“Our education system is just about mugging up and vomiting in exams. Only marks matter. Nothing else!! Just adding more rats to the rat race”, screamed Amit in anger!
“No attention to individual likings, interests, passions. Just a mass assembly line! Everybody just runs behind money and status and ends up in mid-life depression by the time they have completed quarter life! Nobody teaches values, kindness, character – what it is to be a good human being! God knows when the system will change!”, he said looking at the newspaper headline that said “80% of Engineers are unemployable”.
His morning coffee had just turned a lot more bitter. “Why cant she make a even a decent cup of coffee?!!” he thought angrily, and just opened his lips to call his wife…
“Mummy!!! Papa wants more sugar in his coffee!”, exclaimed his 6 year old son, Rishabh.
Rishabh was his darling son. He was so perceptive – he could almost read his mind. It was so sweet when he guessed what his father was thinking. He looked all the more cute, when he would scream at his mom for not doing her job properly … and imitated his yelling. Disha, his wife, found it cute too.
He looked all the more cute, when he would scream at his mom for not doing her job properly … and imitated his Dad’s yelling.
“He is going to turn into a strong young man. Not the pansies like we see today”, he thought happily.
His son was already learning.
“Papa – look at my drawing!!” exclaimed Rishabh. He had just celebrated his 8th birthday. He was in third grade.
Amit muttered some words of encouragement and asked “…How was your math exam?”
Rishabh was a little scared. Amit knew. “Disha!!! Did you have a look at his report card??!! Or do I have to do everything??!!! Can’t a man have some minutes of peace?”
He did not realize it. But his son was learning.
Can’t a man have some minutes of peace?”
Disha came out of the kitchen and tried cooling Amit down “Calm down. It’s fine! He is in third grade for God’s sake! The last thing you want is he starts lying to us about his marks”
Rishabh was still trembling. Amit now turned his anger at Disha.
“You think I am that kind of father? I am not expecting miracles. We enrolled him in that bloody edutech class too. They exploit parents and suck them dry! And he keeps scribbling on paper!”
Disha added “I know. But Sharmaji was saying that coding is what the future is about. I was thinking whether we should enroll him for that White Cap coding class?”
“But Disha, does he really need another class?” asked Amit.
“NO, NO!! I DON’T” Rishabh was screaming… in his mind, hoping that his parents would hear. By some miracle, his father had paused to think about his real needs. Maybe he was wrong to think that his parents did not care about him at all.
“…they really charge a bomb! I will have to sell a kidney! Plus that edutech class did not improve his math scores. What are you really suggesting?”
This was a really important learning moment for Rishabh – as he observed how his parents made important decisions.
“I have no clue whether he needs it”, Disha admitted. “But if everybody is doing it, it must be good? Plus coding is of course in high market demand. We don’t want to regret years later that we did not enroll him to save some money, right?”
Amit nodded. “Even I have no clue what he needs. But yeah, better not think too much. Let’s just pay up. Rather than feel guilty later. We don’t want to be called bad parents” The decision was made.
Rishabh was learning.
I have no clue what he needs. Let’s not over think. Let’s just pay up. Rather than feel guilty later.
Amit was naturally feeling anxious at his big guilt-driven decision. It was a huge sum of money.
His anxiety always made him come into ‘responsible’ mode where he started reminding others of their responsibilities.
He looked seriously at Disha and said, “Promise me you will take responsibility that he will attend the class and really do justice to it. I don’t want to spend this kind of money for nothing. He is small. He wont understand – what a hard, competitive world it is out there. Even 90% doesn’t work. We have to push him, even if he hates us for it”
He wont understand – what a hard, competitive world it is out there. Even 90% doesn’t work.
His son was learning.
With some of the anxiety off loaded on to his wife, Amit felt lighter. He looked at Rishabh with a smile. “What are you staring it young man??!! Smile!!! Do you see how much Daddy, Mommy love you!!???”
Rishabh was not really sure. But he was learning. About love, about decisions, about values used to make those decisions.
Rishabh was in 5th standard. He scored lowest in Math..as usual.
He enjoyed dance though. Disha said, “Shall we enroll him in a dance class? YCD seems to be the best. The kids make it to some or the other reality show every year. 2 kids even made it to the finals of Dance India Dance!”
“Sure!” Amit said. “I never got to do what I loved. But my son will!” Rishabh was happy!
3 months later…he was not selected in the audition of the reality show. He knew mom would never scream at him – but she was embarrassed. Especially because her friend Pammi aunty’s son had made it through.
