Before & After by Navina Anand

BEFORE I turned 13 years of age, I was an obedient child. If my parents said I needed to be home by 7 pm, I would be home by 6:55 pm. I was the poster child for “good girl” and never did anything against my parent’s wishes. N’er a tantrum thrown. N’er a word in back -talking.  Always the much-coveted ‘first rank’ position in school. First in sports. First in music. First in poetry recitation. Yep. Miss Goody two shoes.

AFTER I turned 13,  it was as if somebody quietly crept up to me and switched off something in my brain. Slowly things were starting to change. Things were beginning to look not so peachy for my parents haha. Grades were not exactly stellar. But I think the shit really hit the roof at about 16years when I started having pitched battles questioning my dad’s authority and my poor soft-natured, soft-spoken, soft-skinned, soft-souled mother was caught in between the two hollering goons. We made her life hell those few years. I wanted to go to a hostel and I even secretly applied for a clerk’s position at LIC (that’s all you can apply for, if you are a 12th pass).   I attended the interview and got the job. I showed my dad the appointment letter. I think I was in the 2nd year of pursuing B’Com. My dad laughed in my face,threw the letter out and said ” You are getting an MBA” Thank god he did. 

BEFORE I did my post-graduation, during my high school and my undergraduate years, I was in my cocoon of complacency. I was the class clown, did reasonably well at academics, won debate competitions, music competitions. I had the smug superciliousness of a frog in a well. I managed to win some national accolades and thought I was amazing. That confidence got me into an MBA program.

AFTER getting into the MBA program, I felt like I had been slapped across my cheek. I didn’t know what I had studied so far, how to study in the new scheme of open-book exams (which are not the delight the name suggested), and when you have a classroom full of handpicked smart people from all over the country, your incompetence is stripped bare and you stand exposed to the harsh realities. I had to work much harder, face my demons and figure out how to make things work with my strengths.

BEFORE you get your job, you imagine that once you get it, you are ALL SORTED FOR LIFE! You imagine financial independence. You can go where you want and buy whatever you want. I still remember standing in line with the other Management trainees on the first of the month to receive the part of the salary that was given in cash. It felt like free money because it was given in your hand instead of being credited to your account and you could do WHATEVER you want with it. No need to ask anybody for permission. Oh! the glee in our hearts…THIS is freedom ! NOBODY can shackle you anymore from living your life! 

AFTER you get your job, you realize, hmmm… the boss man does hold the reins. I have to please my boss, boss’s boss; if possible be on good terms with the head of the department; make an impression on all the colleagues for that 360-degree appraisal; figure out how to work well in a team and yet look like you are still the best of them all so that you are promoted; make sure you are not bitched about and yet keep your face in an acceptable manner when somebody else is bitching at the office water cooler…. You watch your walk, your talk, and your work. Play your cards right. So many games to play to climb that corporate ladder. Freedom.. somebody said?

BEFORE marriage, you sit on the motorbike behind your boyfriend. He brakes on purpose, so that you will be pressed against him. You both smile when you hit the speed breaker even though you are not even making eye contact. You stand there endlessly outside the hostel gates before the security guard threatens to close the gate by curfew time. Reluctantly you go inside counting down the hours till next morning and you do it all over again. 

AFTER marriage, you buy your husband a bike for his 40th birthday because he has been eyeing it with child like enthusiasm  You go for a ride and because of the stupid up-tilted angle of the bike seats these days, you are sliding into him. He stops. Turns and tells you ” Dude! Can you try not to sit on top of me? “. Marriage! The institution that is the one-stop cure for all romance in life.

I guess Life is all about ‘befores’ and ‘Afters’ . And each phase changes us in either subtle or gross ways. Some of it changes us so much that the person is barely a shadow of the ‘before’. Sometimes we want to look back and reminisce about the path taken and sometimes we just want to look forward to newer horizons, newer adventures and newer opportunities for Before and after !

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