What Are The Stakes?

Photo credit Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

The party was on in full swing. Drinks were flowing freely. People were huddled in groups. But the music, the lights, the ambient noise, everything was now getting on to Karan’s nerves. It was well past two in the morning, yet there were no signs of the party getting over. Karan, a bit tipsy, slipped off the room quietly and walked down the steps, to the back gate of the building, and to the beach. The beach was deserted and Karan kept walking towards the sea in front of him. It was a full moon night and huge waves were lashing the shore. Something was screaming inside Karan’s mind, the scream only getting louder and louder. Karan increased his speed and broke into a run. The scream seemed to escape out, as Karan went running, to be engulfed by the huge waves.

Ronit looked around the room and not finding Karan anywhere, stepped out and went down. While looking around, his eyes suddenly caught a figure running towards the sea. A startled Ronit took to running, simultaneously calling out for Karan. But before he could catch up, the figure got swallowed up by the humungous waves of the sea. Ronit screamed for help. Luckily the coast guards were nearby. They came rushing in and after a while they managed to pull out Karan, almost lifeless by then. He was rushed to the hospital and a team of doctors started working on him, trying to save his life.

Ronit had informed Karan’s family in Amritsar. His father could not believe what he was hearing, just as Ronit could not believe what he was telling. Sitting outside the ICU in the hospital, Ronit suddenly broke down. He just cried and cried, till the teardrops dried up. Then he went and stood near the window of the lobby, looking out into the vast Arabian Sea that lay in front of him. Ten years in the city! The land of dreams!

Ronit and Karan were school friends, living in Amritsar. Both were brilliant in their studies and were very popular in their school. Ronit was the star singer, and Karan the star performer; both had independently won many awards in various competitions. Their talent evolved with age, and over a period of time it became their passion. Both had dreams; Ronit of becoming a Kishore Kumar and Karan’s idol was Shahrukh Khan. After graduation, Bollywood was their destination. Ronit came from a business family while Karan’s parents were doctors. Both sets of parents were very supportive of their sons’ dreams, though they had also spoken with them about the struggle, uncertainty, and the cut-throat competition in the field of their choice. In the end passion ruled over all such doubts and worries. Thus, about a decade back, both Karan and Ronit left their hometown for Mumbai. They both were raring to go, and had rainbows in their eyes.

In Mumbai they landed right in the midst of an ocean of dreamers like them. Undeterred, both started off with hard work. Their talent started getting them small jobs here and there, and they were being noticed. Ronit got some jingles to sing, then a few songs in some offbeat movies. His songs did well, but they were far from being mainstream songs. Karan too got roles in movies, and was highly appreciated for his work, but he was still not getting any main roles in movies of the well-established production houses that made the real money. Karan was super ambitious and was extremely sure of himself, so he soon started getting frustrated and impatient. Ronit was the calmer one and he sort of accepted the lesser version of his dreams, waiting patiently for his time to come.

Karan could see the blatant nepotism all around him in the industry, and he was trying to beat it with his talent and hard work. His failure to achieve his dreams was impacting him badly; he was becoming cranky, irritable, short-tempered, and this made him lonely. He was moving away from his close friends. One day he shocked Ronit by saying that he was going to move out to a place of his own; that he needed his own space. Ronit was too shell-shocked to respond. Despite all efforts from Ronit, Karan moved out from the place where the two friends were staying together, to a place of his own. He now increasingly kept to himself. He did a few very good movies, and got a couple of awards too, but he was far from what he had dreamt of becoming! The Shahrukh Khan of Bollywood!

Karan bought a flat of his own and did it up with all the things that he had always wanted. He spent money to buy expensive things that he had dreamt of owning. But unfortunately he could not compromise on his ambition. He just could not lower his own expectations, even for the time being, and was perpetually stressed. He did not have any answer as to how he would be able to break through the strong barrier of nepotism, and reach the pinnacle of success. But he refused to see himself anywhere less. He stopped going to his hometown too. He vowed to himself that he would go there only after achieving his dream. His parents would try to persuade him to come home for holidays, on special occasions, on festivals, but to avoid them Karan started to withdraw from them. Much to the dismay and helplessness of his family, communication with them trickled down to the barest minimum. He would always cite the reason of being too busy.

