At the tender age of 7, I became Napoleon.
My dad (always the farsighted one in the family) bought me a book detailing the lives of some famous historical personalities as a ploy to keep me quiet (I was a pretty restless kid). As for me, I promptly fell in love with the idea of conquering Italy, marrying Josephine and coronating myself.
Whee. You marry the girl and you get to conquer the world. What could be better than that? So I practised tucking my right hand inside my shirt and convinced myself that I looked suitably imperial.
For I was 7 years old, and I knew I was going to conquer the world one day.
In due course of time, I grew up (regrettably), acquired the external trappings of rote learning that pass for education in our country, struggled through school, struggled through college, until I finally found myself sitting in front of a computer, hammering out code for a software giant.
What happened to Napoleon?
We think about this for a moment, and then forget it all and stare at a beautiful sunset, Nature's beauty overwhelming our puny senses. We settle down, read a book, and feel at peace with the world.
And, as Scarlett put it so nicely, "tomorrow's another day".
And tomorrow passes its torch on to the day after, and year follows year, until we look back at a lifetime of regret and missed opportunities, and we sigh, knowing that though we've had a good life, it will be over soon, and nobody will ever know that we had ever existed.
This is the nirvana that most of us seem to crave, in thought and deed.
When do we accept the chains that bind us to mediocrity? At what age do we make a Faustian pact with the Devil, selling our conquering egos for 30 pieces of silver?
A few of us will become great programmers, some of us will become brilliant academicians, an insignificant minority among us will become the future business czars of tomorrow.
What about the rest?
What about the artists? The creators? The thinkers?
Will we ever produce the likes of Gandhi? Or will it be just another run-of-the-mill politician out to steal money from the rest of the country?
Will we ever produce another Tagore? Or will our proto-Tagore be buried under the avalanche of Chetan Bhagats being churned out of the Indo-Anglian assembly line?
What about Ghalib? Mozart? Michelangelo?
Or will the silent majority of us be content whiling away our mediocre lives, sacrificing our ambitions to the twin pressures of family and society?
History shall judge our generation by the casual manner in which we tossed out immortality and settled for the tiny things in life.
A beautiful sunset, a book, a bottle of wine.
A lovely house, a lovely wife, lovely children.
Lovely pieces of code being banged out everyday.
Beautiful theories being spun out of thin air, at major academic conferences.
Blow at them, all of them, and they scatter away like the angel-hair they've always been. And Dr. Faustus comes to mind.
Our generation has been the closest to Utopia on Earth. It's a pity we choose to give it all away.