I will tell you as to when most parents get into panic mode: 1 Ahead of public exams of their children. 2 Most other occasions.
The point is most people as parents are never really normal, or, at any rate, not really allowed to be sane by their wards.
But around board exams, parents, like MLAs during trust vote in Assembly, become different beasts. If there is an Oscar for overreacting, parents will win it every year. I just heard from a friend, whose daughter is going to sit for her 12th standard exams, that he is planning to cut off the Internet connection. I can hear some of you snigger, “Huh! big deal, parents shutting off TV connections and Internet is nothing new. Almost all of them do”. You smarty pants, just listen, my friend is planning an Internet shutdown because his daughter is going to sit for the 12th standard exams next year. She is right now only in 11th standard. If you think that this is crazy, well, his daughter’s school has already completed much of her 12th standard portions.
I am told she had been mostly taught 12th standard portions in her 11th standard. As things stand now, our education system has reached the stage where there is — follow me closely here — no such thing as 11th standard. After 10th standard, the two years of school education is split this way: One year for teaching 12th standard portions and roughly a year for telling how important 12th standard exams are.
Anyway, as my daughter had taken her Board exams not long ago, I would like to pass on two important general lessons that I had learned on the way. These tips may or may not assuage your larger fears, but I assure you that they will doubtless be as helpful as whatever your kids have learned in their 11th standard.
It doesn’t matter
There is always confusion over what college education should your daughter / son pursue. You would probably want your son / daughter to take up medicine / engineering / commerce, but your daughter / son will have other ideas. They would want to get into DJ-ing or tattooing or generally anything that will give you a heart-attack.
“You want to become a DJ? Playing music out of a blaring system, which a reasonably trained Labrador can manage, is now a profession?” you ask caustically.
“Dad, you seem to know nothing. My school senior Abhishek earns Rs 20,000 for every night he DJs. He needs to work just 10 days a month, and that will still be more than what you bring home after slogging all through the month,” your son will retort.
“That Abhishek who dropped out of school half-way through 11th standard as he was caught doing drugs? The guy who wears those diamond studs and who has never really put comb to his hair since Manmohan Singh administration? Which idiot pays him that much?” you ask more in desperation.
Almost as a rule, guys you had given up as good-for-nothing, guys that you advice your kids to stay away from, end up earning more than you do even at this senior age. Life always does this. Because life loves playing crazy pranks on you.
The point is you and your children will never be on the same page on matters of education or career. Just don’t even bother. But whether your children pursue the educational path you choose for them or they pick a career for themselves, the fact of the matter is, either way, — you may want to note this down — they are going to feel bitter about whatever they happen to do for a living. Life loves playing pranks on all.
When you go to drop your son or daughter at the exam centre, never, never make the mistake of talking to any other parent around. Because the one you choose to talk will turn out to be the dad of someone usually named Ashwath. That Ashwath will be an overachiever, exactly the kind that parents would love but every other kid in the neighbourhood would hate even more.
And the conversation will inevitably be on these lines.
He: (Casually) Hello.
You: I am’s dad.
He: I am Ashwath’s father.
You: (Nervously) Feeling nervous aren’t we?
He: (Even more casually) Nervous? About what?
You: (Puzzled) These exams. And admissions after this…
He: Ashwath is a bright student. His grades have always been high only…
You: (Anxiously interjecting) But college admission processes can get tricky. Nothing is certain till we land a seat.
He: (Smirking): Ashwath’s admission is done.
You: (Taken aback): Oh okay. Must be management quota. Which college in the city?
He: Management quota? Ashwath is going to Stanford for his undergrad studies in medicine.
You: (Gulping air desperately) Medicine at Stanford. Must be expensive?
He: Ashwath is going there on sports endowment grant as he is good in tennis.
You: He plays tennis too?
He: He also plays violin too, his fusion numbers are a huge hit on YouTube and Soundcloud. Also, his travel diaries and Instagram pics of his hiking trip to that island off Australia are also big hits. Many other US universities too wanted him. We settled for Stanford as my office is headquartered at California. Also, Ashwath’s sister, Ahana, is at Berkeley doing her doctoral thesis in nano technology…
You: *Silently slink off to meet someone who will be on even terms with you, one who can talk about getting a seat at Andal Azhagar engineering college*
PS: But hold on. 10 years later, Ashwath, after wowing Stanford with his very many talents, would decide to shun all away and become a monk at the Tibetan monastery in Dharamshala. And that, hopefully, should be some consolation for you.