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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Exam Results, and The Friendship Rant

First, the news: AISSCE 2015 results are out, and I scored 96%. As far as we know as I write this, the highest score in the Science stream from my school is 97.4%, and from the Commerce section, the highest score is 96.2%, from my friend and former colleague Nihal Singh. The newspapers reported today that the highest scorer in the country is a Commerce student from Delhi, with 99.2%; the highest Science scorer is not known to me yet. My congratulations go out to all the toppers as well as everyone else who cleared this very important milestone. The Class of 2015 has come of age, and hopefully we will go far. Now we await the results of our attempts at getting into college. Bystanders and bygones, wish us luck!
Since the last of the competitive exams were done, I have been struck by a crushing sense of emptiness -- though in reality I have plenty to do, especially things that I did less (or none) of in the past few months. I have a pending storybook in my hands; I have a ton of French that I can learn and a ton of Runescape that I can play; and today after a long time I picked up my tanpura. Yet, I feel devoid of a purpose. At the end of Class X, I knew that I was going to spend Class XI in HSMS and Aakash Institute. Now, I have no such certainty. Even if I get a barely decent result in the competitive examinations, I will have a formidable list of colleges to choose from -- and once I get there, I have to take the wobbly first steps towards an adult, independent life. Don't get me wrong -- the prospect of that life does not intimidate me; instead, it excites me that I will have new friends, new knowledge and new experiences. What I do not have is immediate motivation. Sure, career prospects and even the possibility of being able to do some meaningful charity someday is great motivation; but as I leave school life for real, I have no meaningful connections to show for it -- no people whose faces, far away, will give me strength in my future endeavours; no tangible, living representatives of the spirit of youthful idealism that I hope to carry into my life of nascent maturity. To put it simply, leaving school life, I do not have a single friend that I can possibly allow myself to miss.
It is a well-known fact that anything worth doing is faced with stiff opposition, and that anyone worth their salt is never too well liked. A low friend count is a cross I can bear for the path I chose in my school life, because that path was important to me -- and the burden of that cross is much lightened by the few friends I made in passing -- but none to know and trust, none to call at 3 a.m., none that accept me for the exact person that I am and are yet not afraid to be close to me. I revel in solitude, and I've always hated so-called friends who are too clingy, but sometimes I wonder if one absolutely must suffer indignities to one's conscience, privacy and principles to maintain friendships. If it is that way, trust me, I'd rather not have friends -- but sometimes I wonder if that whole 'adjustment' story is bullshit. Adults (technically, I am one now, but bleh) have always told us bluntly that true friends are a near-impossible rarity, and we youngsters grow to believe it. The other day when I visited HSMS and spoke to my class teacher, she agreed with me when I mentioned the improbability of true friendship, and praised my maturity in realizing the truth!
And yes, it is a truth I realized long, long ago. Back in CCHS, I had realized as young as Class II that being betrayed by friends was routine procedure. Right up to Class VIII, each and every year, without fail, I made a new friend in the beginning of the year, who hurt me horribly by the end of it -- with such scathing regularity that I came to expect it in the beginning of every school year. In Class IX, I gave up hope of ever making new friends. In HSMS, I didn't expect a fresh start, at least in this regard, but I was given one nonetheless. I often tell people how, much of HSMS and Aakash was a concise and accelerated version of the CCHS experience for me -- and part of what I mean, is that numerous people flitted in and out of my life in these two years, and bonds were made and broken not in a year, not in a month, but in days, hours and minutes. I made and lost nearly as many friends in HSMS as I had in CCHS. Talk about history repeating itself, and that too six times faster!
No, I wasn't a quiet kid. I wasn't a wallflower, I wasn't timid, I wasn't invisible. I was well known, I was popular among juniors, I held the top posts in the student bodies and everybody knew my name and who I was -- but that was the end of it. Any friendships I had left at the end of my school life died in a series of sad encounters in the days leading up to our Farewell Day, and lastly, crushingly, excruciatingly, on the very day that I bade Farewell to HSMS, and thus my school life. Reconnecting with some of these friends worked out quite well, actually -- but it was never the same. When I look at these people now in photographs, when I hear them now as disembodied voices over telephone, when I run into them at the odd exam centre, I find they've changed, or perhaps revealed some truth about themselves that I had been oblivious to. I find them different -- just like, déjà vu, I found many of my Carmel girls metamorphosing into unrecognizable skeletons of their past selves in post-Carmel meetings. My maturity be praised, I understand all of this as a normal part of adult life -- people can't be forced to like each other, and true friendships don't exist -- and I am ready to accept it if someone can convince me that it is always true: if someone can refute me when I debate that it is still worth my while to try making new friends.
Yes, I know -- I'm an adult, and I'm supposed to have my life all figured out, including my bunch of age-appropriate, status-appropriate, gender-appropriate, culture-appropriate, brand-appropriate friends to show off to myself on some bloody list that I'm supposed to check off I don't know when. But I have no shame in admitting that I actually don't. I don't know how to make friends, and I don't know if trying is even worth my time. What I do know, however, is that I'll never, ever change myself, never ever remain silent against any injustice, never give up even a single bit of my personality to keep myself glued to some friend. I'll never, ever, do all the things I wrote about in that poem. Silence is not the price I will pay for friends, and silence is not what I will expect of any friend that decides to accept my voice.
I also promise, however, that while I will forever be careful, and never too trusting, and never too easy to make friends with, I will never, ever, stop trying to make friends. Because, you see, every friendship I've ever had was wonderful while it lasted. Even the people who weren't who I thought they were, were a joy to me as my imagined versions of them. So no, oh wise grown-ups, while I won't ever endanger my identity for the sake of a friend, I will always remain on the lookout for one -- even if it is ever reduced to a selfish tool of giving me joy. And while I'm at it, I will remember the principle that has always held together my most treasured friendships -- summarized by this C.S. Lewis quote:
"Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself...'" 
So, past friends, thank you for having been there. Present friends, if you exist, let me know who you are because I haven't the slightest idea; and, world full of potential future friends, here I come!
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I actually have one friend, just one, outside school, outside the country in fact, who has always been wonderful to me despite having never met me in person. This post being about school friends, I didn't talk about you in it, but thank you, +Paige Marie / +SuperPaigeT .  You're a dear.

Image courtesy: Unknown creator via Google Images

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