You always remember the first time you topped your class, be it a single subject or just a small class test or perhaps an entire semester, you remember it. But more than that you remember the time you failed, more than the time you topped. In my case I remember it till today. Every time I fail at something, I feel as if I am that child again that failed a class test and the dread of me - a PhD student failing with an experiment shudders me lesser than the fear that comes later with that memory. For with it is linked a lot, especially the understanding of my parents.
I think you might laugh at me or call this an idiosyncrasy, but trust me it is not. When you are born to a father whose professors travel half the country to meet him as he was the best student of their entire career or your uncle is an alumni of London School of Business and a gold medalist at that, you are definitely genetically blessed, but there is a lot of pressure. There are expectations and you meet them easily, courtesy you have the smart "genes" if I may. So now I think I have set the stage and you know how I would have felt. It was a mathematics exam, and needless to mention I did well always. I made a silly mistake or two each time, some genes mutated (wink), but I scored a two or three less than a hundred. That year my favourite teacher fell ill and came another. First of all he thought he was better than everybody else and next he taught as if we knew everything already. He had a PhD and now as I am doing one I understand, it was actually a difficulty for him to teach class V students that we were then. So in between his major scoldings and (punishments (something which I never got in my life and was new to many of us) there was a little teaching. And the day I gave the exam I knew I may barely pass. I kept hoping and praying for my teacher to get better everyday and for the exam to happen again. She did but by then it was two late. The entire class had failed.
That day I locked myself in the toilet and cried till the school got over and everyone left the campus. Then I took my bag, hanging my head in shame to the comments from the bullies outside the gate still crying walked home slowly. It was the time, time passed slowest for me. Then when I reached home my parents already knew something was wrong. I locked my room and cried till I slept, no matter how much who banged. It was later that my father had to actually climb through the open window (luckily we lived on ground floor) open the door and end the madness. That night when I woke up to finally face them all I got was compassion, where I expected a trashing. My parents didn't act like parents, they were cool like friends and nobody asked me anything. In fact they told me stories about their own failures in life. I was surprised and ashamed for I thought I didn't deserve it. Next day at school many people who were gloating in glory over my failure, including the mathematics sir mocked at me but I was able to take it, I didn't cry I just took it. I studied late into the night and the next semester I topped my class and those nasty genes that did the little errors for me not scoring a 100% percent marks, well I developed a strategy to tackle it, by keeping enough time for me to check the paper once i was done writing.
I passed out of school with the "Best Student Award" after standard X. It was the best moment for me for the award was presented by the famous Gujarati poets "Ushnas" who is thought to be the re-incarnation of Narsinh Mehta and Jayantbhai Pathak, who is the writer of my favourite Gujarati poetry as a child. As you can see the love of literature on this blog, I am sure you understand I couldn't ask for better. However when I look back I owe my success to that moment my parents understood my failure and gave me my space to cope with it and trusting me to do better next time.
Today as I open the newspapers I see always suicides by children unable to cope up with pressure right in school up till the IIM's and committing suicide, the reason "peer pressure". The other troubling point in our education system is the teachers trashing the students and that gets wild and even leads to physical harm. With my own example wish to urge all the teachers and parents out there I can say is you cannot teach a child with a stick but only by creating a spark of interest in him and till you cannot just show some compassion, children can do wonders out of pure love. Same goes for parents, who will understand your child and give them what they need if you don't? Today when I fail at an experiment I think of the child in me and of my parents support since that incident till today. That makes me work harder and put up a repeat the same day. As they said love conquers all.
I wish to thank my parents for their eternal friendship, for my life's "Khushi Ke Pal". If you are still in doubt watch this lively video that explains it better:
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