"In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. Its an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating but theres no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writers sensibility on the readers most private space."
Joan Didion, Why I Write.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Even if you win, you're still a rat

I have a story to tell! A very painful one! My cousin’s son, ten years old, is a brilliant student, always first in his class. He is an unbeatable child. This story begins in his Fourth Grade exam. The impossible happened. He was Second in his class! Another child was first this time by a margin of 0.5 marks. The news hit his mother like a big yellow school bus. She was distressed, incensed and fuming! She could not figure how this had happened, with a hundred reasons going through her mind.

“Had you listened carefully to me before the Math paper, this wouldn’t have happened,” said the mom. The child whimpered. It was the first time he realized that he was loved because he stood first, that standing second was something so bad that his parents had forgotten to feel the happiness of his success, and the festivity after the result that he was used to.

“It must be the teacher. She has something against my son. Just because she’s jealous of me, she did this to my child. She was looking for a weakness, the moment she found one, she availed it, and deprived my son from the First place..” was the second thought. Since she taught in the same school as her child went to, it was the teacher to be blamed now.

God was kind. Last year there was a similar situation with another child who had dropped from first to second place. The child was given the marks. So she went up to the principal, quoted the example. The principal was convinced and the teacher was called, but she refused to change her result. It did not end here. The conflict extended to families. At last, the principal took the result and changed it himself, doubling all the 0.5s in the list. The child eventually stood first. As brilliant as before!!

This is not the only example I have seen of parents unwilling to accept anything less than the best from their children. My classfellow in medical school stood Second in his Second Grade. His father stood up to take his picture, but sat back down when his name was called earlier than expected, that is for the Second position. Yes, he actually did not take the picture! My friend, he still remembers it very clearly, and very very sadly.

These parents are educated parents. Parents we feel proud of. Parents who love us, live for us. But they are not able, or perhaps unwilling, to understand that what is more important is the knowledge and not the grades. That what their child is going to do with the mass of grey material between his ears is going to determine his future, and not what he achieves my becoming the ultimate nerd among all the other kids of family and friends.

I can bet that the amount of things my cousin’s son has heard and seen in the post-result days, he will, all his life, work his head and heart off to stand first. Because he has learnt he cannot afford anything less than that.. anything less than that is a crime. Plus, as long as he will be one notch higher than the rest of the class, he will not care how good he actually is. One day he will be pushed into a medical school, or an engineering school. Amidst all this, he will lose himself somewhere. He will deprive the society of some valuable specie of talent that only he is made of. Unless by dumb luck this is what he wants to do.

It was no different in my own house, becoming a doctor was the only honorable thing to do. I can go on gibbering and complaining about it as long as you are ready to listen. Though I have now rationalized and talked myself into not ranting.

The point I want to make is that this kid is a new generation in making. If this is not the time to make a change in the way we push our kids, when is the time? When will we formulate the plan of action? When and who is going to edify the teachers, and the parents? Who is going to guide the kids, the way they deserve to? Who is going to change the mind-set of our society? Trust me your kid suffers. He aches.

Your child is the best. He is best at what he wants to do. Not what you want to him to do. If he is made for arts, do not expect a wizard to come and hand him the brain for science, and vice versa!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Nice!!!
    Wonder who that poor kid was who stood 2nd in grade 2 , lol

  3. ^ now that is a million dollar question

  4. I feel sorry for such children. They usually end up becoming egodystonic perfectionists some day.