I would like to say I had a difficult early teens, but raking my memory, except for the fact that I was aimless and clueless as I entered my teens, I can't say anything else about my teens.
Yes, I matured a bit early. I developed hair on my face much earlier than my friends did, my voice started changing earlier than my classmates. Just like all teens who go thru such episode, I was a child inside, but everyone considered me a grownup and set their expectations likewise.
And I was aimless, I did not have any goals and did not have any mentors who could guide me.
But in my mind I knew that I was intelligent, I used to read a lot and write a lot, I had a good grip on the English Language and in a curious sort of way, I also realized that I was perfectionist.
When I did anything, I was not content with doing it piecemeal. I went the whole hog.
But without an aim or a goal in life, there was nothing worthwhile to go the whole hog about, if you see what I mean.
During those days I used to play a lot of table tennis. I used go for tournaments across Kerala. There were a few good players whom I got used to appreciating. There was Bona Thomas John a young boy of my age who went on to dominate Table Tennis scene in Kerala for a long time since, there was P Sudhir, who joined Medical College and went on to become a doctor....
And then there were V Kumar and Srinivasan...
Both of them were from Trivandrum and were leading players during my time. V Kumar flirted between State No. 3 and State No. 5 for a long time and Srinivasan, while he was ranked in the 20s was the captain of Kerala University TT team, a formidable team that won many tournaments those days.
What fascinated me about these two guys was their intellect. While playing a lot of Table Tennis, Kumar found time to study and do exceedingly well in his academics and did Electronics graduation from Kerala. During those days getting admission into Electronics was the ultimate achievement for a teenager in Kerala.
Kumar was a soft spoken guy. He was always courteous and respectful to everyone. While he did not go out of the way to talk to people, he would engage with them pleasantly.
Srinivasan was another brilliant guy. He scored 10th rank in Class 12 exams in Kerala and went against the public perception and social pressures to join graduation in Mathematics and Physics from Kerala University.
During those days I was doing my Class 12 and was not unduly worried about my performance since I did not have any aim in life.
But I was fascinated to see that Kumar, despite his hectic Table Tennis schedule, managed to score high score in the exams. He was my hero. I used to watch all his matches, hang around him to listen to his words.
I was like a lap dog, hanging my tongue out, wagging my tail and always around Kumar.
If he had noticed my presence, he did not show it.
Srinivasan, on the other hand was a Tamil Brahmin, of my cast. He was the exact opposite of Kumar (possibly due to this, they were very good friends). He was flamboyant, extroverted and loved telling risque jokes and laughing at them..
But he was brilliant.
While I did not hang around him like I did with Kumar, but his brilliance and that he was a Tam Bram had an implicit effect on me.
I he can do it, why can't I do better?, I used to ask myself.
During one of the tournaments, I think it was in Trichur Engineering College, I asked Kumar how he managed to score very high despite his hectic schedule.
"The trick is focus and hard work", he made a motherhood statement
"But there is also some smartness involved", he told me
"The responsibility of preparing the questions for class 12 exams is assigned to one or two professors every year. Since it is a very tedious job, what they do is to scan the question papers of the last 5 to 6 years and copy the questions and then change the numbers and prepare the paper for the current year. So if you rigorously answer the question papers of the last 10 years, with a reasonable certainty you will score about 90%. Only 10% is for new questions", he told me.
I wanted to become like V Kumar. I wanted to become like Srinivasan. I wanted to do exceedingly well in my exams. I wanted to prove to them that I was good. I wanted to impress V Kumar, my hero.
I had a goal, to impress Kumar by doing better than him. I was no longer the aimless teenager.
I was like a target seeking missile. I came home, and started studying. I got the question papers of the previous 10 years and methodically completed each of them.
By the time of my exams, I was well prepared. Of course, not prepared enough for 100%, but I scored about 95% which was sufficient for me to get into engineering in a good college in Kerala...
Both Kumar and Srinivasan did exceedingly well. Kumar became an electronics engineer and Srinivasan topped Kerala University in his graduation, topped Kerala University in his Post Graduation and did his MBA from IIM Kolkata..
I have lost touch with them since, but I believe that I was a spark waiting to be lit and Kumar came and lit that spark. I needed a guide and mentor at a difficult time in my life and Kumar, unknown to himself, became my mentor...
They were my heroes and I am proud that I was able to live up to them...