The Alternate

Pratyush Anand
7 min readOct 1, 2023


I like wrting down my thoughts…but this one is special, as it took a lot of time to make it coherent for you to understand. For me to do that, it was essential to organise my own thoughts first! If you are in your taxi, just browsing your feed in between meetings, eating at a QSR, or have stumbled upon this while looking for something else, save this to read later and come back at night when you are comfortable in your bed and your mind is clear of everything.

All of us go through a series of events in life that define where we are today. Of course we can’t remember everything we have gone through, but the moments of sheer joy & happiness become embedded in our minds forever! I am sure you remember the moments when you topped your class, got into your dream college, got your first job offer, bought your first bike/car, stepped into your first house, got married, and many more! However, I am also sure that we all have some distinct memories which make us question the decisions we took that led to those sad, heartbreaking, horrifying, or even traumatic instances!

Let me take you through a rough patch of my own life and how things unfolded post that. While I narrate my story, I need you to know Murphy’s Law, which states; “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!”

Stage 1
The story starts when I was in the final year of my engineering college. Everything was going well apart from some minor health issues that I had started facing in the recent past. The doctor said I was suffering with Migraine which is a prevalent ailment of the modern times. In simple words, it is a form of acute headache which can be triggered by stress, food habits, hormonal changes, sunlight etc. The doctor also gave me a medicine which was to be continued indefinitely until the situation improved. This was not a hindrance in my daily life at all, and most days, I did not even remeber I had it. However, one time when I went home during a semester break, a severe migraine headache was triggered by I don’t know what! I waited for the first two days for the situation to improve. My regualar doctor’s clinic was far from our house and it was a bit difficult to get his appointment on a short notice since he was the best doctor in the city. Thus, when the headache became intolerable, my father took me to a nearby hospital. A doctor examined me there and prescribed a medicine which eased my pain. Everything was fine and we could’ve left the hospital at this stage on that day (let’s call it Stage 1). But the mind plays its own tricks! Sometimes we tend to ignore what we can clearly see and attribute certain things to an external agent which may or may not have had a role to play in reality! For instance, you already know that bad food habits could also be a cause of Migraine which was probably true in my case as well. This had led me to gain a lot of weight during that phase. However, as ignorant as we can be, me and my father had found an excuse for my weight gain from the internet and attributed it to the side-effect of the medicine that my regular doctor had prescribed. At Stage 1, my father informed the doctor of this side-effect who in-turn prescribed an alternate medicine without giving it any more thought. We left the hospital satisfied with the treatment and I enjoyed the rest of my break!

Stage 2
I had made a few close friends at my hostel (some of whom I had known from school days). We enjoyed a lot of movie nights together. Those were the golden days. My results at college were consistently good and I felt I had very less to worry about. However, when the second last semester was on its final leg, I started getting somewhat stressed about campus placements. Not many opportunies were turning up for the branch of engineering that I had pursued out of sheer interest. At this stage (let’s call it Stage 2), the fear of ending up unemployed after graduation dawned on me. Before I realised, these small things started building up in my mind. Sometimes, I would even cry at nights abruptly. I couldn’t fathom whether it was because of the fear of failure in future or repentence of the choices (related to the field of study) that I had made in the past.

Stage 3
One day while I was returning from college along with my two close friends, I got into an argument with one of them for something which I can’t remember until today! The argument had somewhat escalated by the time we reached the elevator. I decided to take the stairs as I wanted it to end! At that very moment (Stage 3), he said something which led me to lose my control. What happened next was very unlike me. I had avoided fights & confrontations all my life, but in that moment, I let go of my bag, charged towards him, slapped him hard, and pushed him to the ground…Bang! He fell hard on the tiled surface and cried in pain. The next moment, blood began flowing from his nose. All my anger turned into fear! Little did I know that the nose bleed was the least of my concerns. He was fuming in anger. My other friend tried to calm him down and the three of us rushed to the emergency room. They gave him first aid and a few medicines. At that point, his arm began to swell. The doctor said it is probably nothing but recommended us to go to a hospital & get an x-ray just in case! Fast-forward to the x-ray result, the worst had happened! His arm was fractured and needed to be plastered. To add to the adversities, we had our examinations in the next two days. Things had gotten very bad very quickly and parents got involved. Thanks to God he could at least write the exams as finger movements were not restricted. I don’t know whether it was fear or guilt, but in that phase, each day became very difficult for me! I just wanted to leave everything and go home.

Stage 4
Post all this, we went home for the semester break. Most students had secured interships for their final semester. Due to all that had happened, I was not in a mental state to leave home that soon to a new city at a new workplace which would be full of strangers. Thus, I opted for an in-house project (Stage 4) in the college which allowed me to stay at home with family for a few more days.

Stage 5
I again sufferend from Migraine while I was at home. This time around, we went to our regular doctor (Stage 5). Astonishingly, the doctor revealed that the medicine which the other doctor had prescribed in Stage 1 does not work for all patients and might have side-effects including unpredictable mood swings, uncontrollable anger, deep sorrow etc. In the doctor’s words, “This medicine can induce violent reactions if it doesn’t suit the patient. It should be regularised only after observing the patient for a few days of intake.” At that moment, everything that had happened with me in the past few months flashed before my eyes! It was just one small simple question in Stage 1 that had lead to all this — “Can we have an alternate medicine which does not lead to weight gain?” Had we not asked this question, all that happened could have been probably prevented! But alas, Murphy’s Law played its part well, for everything worse that could’ve gone wrong, did go wrong! That medicine caused mood swings in Stage 2 and led to uncontrollable anger in Stage 3. Stage 5 closed this loop when the medicine was changed back to the original one!

Now you might be wondering about the relevance of Stage 4. After all this, I went back to college for my in-house project in the final semester while others went to their respective workplaces for internships. This was in March 2020 when Covid-19 hit India. As a precaution, college was closed and we were sent home. By this time, I had done significant work in my project. A few days later, nationwide lockdown was imposed. All internships were stopped midway. The value of my in-house project on the resume was equivalent to or even greater than the internships at that time. Most job offers stood revoked and future placement prospects looked very dim! Since I was not busy like others during my project, I had explored options for higher studies, filled in forms, and appeared for one competitive examination before the lockdown was even imposed. When the results came, my score was good enough to get me into any decent institute for an MBA. I got through at one of the good institutes and while others were desperately looking for jobs, were underpaid, or were stitting idle at home, I utilised my time by completing 2 years of MBA after which I secured a great campus placement!

Everything that happened in the 5 stages that I have shared with you, has led me to TODAY, where I am actually happy! But who knows, this might also be a stage setting for a distant future!

Now that I have narrated my story, I understand that many of you are realists. You belive in the moment and probably feel that everything that happened was a simple result of my own actions at that very moment in time. You believe that the Stages defined by me have no relation to each other whatsoever. If you think like this, I want you to remeber all your bad memories/instances that you wished had never happened. Think deeply before giving me an answer to the following question —

Had you taken an ALTERNATE path without committing the mistakes that led you to those bad instances, would you be exactly where you are today? Most importantly, would you be happy?

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