Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
In all these years, I don’t recall ever having broken down before an exam. I’d be tense, yes. I would find it difficult to eat and go to sleep sometimes. Breakfast that morning would be infused with so much pensiveness that it often freaked my parents out. But I knew I had to take it. Like everyone else before me had, and everyone with me was. I knew there was no way I’d let the pressure get to me. It was a part of life, of growing up, learning and discovering the hard way.
I also remember the first time that I was really, truly scared. The 10th Boards frightened the hell out of me. I wasn’t scared in the sense that I might flunk or sit down to a question paper where I knew nothing or any other stuff that 4 am nightmares are made of. I was wary of the unknown, of the fact that for the first time, I’d be literally away from my comfort zone, that I could not walk up to a known face and ask for an explanation as to how my paper had been evaluated or in the worst case, whether it had been evaluated at all, that I wouldn’t be able to fathom errors, that solving a land dispute would be easier than asking for re-evaluation, that I was fighting a lonely battle.
But then again, it was a journey I knew many others had undertaken. I also knew that when I’d look back at this several years from then, I’d cherish it for all that it taught me, for the person it made me. Exams could never be the end of the world. Pressure was never meant to be succumbed to. That you work against odds is I think a law of life.
Today, in the kind of work and attitudes I see around myself, I’m constantly reminded of the fact that our batch took the last ‘real’ Board exams. I’m not being condescending but I really worry for and am concerned about the generation that is to evolve and emerge out of the current educational system but go on to contend with others in the world who’ve grown out of different, far more arduous processes and are unfortunately, vying for the same things as them.
10th wasn’t as difficult, really. I never spent sleepless nights worrying about not being able to get the stream of my choice. In fact, I think it was a beautiful journey of hard work, conscientiousness and learning to stand by oneself sometimes. I still value my 10th results; I think they helped me greatly in knowing my strengths and weaknesses. To a large extent, they helped me shape my preparation plan for the 12th.
The 12th Boards made me grow up. I think by the time they ended, I had instilled enough drive and confidence in myself to know that I needed to work very very hard, and that I couldn’t shut myself up in my cocoon all my life.
I do not doubt the exemplary potential of the hundreds of students who’ve scored ten and nine point cumulative averages this year. My only grief is they couldn’t realise their true potential. Working as hard as the 10th Boards require you to, they’d have grown and discovered themselves in ways that are both incredible and completely incomparable.
Sometimes, stress goads you on. CCE, I think, has deprived them from bracing themselves to all that they will journey through in junior college, then senior college and life, in the long run. No system in the world allows you to relax, saying that there’s too much pressure on kids is shielding them from the inevitable. It has and always will be about whether you can deliver, stress, ill health and personal issues notwithstanding.
At 16, a child is old enough to hold his own. Only when we let him into the water will he learn to paddle. And go on swim across the pool. And then take the leap towards the sea and the ocean. Asking him to stand at the edge with legs dangling into the water will never instil in him the passion to be the first to emerge at the other end. And let us not even go into swimming skills.
Also, the whole idea of lessening pressure and promoting egalitarianism through grades adds to the misconception that these children will carry all their lives of the good and the extraordinary being just the same. Delightful though, for those who’ve never learnt to give their best. And never will, probably.
We’re unnecessarily making things difficult for these kids as they reach the Plus 2 section and go on to college and then various workplaces. Though, I wouldn’t be really surprised if the 12th exams are scrapped soon. Then colleges can go straight for the kill.
Competition is not meant to break you; it instils in you a sense of drive and passion. Which life really is all about. That of course you can learn only when you’re allowed to embrace competition and stress. Not everything in life should be a choice. As a society, we need to be governed somewhere. Because trust me, there is a certain joy to stress as well. After two Board exams and a couple of college entrances, I know I certainly look back and smile at all the times I thought the stress would drive me crazy.
I’m probably not qualified enough to comment on what recent policies adopted by honorable ministers has done to the country. I’d rather leave that to the cynic. As an optimist who believes in the power of struggle, I just hope I continue to see my juniors be able to learn things the hard and right way, toil, work and give it their all. I want to see them swim across beautifully.