The path beyond Board Exam results.

Must have been a weekday in May 1998, I don’t remember well. What I remember is the feeling of despair, hopelessness and failure. It was the day my 12th board exam results were declared. My 10th board results were brilliant, by that, I am sure everyone expected me to ace 12th board exams as well. But things didn’t go that way. Today I can think of many reasons, but at that time none mattered. There were two things I wanted to do. One, scream my lungs out and shout, “This is not me. I am not THIS. I am more and beyond. Don’t judge me on the basis of this.” Two, I wanted to vanish. Poof! Just like that. Somewhere far and never come back. Or come back when everyone had a smile on their faces.

But I didn’t do any of the two. All I did was cry and have an abysmally heavy feeling in the centre of my chest. I never knew the answer to the perennial question which was asked to me innumerable times, “How did you score low? What happened?” “72%, really! How did you get this kind of a score?” I remember sitting and staring out the window or the wall for hours and avoiding. Avoiding my parents, their faces, their disappointment and the terrible feeling that refused to go off my mind. I knew I was a good student, I had always been an above average student, hardworking and sincere. But my 12th grade score proved otherwise.

What followed next was everyone taking decisions for me. Everyone telling me what to do. I knew deep inside why. They felt I was incapable to taking decisions, or finding a path for myself, or of knowing my strengths and skills because I had scored 72%.

Today, 20 years down the line, I know two things. One, my scores did not matter. I had nothing to do with the 72%. I was much more and beyond. It’s when I interacted with many of my classmates through social media quite a few years down the line, I realised that their marks which were below or similar to mine DID NOT define them in anyway (that day or today). Each of them ultimately did well in their lives. Yes, even the ones who scored in 60s or 50s. Two, I wish the social factors around me (at that time) had fathomed this truth and supported me better. I know where my father came from. He was a self made man totally built on academics. For him, academics made or broke a person. So when his one and only child scored low, it devastated him. But as I saw him break, I broke a lot more within me.

Cut to present. Cell phones are ringing in most homes, discussions are happening. Counselors are busy. If your family is one where your child has scored well in 10th or 12th board exams, then you would not probably feel what I am trying to say here. But if there is a child in your home right now, who is quieter and (without you realising) very scared, its a wake up call. It’s time for you to evolve along with your child.

There are questions you must ask yourself and your child. The only two people who should talking is you and your child. No one else. If there is one emotion that should be running in your household right now is Calmness. No, don’t say, its not easy. Because you are the adult here. Go back to the day you held your child for the first time. The day when you said, “I will take care of you, no matter what.” This is the ‘no matter what’ moment. So stand up for your child.

If you don’t know which questions to ask, let me give you a few pointers.

  1. What is that my child loves or is good at?
  2. Is my dreams and his/her dreams different?
  3. Have I missed on seeing some signs which were obvious?
  4. I may be a doctor, or an engineer or a lawyer, but could my child be something else.
  5. Are the family values different from that of my child’s?

Who you should be talking to other than your child?

  1. A counselor who can guide and lead you both.
  2. A family member or a friend who is an inspiration not because of his or her academic score but because of his/her skills and perseverance.

With the above two in sync, trust me, path will be clearer, options will be easier and decisions will be happier. And smile, for the sake of your child. The world is brutal and rough. You have given birth to a life (not a trophy) and it is your responsibility to be the wind beneath their wings. Help him or her come back to a warm home filled with cushions all around.

That is exactly why you are the adult and he/she, your child.


Goa: Books, Brain and Babe

The last I stepped out of my home city to study was in 2001. Just by writing that, I realise how many eons away that sounds!

Anyone who knows me well, will also know that I am a student for life and never shy away from unlearning and learning something new. Did you read the word unlearning twice? If you did, good job! We will come back to this word some time later in another post of mine.

So when I told my family that I was keen on getting myself certified in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), they all just raised their heads a tad bit and went back to their business. Hello! And then I announced.

‘I am thinking of going to Goa for this course.’ Four heads turned with their mouths wide open, but for different reasons.

‘You are just lying. I know you are going there to have fun with friends.’ That was my son.

‘You will go without me, is it? How bad!!’ That was my daughter.

‘Is this course not available in Bangalore?’ My mother. AND…

‘Let’s talk logistics.’ My self proclaimed better half.

No, I am not lying. I am going to study.

Six days will go like this, and I snapped my fingers.

No, I want to be trained only under Dr. David Lincoln. He does not train in Bangalore.

And yeah, come let’s talk logistics. And I went ahead booked my flight, and sent out mails for accommodation.

The next two months that followed, I kept hearing many things like,

I still think you are lying. Tell me, is Suhasini Aunty coming along?

What if I feel like seeing you? But what will you get for me?

Why can’t you just read about it or order some books on it, like the zillion things you keep reading about?

Na na…better half didn’t speak much, and I think it was because I kept talking about NLP day and night. Tch tch.

Then I started getting calls from my mom’s sis.

Goa is not safe. You shouldn’t go alone.

When that failed, it became

What kind of clothes are you packing? Will you have company? Will you have a room-mate? A guy or a girl..haaaa!

What was up with all these people? I mean. I have lived in a hostel for two years in another city. No one bothered. I wondered.

That is when a dear friend pointed out. You see, your value has increased. Then you were just a girl. Now you are a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law and so on.

So basically what she meant was it was absolutely fine for a 21 year old to go alone anywhere, have any room-mate, wear the clothes she wanted, and it’s assumed that she will be safe even if she is alone. But, all this changes when you are 37. Someone please explain the logic, I say. But I think it made sense…or did it? Oh just leave it.

