(This article is in response to the ‘sudden’ (annual) spurt in reports in the media about stressed students committing suicides due to academic pressure)
I know a father somewhere is angry over getting a call from the School Council. ‘Its about your ward, we’d appreciate if you’d come down to the School’, a stern voice had said.
I know a kid somewhere is having a heated discussion with his parents right now over studying subjects that he is not very fond of; saying, why does he have to study concepts that he won’t ever use in his life.
I know a mother somewhere is irritated listening to her child rant over the burden of the prescribed syllabus. She’ll think for a second, roll her eyes and say something along the lines of, “you know if you want to land a good job, you need a good degree. From a reputed college. These subjects will help you get there. You’re lucky, because I never had this opportunity when I was your age.”
“But you were my age a long time back, Mother!“
The age has passed, times have changed.
Stiff now, she understands what his innocent mind just said. It all makes sense. She knows she is forcing the kid into subjects that won’t matter, theories he won’t use and information that won’t help, all because of the society’s frail notion of what ‘brilliance comprises of.
But no, she can’t surrender now. She has promised his teacher that the child is going to improve hereon. She has promised a better academic performance in the upcoming examinations. And above all, she cannot afford another argument which she knows she’ll lose.
I know there is a kid somewhere, who is confused tonight, wondering why he is being forced into things. Disheartened that his parents can’t understand. Scared that his parents can’t understand.
I know, because that kid was me a few years ago …
There have been countless times when I stayed up nights, cramming dates and events, confident never to use them again after that one exam. Innumerable days when I struggled with the value of X and Y. Dozens of sleepless nights when I tossed and tumbled in bed, drowning in anxiety; what if I forget the formula tomorrow?
Hundreds and thousands of times when my mind suddenly remembered answers, right after it heard the final bell for the examinations ring.
What followed after was dreadful.
The results that said I was only 2 marks shot of excellence. Or I had flunked just by a mark.
Does that mean I could have passed had I crammed just another page? Or would I have topped had I got 5 extra minutes?
My resume says I am an avid writer. I’m sure yours tells a different story. Why then are we judged in the same name?
Exams are the society’s popularly accepted method of telling you what you’re worth. But I won’t let the society tell me what I am capable of doing. Because this is the same society that condemns abortion of the girl child but addresses the boy as the ‘kul ka chiraag’. It is the same society that mocks short-tops on girls but appreciates saree-clad women in even the shortest of blouses. The very society that doesn’t want to educate it’s girls but looks for female doctors when their daughters and wives are pregnant. It is this same society that praises the dusky Indian beauty, then runs fairness cream advertisements.
Thus, I refuse to believe that a handful questions to be answered within a stipulated time can measure what I am capable of doing in life.
This article goes out to the students who scored a D on their tests and were marked ‘good for nothing’. For the students who were never encouraged for their writing, whose stories were ever good enough for the teachers. This is for the kids who sit at the end of the class and are ignored for being ‘disinterested’. And finally, this goes out for the few handful students who dare to wonder ‘why am I studying this when it won’t help me in any way?‘
I was an average student and I have always been happy with it. Yes, there were times when I didn’t remember the right maths formula and moments when I missed what H2 + SO4 was. Yes, I was upset over marks that I lost, but it was all momentary. I moved on. I followed my passion. Have I made a good life for myself? Yes, I have. Am I happy? Yes, I am.
Take it from me, life is much more than this one exam you’re going to take. As you sit down to take your exams, give it your best. This is when your hard work pays off. As a student, your responsibility is to perform. But remember, what ever happens now will determine the next step, not an entire life. Even though you haven’t realized it yet, the potential in you is breathtaking. And no exam can decide what you are worth or the life that’s awaiting you.
These exams will only test your memory and understanding, not your intelligence. They will only prove what you’re capable of doing in a particular hour of a particular day of one particular year. Exams are indispensable, but study not for them, but for knowledge. “Beta, kabil bano. Kamyaabi jhakk maarke peechhe aayegi.” We’ve all seen 3 Idiots now, haven’t we?
Your education gives you the capacity to have a voice and a presence. I want you to know that this education and knowledge is important, but there are so many other things about you that will determine the life you will have. And most of the things, if not all of what will make you happy, or successful, or give you a succulent life, will not be measured by the exams you are about to take. They can’t test the person that you are. They can’t test the experiences you’ve had that have shaped your understanding and the ones that you are yet to happen that are going to determine the life you will have. They cannot test your creativity, your wisdom, or your intelligence.
I want you to remember, whether you are 12, 28 or 60, do not let one exam determine your fate. And don’t worry, we are all rooting for you!