A friend recently wrote about her sense of triump over lifelong hesitation when she graduated from an ‘under average’ student with an average ‘B+’. Each of us go through such life-defining experiences, based on expectations from us. Let me share mine.
I was a star pupil since std. 1, topping the class through to std. 3, in a reputed international school in Jakarta, Indonesia. Then the political situation changed against the Chinese there, their schools closed down; those who did not leave the country were forced to seek admission in English medium schools.
Suddenly, each class saw an influx of slightly older students, down a class because of language difference. From among the youngest students in class, my rank slid down from 1 to 3, sometimes 4, as older students fared better. Can you imagine the blow to my own perception of myself, leave alone others?
In grade 5, a new young teacher decided to shuffle seats. We did not know what was her criterion; forcibly separated from a friend, I shared a desk with the untidiest, rudest boy in the class. His bag, books etc took up space everywhere, books inevitably scratched and torn, homework never complete and comments rude non-stop. The only thing we had in common was our non-stop chatter.
After a couple of days of squabbling, with teacher watching, I laid down the rules: drawing a line down the middle with chalk, I warned him your things will remain on your side or else out of the window. His testing resulted with one book chucked out. There the matter rested. Over some time, he did become quieter, neater, with grades slightly better, while the rest including older students settling in. Perhaps what gave me that courage to compete with those older ones and this young man was solid home backing that did not depend on my grades.
I repeated that, making out preschool as a treat for my young ones. So, no problems sending to school, except the youngest spoilt brat! My eldest actually told me to go home on the first day of preschool “Mummy why are you sitting here?”
In later years, I left the caste slot on forms with an NA. Children grew up as Indians and Hindus. During the 1985 anti-reservation riots, they were introduced to caste by a neighbor who taught society kids
“SC log gande hote hai”. It took a very long time to rub that out.
How childhood perceptions color lives!