The Diaries of Harish - Part 5

03 March, 2009.

Two sets of board exams in the family commence today. Nikhil's 12th boards and Vishnu's 10th standard board exams. Since my son always experiences everything before Vishnu, the pressure on him is always too much. Kannettan and his wife just have to copy our methods by the time Vishnu gets to it. And I know how competitive those people are. Always comparing their son to ours and trying to make it look like their purely average kid is as good as (or better than) my Nikhil. I have known about their negative and jealous mentality from the very beginning but they made it blatantly obvious after Nikhil's 10th standard board exam results were announced. We had prepped him and made sure that he comes out in flying colors. Latha stayed up late into the night with him throughout the year, helping him organize his notes, preparing him for tests and exams by asking him questions, conducting mock tests for him and correcting papers etc. She even went to the extent of going through his social sciences portions, framing questions based on each and every paragraph and making him learn the answers so that he'd be prepared for everything. And he did well, as expected. The only reason he fell 5 marks short of the 90% cut off is because of some unlucky, careless mistakes that he made along the way. He forgot to attach a very important graph to his answer sheet during his Math exam, he didn't see a compulsory section of questions which were printed at the back of his History question paper (and ended up losing close to 15 marks) and nobody ever scores above 90% in English. Those exams are tough. But despite all the pressure on him, despite all of the bad luck, he managed to score a whooping 89.43% aggregate. Which is great! He got ranked among the top 10 scorers in his school.

I should have guessed from their eagerness to know Nikhil's grades that those people were never wishing for him to do well. After his results were announced, they immediately called us to know how much he had scored. When we told them the grades, at first they congratulated us but before hanging up, Kannettan casually mentioned that a lot of the kids in Vishnu's school had scored above 90% aggregates. And now, I bet they're doing all they can to make sure that their son scores way more than what Nikhil did in 10th grade. But they can only wish for such a miracle. Neither husband nor wife in that house is capable of helping the kid the way Latha and I guided our son. And with limited access to the internet and other resources, what hope does Vishnu have. He's not even exceptionally bright like Nikhil. Forget academics, Vishnu doesn't even have a proper extra-curricular skill or hobby. We sent Nikhil to all kinds of classes when he was young so that he could learn various skills and find his niche. And by the time he was a teenager, he was really good at the guitar. We encouraged him to discover the musician in him and he plays the guitar till date.

Hell, if they're going to try and compare their kid to mine, I'll make the job easier for them by doing it right here. Here's a list of differences between the two children:

      Nikhil, Vishnu
  • Age: 17; 15

  • Height: 5'8"; 5'4"

  • Schooling: Joined school at the right age and received International grade education; joined school a year late (speaks volumes about the parents) and received average State level education.

  • Average academic performances: Almost always a consistent straight A student (above 90%); always consistently scores between 70-85%.

  • Hobbies and talents: Plays the guitar passionately, composes own music, sings; none known to family/acquaintances.

  • Physical appearance: Naturally good-looking features; needs a lot of polishing up.

I could go on and on. But this bores even me. I don't know how they do it. Being jealous must be full time occupation for otherwise jobless people like them. My wife and I are always busy and have little time to spare for things like this. I'm not even astonished when I realize how long it's been since put my thoughts on paper. That's how life is. You get busy with your responsibilities and hardly find time for the things you love doing.

Moving on, I am a happy and contented man today. My son has gone to give his last set of school level examinations. Two days after his exams get over, we're sending him over to Pala in Kerala for Engineering Entrance Exam coaching. The centre he's going to is one of the best in the State and will give him all the training he needs to crack his engineering entrance exam. We, as a family, had a long talk about his choice for a career. He's young and immature at this age so he wanted to apply for sound engineering so that he could become either a recording engineer or create music for video games in the long run. But that was definitely not a viable option as things may or may not work out in your favor and even if they do, it takes a while to become successful and start making some real money. So we did some research and steered him into software engineering because that's the hype in this day and age. Software engineering is the future and that's where someone as talented as our son should be working. He wasn't too keen initially because although he scores well in programming at his class 12 level, computers and programming aren't his favorite subjects. But we told him just one thing. With any other profession, he runs the risk of working in an environment that may or may not be the most pleasant work space but as a software engineer, it can be guaranteed that at the end of the day, he will be sitting on a comfortable chair in an air-conditioned office to code. And nobody ever complains about the money software engineers make these days.

"But unlike most parents, we have no reason to panic because we have a plan for every emergency. "

We're sure that our son will do well enough for his entrance exam but we're not the kind of parents who don't have a back-up plan to secure our son's future. We talked about it and have actually set aside a good sum of money to comfortably get him a management seat in any top University in India. We haven't told him about it because we don't want him to take anything for granted. But unlike most parents, we have no reason to panic because we have a plan for every emergency.

Even before Nikhil wrote his 10th standard board exams, both he and I knew that he'd drop Biology and pick up Computer Science. Medicine is a respectable and "noble" profession, I agree, but it's definitely not the quick way to success. Moreover, Nikhil had already found out a little something about sound engineering and what he wanted to do for a living. We initially thought that it would pass because kids can't have that kind of certainty and insight at his age. But we were amazed at how sure he was with his plans. We just tweaked it a little bit and guided him to the right option that was best for him. But when I think about Vishnu, I can't help but feel a little sorry for him. That boy receives no guidance or help from his parents. They haven't even started thinking about his future. And to every idea that he has, they just nod "yes" because they couldn't be bothered to research and find out the best options available that are based on his areas of interest. One day he wants to take up Biotechnology and the next day, he talks about Psychology. He still doesn't know what subject he wants to specialize in before applying for college. And to top it all, he himself lacks even half the resolve and insight that Nikhil showed at his age. Average children born to average parents.

The saddest part is how they try to justify their ignorance. Apparently they are the best parents in the world because they give their child the freedom to choose to become whatever he wants to be. Normal people would translate that as being too ignorant and indifferent. If you can't do what is best for your child, at least stop trying to look like a hero. Children at that age need to be shown the path. They can't be expected to make life changing decisions when they are practically incapable of even managing a meal without the help of their guardians. Putting it all in their hands can easily ruin their future and career. With the options we've chosen for Nikhil, he could easily be earning a six-figure salary somewhere abroad in about 10 years into his career.

I'm just very thankful at this stage. Thankful for being able to provide the very best for my son, for marrying the perfect partner who made my job of shaping my son's future easy, for getting the right opportunities at the right time to help secure our future and for every single material and other comfort that has been bestowed upon me. I'm a happy and contented man who has even managed to secure my next generation's future. What more can a man ask for?

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You might also be interested in Part 1 of this collection.