Lessons of life

February and March, the time of annual exams, used to be mighty stressful for parents. But now, thanks to the sagacious move from Kapil Sibal, to shift to the system of grades and overall assessment, parents don’t dread February and March anymore, instead they fear the entire year as they are put to pressure all through.

But what would tell you those taking the exams? Well, for starters, don’t read this. Read your textbooks.

Having said that, the lessons of life are far more helpful than what they teach in the classrooms.  Here are a few nuggets that I would like to pass on to the young minds in the hope they, as ever, don’t take seriously any older person giving advice.

Prepare Early

I will illustrate the importance of early preparation with the real-life story of two of my friends from school. One is Suresh, the other, as is usually the case in such matters, Ramesh.  Now, Suresh was a sincere and hard-working student. He was consistent all through the year in all the exams. Ramesh, on the other hand, was slothful and spent his time pursuing girls. His grades in every exam were just about average.

After the final Board exams, you know who got into that government-backed prestigious institute of engineering? Yes, it was Ramesh, while Suresh had to settle for an ordinary course in an ordinary college that had just two buses. So how could Ramesh pull it off and not the diligent Suresh? The answer is early preparation. Ramesh’s father had the required foresight to be born in a caste and community that gets reservation in all the colleges and institutes while Suresh’s dad let his son down badly in this matter.

The thankful Ramesh has not forgotten the lessons he learnt from his dad, and continues to remain most backward even as a top employee in an MNC, so that his kids don’t suffer the cruel fate that awaits stupid people like Suresh.

The larger point is real education is not just about cramming from the prescribed textbooks. True knowledge lies outside, in knowing what is written in the country’s Constitution.

Pursue Your Passion

Let us consider this point through the very interesting story of the young and successful Virat Kohli. Like in every middle-class family, Kohli’s parents, too, must have been torn between whether to allow him to take up cricket or compel him to pursue serious education, because, let us face it, education brings with it the security that even if it rains the college will be on, while in cricket when it rains you are faced with the dangerous lottery called Duckworth and Lewis rule.

Luckily, Kohli’s parents identified the passion in their son, and gave him the space to take up what his heart desired. Had they put their foot down and strictly insisted that he should forget cricket and instead focus only on studies, Kohli would probably have turned out to be a churlish and morose student, reduced to yelling abuses in moments of strife and stress.

Now thanks to the freedom that his family gave him, Kohli is a top-notch cricketer, with that rare talent to swear even during his happy moments of accomplishments, and that, too, on live television.

The moral of the story is: No matter what the occasion is, a Punjabi will still use the BC word. (This is perhaps why they don’t let Manmohan Singh speak more than a few words at a stretch).

Be prepared for Surprises

Another story. Again two friends. Ramesh and Suresh. (But these are different Ramesh and Suresh, and not to be confused with the previous set that was Suresh and Ramesh).

Here, Ramesh was the academic-minded, while Suresh just lazed around, spending his afternoons in idle chatter and siestas.

Ramesh, who never slackened his efforts, cracked the IIT, and after four years of zealously pursuing engineering in the world-renowned portals, his scientific mind suitably tickled, he knew what he wanted: A job in an international bank. Ergo: IIM, the hallowed higher-education institute where engineering dies a thousand deaths every year. Ramesh, after his stint at IIM, ended up in Hong Kong in a glamorous job with a fancy salary and alluring perks as the vice-president of a big hedge funds company.

Now we will see what happened to Suresh. Being a disinterested student, Suresh just about managed to get into a college. After graduation, he was not keen on acquiring any higher degree. And thanks to some recommendations, Suresh settled down for an unglamorous job as a middle-level employee in a nondescript government department.

10 years later, Ramesh is now enjoying the fruits of his success as a powerpoint-presenting globe-trotting, weekend-golfing executive: He is being treated for hypertension and extreme stress, while his wife, unable to come to terms with his corporate lifestyle, has moved out with a painter.

Suresh, being in a government job, has nothing to show for, except that he had too much of free time during which he tried some poetry (muse strikes only the terminally lazy), some of which also got published in books, because, thanks to the advent of Chetan Bhagat, even third standard text books now look Nobel-worthy.

Anyway, thanks to the connections that got him into government service, one of these days, they will also get Suresh’s poetry the Sahitya Akademi award.

So what do you think is the moral of this story? Exactly. There is none. Not every story has to have a moral. As we said, be prepared for surprises.

Final Word

Whatever you accomplish or do not, in life, do remember that car, house, foreign travel — all symbols of modern-day success — are actually attainable through mere monthly EMIs. But real happiness, as the worldly-wise philosophers point out, does not lie in these material things. It lies in something deeper, like in defaulting on those loans and still managing to go scot-free.