Quite a while ago (a couple of years I am sure), while reading the Speaking Tree column in TOI, I happened to notice an excerpt from Invictus, a poem by Henley. The poem stood out in its deft and supremely confident words. When I looked up the meaning of this fascinating Latin word, the most striking definition I could gather was – “Unconquerable.” Naturally, my inevitable tenacity to get things done once I begin them (some call it mania too :P) overtook me and I “hunted” down the poem from the omnipotent internet.
On reading the poem, it really dawned on me that I, like so many of us around, have been told a lot of times about what I cannot do. All our lives, we have come across so many people who have told us we are not bright enough, not strong enough, not gentle enough, or not bold enough. Well I can certainly recall so many occasions when I have “inspired” people to tell me on my face that I have the wrong height, or the wrong weight, or the wrong body frame to play this, or be that, or be someone, anyone. Not just back then, but even in the days ahead, I am sure they would all line up to tell me NO a thousand times, a million times, a billion times, well until the NOs become absolutely meaningless.
And now, here are the words that made me stop and look at how their NOs affected me:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
I cannot brag that a single read of this poem enlightened me into believing in all my “super” powers. No, I could not manage that. Mindless remarks and rebukes still do hurt me and put me down. But I have noticed how my period of being in that “put-down” state has decreased remarkably. After a little while of moping, I am able to laugh at myself for taking such words seriously. I can claim that I do dream of the day when I can stand up tall and scream a big YES at all of them.