Success: Difficult to attain, harder to sustain

 A school girl had to take part in the recitation competition of the school. She had taken all efforts to memorize the poem, recited it several times in her room alone, to her dad, to her sister, to her friend and in front of the mirror. The poem “No Men Are Foreign” by James Kirkup was a beautiful one based on the theme of universal goodwill, which holds true even today. On Saturday, the recitation competition was held as usual in the ‘co-curricular activity’ period post break. Her poem recitation went very well; she had prepared well. The girl was received with a huge round of applause. Everyone seemed to be touched by the wonderful words and the way it was recited. Judges took a little time to compile the results and then it was the declaration time amidst a brief silence. First, second and third positions announced. Her name was not there. It had never happened like this before. She always had managed to get some rank.  Many of her friends had a surprise expression on their face. She appeared unperturbed and started preparing to leave but kept the cool and smiled to everyone around.

Then came another announcement. The judges had agreed upon constituting a special prize for an outstanding participant who did much better but could not be judged on the given marking protocol. The SPECIAL PRIZE was created for her. She would receive it from the honorable chief guest on the annual day of the school. A big round of applause and claps for her. She was called to the stage. As she was getting up amidst the cheer, her head was bent low with modesty and she felt her throat was choked, she was numb and tears involuntarily were rolling down her cheeks. She was feeling so humbled and felt as if rose petals were being showered on her. She felt everyone around her were the most beautiful people and she owed her success to them. The principal embraced her and praised her. She could only nod her head but could not utter a word. Yes, yes this was the Success for the little girl. The moment that she had worked for, the moment that she was waiting for, but when it came, contrary to screaming at the top of her voice she became silent with tears of happiness because success humbled her. Gratification came to the fore. Humility overpowered her. A fulfillment of a sort made her complete. She became ecstatic. It is a feeling of strength, of achievement attained, which makes the whole world look beautiful. The little girl was me – a thin, petite, frail-figure with dark complexion and two long plaits neatly tied. But I always had within me, a strong determination to be different. Even later in life, with every major or minor exam, stage competition, annual appraisal at work, I used to get butterflies in my stomach but the standards I had set for myself had to be met.

Thus, for me personally SUCCESS is culmination of all hard work and efforts of sleepless nights. The scribbled notes of papers crushed and strewn about the room and the slowly rising pile of coffee cups precariously balanced on top of each other in the sink waiting for a wash are collateral damage in the process of getting there. Then finally it comes to pass, the declaration –Yes! I have done It.! My Eureka moment has arrived.

The famous lines of Iqbal always inspire me: “Khudi ko kar buland itna, ki har taqdeer se pehle, Khuda bande se khud puche, bata teri raza kya hai.” (Raise yourself to such heights that before writing your destiny, God asks your wish). Even today, these lines give me great strength. However, each of my personal achievements or achievements of my children and husband come with a sense of gratification rather than fist-pumping pride or gloating. I embrace success with tears of happiness and a silent moment of contemplation because it is always humbling to look back at the struggle that culminated into a  joyful moment. It brings a positive change in my attitude towards life.

Success is ephemeral and we cannot live in its glory forever. It is important to remember however that we might not always succeed in our endeavors. Nevertheless, success is an important incentive, which keeps all life on the planet on their toes day in day out. The meaning of success is different for every individual. Everyone’s response to opportunities given by life depends on their own potential, temperament, desires and dreams. It is material wealth for some, and personal welfare for others. Some measure it as academic success like, clearing civil service exam, while some on their entrepreneurial skills. Some measure it on their bank balance while some measure it on philanthropy. For some religion and God gives success, others are taskmasters and rely only on their hard work. Few may however be content making only castles in air.

Success can be linked to the theory of evolution explained by Charles Darwin in his seminal work ‘The Origin of Species’. He used two very important phrases – “struggle for existence” and “survival of the fittest” to describe the propagation of life.  The word “fittest” implies suitable for an immediate, local environment. Thus, the entire process of evolution of life on the planet is a big SUCCESS story – right from a single celled organism to the highly complex human being. All life forms compete for space, food, air and water. Ultimately fittest is the one who evolves to survive  on the existing resources and concurrently adapt to the constantly changing environment, climate, physical and biological surroundings. Therefore, it can be concluded that all living beings around us are successful in one way or the other. Evolution is an ongoing process in cognizance with the available resources and the environment.

The evolution of humans from hunter-gatherers to the present society has been possible because of successful colonization, industrialization and modernization. The transfer of knowledge over generations has been achieved through creation of languages, formulation of script and effective communication. The advent of science and technology and it’s exploitation for household activities, transportation, education, medicine, defense, disaster management, etc. are exemplary feats – the success stories that we had not envisaged even about five to six decades ago.

Mere rotation of Earth along its axis leading to the warmth of sunrise every morning and cool sunset in the evening is nature’s success story. It is a precise, well-orchestrated, well-planned phenomenon of the universe. It endows the world the gift of life. Life is embodied in the seedlings wriggling out of the seed, the bud blooming into a flower, the larvae crawling out of the cocoon, chick popping out of eggs, maize cobs with hundreds of seed growing with a military precision wrapped in dozen of flaps, birds weaving beautiful nests etc. If there were an iota of shift in the Earth’s place in the solar system, life as we know it would be impossible. Success can provide a greater meaning to each moment in time even though the yardsticks may vary and the qualifying factors may change. However, a very important factor is that success cannot be created; it can only be achieved. Thus after a small pause for celebration of one success, one should realize that to be successful again you have start from scratch and keep reminding oneself that: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

 

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