The day arrived and I packed my bags (All my bags are packed by Aerosmith played in the back of my mind, except I was going to Goa and not the space.)

I stepped out of the plane and kept my foot out in the soil of Goa waiting to feel LIBERATED, but what I felt was the humidity. Gosh! Can I please have my Bangalore back? I should have just read the books and got my bit of enlightenment.

I said a few inappropriate words in my head and got inside the cab.

‘Bhaiyya, AC on kar do.’ I rolled up the window of the car and instructed the driver.

‘Madam, the AC is on.’ I just rolled my eyes and huffed and puffed.

I reached my abode for the next six days. Thankfully this time, the AC was on and I realised it was on.

I sat on the bed. Too hard.

I laid on the bed. Too narrow. How will I throw my legs around and sleep?

I drank the water. Too soft, too hard. Tastes funny. Smells funnier.

I went into the washroom. What’s that smell? Is there a lizard somewhere lurking around?

And then it struck me. I felt lonely. There was no one around me. I missed everyone back at home. I called home and heard my daughter sniffing. F! This was a bad idea.

Then someone said, ‘Are you Subha?’ I turned around and saw a warm lady in her 40s with a bright smile. She was a practising theatre artist from Pune.

By evening, a nurse from Ratnagiri joined us. Then a corporate trainer from Mumbai, another from Bhopal. A 57 year young guy joined us soon and also a senior officer from the Army. An entrepreneur came along and also another budding trainer. The house slowly filled up, and my heart filled up even more listening to their stories. The wall of inhibition fell and I climbed down the Train of Judgement.

Days passed by. I was not just learning in the classroom, but also at the beach side restaurant where we spoke over drinks and starters, while watching the sunset as we poured our hearts, the Saturday market where we shopped, and during the long chats well into the night. Oh yeah, not to forget when we were chased by street dogs (which BTW are many in Goa) during our morning walk. We sincerely stopped the morning walks from the next day. We had after all left our families behind and come. Talking about family, the sniffing reduced from the other side of the phone. My son knew I was, after all, not lying because he asked me whether I was eating on time, slept well and was the course tough?

Like always, I clicked pictures of the setting sun against the vastness of the sea. I watched the horizon, as it split into the hues of orange, grey and blue. The sea reminded me how small I am, just a dot in this universe and that’s exactly why I should continue exploring my whole life.

The day I was returning, I hugged each one and knew I had made a few more soul connections. I sincerely wish that I collaborate with a few of them sometime in the future. As much as I loved every moment in Goa, I looked forward to reaching Namma Benguluru. I came to Bangalore a new person.

I felt this new-found love for my home, my family and guess what…I think I fell in love with myself all over again. Yeah, just like the movies.

The many shades of RED

It was like any other night. Amma oiled my hair, tied it into two plaits and pulled it three times. ‘It will make it long.’ She said. I went off to sleep, like any other thirteen year old. But when I woke up, I felt unusual. I looked at the thin sheet on the mat on which I slept. That moment, I could just see the colour red, under me, above me and around me. I screamed in horror thinking I was going to die. Amma came and hushed me up. I knew my world was about to change. In a matter of few hours, the house looked like a bride. Out of the many memories of that day, I distinctly remember the elaborate oil bath, the scent of sandalwood and being decked up in bright green saree with the new palakka necklace. I remember a lot of people coming home with different kinds of sweets, jewellery and money. In between, Achan threw quick glances. ‘You have grown up, my little girl’, he spoke through those glances.

The months after that were confusing. Amma would send me off to a different room, a separate one. I would have to be there for four days. I would take bath in the adjacent bathroom. My mother would keep fresh set of clothes for me with sumptuous food. It was like a mini festival every month. Some months, my elder sister would join too. We would talk till the wee hours of the morning about the men we would marry and whether they will have a thin moustache or a huge one like our neighbour who was a policeman.

And then just like that, I was married off a day after I turned fourteen. From a small family of four, I entered into a large one. I was one of the six daughters in law. All between the age of fourteen and twenty-five. I was the youngest. My day started at four thirty in the morning. It was considered a luxury. I guess I was lucky because I was the youngest.  I sometimes wondered how the work in the house never ceased. Someone would get pregnant, or give birth to a child or there would be clothes to wash, the sprawling farms had to be taken care of, the cattle had to be fed or huge quantities of rice flour had to be pounded.

Each one of us waited for that special day. The day our period came. Our mother in law would immediately ask us to disposition ourselves in the small room in the backyard. There would be no instance of loneliness in the room, for there were enough women in the family. The list of things we did were endless. We talked… a lot… about everything and anything. About the way our husbands touched us to the way the jackfruit seller Vasu looked at us. We would laugh like little girls. We were no more the wives with family responsibilities. I learnt to wrap the saree around my slim waist and also learnt how not to be loud during love-making. We could wake up at five-thirty so that we take bath only after everyone else in the family took a bath. We did not have to cook, or clean or wash or even take care of children! Every month, we would wait for our period to come. It was almost cathartic.

But those days are gone. I watched my daughters being born and then my grand daughters and even my great grand daughters.  Today, I hear them crib about their period and talk about how backward the ancient customs were. I smile inwardly and think what do they know about the little pleasures of life? How will I ever be able to explain to them the bitter sweet pain our period brought us back in those days? Will they ever understand if I say I can still close my eyes and smell the small room, the lingering smell of small joys, smaller complaints and dirty little secrets. These new girls…they will never know.


PS: This little perspective writing stems from a thought that we do not know all the stories and the moments behind traditions, rituals and customs. We do not know the simple joys, the inspiration and the moments of sheer strength behind those days and ways.