By Lata Jha:Â
I don’t know if we give this a thought too often. And regardless of whether we accept it or not, it’s true that people’s perception of us as children is determined to a large extent by how we fare in our academics. Which college and consequently, what placements we manage to get for ourselves.
I was a motivated student in school. And part of the diligence came from the acknowledgement and the appreciation the good scores, when they came, brought me. Academic success, not to be confused with academic brilliance, is a big deal in our country. The school and region toppers are always the ‘best, brightest kids’, which is a really strange presumption, if one thinks about it.
While an important aspect of education and schooling is meeting and interacting with people, and often making friends for life, equally inevitable is the fact that one competes with those very people essentially in exams and later in life. I’m aware of how difficult it is for a ten year old kid who’s just begun to sense the competition around him, to deal with the fact that his best friend is getting better marks than him. Not just the teachers, but even his parents cite the friend as an example. It’s always about ‘You two spend so much time together. Why can’t you learn something from him?’ Which translates roughly into ‘Why can’t you get the kind of marks he does?’
So despite the fact that you share a lot else in common, you go home together, you spend your weekends at each other’s homes, you like the same video games, but you just don’t manage to get the same marks.
Life is strange and I now realize such things are inconsequential in the long run. But it’s hard for a teenager to accept and live with the idea that he’s just not as ‘bright’ as his best friend. It’s painful when your closest buddy is the class topper, the teacher’s pet, and you’re just part of the crowd. Or when he makes it to a top college and you don’t.
Especially since the exam season is on right now and very soon, it’ll be time for those traumatising entrances, students will find themselves measuring their chances and potential of ‘making it’ very often in terms of what their friends have done or will manage to do.
I have gone through the phase of wanting to be the best among my peers. And while even today, I don’t want to set mediocre standards for myself, I now believe in competing more with myself than with others. You gradually realize how much you can learn from your friends. They might be the same age as you but they can always provide so much inspiration.
With time, the first thingÂ I’veÂ learnt is to take my course, not my marks, seriously. They say nothing about me. Secondly, and perhaps consequently,Â I’veÂ learnt to imbibe the best from my peers than wanting to outdo them.
Though I prefer to study by myself, a lot of great insights have come to me during interactions with friends, sometimes an hour before the exam.Â I’veÂ learnt styles of expression, methods of analysis, and sometimes, just ways of looking at things from them. So many times,Â they’veÂ been teachers, patiently explaining things to me that will help us both for exams whose results could determine a lot for us.
It’s often said that you’re born with family, but you choose your own friends. That you have the option to decide whether they are the right people to spend your time with. I completely disagree with that. I don’t think our youth weighs so many options before making friends. We might be rational, pragmatic people, but when it comes to friends, especially after a certain age, it’s heart over brain for most of us. They are people we can’t live without, and somewhere down the road, they become as much a support system as your family. Scattered in different parts of the country and world seeking education and jobs, you realize how ridiculous it was to have let barometers like scores and placements affect you. The bond is what matters, the lessons you learn from your time together is what you should carry home. That report card will rot away in some corner of the cupboard, but the memories will sustain themselves for a lifetime and even beyond.