Ronit would keep trying to bridge the gap between them, to the best of his abilities. He was not comfortable with Karan’s change in behaviour; in fact, he was quite worried. But Karan kept to himself and stubbornly maintained the distance between them. That evening too, Ronit had expected Karan to be there at the party, and had somewhat made up his mind to try and break the ice between them. Suddenly, not finding Karan in the room, he stepped out to look for him and then the rest followed, and now he was pacing up and down in the lobby outside the ICU of the hospital where Karan was admitted.

Almost ten hours had passed and Karan had not regained consciousness. Various tubes, pipes and monitors were connected to him. What imageries were now flashing through Karan’s subconscious mind? A big double storey house, a few children running around, playing, someone sitting in the garden reading a newspaper, then Deepawali, the festival of lights, being celebrated, so much fun and laughter, someone running behind a boy to put the tiffin box in his bag; the imageries were all jumbled up, but they went on and on. Karan could recognise his house, his parents, his sister, his friends, and could actually hear his own gurgling laughter. His father teaching him to ride a scooter, he in the role of Krishna, in school, he running home with a trophy that he had won for the best student of the year; oh, why did the imageries not stop, Karan was thinking. They continued; the whole family sitting and playing cards, he fighting with his sister, his grandparents showering him with gifts, his Mom, in the midst of all her busy schedule, baking a cake for him on each birthday of his; these just went on and on. Then one day his father reading out a quote by Jim Carrey,

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Not the answer? Then what is the answer, Karan thought.

“What does this mean, Papa? What else can you want, if you are rich and famous? Getting richer and more famous?” joked Karan.

“Everything demands a price, Karan. Unfortunately most of us do not realise that. So, being successful, rich and famous too, have their own price tags that we, blinded in our want, ignore. Life is not holistic if only a few things are given over-importance, than others. Life needs to be balanced and yes, no doubt, it is always desirable to strive for the best. Having said that, I would like to add that it is prudent at the same time to be aware of the cost that we need to pay. Nothing can substitute for the other, hence even after reaching the very top, if you realise that there are so many other things that you lack, it hits you hard. You see that your personal and emotional compartments are empty, and you then do not know how to fill them. Your health is your life-line and, most of the time, you see that in the blind pursuit of success, you might have damaged it badly. Similarly your friends, family, love, these are the staple food for a happy life which, once lost, are impossible to retrieve. Such irreparable losses make one realise their true value and hence many people at the pinnacle of their success are often lonely, craving for the very things they had thrown away, to reach where they were. Remember these things in your quest for success, Karan,” fondly concluded his father.

How clearly Karan remembered his Mom once foregoing a conference in the U.S., saying that she would not be comfortable leaving back her children for two weeks. Karan had asked her if that would that not affect her career, to which she had replied that yes, maybe it would, but leaving her children back during their exams could affect them, which was not acceptable to her. And what did Karan do? In chasing his dream, he put everything at stake; his health, his family, his friends, all his loved ones! Such high stakes? He could see himself screaming and running to meet the huge and rough sea. How could he be such a coward? He did not have the strength to face failure and he wanted to end his life! Did his parents not always say,

“ Life is the most precious gift from God. Living it, in its true sense, is worshipping Him.”

How could he think that his dream was everything, that it was all-pervading, in his life? How can anything, one thing, be equal to the whole life? It should never be so. Did he have no reasons to live? That shook him! He had one reason to die; and no reason at all to live? His adoring family, his friends, his amazing achievements, awards, nothing were enough for him to live?

He did not realise when he let out a scream. The nurses and the doctor came running to him. Karan was bathed in sweat. Tears were streaming down his eyes and he was rambling, “I want to live. I want to live. I want to live.”

“Of course you will, our son! You will live, there is no doubt about that,” spoke Karan’s father gently, holding and squeezing his hand; his mother held his face and softly kissed his forehead, tying hard to choke her sobs. Ronit stood by the side of the bed with folded hands, thanking God profusely.

Author of the book “The Heart Speaks”, Medium writer since 2018, top writer in fiction, short stories. Loves writing, dance, music, children. Learner for life..