⌚ Reading time = 5 minutes
This story originally appeared in my short-story series, Easy But Hard. In this series, I take a look at stories of people that are easily forgotten.
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The other side
“Howdy?” Amar asked Sadaa after opening the door to his apartment. This was the first time Sadaa was coming to Amar’s place in Mumbai. Sadaa was traveling for an influencer summit – his first such conference in a five-year-old career.
“Sahi! Look at you, living the dream techie life.” Sadaa responded. While coming through the building’s entrance gate, he had observed the swimming pool on his left, where two kids were dipping their bodies. Further along, he had seen a volleyball court where people with protruding bellies were trying to keep the ball afloat.
“Haha, come on in, Sadaa!” Amar said.
They were seeing each other after a long time. Amar was three years elder to Sadaa in school, but both of them were part of the school dramatics club. Every year, they staged a new play at the Annual inter-school creative competitions. There was a constant tension between them each year, with both of them wanting the role the other person had played. If Amar was chosen to be the protagonist, even Sadaa wanted it. In case the antagonist’s character was much more fun, Amar wanted to snatch the role from Sadaa.
Their directors had to come up with creative ways each year to cool them down.
But this bickering ended when Amar got admitted to a college in Mumbai, far away from the school. For the next three years, Sadaa got the roles he wanted in the dramatics club, but the energy he exhibited earlier had diminished.
Amar, on the other hand, left Dramatics entirely, burdened by the rigorous coursework and intense competition at college. He occasionally got a chance to visit the Dramatics club at his college, but he could never dedicate enough time to it.
Four years later, he got a fulfilling job at a company that suddenly put him in the top income tax bracket. He moved into an apartment, starting to live on his own. His days were spent at work and nights were spent watching TV or playing video games on his new Xbox.
Sadaa, after finishing his school, went to a local college. He never cared for getting good grades or being the top performer in his class. As long as he continued to pass his exams, he felt good. He never felt energetic towards his degree in Engineering. Most of his days were spent watching YouTube, playing games on his phone, and hanging out with friends.
Until, in the fourth year of his college, he decided to start a YouTube channel of his own. He started posting hilarious videos every 2-3 days, his popularity starting to soar right away. Within a year of its launch, the YouTube channel had more than 10,000 subscribers. Sadaa was not going to look back. He had made a choice, like many others in his college, to abandon a traditional career in favour of a creative one.
After Amar went away to Mumbai, the friends met only when Amar came back home for holidays. When he did, the bickering continued, with the new topics being movies and video games. “You know, this movie was the worst thing I have ever seen,” was promptly replied with, “No it was actually good! I have watched it three times so far!”
Amar brought Sadaa a can of Coke and switched off the television.
“So, you mentioned that you’re visiting some influencer conference. What is it?” Amar asked.
“Yeah, it is a summit meant to inspire more people to launch their careers on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms. I’m on their panel,” Sadaa responded, settling down on the cozy sofa.
“Wow, that is quite an achievement,” Amar replied, his tone slightly arrogant.
“Well, not sure about that… Look at your life, all set up in Mumbai. It must be amazing to have a stable job, right? You earn good money, save a lot, have weekends off, don’t have to worry about your earnings going down… all of this only because you earned a degree from a good college,” Sadaa responded as if an emotion that was suppressed in him for years was triggered.
Amar topped it off – “Yeah, why not? Just like you don’t have to worry about responding to your bosses, getting pressured to deliver results, not even being able to take a few days off, slogging every day from…”
Within minutes of facing each other, they were back. Both equally good at speaking, how they found arguments against one another had always surprised their teachers and friends at school.
“Look at that fancy degree hanging there,” Sadaa said, “You’ve always done the right things. It is hard to understand how you do it!” Sadaa said.
“And you, always the streetsmart person. I saw the pictures of that Fortuner you bought. Do you think I can afford a Fortuner in Mumbai on such a paltry salary? Even if I could afford it, heck, who would drive it in this crazy traffic?”
While arguing too, they found ways to praise each other.
“Yeah, yeah, and what about this flat you have in Mumbai? You bought it, right? Who in the world today can buy a flat in Mumbai?” Sadaa wasn’t holding back.
“Oh yeah, but what do I get for the money? Two tiny bedrooms, a small balcony where only two chairs could fit, a dining room where a dining table doesn’t fit, and a kitchen where I can’t think of having a larger refrigerator to store my drinks. What’s the point?”
They kept blaming each other, then ordered food and ate it while watching a movie. Amar went to his bedroom to read a book, while Sadaa started putting together a script for his next video. He planned to upload it to YouTube tonight.
An hour later, Sadaa went to the bathroom, tidied his hair, and got into his character zone. He then started recording a video on his phone.
He went on for three hours, as Amar looked in astonishment. Amar stayed awake the entire time, even though he had meetings in the morning. Sadaa finished shooting the video, uploaded it to YouTube and created a post for Instagram before turning his phone off.
They both went to sleep well after 4:00 am.
The next morning, Amar left for work at 8:30 am. Sadaa woke up momentarily for saying bye before hitting the bed again. The conference started at 3:00 pm, so he had a lot of time. He woke up a few hours later, spent time checking comments and reactions to his videos before heading to the conference.
Despite being his first conference, he was able to keep the audience engaged with his story of starting the YouTube channel and growing it so big.
He was back home before 7:00 pm, but Amar was still not here. It had been more than ten hours since Amar had left home in the morning. Sadaa called him.
“I’ll need a couple more hours. Need to get something done by tomorrow,” he replied.
Sadaa realized how hard it must be to perform again and again every day. Amar had certainly built a good life in Mumbai, but Sadaa realized how hard it must have been to get here.
Both had taken different career paths, but both had to work equally hard.
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