Are we really winning the race?

As I started walking down the track at the neighbourhood park today, I noticed a young chap probably in his late twenties walk with exceptional vigour. Like many of us in the park he had his earphones plugged on, lost in his own world of music clubbed with fitness goals. He wore a hoodie covering his head and strode around the park purposefully. After a few rounds around the park I noticed that whenever he would pass by my side there was a fervent attempt to overtake me, speeding up a bit more than normal. Miffed with his attitude I observed that he was playing the same kind of racing game with every person walking down the track, be it senior citizens with slow reflexes, a bunch of kids playing on the track or obese ladies who could barely drag themselves due to their excess weight. Sometimes, he would rudely push past them to get ahead. His speed was never consistent. It only increased when he had to get ahead of people. All this with a smirk of victory on his face. It was rather offending to see a young healthy guy with his kind of energy levels trying to put people behind him in such a rash manner.

It made me wonder why we as humans do this.  I mean, it is understandable when you’re playing a sport. This whole adrenaline rush of competing, winning the game and the entire healthy competition gamut has its advantages when you’re enjoying a game. But in day-to-day life, and at every given instance, it does not need to be all about winning.

Notice the traffic these days? Every single person is in a mad rush to get to his destination at the soonest even at the cost of crushing the ones ahead of him. Loud persistent honking, flashing the middle finger to people who hoodwinked into overtaking them, throwing the choicest abuses at each other in spurts of road-rage, and worse still, increase in road accidents have become commonplace. To the extent that we often see people not making way even for an ambulance on the roads. That sure is the height of human apathy.

Workplaces are full of people hurrying to climb the ladder to success much faster, sometimes faster than their age or caliber by trampling the ones in their way. It could be anyone, their mentor, boss, colleague, friend who could be their target victims, but never mind, the race persists. The magnitude of filth in the politics is unimaginable in some of these power struggles. And, you thought it was only the politicians who run the nation who indulge in such muck?

Look around, the neighbours are forever trying to outdo each other. It could be something as basic as getting the best parking space to themselves. Thats one thing people could fight their tooth and nail for! And, it does not end there, they also have to have the best domestic help around the block. My neighbours are always trying to poach the people I train painstakingly for house-help by luring them with the excess of fresh produce from their farms. All, to get them to leave my work and start working at theirs. The next you know is that I have lost my loyal maid of years to a sack of mangoes! Well, I could go on ranting about this one but there’s so much. More about that in a separate post.

I often see men chiding women on their competing with other women. Not that those are baseless accusations. Why else do women crave for that ‘better’ piece of jewellery or a ‘newer’ shade of lip-color when all we really need is something that looks good on us to raise our spirits? Does it matter what the other person is wearing or has acquired for herself? Can’t our possessions be determined by our own lifestyles and individual likes/dislikes? Why then is this desire to look better? Each of us are blessed with our own individual essence of beauty which we can revel in, instead of making it a battle of complexes.

But hello, talking about men, they have their own share of striving to be better than the others too. He has to buy a certain swanky model of car just because his friend has a car of a coveted brand and it was time he outshone him. Though it doesn’t end at that. After the purchase of an apartment, follows the purchase of a luxury villa, because a certain colleague has acquired one. Mind you, not because there were space constraints with the growing family or because he wanted to enjoy his dreams of gardening in the front yard of his villa.

The vacations are no longer planned by places of interest but by the exotic destination most of your friends/family circle have splurged on, chatted oh-so-casually about and flaunted their pictures on social media but you haven’t. Going anywhere lesser than that might just bring down your status symbol. A luxury resort becomes the new racing zone for our mind horses. Since when did we forget to start exploring the world by our need to see how blue that sea was, how green those mountains were, how white and deep it snowed there, how excitingly wild a jungle was or how interesting the story behind the ancient monument was? Probably, much before we replaced them with parameters set by somebody else’s vacations.

Weddings become yet another stage for this mindless drama. More than enjoying the couple’s beautiful union, this joyous occasion becomes an exhibition to show off one’s wealth, expensive taste and influential contacts. Designer bridal trousseau, designer jewellery, designer theme wedding, expensive customised gifts,  exotic menus, cocktails and a far more exotic honeymoon pulls down the family by a few crores and loans to pay for a lifetime. Affordable or not, it is a must-do, since it had to be superior enough to be talked about than the last wedding in the family. After all, that is how family reputations are judged upon these days.

The practicality and the reasoning for each of these acts go for a toss. But still the saga goes on. Do you recollect how it all started? It started on the day we told our child to score first in the class. The childhood aspirations (that we assumed as healthy competition) of scoring the best grades, being the best in everything we did, owning the best stationery/video-games/clothes, the best body, the best girlfriend/boyfriend, bagging a seat in the best university abroad, the best job, and we’d just got started with the list that never ended. Look at where it has got us to. Are we really winning the race? The repercussion of this unexplained madness is that we are getting physically, mentally and financially stretched in this wild race to outdo each other with such alarming intensity that it now reflects on our terribly exhausted state of being. Not quite worth it, you’d agree with me. Even Charles Darwin would have agreed with me, had he known that his theory of the ‘Survival of the Fittest’ was being misconstrued and misused in this manner! Wouldn’t we rather tell our kids to focus on following their heart and enjoy doing just that? The best will surely follow as an outcome of their passion for it. Rather, shouldn’t we ourselves begin to practice it as well? Think about it.