As much as Math, English, Chemistry and Biology showered their benevolence over me, Physics, for unknown reasons continued to be my Achilles’ heel throughout my school life! I loved the concepts of optical lenses, induction motors and electromagnetic waves. What I did not love was to solve the book of Pradeep’s in twelfth grade! Now, before I digress, the intent to write this post sprang up from a lovely memory that would last with me for a lifetime. It was the day I was going to give my Physics board exam.
When the exam began, I went through the questions once. The first four were a cakewalk as I recall. And then came a question on electric circuits that involved some balancing of equations. With a heightened verve and growing confidence, I jumped to solve the question I had solved many times before! However, 15 minutes later I was still solving it! In the entirety of my time of having given various exams, I always took a break if I was stuck on a question.
This time however was the deal breaker. 30 minutes later, I still had not solved it! So, I lost a good 45 minutes on the question! The next four questions, though easy, became a victim of my bungled up time management. To put in simple words, my paper was a mess albeit my flawless preparation. The exam bell rang. I came out totally deflated as I saw my anxious parents waiting for me. Mum took my question paper, went through it and she yelled with joy – “Hey! You got such a simple question on Wheatstone bridge! God! Full 10 marks! Good!” Wheatstone bridge? I snatched the paper and took a look at that darned question! I had missed the two crucial words in the question – Wheatstone bridge! A question that I could have easily solved in a couple of minutes became my nemesis and that too, in the board exam. The tears wouldn’t stop! Friends couldn’t understand why a girl like me with a steady academic score was crying over a simple paper! Before I broke down completely, I was whisked away by mum and dad quietly.
On that day, a thousand fleeting thoughts crossed my head. What if I flunked? What if I lost the plot totally? I wouldn’t get into a good engineering college! I would become the joke of the town! My extended family would label me a loser (most of my cousins are products of IITs and top notch engineering colleges in India). I looked at mum and dad; they were silent throughout the drive. After a while, I realized that we weren’t going home. Instead, dad took a diversion into town, and I saw ourselves headed towards a fancy hotel that was known for its good food. I was confused!
We took a table for four. Mum asked me to wash my face as my eyes were bloodshot from the crying. After freshening up, I saw my dad ordering my favourite Butter Kulcha and Palak Paneer! I was confused and surprised. In the half hour ride to the hotel, a zillion emotions had almost butchered my head. And above all, the silence of my parents! Only after I sat down, my dad gave me a glass of water and said, “Look! Heaven has not fallen down! Heaven is not going to fall down because you bungled up an easy question! And, heaven is definitely not going to fall down if you don’t get a good percentage in the boards. And, if you don’t get through a good engineering college, so what? You will definitely do something amazing in life! We have that faith in you. Don’t you? And for now, what is done is done! You cannot undo it. I know, it is difficult. But then, what is the use of brooding over something that you cannot rectify. Freeya vidu! (Take it easy!)”
My mum held my hand and continued, “Prepare well for the next paper. Try thinking of this as a bad dream and forget it. And now, have your food. Food solves a lot of problems!” I smiled for the first time after a lot of wailing and sobbing. It took me a week to come out of my ennui, and fortunately my parents, my lovely friends and my tutor were very supportive in rebuilding my shattered confidence. Surprisingly, when the results came, I had fared well in Physics! However, my good buddies Math and English had stabbed me in the back! CBSE evaluations – you know how it is, right? 😉 That said, I owe my parents every iota of success in my life.
Present year: 2016
It has been 14 years since the incident. When reading the newspaper a few days back, I came across a disturbing piece about an IIT aspirant in our city, who had jumped off the building because she wasn’t happy with her IIT-JEE scores. The other article that caught my eye was about a girl giving up her life after clearing the IIT entrance exam because she did not want to pursue engineering, and that she gave the exam only because her parents wanted her to. I was terribly disturbed. In that moment, I thanked God immensely for having blessed me with such amazing parents. But some petrifying questions in my head got louder with time.
What happens if you do not clear an exam?
A hurt that follows suit because you had expectations that you couldn’t meet. This is normal.
What happens when peers come to know that you did not clear the exam?
