Mr Perfect! I suppose you have met a countable few in your life, like I did. They are the ones who are always right, they can do no wrong and can give you a quiet smile which says, ‘I told you so…’ just after you have had an embarrassing encounter. They are neither shy nor nervous. And they never seem to have a bad day. Whatever they do, it works out well. They also seem to have an amazing run of good luck and success.As for me, I used to detest the very sight of them. I knew one such fellow at school. He always had the brightest of smiles, was ever immaculately dressed and a forerunner in every field, be it studies or sports or cultural activities. The negligible weaknesses that he may have had too were covered up well and nothing negative about him glared.
He seemed to always do the right thing to the right degree at the right time. Like the time when our Class Teacher was congratulating all of us for behaving well during a ‘off period’. Now all of us were quietly accepting her rare praise but not he. Instantly he was on his feet (one should always stand up when one speaks to the teachers) and cheerfully he thanked her for her appreciation on behalf of the whole class.
He was vivacious and enthusiastic for everything. After a grueling PT session, tired we would all trudge on slowly off the field. But he was our ‘Prima Donna’ who would just sprint off preening like a Peacock.
All my life I had been an average student and frightfully nervous before the exams commenced. Minutes before the examination, I would be tense and suddenly he would come right up to me and give me one of his condescending smiles. Till the last-minute while I will keep on revising while he would simply stand back and amuse himself.
While writing my paper I would often forget what I had learnt by heart and would end up by messing it up – mid way even my handwriting would go for a toss. On the other hand my companion – ‘Mr. Perfect’ – would invariably ace the exam. Even if he had not prepared for a question, he would simply recall what the teacher had said in the class some six months back and reproduce it. And he would manage to present it well in a neat hand.
There were few things beyond his reach and ‘Romance’ was one such. He had an intellectual air about him and the spectacles only lent further to the look. And he was quite unnoticed by the ‘girls’.
It was the only chink we could find in his armor and we all used to tease him about it. He braced himself to measure up to this challenge as well. Once he approached a girl for a movie date and said, “Look I know I am not the most handsome guy around here but I am not so bad-looking either. So would you please allow me the pleasure of escorting you to an evening show of ‘Q.S.Q.T.’?” The girl was certainly pleased by his courteous offer and she jumped for it. That was the end of another weakness that he overcame.
I resented his attitude. He always had a condescending smile for others especially me. I had a feeling that he was flaunting his success. And one day unable to suppress my resentment, I enquired rather cuttingly, “How do you feel about achieving so much? I am sure you are perfectly happy and pleased with yourself.” I had rounded it off sarcastically.
He looked at me seriously for a moment and then went on to say, “You know, life has been one big experiment for me. And I have been curious and enthusiastic about whatever that I do. I don’t do it for the sake of doing it. I try to find interest in anything and everything that I do. I am not shy to ask questions for I do want to learn. I make mistakes early when no one notices them and so am able to do well when I have to. This attitude helps me a lot. For instance, I don’t mug up or learn by ‘rote’ for my exams. Instead I write the paper naturally and to the best of my ability.” He trailed off and I softened up for his views had been a revelation for me.
“You are happy, aren’t you?”, I asked hesitantly. He gave me a wan smile and answered reluctantly, “No.” I was baffled and hastily continued, “Buy why?” He said, ‘Because my achievements are my enemies. They cost me more friends than I make because of them. Many students are jealous of my success and envy me. Even someone like you feels that I brag about my success but in fact I never speak a word in self praise. I try as much as is possible to forget my success. But the others won’t allow me to do it.It is so lonely at the top.”
So there you are. A masterful repartee. Resounding in my eardrums with this new revelation, I gave him a big bear hug and told him that I was sorry. That I had not realized my mistake earlier. And since that day the two of us have become good friends. And it feels so good.
This piece appeared in the ‘Facing Facts’ column of the Leisure page published as a supplement by ‘The Indian Express’ in its Pune Edition on May 7, 1996.
The routine school events and rivalries hold such a sway in a teenager’s mind while he grows up and copes with the demands of everyday life. One is high on account of hormonal changes and also facing the ‘Peer Pressure’ and the ‘need-to-belong to the cool group.’
Such an angst and turmoil it causes and there is not much of an effective remedy for it. One can have quiet chuckle over it today when a lot of water has flown over the bridge and one knows that he can no longer aspire to ‘set the Thames on fire’ on his own. The ‘Prima Donna’, who is ‘socially inept’ either by choice or by habit, rarely matters. Usually it is the collective ‘Team effort’ that wins the race.