Everything comes at a cost. Including victory. Sometimes the cost of ‘victory at all costs’ is so mind-boggling that victory loses meaning. Today Australia (and the rest of the world) woke up to ‘ #SandpaperGate ‘. Just the other day, I was wondering about the ‘cost of victory’.
On that ‘other day’, I landed up at the attic at my mom’s place. I was looking to fill gaps in memory fuelled by gaps from WhatsApp conversations.
A few old cherished medals lay in one corner of a dusty trunk. Amongst other things that kept the medals company: an assortment of parched certificates, a couple of spent manuscripts, a dog-eared atlas, and some dull question papers from a ‘quarterly exam’ that ended decades ago. Amidst these were some assorted pages from an old English textbook. Remnants of my school going years. I looked at the medals with wistfulness and the books with nostalgia. And started flipping through the Engish textbook landing at ‘If’, Kipling’s much loved work.
I stayed there for a bit. There are poems that move. And then there are poems that stay with you and get you to move. Every poem is a work of art reaching places in the mind that barely existed. ‘If’ is perhaps ‘The’ poem with the shortest title while having the farthest reach. It has been a personal favourite. And as I tossed a few things around, I realised, that it has shaped my outlook too.
Today, as I was writing this post, I discovered I had a post in 2009 on ‘IF’ . It is something.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Back to the English textbook. It is in that book that I first read that two lines from ‘If’
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”
stare at players as they walk into Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
I remember talking to my dad about it. And he saying that there is no meaning in victory or defeat without learning the lessons of victory and defeat. His clear voice about letting victories and defeats pass by and seek each new day as a new day sought to make their presence. He would say with emphasis often that there is a cost to victory! And if the cost of victory is greater than the victory itself, there is no point to the victory.
As I wistfully examined medals that were in the trunk, I realised that the real victory was not in getting to wear them then. It has been in moving past them, cherishing the experience of winning and later consigning the medals to the attic.
Pursuits of the present day are morphed forms of medals that I had won back then. Medals that now rest in the dark confines of an old trunk in the attic. To experience and cherish every moment, to be of value to someone, to be grateful for all that has happened. These are my aspirations now.
The medal that I seek is perhaps inner quiet, peace, and lightness. That perhaps is real victory while I scurry around looking for medals and podiums. Today there is even further realisation about real victory. Real victory is beyond paper victories. And certainly beyond sandpaper ones!