WHO WILL JUDGE THE JUDGES

If you start an article with the word ‘education’ in the first sentence the odds are that people will switch off and stop reading. No hugely important issue like education gets so much lip service and yes, neither parents or often even teachers and the authorities want to create a bespoke system that addresses the student’s strengths and makes him the better for it. Let him or her flourish in that element rather than languish in mass and arbitrary education.  The trouble with the mass system is that your abilities get crushed and you are measured by the teacher’s skills and likes and dislikes. During my school days I was very often mystified by how a teacher can at this tender age make or destroy a student’s self-confidence with a passing criticism. It is such a powerful position to be in, to tell a 14 year old he is not ‘good enough’ or ‘you will never mount to anything’ and expect it not to have a deep impact on the psyche.

 

In the Indian system this sort of cutting down is rife. Teachers do not have the luxury of giving individual attention and the teaching and the marking and the assessments sometimes depend entirely on mood. All your years from the time you start the 9th grade, you are told that your board exams are extremely important and your lack of discipline towards preparing for the yearly boards is a failure in your very character. There was no subject I loved more than English ever. I loved learning everything I could about the English language and never did I leave any stone unturned when it came to writing and grammar. I was so ahead of the game that I often considered pulling back a bit so as not to tee off the teacher.

 

In some ways I was threatening and needed(?) cutting to size. This teacher was good enough and had the confidence not to penalise me for being outstanding.

 

Yet, I was more crushed than ever when my English subject board grade was 88 and somebody else who had never worked as hard to learn about the English language as I did got a 96. My gut turned into a black deep hole and never not even my overall grade of 95% or a photograph in the newspaper can ever overturn or neutralise what I felt in that moment. Lost. Beaten. While preparing for the boards, we were always told that no matter how hard you study, your grade will not always be in the exact proportion to what you prepared for as you don’t know who is grading your paper.

 

It is this random nature of the marking and the cruel fact that we do not know who is judging us ensures that we do not have our day in court and are left to wonder what prejudices and biases the stranger whom we will never meet brings to bear to give us a grade. A grade that stays with us forever and often dictates the path our life will take into adulthood.

 

Surely, in any logical system at this formative level we, the students should be allowed  to face our accuser so to speak and be convince of why a B+ grade failed to be an A.

ONLY THE WEAK WALK AWAY

You might find this contradictory but the one thing I had little time for, was those who gave in. Giving in is not only the weak one’s way out of a problem, it is also a loser thing to do. You have heard the old saying when the going gets going the tough get going.

Except for that damned Saturday when the meds they put me on got me to the cliff. I was always the sort of person who looked a challenge in the eye and went for it. From studies to sports to holding on to an argument in a debate there was no looking back .On the contrary my mom was always after me not to pressure myself,but things came so easy to me that I had to explain to her that I was not pressurizing myself but doing things casually since I was good at listening and observering everything came easy to me so there was never any pressure except peer pressure.

The fact that you started something means you have seen something worthwhile in it. It didn’t just have to be a whim, you had a plan. Then the plan went off the rails. Now while there is this possibility that whatever you saw was flawed or wrongly perceived. But it is more likely that what you saw was derailed not because it was intrinsically weak but because its execution stuttered and stumbled thanks to the human factor.

Misplaced faith and trust in the staff and the managers and those you hired. Now that is not the fault of the idea. You might well have chosen the wrong people out of sentiment, blood ties, being conned and charmed (same thing) or on recommendation. Then you trusted because you have to till you discover you have been taken for a ride. Now, you replace the manpower and what happens you choose wrong again or your luck does not support you and even the ones with the best credentials con you.

If it is not poor staff it is either poor positioning and advertising and lack of structure. Pretty much like how I used to prepare for a debate. We didn’t win top prizes by ad libbing and hoping. We practiced and then we practiced again and went about presenting arguments for and against with the confidence of knowing we were working from a blueprint.

All to often we blame outside influences without looking internally and seeing how we can put our project back on the cards. Whenever I studied I would say to myself work according to a plan, do not deviate from it because it is those people who land in hot water and splash about but get nowhere.
Look around you at what you call success. It did not just happen. They messed up too but the difference is they were willing to learn from their mistakes and most importantly they had no intentions of repeating their errors.

That is where the smarts are…in recognizing why the train is going off track and then doing something about it.

Don’t walk away.

Yes, I know, I am a great one to talk seeing as how you believe I walked away from the biggest prize of all…life.

I didn’t. I never would have. It is the mind that had been hijacked leaving the shell of a brain behind. Like a prisoner held at ransom that is what these prescriptions do. But while my sanity was in tact, I never gave up on anything. Even the steak at Caeser’s was underdone I struggled to finish it all or had it cooked again but I never left a morsel in my plate. Let no one say differently, if it was on my plate I dealt with it, never leaving the table till the job was done.