He was sitting with a small face, when Amit exclaimed…
“Don’t look sad son! Be a man! Only pansies cry!”
The learning continued…
“Whatever we do we have to the best at it. If that dumb kid can do it, why can’t you? Hard work is the key to any success. No pain, no gain”
“Whatever we do, we have to the best at it. No pain, no gain”
He was learning. And for a change he agreed this time!! Dancing was indeed seeming like a pain since last few weeks. He was almost starting to hate it!
But maybe pain is proof of real hard work. If you enjoyed something, you are not really trying hard enough. Maybe life was supposed to be torturous, empty, meaningless. It was not some Bollywood movie after all!
If you enjoyed something, you are not really trying hard enough. Maybe life was supposed to be torturous, empty, meaningless.
3 more months later, he stopped dancing.
The nail in the coffin was a calm statement by Amit. “Son, I cannot really do anything. I never forced you to join the class. You wanted to. I never said anything when you could not even make it to the first round of the audition. What’s the use of learning then?..”
Dad was right. If I cannot excel, what is the use of learning? But then what was the use of learning math? He never excelled at it? But better shut up.
If I cannot excel, what is the use of learning?
Rishabh felt like crying. But enough humiliation for today he thought. The last thing he wanted was to be called a ‘pansy’.
“Son, recite the shlokas from chapter 4 for Uncle!” summoned Amit.
Rishabh was a 15 year old teenager now. He obediently recited the shlokas, with perfect pronunciation. Of course, he had no clue what they meant. Nobody in his class did.
But wait, actually they did.
They had passed exams for each chapter and even obtained certificates! The exams had questions about the meaning of each shloka, and he had written down whatever he had by-hearted. So technically, he knew the meaning … but he felt like he did not. But the certificates indicated the opposite. Maybe that is what understanding felt like.
But maybe all that did not matter. Because his dad was already doing what he really longed for…
“Academics and all is fine. But our culture is paramount. You know he scored 99% in his shloka exams? Did not even score so high in his school subjects. We have a guru in our house!”
Though the recitation felt really embarrassing, it was worth it. Because every time his Dad praised him in front of others – Rishabh felt whole. Accepted. Acknowledged. To hell with understanding, meaning and other things. You had to understand what the world demands – not be some idealistic fool.
This approach had really worked for him. He had left dancing. And singing. And yeah, dramatics too. But he had learnt slowly but surely that his dad wanted the best for him all along.
His coaching classes had a laser focus. Marks at any cost. Tips, techniques, shortcuts. They even used something called “Predictive analytics” to predict what would be the exam questions this time.
His poor teacher in school brought all these home made models to teach. “Concepts are important” she used to always say. But he had already scored full marks in that chapter in the summer vacation coaching class exams! What would he do with the concepts?
He had already scored full marks in that chapter in the summer vacation coaching class exams! What would he do with the concepts?
Again thanks to the support of his mom and dad – 10th standard was a breeze.
“Congrats Mr. Rishabh, we are happy to offer you a job in our investment bank!”
Rishabh’s dream had finally come true. He had gotten the highest paid job on campus. At a top investment bank. His engineering degree had paid off!
Memories of his first day at this college came to mind. He had no clue about the stream, the subjects, whether he liked them or not. But he was so happy and proud to get in! This college had the highest placement record and the highest package offered in the entire country!
He had no clue about the stream, the subjects, whether he liked them or not. But he was so happy and proud to get in!
He had access to the same books, same labs that any elite institutions abroad had. The professors in his college had authored books themselves. But he had already learnt that smart work mattered more than hard work.
Those last minute assignment copying, those photo copy machine fumes, studying the night before the exams…everything was finally worth it! He had formed many close friends during all the slogging in engineering.
It was Happy Fridays at their favorite pub. Rishabh and team were celebrating after a huge deal. The expensive drinks and the envious gazes from the people around helped drown the emptiness he felt.
There was a moment of silence as somebody pointed out a news piece on the TV. A young girl had committed suicide after failing in her exams.
Rishabh could not control himself, as he poured his heart out…
“Our education system is just about mugging up and vomiting in exams. Only marks matter. Nothing else. Just adding more rats to the rat race. No attention to individual likings, interests, passions. Just a mass assembly line! Everybody just runs behind money and status and ends up in mid-life depression by the time they have completed quarter life! Nobody teaches values, kindness, character – what it is to be a good human being! God knows when the system will change!”