Lessons from a Zero


The professor is droning on about a certain Kirchhoff’s Law. Unnecessary explanations of an elementary theorem; the algebraic sum of all the voltages within a loop must be equal to zero.

I can relate to that number a lot. It has been the only constant throughout my life. For me, it’s more like the mailbox that remains directly outside my small, dilapidated house. And everyone in the neighbourhood trashes it whenever they pass by.

Zero. The number of competitions I have won. Everyone has tried to accomplish a feat, something that would define their success stories. It’s just that in my case, I ended up winning participation certificates instead of medals and trophies. And the only accolades I’ve earned from my peers are the deceptively and pitifully reassuring ‘At least you tried.’

Zero. The number of times I have topped my class. Not even in the primary standards as far as I can remember. There’s no point being in the top eleven, the top eight, or even the top five. Every student knows if anyone wants their name on the notice boards of appreciation, the only way is to enter the topper’s club. It is an exclusive club that I never had the privilege of being a part of.

Zero. The number of times I was considered an inspiration. It is the equivalent of a medal of honour, a beacon to be followed by those who seek the light. One who regularly lives in the shadows of the others is clearly not worthy of this reward.

Zero. The number of times I was brave enough to risk it all and pursue my passion. As one who was subjected to peer pressure and family coercion, free will was hard to come by, and mainly when the talks were about career choices. My life force is getting drained by the course I hate, yet I have no other choice but to study this generic course I have no interest in, for a job I would end up forfeiting.

Zero. The number of times I realised my destiny. My vision is clouded, and my future distorted. I cannot pretend to know the way forward when I do not understand how incredibly twisted the path can be.

Zero. The number of times I have fulfilled my dreams.


the number of times I have given up on my dreams? Zero.

The number of times I complained about my fate and relinquished control of my life to the goodwill and power of God so that my responsibilities are eased? The number of times I stopped working towards my goal, no matter how arduous the journey was? Zero.

The number of times I let down my friends, family, and people in need of my help when they needed it the most? The number of times I refused a request for my assistance in any matter, even if it is beyond my control? Zero.

The number of times I endangered people’s lives by doing something reckless and regretted the damage later? The number of times I put my life before others in supreme acts of selfishness? Zero.

The number of times I manipulated others for my profit and gamble with their lives? The number of times I cheated my way out of stressful situations just because it was the easy way out? Zero.

The number of times I stopped working on improving myself physically, mentally and morally? The number of times I let my failures define me and stopped learning from my mistakes? Zero.

Sometimes it’s necessary for one to strike null just for the benefit of our well-being, our loved ones, and all the people around us. After all, it’s quite hard to hit a home-run with whatever life hurls at you. One shouldn’t be too hard on himself for not succeeding, but the end of his world starts right when he gives up trying. We are all designed to have our shares of withdrawals. So, is it necessarily a bad thing if the sum of all positives and negatives in your life equates to zero? This is not philosophy. It’s just quick maths.

Class dismissed.

Written by Sanjay Kumar

Photographed by Amaan Kishan

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