NO REFUGE IN BLISS

 

Life is funny. On one side of the spectrum people fighting to save their lives, stuck in no man’s land, staring death in the face.  Getting up in the morning to the sound gunfire, not birds. On the other, at exactly the same moment, people worrying about whether their hairdresser’s appointment will be possible. It must be wonderful to have a life in which trivia assumes such monumental proportions, where dinner list invitations are clutched like they were security blankets and the housemaid’s insolence forms the staple grist for conversation. It must be wonderful to have no greater anxiety in a day than worrying about what clothes to wear or whether it’s time to buy a new car or feel excited that you spent a mini-fortune at a Sale.

 

Rich people, indolent people, the lotus eaters of the world, fat and sleek and amazed forever that everyone is not as swathed in exquisite nothingness as them.

 

The best part about such people, for whom life never shuts a door but simply keeps opening windows, is that they can bring everything else down to their level, trivialise it with such panache and ease that you can come off sounding absurd and off-key, almost phony just for caring. Talk to them about Iraq or discuss global warming and they tut tut and wish to know what you are doing for the weekend…there are great weekend deals this year.

 

It always depressed me. Not in the clinical sense but in the incredible imbalance of values in our world.

 

It must really be wonderful to be so delightfully ignorant of everything except your immediate wants and desires and blessed enough to get them answered by lackeys responding to the imperious whim. No causes, no goals but today, to live life floating on material morass, unfettered by the folly of questioning it.

 

It must be wonderful never to be jobless or be short of money, or untouched by grossness, never to be helpless and vulnerable, to allow thought and knowledge of the other kind to penetrate the curtain and work you up. Wonderful to be placid and unmindful, just finger the pearls around the neck. If they break, so what? Go get another.

 

And then there are some of us who don’t wake up in the morning because they never went to sleep in the first place. Thinking of solutions to massive human hurt, stunned by the wastage, the prodigality of the haves against the nothingness of the have nots.The suffering and the exploitation, not just words but the actuality of it, the running artery of millions of lives, the sheer futility of fighting these odds.

 

In all my reading Buddha said the one thing that is certain is that there is misery in the world. It will always be there. So his father locked him in three palaces with orders that he should not see sorrow or loss or grief or death or pain or suffering.

 

Closeted, he enjoyed the bliss of ignorance until one day he went into the countryside and was confronted by the reality of life. It shook him. Bliss died away.

 

That’s  why some of us, regardless of age , have a heightened view of things, a distilled rage that is unable to blind itself to ignorance and therefore by logic denies us bliss.

 

For me, ignorance was not a harbour, never a refuge, I wanted to make the difference but I ran out of that one vital commodity…time. You have it. Do something.

GOOD REASONS TO READ THIS BOOK

 

This book my mum has written about me called Saturday the Sun went down. It isn’t a sad book. People look at it and then they feel this must be a sad and grief stricken story and life is grey enough anyway so let it go.

That is an unfortunate interpretation because it is truly an elevating book and one that talks at three levels.

 

On the first of a young man, myself actually and the achievements in his short life and the manner in which it all went so wrong.

 

On the second as a warning to parents and to children in campuses all over the world, young adults who are led astray by easily accessible contraband narcotic by prescription and they don’t get told of the dangers.

 

On the third a concern that the pharmaceutical industry that they have to get more responsible and this reckless nexus between the lobbies, the college administrations and the psychological set ups ostensibly designed to care for young adults but ending up dispensing ‘death’ by default calls for a concerted effort by the governments of the world.

 

We young people are given wrong information. We are told that these pills will help us calm and reduce our stress,which is caused by peer pressure, and life will be less complicated.

 

They never warn us of the impact on our minds.

The more you do the medicines the less it works.It works well for a while,then it works less and the pain is more.These meds themselves cause wild bouts of depression and horrible comedowns.I understand now that it was only these meds that made me take away my life.

These med’s lie to you about yourself and eat you from the inside.They tell you you alone make things worse.

 

Even so, my mother has made this herculean effort to get out a strong and valid message and much of here sincerity is reflected in a letter she has written to various school principals to encourage young students to read and identify with the contents or at least understand that college can be a challenge and you need to be warned and armed and ready for what is flung at you.

 

The reason why I am sharing the letter with you:

Dear Everyone (especially teachers and parents and oh yes, students)

I am taking the liberty of writing to you with regard to the book I have just released called ‘Saturday the Sun went down.’

 

 It is written deep from the heart and resonates with young people. While the central character is my 21 year old son who let go off this life at this very early age the book is not steeped in sorrow or negative in its impact.

 

On the contrary it is a celebration of life, however short, and underscores with great sensitivity the wonderful relationship between teachers and students, one that my son Mohit reveled in and gained so much from.

 

Much as I have taken pains to illustrate this aspect of teachers being crucial in formative years to a child’s overall growth and personality I have also brought to bear the role that parents play in being there as they mature and being aware of their priorities.

 

Mohit was the quintessential student, son, friend and mentor to the youngsters. I have taken his young life as the motif for the narrative while also pursuing the spectre of the pharmaceutical industry’s power and capability of derailing our children. This is something that parents and teachers need to grasp and understand that it is happening with far more frequency than we think. As such, I implore you to read the book in your capacity as teachers and encourage the young students to learn from it.

 

I won’t implore you because that will sound like I am pushing a book about me. In that lies the rub. The odds are that if you get down to reading it, this book could one day, if you are not keeping vigil be about you.