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My School and My Little Life it has Shaped
Mohit Dey

“A voice cannot carry the tongue and the lips that gave it wings.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Biologists have confirmed that it is entirely possible to experience the exact emotions from a past event through a trigger- they say our neurons are like memory banks and when we are particularly nostalgic about something, the exact set of this nervous system gets lit up evoking the same feelings as when the event happened. There is so much of my school I have relived in this manner-after all I owe the genesis of the crux of my morality to those years. And in this re-enactment of my childhood, at times self-purported, I have often been overcome by a strong sensation of somehow wanting to encapsulate everything (physically if possible) within my arms, of somehow breathing in all that I feel, such as to carry these memories within the pores of my skin; it is like an addiction which doesn’t get sated and only grows with use. Nonetheless, we have to let go. I cannot hope to and mustn’t aim to forever curate and polish those memories and hence the quote above. I am the voice that was created by the tongue and the lips who are all those remarkable people at my Alma Mater- St. Anthony’s School and though there is so much I owe to this place for my creation, I cannot carry it with me.

I have always believed in introspection and over the years it has occurred to me how much of my present being (character, personality and the entire shebang) is actually shaped based on those seven years I spent in Giddha Pahar. For instance, I found my style of speaking to be an amalgamation of Vinanjay sir’s assertion and Monish sir’s persuasion (my class teachers in standard seven and eight). My approach to studies too was, for a long time, defined strongly on the manner I went about in school- having sacrosanct plans for the day, studying exactly what was told to me in classes and being anxious when I was unable to complete what was decided. The trust teachers placed in me made me implicitly believe that the world is fair and justice will prevail as long as my intentions were clear. I took the strong bonds of friendships with my classmates for granted wherein I felt that this is how friends are everywhere- that they care genuinely for your well-being. I lived in the belief that the journey reigns supreme over the destination and that if the path you follow is sincere, it is irrelevant whether you achieve the result. So much so that I grieved lesser for my 96 marks in computers than my teacher who dejectedly told me he expected a 100. In summation, school can be categorised by me as a protected but secluded world, a place where I lived believing in a fairy tale notion of life. That the outer world had so much in store for me, I could never have imagined.

I will share some of experiences which have had a strong influence on my life and hope they are interesting enough for others to learn from them. I was in the penultimate year of my college (VIT University, Vellore) studying undergrad civil engineering and had taken up an extra course which was ordinarily meant for postgrad students. My parents had come to Vellore for a check-up at CMC Hospital. On the day of my mother’s appointment with the doctor, I had an exam on this subject. About an hour before my exam, my mother called- breathless and nervous. She was lost in the alleys of the buildings and couldn’t find her way out. Language was a barrier too and she immediately called for me. Despite repeated attempts, I couldn’t calm her down. I decided I would go to the hospital and sort things out and request for a retest from my professor. The professor refused. It was against protocol. What I realised later was that I had implicitly believed that my retest would be taken without confirming from my professor first. This was ingrained in me since my school where I knew my teachers would understand my predicament and go out of their way to accommodate my request. This taught me a valuable lesson- I had erroneously assumed that if I believed my request was sincere, the world would believe it too. The teachers in St. Anthony’s were like family but outside, we have to follow procedure.

Ironically, I would say that I was unfortunate to not have really tasted failure in my school life. Over the past few years, I have had my share of failures. The first most harrowing experience was in high school where I learnt that just about everyone I met was either as good or even better than me. The debating was of a different level and style, the exposure of the students in the city to inter school events and activities was phenomenal- I mean even something like hand painting was so keenly contested- the activities here were so-varied and there were so-many opportunities in so-many fests in the so-many schools of the so-vast city. It was intimidating and daunting. I felt lost. Nonetheless, in the ocean now, I tried to swim with the big fish. It was a slow but learning process and most importantly, it was humbling. There were times when it felt easier to coop myself up and like children, close my eyes and pretend I can’t see the world in which I am only a speck and inconsequential. But thankfully, I persisted and tried to hold my own. One thing I learnt was never to be scared of competitions- just plunge headlong into them and more importantly, the fear of failure shouldn’t cross our minds. We fear failure because we feel we will be judged by it. Be willing to compete, be willing to fail and primarily, be willing to face those who mock and smile and say, ‘No big deal. I took a chance and gave it all I had with sincerity.’ And this is what matters most.

I remember our Headmaster used to frequently remark ‘Your conscience is under my guidance’. This implies that during the initial years of our life, our conscience is shaped strongly around the beliefs of our parents, teachers, relatives and friends. Especially for boarding school students, teachers have an overarching influence. As we grow, this ‘guidance’ is no longer an entitlement- we are expected to form our own opinions on important issues concerning our life in particular and the society in general. Herein, I have learnt that it is important to put every moral notion that we have been made to implicitly believe to the test of reason and discussion. For instance, don’t just state that forgiveness is a virtue; you should know the ‘why’. Even for the simplest and most generally accepted morals, question their genesis and then form your opinion. Learn to question things incessantly until you form strong beliefs; defend them boldly but be willing to accept something if it is superior to your logic. And all these beliefs define your identity. It is of paramount importance to answer the question, ‘Who am I’? I learnt this in college.

There was this English lecture in college in which in the discussion on equality of the genders several speakers vehemently stated how women were changing the world in all spheres, that their foray into all fields has immensely increased productivity, etc-all fine all good. However, as passions rose, further speakers began stating powerfully that women were in fact better than men in all aspects, that given a chance, they can prove their superiority to men in all fields. I took contention to this and stated to the assembly that if we state that women are superior we are in fact promoting the same denigration of inequality, only in this case the bias being against men. The professor (whose gender is irrelevant to the point I am trying to make) took offense to this and categorically called me a chauvinist who despises women whilst announcing that women are in fact better than men and we should learn to accept it. Surprisingly, this humiliation didn’t affect me at all. This is because I knew it strongly within me that I sincerely believe in true equality and that this person’s opinion shouldn’t rattle me in the least. Therefore, an understanding of our identity gives us confidence in ourselves and we can smile at someone while they may hurl profanities at us.

The world out there is filled with innumerable possibilities. It is more important to be aware of opportunities and developments in various fields. Don’t restrict yourselves to your textbooks. For instance if your syllabus mandates you to study about the Chauri Chaura incident, or Kharif crops or semiconductors or Shakespeare, don’t limit yourself to what your textbook says; seek other sources too. At your young age, you have the resource for which wars are fought-Time. Explore all avenues of learning and interests; take up new and interesting hobbies and discover yourself; of what you like most. Once you feel this strongly, find out about the opportunities across the world in your area of interest. There are a plethora of scholarship programs, leadership contests, research opportunities, etc. Be in the midst of all this action. Remember, all things around you will pass but you won’t get back this life. Don’t squander it over some small hurdle. I have faced many ups and downs in my little life- I have failed in subjects, I had been barred from sitting for any placement in my college for two months because I had a backlog, I have been in excruciating sorrow that only love can beget- I have rejected and been rejected in love, I have had the best of friends and been departed from them to distant cities, I have travelled the country from the deserts of Leh to the forests of Uttrakhand, the palaces of Jaipur to the beaches of Kerala and through all this I have learnt- Life goes on. Learn to give up; learn to fail and rise; learn to forgive and in the end of all this-smile. Make the most of what you have in the present and the future will definitely be brighter. Look upon yourselves as global citizens and don’t restrict yourself to identities defined by region, skin, language, gender, etc. I will end this article by a quote from Lord Buddha who said something to this effect: ‘You are more deserving of your love and affection than anybody esle in the entire Universe.’ So love yourself, live to the fullest and be sincere in all your actions.

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