“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The day I almost killed myself

It is an afternoon, with a lull in business. Many of my blog posts have been written here clandestinely and then e-mailed to myself and thence to blog. I wonder what to write about; this blogging has become an addiction. Soon, will I get tired of it?

Reading my posts, the common pattern I see is that I have always tried to link an incident in my life to a universal fact, so that readers can identify themselves with the situation I have described and gain their own insights.

In 1978, one year after graduation, I wrote the entrance test for FTII, Pune. I had become a serious movie buff; wherever there is a film show, I would be there. I was a member of all the film societies in Trivandrum, like Chalachitra and Chitralekha. I read Sight & Sound. I read books on making movies and documentaries. Though I could not afford to buy a camera, I gorged on every available book and journal on photography.

I saw life in a series of frames.

The FTII entrance test was the first ever test other than academic that I wrote. I was a naïve young boy; I thought passing the test meant an entry to FTII. I was wrong; there was a 3-day series of tests and interview to get through. At the interview, the head of the interview board was the famous film director, Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He asked me if I had any godfather in the film industry. “Then how do you expect to survive here”, he asked to my answer, “No”.

I couldn’t have done well in the tests, but I saw others who did worse get admission effortlessly. That was when the bubble burst. Undaunted, I went on to Bombay where my sister and brother-in-law lived. He was a big shot in BARC. I thought there was no point in going back home, continuing my listless postgraduate studies. I wanted a job. I wanted a job badly because I was in love and wanted to marry and I would not, I thought it wouldn’t be fair to marry when I cannot feed her on my own.

My sister and family stayed in one of the tall apartments in the BARC complex. On the first day evening of my arrival, Mr N, my brother-in-law’s colleague and his wife came to visit. Introducing me to him, my brother-in –law said – “ Vimala’s youngest brother” – then, curling his thick lips he added contemptuously in his Palakkadan accent – “ His only achievement in life is that he passed a test to Pune FTII; flunked in the interview, of course!” Mr. N and his wife looked embarrassed and changed the subject. I stood there, immobile, crushed, cringing, my heart split like a rotten log. I remember looking at my brother-in-law who overrode my wish to study English literature and forced my mother to make me accept Physics, which I hated. With father no more to guide or to decide, my mother had left such matters to her eldest son-in-law, the brilliant chemical engineer, who knew things.

Later in the night, I went up to the roof of the 20- floor apartment. Far away, I could see the blinking lights of airplanes circling to land at Santa Cruz. Looking up at the dark sky, I came to know the feeling of pointlessness of life for the first time. That my dream bubble of becoming a cinematographer had burst, that I am a failure, incapable of achieving anything, that my romance was fading away, that at 21, I was aimless, jobless with nothing to look forward to – far below I could see the cars parked.

Ever since, whenever I look down from great heights, cliff edges in the Himalayas or Western Ghats, I have this eerily calm thought in my mind – of falling through the air – and I smile to myself realizing how thin, narrow, how sharp like a razor’s edge is the bridge between life and death. I realize that how so much I may value my life, a vagrant wind can topple me down the chasm.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 23-02-2011


  1. It’s so sad and humiliating to see others trample upon one’s dreams, passions. But sometimes life is just so bitter that one can only be a mute spectator watching others
    taking decisions, and then imposing it upon oneself. I think things are a lot better these days, a lot better.

  2. Its unfair, but to think of it; everything happens for a reason. Its sad that you had to tread someone else' set path. Hmm but you have learnt.

  3. yes . fragile. and that makes life even more precious.

  4. thanks for sharing.
    this happens in India and many Indians enjoy it or do it purposefully.

  5. Was it only because you did not have a Godfather, you flunked the interview? That's sad. Why then do they conduct tests - they could simply ask the "Who's Who" of cinema to point out few people and train them. duh!

    Yeah, many a times there would be someone who would decide on our actions, and we end up hating the person all though our life.

    Out of curiosity, how then did you end up as a banker? Is that a material for a different post? :)

  6. It feels disgusting when we are forced to comply to the wishes of someone else...It is so different from consciously deciding to abide by someone else's advice...

  7. plz send ur phone no
    to sancharamtravelmagazine@gmail.com

    thank you.

  8. "Biasness" seems to be ingrained in every other institution. This whole thing about entrance tests, GDs & interviews is just a farce, huh?! I've been through it and I know what it feels like. Thankfully, I had no one pushing down / imposing their desires on me. I was left to choose. And I'm glad with what I am / have today.

    But I guess, destiny has its own ways. And this is how we were meant to be. No two ways about it!

  9. 'A denied passion.' An unfortunate moment, derailment of destiny; we lost a clasic/real life movie maker.
    I am glad that you found a new Love - writting.
    Balanchandran! All the best.

  10. Yes,it really is a hairy thread !

    But good you didn't make it a film director.You would try it every time your films flop! and then,we would lose a great blogger !

  11. I thought I should vanish from here pretending I haven't read this one.But I am poor and thin.In doing certain things.I think many among us have that pointless 'feel'between education and career period.(I was fortunate to join just the next day I completed my course.But I had situations where I badly felt for a career in between studies.I don't want to be personal here)

    With father no more to guide or to decide, my mother had left such matters to her eldest son-in-law, the brilliant chemical engineer, who knew things...The pain I could feel there.Even worse for a daughter who happen to miss her beloved father at a decisive period.

    Life is nothing but a bunch of experiences..

  12. @Melange: “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have , and the decisions we waited too long to make.”


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