30on30: On Ambition

As a kid, I wanted to join the army and lead my country from the front. Innocent times as they were, I had fallen in love with that Lata Mangeshkar song requesting her countrymen to look at the sacrifices that these men made for us and the country. Something about the nobility and the vulgarity of that mission appealed to me. As I grew older however, I moved away, and further away, from what could have been a starkly physical job to something that can scarcely be called a job. What led that shift? As I knew more, I knew lesser and lesser still. As the branches branched further out, I found myself gripping the one that was closer, and in so doing, moving further and further away from the stem. What was that stem? Was there even one to begin with? As I turn 30, and summarize my life in 30 posts, I begin with the most supreme emotion that grips our age today – ambition. Ambition of being, and not of doing. The former, a way of living and the latter, the means of doing so – very much like a job.

What is a job anyway? If you define it by way of ambition, a job is the manifestation of the highest ambition. So, unless your ambitions are met, the chores that you’re doing to sustain yourself are merely that – chores. A job is something that you think you were “meant” to do on this world. It is, in the end, something that best placates your ambition. Rest of everything else, is merely a sucky interpretation of job. Suffice it to say that a vast majority of people aren’t able to assuage their ambitions, and end up with only a version of a job.

friday_ambitionWhy am I talking about this now? Because, as I turn 30, and think about the decisions I took and the path that carved itself out in front of me during key intervals, I am astounded by the heavy-handed way that chance and random occurrences have shaped my landing, if that’s what my current state can be called. Calling myself naïve when I take myself back a decade would be foolhardy. You do what you consider best given the things you know and given your understanding of the world around you, limited as it may be. I suppose the decade that went by me was met with surprise and open embrace. The decade that is to come, if I can foresee, will be one of resigned submission and acceptance. The more you probe deeper into the cosmic space, the farther your eyes wander. At first, as in the first half of the bygone decade, you oscillate between rebellion and energetic hand-waving. Later, as the dust settles down, you acknowledge it and ignore it as with something you don’t own.

atlantic-rainforest-train-2

What is ambition? It’s a perennial duel with existence, a farce you live with in order to survive, a man-made emotion to soften the harshness of your passage through this world. Imagine yourself as a train passing through an Amazon forest. You don’t have the ability to alter the speed of the train. There’s an incredible flora and fauna that you are engulfed in during each of those 4000 miles. You try to take in the view as expansively as you possibly can. And yet, you are certain that to be able to take in the 10 million or so species that exist in that one stretch of forest alone, you would need more window space than what your journey permits. So what do you do? You build a glass cage on the train which can take in a 360 degree view, you install the highest fps motion picture camera on all the sides and start snapping it all up in that tiny 1 Exabyte HDD to be able to consume all of it later, at your own pace. Only, when your journey through the forest ends, your HDD burns itself up and what you are left with during those precious last few seconds, is only your experiences of capturing those shots. Ambition for some, is their ability to transform the logistics so you can capture everything around you. For some, it is to be able to gloat in the experience of having done “something”, of which you only have the faintest idea.

snoopyI have grappled with it, and still do – this confusing aspect of our ambitions. The fact that I am not alone does not placate me. On the contrary, it makes me feel generic and untowardly miniscule. I know that it evolves, and eventually settles down to a more rhythmic pace. I know also that this fact is chilling for me because it isn’t unique to me at all.

Hindsight’s a 20-20. As I look back, I can triangulate the sources and the origins of my ambitions. But these are logical threads that I have weaved in order for it all to make sense, and therefore, are by definition flawed. Nothing does make sense from where I look at it. Nothing will, as I see myself in the future, taking more-of-the-same decisions. Were these decisions really mine? A confluence or a commingling of several incurrences bringing in its wake a vaguely identifiable thread which I followed?

30zoneThirty years took a long time coming for sure. And I have been collecting species as they come by way. I only wish that the battery on my camera does not run out whilst inside the forest, for that would be a calamity. I know there are forests outside the one I am in, but then there are forests in my imagination too – much bigger and denser than the ones that lie “outside”. I know that very soon the novelty will wear down very soon and hope that when they do, my imagination will take over and sprout out forests of my own. A matrix of my own making, inside of which I will revel and reside, happy and content.

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