I spent most of Saturday morning in self-pity. The beginning of the semester, after a three-month break, is never a happy occasion. It is altogether unbearable when marred by feeling about the general pointlessness of life, a feeling that even a 8th or 9th (I have lost count) re-viewing of Sherlock’s first episode couldn’t alleviate. Priyanka seemed to be in a similar mood. She was reading Poverty and the Un-British Rule in India, but I could see her heart was not in it. Twice, she put the book down and sighed audibly. I looked questioningly at her the second time, but she simply shook her head. I removed my headphones and paused the video, and waited. She would come around to whining eventually, I knew. This wasn’t a first.
“This is never going to end”, she said finally, staring at the book with infinite sadness in her eyes.
“It will. You want to discuss what you just read? That might help...” I offered.
“I haven’t been reading anything”, she replied.
I pointed out that it could hardly be the case, since she had been glued to the book for the past two days. That seemed to touch a soft spot.
“I haven’t been reading. I have been just staring at the words. Nothing seems to register”, she said with a strain in her voice.
“I am sure some of it has,” I tried to reason with her. “If nothing else, it will at least ease the second reading”, I said reassuringly.
That proved to be the last straw. Without warning, tears started pouring out of her eyes. I would say she was sobbing, but the more appropriate word would be wailing.
“I can’t read it again”, she spluttered through her tears.
“Don’t, don’t read it if you don’t like it”, I said worriedly. Then got up to move closer to her, and hesitatingly laid my hand on her shoulder. That seemed to only increase the sound of the wailing.
“I don’t want to read it ever again.”
“Don’t. I am sure it’s irrelevant. They will never ask you about all this.”
“I don’t want to read anything ever again. I hate all of it. ALL OF IT” she said, notching up the sound levels, just a bit more.
“Listen, you study all the time. Just take a break, I am sure you will be fine”, I said, picking up the book from the floor and closing it.
“Why do I have to read any of this anyway?” she bemoaned.”What good will it ever do, if I am to become an administrator? Will I refer to books about the colonial period to solve the problems of the people under my administration? Will wading through middle school physics help them? Or writing interminable essays in impeccable English?”
“I am not doing it anymore”, she said, with the same suddenness with which she had started crying. She wiped her tears. “I am not doing it anymore’, she repeated, this time her voice steadier.
“Yeah, just let’s relax. Start preparing again from tomorrow”, I said encouragingly. That is how all her whining sessions ended. Not in tears generally, but with her taking a break, then getting back to studying vigorously, immediately after. With the firm determination to make up for any time lost.
“No. I am moving back home. I have gone through this torture once and I wasn’t good enough”.
I opened my mouth to object, to remind her that most didn’t do well in the first attempt. But she pre-empted me.
“Don’t worry. It’s a good thing it took me only a year to realise I am not good enough. At least I know I will find something that I AM good at. Most people go through their life, wallowing in mediocrity, just because they are afraid to leave the security of the path others have eked out for them.”
I momentarily wondered why she thought interminable essays in fancy English was not her forte. Then, opened my mouth to object again but she interrupted me.
“Get me my phone. I need to talk to my parents”, she said.
She took the first train home today. At 6 in the morning. It’s probably only a temporary breach in her resolve. She will be back before late, back to the grind, same as the others. I have already started looking for a new roommate though.