The Second Best

Mahrukh was standing in her graduation gown and cap with the tassel grazing the side of her face every now and then as if congratulating her upon receiving her degree. It was Graduation Day and the ceremony of conferring degrees on the graduates was over, soon to be followed by refreshments. The decorations were as grand as the day itself with the stage designed tastefully in bright shades of scarlet and gold and a big Convocation banner draped in the background. Beautiful flower bouquets were pinned all over the stage, making it appear like a ballroom in a royal palace. But to Mahrukh the most beautiful of all was the gold medal she held in her hands. Her gold medal, her most prized possession that was awarded to her upon securing first position. She stood proud, happy and satisfied. Every time the medal shone it brought a smile to her face that took her down memory lane to that fateful day three years ago. How time flies, she thought.

“What? No!” Mahrukh had exclaimed in utter disbelief when she had stared at the admission list displayed outside the gates of the university she had applied for admission. It said in clear big bold letters ,

Name: Mahrukh Rizvi- Department: English’ She had set her eyes on studying psychology. While filling up the admission form, there were five departments one could choose from. After selecting psychology as her first choice, she didn’t know what other subjects to jot down because firstly, there was nothing else she was interested r’,’ in and secondly she knew that her chances of admission in the psy- chology department were good. So in her second option she put down Literature in jest. But the list in front of her showed that the joke was not so funny after all.

Her world shook and everything seemed to buzz. Her vision had blurred with the tears that welled up in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks as she had begun weep- ing vociferously after seeing her dream shattering. There was just one thing she wanted to do then and that was to run away from all the grief, shock and horror.

“Are you OK?” a girl standing next to her had asked. But Mahrukh, too upset to talk had simply begun running at full speed, leaving behind a crowd watching her in surprise. But she hadn’t cared. She couldn’t worry about creating a scene when her boat was sinking. She kept lamenting for days, even weeks’ How could this happen?”, she had asked herself and those around her countless times.

“Find out if there’s been a mistake, try talking to the administration”, her older brother consoled, and for once in several days Mahrukh felt a little better because she could see some light at the end of the dark tunnel.

But to her utter dismay, she found out that was not possible as she was two percent short of the marks needed to make it into the psychology department. She was simply dejected. There was no other word for it. Life was so unfair. And devastated, Mahrukh stepped inside the classroom full of merry and excited students on the first day of class.

“How can you read that stuff? Does it make any sense?” Mahrukh had asked a classmate skeptically, wrinkling her nose, one day.

“Don’t knock it till you try it”, the girl, who went on to become Mahrukh’s best friend, had replied.

And sure enough, the more Mahrukh read and tried to understand the more she got engrossed. What did Shakespeare mean when he said “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, thou art more lovely and temperate”? As she understood the underlying meanings, with each passing day, she came closer to understanding life and this universe and what it was all about seeing it through the eyes of those who had the ability to see beyond the obvious. And soon enough, no one could explain what was in the books better than Mahrukh. Today she stood respected and admired by those around her and planned to join the university as a lecturer.

Now as she looked at the gold medal in her hands again she learnt one of the biggest lessons of her life that we should accept gratefully what God has decided for us as it is Him who knows what’s best for all of us and leave the rest to Him.

“Don’t stare at the medal as if you are going to eat it!” said her brother jokingly, pulling Mahrukh out of her thoughts.

Mahrukh joined her family and friends for refreshments. Both Mahrukh and her brother agreed on one thing that day: don’t settle for second best but sometimes it is the best, after all.

 By Samreen  Razi

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