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I often travel through a land of backpacks, ironed silk suits, Hawaiian slippers, colorful shirts, low-waist jeans and outfits that do not even have a name. This is a land where shoes are worn and pants are stained with adhesive, where tie knots are just so and fingernails are perfectly polished. This land is simply the microcosm of the world where all types of people from all backgrounds travel: The New Delhi Local Metro.
The first time I travelled in it, the one thing that intrigued me was the silence in the train even though it was packed with people. Each and every person was reserved, self-contained and absorbed. It was like a peaceful chaos moving slowly through time, like a single unit, where the only sound was that of the voice on the PA system informing us about the next station, as if reminding us of the reality waiting beyond the bubble of our consciousness.
Every corner contained a new character; one holding his smooth leather office bag tightly to his stomach as if nervous before his first job interview; another looking out of the window at the moving blurred landscape lost in reverie. These characters that I encountered each day filled an emptiness in me. I always characterized this emptiness as a lack of knowledge of the world on my part and everyday while travelling in the Metro I would gain something, something new about the world, something new about the mechanics of it, something which would fill this partial void.
The small acts that these characters performed would actually speak louder than any words. For example, take the small act of paying for tickets. On one hand there are some people who will meticulously count the amount of money and diligently arrange the denominations after taking it out of the folds and creases of their wallets or bags; on the other hand there are some people who will simply take out the roughly folded and crumpled bills from their compressed pockets and will expect the cashier to do the job of sorting the cash. Through these simple things I would learn a lot about people, about how certain people act in certain situations. However, little did I realize it then that this trait of mine of being observant would turn out to be significantly valuable in the future.
In the spring of 2011, I moved to a boarding school and my connection with the Delhi Metro was broken. Although I met new people there, I could not find anyone like my good old ‘characters’. I needed the relationship back; I needed the connection back. So I embarked on finding this connection. I started acting, and somehow through that I could relive the connection; I could play out the characters that I had encountered in the past. Sometimes I mixed the different traits, different behaviors of different characters and the result always came out to be new. I could actually, as many actors would say, ‘get under the skin’ of each character I played. The connection was so healthy and strong that I could actually imagine the hand and body movements of each character fastened to my memory.
I applied the same thing to the difficult situations I faced. If I can put it in simple words, ‘I acted my way out through them’. Because I would never be myself or what I am inside, people often labeled me as ‘pretentious’, and that would always intrigue me to think:
“Am I really losing my identity by doing this?”
I started questioning my individuality and only one answer came to my mind:
“A virtue of a good actor is to be able to lose his identity.”
And a virtue of a reasonable, rational person, however, is to recognize that.