Contradictory to the original English adage, the title to this article seems more realistic, at least to me. Lemme explain how…When my dad was a kid, novels and comics were the most sort after forms of indoor entertainment apart from the gentleman’s sport called ‘ गोटी’ or marbles. Be it cowboy stories or Rudlum classics, they enthralled kids back in the day and gave them something to believe in. The good guys in each of those stories were these ‘know it all’, ‘been there done that’ dudes who at the end of the day rode off into the sunset with either bags of gold or a really hot latino damsel in distress. My dad doesn’t admit it, but I bet sometime in the course of his ‘black n white to color’ transforming childhood, he must have wanted to be the cowboy he so admired and adored. Not literally with horses and magnums but the whole ‘Be good at everything’ trait every muchacho he read about sported. Those were the 70s; but after the cowboys giddy-upped into history, the Beatles took over and then we had Elvis and the music revolution that followed. But the bottom line of any star that people looked up to with bated breath was the fact that they were damn good at something and that success rubbed on to other stuff. Gradually the common man no longer wanted to be the Jack of one trade. The good guys were now expected to be good at everything. Master of all…is it possible?
Take Captain Kirk for example. The dude was Star Fleets youngest commander and yet he had to take on flimsy Spacemen, become the fleet’s best navigator, hug a certain Vulcan (but Spock was epicJ) and hell he even managed to fly through a Black Hole once. I wonder what Steven Hawking has to say about that… (*computer voice “The universe is big…blah blah...”).
I grew up alongside Harry Potter and honestly I got through high school faster than he learned *expeeecto patronum…! But even Potter was expected to do a whole lot of stuff other than just wizard voodoo. I always wondered why like a lousy pansy he’d faint immediately after he took out the bad guy, but I guess he needed a break. If the pressure of being the ‘boy who lived’ (LOL) wasn’t enough he had to be a pro Seeker, darn good at portions (that was thanks to Snape’s book but still…), beat the dark bald ‘you know who’, fall in love…twice, hectic don’t you think! But at Hogwarts he pulled it off, try doing it in the Muggle world Mr. Potter…
I’m ‘trying’ my hand at engineering and it’s by far the most agony inducing 4 years of academics a man can endure especially when you’ve got the Mumbai University watching your back. Any MU engineering undergrads reading, *fistpump. Regardless of what I was told before I got into it, I tried the same formula of all round awesomeness that I applied all through school. And how did that pan out…3 KTs in my first semester (facepalm). An audiophile that I am, gigs are an important part of my scheme of things and so are debates and publicity events and Musicals um…and Malhar…your getting it right! Also I was dating, so life seemed bliss. At the time, my girlfriend was way more sensible and mature than I ever was so she did her bit to keep me sane. They told me so, but I didn’t listen. A good all round student in school, I thought I could pull it off in college, man was I mistaken. You see much like the cowboys in my dad’s novels, Capt. Kirk or even Potter, when I got one thing right, people expected me to be good at other stuff too. And to be honest, I thought I could catch em all (“BULBASAUR…attack!”).
As a student, there comes a time when no matter how good you are at something, you begin to doubt yourself. Your friend’s opinions beg to differ but you just don’t feel right. There must have been times in the past when everything seemed gettable and nothing was beyond reach. You had belief and the will to slay any dragons along the way to get to your goal locked up in some god forsaken castle (Shrek moment alert). How do you describe that ball of stress in your tummy that just won’t let you fire up and reach for glory, something you would normally do? You’d be surprised how often this happens…in fact I’m going through a similar phase right now. When you achieve something noteworthy, something not a lot of people have tried their hand at, it feels good and makes you wanna go for more. Well at the time, it seems doable and since nothing succeeds like success, you go ahead and nail em all. Much like the old English Kings, you conquer kingdom after kingdom and soon you have an empire, a mighty one that too whose citizens love you. What you forget is keeping the people happy isn’t as easy as winning them over. When you’re good at a whole list of stuff, staying good at all of it is just impossible. I highlighted ‘all of it’ for a reason.
Now I’m not saying it’s bad to be an all rounder, in fact I urge people to try new stuff. It’s just that critics need to cut the good guys some slack. Just coz your good at something need not mean you can nail the other. And people need to realize that. We’re just busy hounding good students to be good musicians or killa musicians to get an A+ in Algebra or get a soccer forward to play the flute…WHY? I hate it when people compare your good traits to your bad ones and ask you to whisk the latter away with a meaningless explanation like “Beta, you play soccer so well and you got a C- in math, shame on you”…Sigh. A vocalist who topped the college can miss a goal in a match. That does not mean he’s not as committed to football as he is to his band or his books. Well that’s in his defense!
I am now talking to any of you readers who have been college reps at events, members of bands, debate team champions, parts of college teams, good students and all rounders who dared to defy the shackles of the system, follow your heart and do what you love. I have immense respect for each of you coz I kinda am the same breed. When you do something different, when you win, you try and make it a habit. And mind you, people notice. So it is natural for them to raise their level of expectations and matching up to that level every time, day in and day out is hard. They take no pause in criticizing you just as they didn’t hold back their applause. You may pull off an impossible save and keep everyone happy once or may be for years, but trust me, you will crack. The weight of being numero uno at a list of things is heavy and like holding a wet brick, your arms are going to cramp at some point. So hold on while you can, but gradually start clicking off and reducing the number of things on that list or the pressure will get to you. I realized this the hard way.
Now since I’m talking about a college scenario being the Jack of all trades in college is something everyone should try and achieve. I mean it’s awesome, you just can’t deny it. The attention, the popularity, the girls- every boys dream. Enjoy it, but don’t make it a way of life. If you’re good at something, stick with it, master it and don’t let people tell you different. Coz at the end of the day people remember you for what you achieved not what you tried out. Jack of all trades or Master of one…You choose…