The day I was called a deadweight, it smelled like sewage water all around me.
Back in seventh grade, I joined the newly formed rowing team of our school. It was a sport unheard of and an extra-curricular that would be performed outside of school, the two factors that had leveled up my excitement for finally getting the opportunity to do something other than play the decades-old traditional throwball and netball.
The one factor that dominates all my memories of rowing is the image of the heavily polluted murky body of water, where one smelled of dead fish after rowing in it.
Our rowing activity took place in a club called ‘Boat club,’ a place I had been visiting for brunches, lunches, and swimming for years but never observed closely to notice that there were two oars in its logo that indicated it was primarily a place for rowers.
It had a long creek that ran in front of it and while on one side there was a long line of structures that had a view facing the water, on the other were a line of mangroves that the city was a staple for. The water body in the middle acted more like a dumpster rather than a suitable place for rowing boats.
There were a number of surprising things that we often saw floating by in the water, a few of which included the lower half of a dead horse, slippers, diapers, onion peels, and so on. The food, diapers, and shoes we could make sense of since there was the over-hyped food street that was just a few hundred meters down the lane but the horse still does not make sense to this day.
Rowing became an indicator for me that I was not a strong person at all. It required strength, arm, core and leg strength and it seemed I lacked all. No matter how much I tried to “PULL, PULL!” it was just never enough.
I would see my friends advancing. From a boat of four to a skull (single person’s boat), winning gold and silver medals in competitions whereas I only won bronze because there were only three teams in the race I competed in. I was aware that I lacked progress, but one thing I did not take into account was how my lack of progress affected those around me.
I still remember that moment.
It was the day of the inter-school regatta competition was being held and at the last minute, I was made to lead a team of four in a race. When I say lead, in rowing it means that you are made to sit at the back of the boat and are in charge of direction. The first sign of failure became evident when as we were rowing to the starting point of the race, we managed to get the boat stuck in the shallow side of the water and minutely hit the boat against some rocks. The embarrassment simply increased when we were unable to even straighten our boat and align ourselves in the starting position. You could tell it was simply not our day and we were clearly the kids who could be pointed as the ones whom others had nothing to worry about.
The race itself was a nightmare. The boat sometimes going right, sometimes left you can imagine how when we crossed the finish point the other teams had been baked under the sun for quite a while. Unfortunately, that race had four teams and so all that had been achieved in that race was a boatload (pun intended) of embarrassment and disappointing faces from all around.
The crucial moment came once we had carried the boat back inside and hung our oars. The coach was standing with the captain of the team and I was standing just a few steps behind her and I still remember the words that came out of his mouth ‘yehi hota hai jab team dead-weight utha rahi hoti hai’ (this is what happens when the team is carrying dead-weight) I clearly knew who the dead-weight was.
That day my relationship with rowing was severely damaged. I knew there was nothing I could do to save it anymore, it was something that I simply could not succeed in no matter how much I tried. The success I saw my fellow school-mates had was simply not to be enjoyed by me, but rather all I kept feeling was humiliation. Sometimes you have to be more than the person who laughs at every joke in the team and prove your worth and in this case, I had failed to do so.
I remember that to be my last event for rowing. I don’t remember exactly when my last day was but I do remember how it became another thing to be added to my long list of failed endeavours (a topic for another article).
The point of writing this was to realise that a lot of times you fail. You’ll fail at something you so badly wanted to succeed at but you simply cannot. Maybe if I worked hard and upped my strength I could have proved them wrong, but in this case I gave up.
I gave up because I knew that was it and even today I see it as the best decision I made.
That bronze medal still hangs in my room, its hanging in front of me as I speak and while only I and a few others might know the story behind it (or may not even remember by now) it has become a source of inspiration for me to pull my own weight when it comes to the things I enjoy and maybe that's why I had to get it in the first place all along.