Wednesday, 6 January 2010
That evening, I almost killed myself
Here’s my fifth standard report card. Check out the phenomenally poor marks and the hurtful comments from teachers. That evening, as I was walking back home, I was convinced of being a hopeless loser, that I had badly let my parents down, and that I must simply kill myself. And as fate would have it, when I returned home, they were showing the film ‘Anand’ on Doordarshan, which I sat and watched. And got even more depressed.
Just then my dad returned from work, and asked me why I was looking so glum. Anyways having given up on life (so what further harm could dad’s pasting do??), I showed him this report card. And his reaction was shocking! He patted me on the back, gave me some money, and said, “Don’t worry beta, all’s not lost. Just keep working at it and am sure things will improve. And even if they don’t, not to worry, I am always there for you. Now go and buy your friends some ice cream and have fun. Just take the evening off and don’t think about it for now.”
That totally unexpected reaction from my dad knocked my socks off, it changed my life. Instead of feeling depressed, I began to feel a sense of self-confidence, a fierce determination to work harder. The next day I asked my dad to get me a private tutor, which he did. And I used that tutor to teach me just one thing: how I could memorise my study material. That the tutor did happily, and he taught me tricks on blindly ratofying my syllabus.
And here’s what happened: I began to mug every subject, without even attempting to understand the matter, and lo and behold! From the sixth standard onward I was amongst the top six rankers, year on year. What this tells us about our education system is just one thing: IT SUCKS! The entire exercise is designed to guage your parroting skills, and that’s it. The teachers gave a rat’s arse whether we really comprehended the subjects. But that’s not the topic of my discussion.
What I want to say is this: That evening if my dad had spanked me, put me under pressure, and said I would never make it in life, I would surely have been dead.
Here’s the deal: I think it’s absolutely silly to blame movies, television programmes, teachers, social pressures and the like for child suicides. At best they can add on to a child’s frustrations, but are never the root cause. The key issue is and has always been: bad parenting. I think parents are mainly responsible when kids take their own lives. I know of parents who put immense emotional pressure: “I have always dreamed of a doctor in our family, my hopes are pinned on you, son.” “You will become a clerk and rot your whole life if you don’t get admission into that MBA school.” “Look at Sharma’s daughter, she’s so smart and talented. Learn something from her, you fool!” And so on. In fact, here’s a great example: We were once shooting an ad film at the Film City. One lad had been chosen to play a minor role in that advert. Now, the poor thing got nervy, and just wouldn’t deliver. The boy’s mom grabbed the child and beat him mercilessly, fearing that her son would lose this assignment. And this made matters even worse. Anyway, the director asked for the mother to be thrown out of the sets, and he himself handled the child. By telling him silly jokes and bantering with him, he could get the boy into a cheerful mood and the film was shot. And yet, as soon as the mom arrived, she again began tormenting the poor kid!
Unfortunately, after the child dies, none of this comes to light. One, because the last thing cops would want to do is harass grieving parents. And two, even if they did, this sort of stuff is impossible to prove. And so, the tragedy keeps happening.
All those middle-class parents reading this, please take note: Quite often, unwittingly, it’s possible you are driving your child to breakpoint. By loading them with unreal expectations, or by hoping that they would one day realise your own unrealised dreams. Or by simply worrying about their future, not understanding that often some kids bloom late in life. Or find their calling late in life.
Now, admittedly, neither am I a child psychologist nor a parent. However, I did want to share my dad’s attitude in the face of a very poor report card of his son. Maybe we can all learn something from that. My dad is no more, but this one lesson he taught me, will stay with me for life.
And yeah, go ahead and snigger at my report card. I am doing ditto!! Haha.