A few years ago, at my workplace we had a colouring contest – like they have in kindergarten. It was around this time, that is, around Holi. But we weren’t allowed to use the actual names of the festivals when these competitions were held. Even in December, when we all decorated the place with Christmas trees and whatnot, we weren’t allowed to say we were celebrating Christmas. Season’s Festivities, I believe, was the accepted phrase.
So, back to the colouring contest. We were divided into teams, project-wise, and each team was given a set of items to work with. Our team got a white chart paper and a box of crayons. The theme was “Saving the environment” Because that’s what Holi is about – saving the planet, and its resources. Especially water.
Flashback: Back in school, I was reasonably good at art. I wasn’t great, and I was lazy when it came to attention to detail, but reasonably good nevertheless. But after the eighth grade, I had more or less given up on pretending I was ever going to be great at it. I had never picked up my brushes after that.
As of that moment, when the coordinator handed me the crayons, I had not tried my hand at anything artistic for nearly a decade. Upon hearing the theme though, I had a fairly decent idea to work on. But here’s the catch, this was supposed to be a group activity. But let’s say my then team members were, well, I don’t wanna use expletives, so let’s just say they were a bunch of parachutes.
But I really shouldn’t complain. I work best when I work alone. So I did. But later on I realized you could get disqualified if the team didn’t participate. So I forcefully handed everyone a crayon and asked them to at least pretend to participate. Some of them did add a few touches. It looked quite nice. Overall, the picture wasn’t half bad as I had initially imagined it to be.
Aside: Now hold on. Before you make any assumptions about me, let me clarify a few things. I don’t have any great illusions about my mastery of any craft. I have always been in my place with how good or bad something is. If I’ve ever won anything in a contest or something, it’s almost always been rather unexpected (cos I’m a pessimist who believes in being pleasantly surprised) and I have always been humbled by those wins (shocked, I believe, would be a more correct term). Every time I enter a writing contest, I go with the firm belief that I will lose, and most often than not, I do. I’m also my own worst critic. That said though, there are certain things you create that you become exceptionally proud of. Admit it, you have a few of those too.
This particular picture was one of those things. I was proud to enter it into the contest. I walked with my head held as high as it possibly could be held. But here’s what happened.
On the stage, we were asked to explain our submissions. Thanks to crippling stage fright, I could not, and I threw (yes, threw) the responsibility towards a colleague like it was a dead cat. The colleague was (of course) caught unaware, and really, it was unfair of me to ask her to explain what was my idea and my work. She fumbled.
I did not take that well. I mean, to all appearances I did; I wasn’t three years old. But on the inside, I was seething. That was a good piece of art! What sort of parachutes don’t give a prize to what was a good piece of art!
(What’s worse was, later that year, there was another contest during Diwali. Oh, I mean, October’s seasonal festivities. Which I won, by the way. So on stage, they were discussing the Holi contest for some reason. They were discussing the teams who had participated back then, and you know what? For our team, they gave all the credit to my colleague!
So, as I said, I was seething. I walked back to my desk, held up the box of crayons and announced, “Main yeh leke ja rahi hoon.” (I’m taking this home). There was no “May I?” or a “I was wondering if…” I straight up announced, this belongs to me, I am taking this. No one objected. They sensed my mood. Wise of them.
Now I know you want to tell me I was being immature back then. But I am just gonna tell you, I care about things I love. I may be a pessimist most of the times, but sometimes, I’m just not. Some things matter more than they should. Some things wear the suit of expectations you force on them. Ergo, I can be a sore loser if I want to. In fact, I think I even have the nerve to say we should all be sore losers. Be passionate about things. And take a box of crayons home.