By Sunita Kurup Sapru
AS I read with interest the news report about a 15-year-old stabbing his teacher, I caught myself feeling sorry for the student rather than the teacher and her family. I was glued to the television for the rest of the day and was angry at people who were condemning the act. What do they know about how a student feels under all these pressures?
I was in class four then. I studied in a Christian convent and had always been a rank holder. The parent-teacher meetings had always been a breeze for me. The only complaint my teachers had was that I was talkative and mischievous. My scores and my participation in class were often praised. My parents felt proud especially because I was able to manage this without attending tuitions. When most of my friends and classmates were busy running from one coaching class to another in the evenings (yes, even at the age of 10), I would finish my homework well in advance and would spend the rest of the evening either playing with my siblings or reading comics.
School had just reopened after half-yearly exams and Christmas vacation. I was back in school, expecting to have stood first in class again. Even during the vacations, my relatives had praised me for my performance in school and had repeatedly told my parents how blessed they were. Pride is a heavy baggage on a 10-year-old’s shoulder, but I was wearing it with ease. Unfortunately, not for long.
When our report cards were distributed, I was shocked. I had secured only the second rank. For a child who was riding high on her ‘first rank praises’ anything less was unacceptable. When I reached home, I didn’t show my report card to my parents: I was scared they might scold me. Failure to a constant winner is not easily digestible, especially for a kid who doesn’t understand either of the concepts.
The next day, just before entering school, I saw a group of senior students in the school park, who seemed to be signing their own report cards. I knew one of them and he told me they couldn’t show their parents their low scores. The idea planted itself in my head. I forged my dad’s signature with a pencil.
In class, when the teacher asked me why my dad had used pencil, I lied that there had been a power cut and we hadn’t been able to locate a pen. Eventually, a student who had seen us in the park reported us to the teacher. Our parents were summoned.
My dad looked at the report card expecting to see that I had failed, and was taken aback. He looked sad and my mom angry, as they apologised to the principal.
We reached the parking lot. My dad started his Bajaj Chetak, with me in the middle and mom behind. I was in tears, unable to even wave back to one of my friends driving away with his parents in a Maruti car.
My dad seized the opportunity and asked me, “Do you dislike me and think that your friend’s dad is better because he has a car?” I tearfully replied, “No, dad”. “Would you then hate me if I had a cycle and not this scooter?” “No, dad” I replied, still sobbing.
My dad said, “Even if you fail in all your exams and the whole world tells you that you are wrong, papa will always be there with you. You should never be scared or ashamed of your failures.”
Since then, my parents have repeated this constantly to my siblings and me. They would be with us no matter what, and they remembered to assure us of this often.
Parents take it for granted that children know about their love for them. But for kids, failures can cloud everything else. Logic is not a 10-year-old’s strong point.
As I finished reading the article, all I wanted was for the kid to be forgiven and understood.
Sunita Kurup Sapru is a Stockholm-based wealth management consultant