There was one event in my life, actually occurring twice, hence two events, when the entire nation seemed to have shared the burden of my grief.
Every year these events repeat for some truly unfortunate souls, and their paranoia is catalyzed by each faintly related person, not to forget the special mention in newspapers, radio and annoying social media messages.
This event is fearfully known as Board Exams, it could also be honestly called The Beginning of Unhappyness.
Let us consider the year 2004, since that was my first trial in class X of secondary school.
Two years prior to it, family friends, educators, astrologers and forecasters of all kinds and levels of experience, had started remarking on how only two more years of enjoyment were left for me- as if the exam was not a useless test, but a monster that would suck the happiness out of my life.
Little did I know that it was precisely so.
In fact my entire nuclear family had to suffer, as I struggled to ensure I answer every question in neat handwriting, and manage not to have a nervous breakdown in the process. This scenario is applicable to many of my friends in nearly similar fashion.
To say the least, the last four years of my schooling were the worst years of my life (in comparison) mentally, physically and spiritually. If we call this education, then the society should rather not have education, because the only thing I learnt was to mug under pressure, to compete, and to live an unhealthy imbalanced life .
Those years marked the beginning of a lifestyle that has left a bitter aftertaste. A lifestyle encouraging paranoia, relentless achievement and isolation from realities other than myopic success. A lifestyle where compromising on that which is essential to me as an individual could be justified as long as I could prove my relative worth on paper. Some people continue with this pattern all their lives without even acknowledging they are doing so, it could become a normalized way of being.
If you have already noticed, none of this includes actual learning, and yes I am certain I did not learn anything through my board exams.
It is a miracle that I am sane.
The amount of stress one deals with in these exams is sheer systemic torture which better be STOPPED. I really did not want ministers to be sending good luck wishes through campaigns, I needed a break where I could be mindful of life beyond school books and extra tutorials. None of these well-wishers told me to relax, to not be worried, that I would be as worthy of love and affection despite my grades, rather my grades seemed to have become the deciding factor for my entire future- I would be doomed if I do not perform well.
My grades tell nothing about the person I am, they tell nothing about the application of knowledge I might have gained, they just tell that I managed to not give too many incorrect answers.
On another note, grades are also a matter of privilege. I was privileged enough to dedicate four complete years to just rote learning. I did not have much disturbance, was provided with a comfortable study table and appropriate nutrition. I could afford to take coaching where I was told what was enough to learn such that I score well. Please note, the purpose of this education was acing an exam, not learning for a lifetime- “ICSE Board waale aise hi sum solve karna, CBSE ka method alag hai”.
I was also privileged because in the heat and in the cold, I had someone pick me up in a car, to drive me from school to coaching and then home. This person himself never got the four years to dedicate solely to scoring well, his children did. They would now be attempting at scoring enough to get through a revered institution.
To get through a revered institution might require an obnoxiously high percentage, humanly almost impossible. I was fortunate because I got the subjects of my choice through an entrance exam, but to clear many of the mainstream entrance exams is a huge challenge. Some of these institutions would be chosen only because they are branded so, they may not have the subjects of interest or affordable fees for several students who do join under pressure or lack of a better option or counseling. This would require a loan and hard work to get a well-paying job. The job may not necessarily be satisfying, but to have a satisfying job is quite a privilege.
This entire process is filtering chances of young passionate people to follow their own pace, to pursue personal interests, take risks and innovate, rather this process runs on fear and pressure. Stress therefore becomes a way of life for many, reflected in dissatisfaction and leading to poor patterns of consumption and health. These values get transferred to the next generation, and are encouraged through praise or ridicule as per context.
Yes, I am painting a darker picture, that’s my hobby. But wait, why not? The purpose of education seems muddled in our current system and rather than panicking and giving in to it, we would need to question it. It has to be a pursuit of growth, not beginning of unhappyness. And if that requires a poorly written post at ungodly hours, so be it!