Are you a 'whatisname' person?

Are you a whatisname person?

By Bikram Vohra

Published: Fri 16 Aug 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 16 Aug 2019, 2:00 AM

We all want that 15 minutes of fame, however fleeting it might be. That is why we go crazy if the TV pans on us at a cricket match. The need to be seen and acknowledged is intrinsic to human nature. There is nothing more soul-destroying than being ignored or treated as if you did not exist. Husbands and wives do it to each other, bosses do it to staff, adults do it to children, the powerful do it to the powerless.
You know the feeling. You wake up one day, look at the clock and realise time is galloping past you, not stretching endlessly ahead. You shout at the world that you are up to here with being one of the masses, what they refer to in the papers as the common man. The faceless public. No, there has to be more than this. I have to leave a mark, I will not be a number.
People can wallow in anonymous misery because they either do not know how to get out of the rut or are just so lazy, they keep waiting for Fate to intervene, but Fate doesn't give a toss and won't even stop at your station. And you want to say, at moments like these, I am not the public. I am not just a wife or husband or son or daughter; I am me, a very special person and when I holler about it, I expect to be noticed.
And no one cares, no one responds, the earth does not move. All you get is an echo, a tiny little callback to your grand overture. Loneliness, isolation, just being in the crowd becomes your bulwark. Like the monkey on the ladder, two steps up, three steps down.
They tell you in all those clever mind books that are currently the rage about how important you are and self-esteem is what it is all about and the authors make a lot of money and you want to ask, so if I am that important, how come no one ever says so, how come no one ever acts so, how come no one ever comes up to me and says, top of the class or whattaguy or without you, we would never have made it. Instead, you are at the receiving end of all that self-defeating drivel: "Were you really absent for a week? Never noticed."
The toughest part to play in the orchestra of life is second fiddle. For most of us, the 50-odd years we work never go beyond the back row or the support role or the subordinate staff level, our lives spent moving to other people's tunes, responding to their moods and priorities. Then, one day, it's all over, we are dispatched to the farm and all we have to show for it is a crummy badge of loyal service or something equally tacky.
We must wonder what point it is in time or career that we give up the reach for the stars and accept that the battle to be the conductors in life has ended. We will never hack it, all we will be is the faceless people of the orchestra in row seven, seat six, next to the man with cymbals, you, that fellow, whatsisname, yeah, you, the one with the second fiddle in the blue shirt.
It wasn't always like this. There was a time when you were sure of more than the allotted 15 minutes of fame per person per life, or so the theory goes. You were going to put the world on its ear and it was going to have to listen because you were one of a kind. Remember, change the world, move the goalposts, make a mark, Kilroy was here, one giant step for me, see that imprint, it's forever.
Then, it all went away, when you weren't looking, elusive and mercurial, the daily drudgery of routine and obligations drilling holes in the hope, all of it turning to Swiss cheese, the compromises, the foot-dragging, the uh-oh, maybe not today, ducking opportunity, pretending this is not the right time, right job, right break, right salary, maintaining the present position because the gravel in the gut has turned to porridge and you haven't got what it takes anymore.
And then, now and again, you get up in the morning, you have your coffee and life falls into the groove and the voice fades away into the wilderness and the little dot that is the bus gets even smaller and another day begins.

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