Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Information and Media; Environmental Science and Policy @Michigan State University

Independent journalist -

Environment, Science, International

The Candidate

I dont know if this is because I've only been giving exams for the last 1.5 months, but the word "candidate" now has many different meanings when related to me and my life. Life is full of exams. They come every year, every month, every day actually! Some have to be written and graded and dreaded, while others are given without even being aware of their existence. Yet all of them have only two possible results. Passed or failed. However, the intensity of these results may vary from scale to scale; for example, "just passed", or "passed by 5 marks!", to "just failed" or "faaaailed!!" And the intensity in turn, determines the amplitude of the voice belonging to the person who has just been handed his/her result.
Of course, this is the standard exam-result combo. There's that other one I mentioned. The type that is invisible. Somehow, these exams seem to be harder, more common, and more frustrating than normal regular exams. The test of standing in one place watching other people do what you do best. The test of being silent through this procedure and the test of determining your own "pass or fail" result which in turn determines if you'll move on or not. Obviously then, you are the factor that can change your result drastically at any given point in time. On a positive note, the power to pass is in your hands. But on the other hand, this power appears minuscule when compared with what you're compromising.

In a flash of second you're a candidate who got tossed out of one frying pan into complete thin air.. and had to choose, while in mid air, whether you wanted to land in another frying pan or you wanted a swimming pool underneath. I like frying pans. They get your ass hot and get you on your toes to work for what you believe in, hardly ever giving you the chance to return to the "pan" to relax. You're the candidate who's witnessing your own life from up in the air and thinking that it sucks in that hot ass burning plate down below. Fortunately or unfortunately, you're ecologically adapted to those conditions and hence seasoned to having your ass being lit up. The air no longer seems like such a happening place to be and you decide to return to the world of constant burns. However, to keep your sanity, or whatever little of it is remaining, you choose a different frying pan, with less oil. No you're not health conscious. You're just starting all over. On your own. You have no company. None of the old mates that you had in your old pan. But you know, that if you persist long enough, and bear with the ass burns long enough, you'll soon have company.

I have no clue if any of that frying stuff made any sense but what I do know is, at every single step in your own life, you are a candidate. A candidate who is constantly being watched, judged, graded, criticized, apprehended, thrashed, whacked, pushed around, and yet, it is you who comes out unscathed. Not everyone would like to look at every day as an exam considering the word exam is quite a stinker but it pays to understand in your mind, that if today you're struggling with the a,b,c,.. , tomorrow you'll be reading a whole book. Even if this thought is put at the farthest corner in your mind, it is still good enough because at times when you think everything has ended for you, the only thing in your mind is this thought which you had folded and stashed away into that corner ages ago. It becomes your walking stick, it teaches you to get rid of the hunched back and stand straight. Respect yourself. Because if you don't, no one else will want to.

I have been reduced to just a candidate right now. Giving 4 back-to-back exams [the regular ones], and having my applications and myself graded by several universities across the globe to determine whether I am suitable for any of their programmes, today, I truely am, A Candidate.

I stand at that platform at Mumbai Central watching 2957 leave and I feel that wrenched feeling again but there is NOTHING I can do to help it go away [being helpless isn't something that goes down very well with me]. I watch the train pick up speed, and the familiar faces begin to vanish from before my face. I still don't lower my head. I turn around, unfold my stashed away thought, and look straight ahead and walk right out. I catch a cab back into my life and realize that I am nowhere lower than I was before. I am just the same. People around have changed. I realize that even though I have lost one frying pan, doesn't mean I have to be doused in a swimming pool. I am still burning. With enthusiasm, passion and the will to work. So I set up my own frying pan and while I'm working on making things better, other pans around hear of me and want me to join them. Once again I feel like finally I can do some good again on a larger scale. And immediately, I sign up.

Now, I am a more self-respecting, self-aware, dignified and the same skilful Candidate that I was before. Just that I found newer ways to make use of what I can give to Earth. And the best part is, the result on the marksheet is all mine. I don't have to share it with anyone because I built what I now am and what I am, is a successful candidate because today, what other people think of me, is none of my business. Since it's my frying pan [life] and my ass that's burning in it, the feeling of being the sole owner of the result is one helluva satisfying feeling!

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