30 June 2008

Spot The Happy Child

You have 3 choices in your life in my school:
  1. Good at math? Study science, join the elite and struggle to engineering.
  2. Not so good at math? Struggle and fail to study medicine, fall back on engineering.
  3. Suck at math? Study Commerce.

Commerce is the most looked down upon field of study in my school. If you choose commerce, then you accept defeat at the hands of the math gods. In some form of poetic justice, the Commerce studs that cleared the Chartered Accountancy exam got much better jobs than the average engineer from PS.

I hated accounts after watching my accountant parents discuss accounts every evening (later with my accountant brother). I was no math stud, but I fought my way in. It was the first time I competed academically for something that mattered. I don’t know why I did it, but it changed things.

I went on to study Mechanical Engineering, because I didn’t have the balls to take up Physics. Again, I don’t quite know why I did it, but it changed things.

After engineering I struggled with technical drawings during my 8 month stint at the valve factory. I only joined the factory because I had to do something – like get a job. I hated drawing.

In my last academic stunt, I joined IIM Indore, mainly to quit my drawing job and buy 2 years to think of what I wanted to do, at the end of which I failed to figure anything out, and grabbed the job which would take me around the world. It’s the closest I’ve got to doing what I wanted to do – travel.

For a long time, until much after school ended, I thought people could only become one of three things – Engineer, Doctor or Chartered Accountant.

When I met other professionals, like the electrician who fixed my home, I was confused. Where did these people come from? What choices did they have in high school? How did Carl Lewis start jumping? How did Gopal know he wanted to script ads? How did he go to sleep knowing that ideas will flow in the next day? How did Joy, who didn’t give a shit about anything, know everything about a camera?

In Vietnam, I was amazed to meet a senior from my school. It’s always fun to bitch about that school. In P.S., we had 4 sections:

A had the brightest, coolest brains, studying Hindi. My favourite chics then were in that section. D had the bright brains who chose to study Sanskrit. C was the Tamil section, with the uncoolest tambrahm babes (Cheenu would call them MPBs – Malli-Poo-Babes). B was for Bad. The very worst students, the Dawoods and Chota Shakeels and Rajans of that disciplined tambrahm school found their way to B section. B for Bad.

My school made sure that people who had fun got the worst scores. They made the equation clear. “You have fun now, you’ll suffer later!” It’s the life’s truth, we were taught. I wondered until what age I would have to be serious for a happy life afterwards. Without intent, it happened to be the year after I passed out of that school.

In another friend’s school in Bombay, students were mixed randomly once every 2 years, so that they grew up knowing everybody and embracing change. My school determined our classmates for the next 7 years when we were 10 year olds. Every second in that school was a battle with the brains you were pitted against. It was Darwinian, in that someone had to die. If everyone fared well, the next exam would correct it.

Some had to feel worse, in the hope of greater desire to become better. Of all the lessons my school tried to teach me, this one’s the hardest to forget.

I have fond memories of childhood, which I miss sometimes. The sense of purpose was stronger then. But my school makes me feel thrilled about where I am now.


Sriram said...

the rascal between vimal and saiku(?) right at the front row wondering 'why is life so boring!' is you I guess..

School has taught us many things.. foremost being, there are other things in life than getting marks and being elite in studies :)

Sriram said...

and this is what you wrote a loooong time back -

While we were there, we met a lot of local kids, waiting for their bus back home from school. There were a bunch of them climbing a tree and playing around... they posed happily for the camera. There was genuine happiness in their eyes. The kids didn't carry backpacks half their own weight, or attend maddening tution classes after school hours like their city-dwelling counterparts. They still played around, with all their innocence intact, growing up nice and slowly, enjoying life to the fullest when it's most fun. I compared that to my crazy school-life in Madras where childhood is ruined by pressure, expectations and maddening constraints imposed on the young minds. Why can't we just let the kids be kids?

. said...

You call being around valves drawing? We both know you can have a clearer description: )

Also, you get out of IIM and call school Darwinian : )