A few will encourage you. But the majority will repeat the repercussions of failing until it gets into your head and takes away your sanity. This is abnormal.
What happens when your parents come to know about the same?
A majority of parents instantly take the easy route of berating the teenager of not having put in sufficient effort. Sometimes, the berating goes overboard and takes the form of abuse. Now, this is VERY BAD.
So, why should a child only opt for engineering and that too in an IIT?
Why should a child become a doctor because his parents are doctors?
Why should a child be ridiculed for thinking about the Arts stream just because his parents are scientists?
Why should a child be admonished for not doing well in exams?
Why should teachers only favour children who top in all subjects? What about the others? Aren’t they your students?
I have met the characters of the above breed and that is precisely why I wanted to pen down my thoughts on the subject. A thousand unanswered questions die a painful death when a child wishfully dies. A thousand dreams are murdered when a child gives up his unfulfilled life because he couldn’t embrace his individuality in the cacophony created by parents, teachers, peers and the gazillion institutes that promise you a seat in the top 20 colleges in India! A thousand sparks of passion are extinguished slowly as the life ebbs out of a child who dies with the lingering regret – ‘I could have become something in life!’
Embrace your individuality
A musician in making may not understand the concept of quasi numbers. A budding fashion designer may fail to understand the hoopla over working with Google. An individual who has cleared his IIT-JEE might lack the understanding as to why his best friend is so passionate about joining the National School of Drama. And then, there are the Pinocchio-sized noses of uncles and aunties that don’t rest until they have been dunked into your matters but not before gathering success stories from every nook and corner of the town. What are you going to do?
There is a major fault line in the social and moral fabric of our society. It might take decades to correct it. But that shouldn’t stop students of today from pursuing their dreams. If you don’t want to become an engineer and rather want to become a dietitian, I would say – brilliant! We have too many unemployed and helpless engineers across the country. One doesn’t have to add to the numbers because the family ‘pride’ has to stay intact! Like the desperate father whose daughter had jumped off a building for not getting the perfect score said, “Money lost can be recovered. Education discontinued can again be continued. But from where shall I bring back my child who succumbed to peer pressure and gave up her life?”
Listen to your soul
Do not be scared of chasing your dreams. If you don’t get the opportunity to pursue what you want, take a step back and regroup. Never get carried away by what your friends are doing! That is the worst form of motivation for a student. And it is in such delicate times that parents have to understand how important it is to support children in their hour of need. Instead of berating them for poor marks and, shaming them with the statement – ‘‘What will people say?’’, parents are expected to stand by their children and support them in their dreams. We as parents must learn something from birds and animals. After a certain age, young animals are set free to lead their own lives once basic survival skills have been instilled in them.
Life is short and predictably unpredictable! And mistakes and failures are what lead us to understanding the potency of success. Like Jack Ma (Founder and Chairman of Alibaba Group) says, “A mistake or a failure should be treated as revenue for reaping success, and not as a mistake!” Post my graduation, I was unemployed for about 6 months until I was recruited by a leading MNC. Wherever I went, I was met with utter disdain – “Oh! You still don’t have a job?” It hurt then. But, my parents always assured me, – “People’s memories are short. So, if you keep reminding yourself of failures, you will be reminding the rest of the world of your failures too!”
And, this is what I learned –
When you encounter a failure, take a step back and breathe. It hurts. I agree. And, it hurts real bad when you see the world breeze past by. But then, a failure does not mean the end of this world. Maybe, you are met with a diversion in the road towards your future or maybe, your destiny is propelling you to take the road less travelled. And, that just may be the road that will lead you to the success that everyone dreams of!
Narayani Karthik is an army wife who is a software engineer by profession. After a three year stint in the IT industry, she dabbled in content writing for a while before she embarked on the most beautiful journey of her life – Motherhood. After having been a Stay-At-Home-Mom for about three years, she took to teaching pre-primary children. This experience helped her gain an insight into toddlers’ behavior and psychology. Besides being a book lover, she loves to cook for her man in olive-green (Yes, she is a Proud Army Wife!) and loves to spend a lot of time with her hyper active son – Arjun. And then, in some free time that she manages from her busier than busy schedule, she loves to blog atSwimming In An Ocean Of Thoughts…..