My friend Alexa: Rant post 4 -Learning should be fun

A recent ad on TV shows a kid developing an app after learning coding and a bunch of investors starts fighting at his doorstep for funding his venture. The ad drew a lot of flak on social media for its insensitive content. While the idea of learning coding at an early age might not be a bad idea, luring people into unnecessary competitiveness and showcasing unrealistic dreams are both unacceptable. This ad reminded me of the multiple instances when I would coax my parents to buy a jar of Horlicks/viva/complain because I felt that the products would lead to my growing intelligence.

But the utopian world created by the advertisement industry is for another day. While growing up, I believed that my father’s favourite lines were ‘learning is fun.’ I didn’t realize how much those words took away the pressure to perform, to be a topper, or crack every competitive exam. I excelled at academics because I had a family who celebrated every small achievement with love. In turn, studies became a source of happiness for me. When people ask how difficult it is to get back to academics in the late thirties, I say it is fun. Probably, my best years of life comprise memories of my academic life.

It is only after my son started school last year that I learnt to appreciate my parents’ outlook towards learning and knowledge. As a mother, I don’t think I have that level of confidence and calmness. I still get rebuked by Baba if I ever use a parameter to compare my son’s performance with anyone else. Over the last few months, online classes have brought out the darker side of competitiveness in many parents. Irrespective of the age of the kids, parents fight to create a favourable impression for the child. Every time, I feel like joining the race, I remind myself that the race has only begun.

The issue lies in the education system of our country, where marks are given precedence over knowledge or applied skills. The parameters for success begins at high scores, getting into any prestigious institute and then seeking conventional career choices. None of this should be a problem if the child is happy and acquires skills relevant to his choice of career. But the number of students committing suicides is growing at an alarming rate and most of them crumble under the unnecessary expectations of parents and society.

I could have continued with the doctorate program at India’s top institute and become unhappier every day. Instead, I chose to quit and enter the corporate world. I didn’t need to explain my decision because my happiness meant the world to my parents. After MBA, I became a banker more by chance than by choice. When life gave me an option to take a sabbatical post-delivery, I reconnected with my love for written words and decided to make writing my profession. It wasn’t an easy choice either, but it makes me happy, and the same joy spills over to my personal and professional life. Going by the parameters that judge success, I am not sure where I can fit in. But, if I revisit my learning curve, it has only followed an upward slope.

And I hope I can raise my son with the same thought of enjoying the process of knowledge acquisition and learning how to apply practical ideas to theories. The reforms in the education system might still be a long route, but dismantling the parameters that separate success and failure on an individual level might be the first step towards a happier future for children.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  This blog post is the fourth and last rant post for this season.

Durga Puja begins tomorrow onwards, and quite a few of us have consciously chosen to stay safe by staying indoors. I intend to take a virtual trip down the memory lane over the next four posts and post pictures from the puja celebrations of the last few years.

Update for the month of June 2020

It’s been more than a month that I have published a post. Usually, I write about planning a break before taking a hiatus. But this time life didn’t give me a chance to organize the clutter that I landed myself in.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought our lives to a stand-still. Most of us don’t even know what to expect next. For the last 100 days, it has been one of the most difficult phases of my life. With the ongoing MFA course, where I had the mandatory classes running from Feb until this month, my schedule had turned hectic. Then the 4.9-year-old kid started his session break and schools were closed for an indefinite period. My father, who was away at our native place, was stuck there all alone for 3 months. My in-laws, who had come to come to spend the vacation with their beloved grandchild, had to stay back for more than 90 days. But it was my husband, a doctor by profession, who had it the toughest. While the lockdown was tumultuous for us as a family, he had no option but to continue with his duty to serve the sick.

The man on a mission
The man on a mission

If there’s anything that didn’t let me crumble during this stressful phase of life, it is my writing. I posted on humor in April through the A2Z challenge series. In May, I finished one of my mandatory classes in the MFA course. But June has been unusually difficult to get through. My in-laws left and Baba returned home. My son started online classes and he started missing his father even more. It is heartbreaking to see the kids trying to talk to each other and wave at their friends in the virtual world of connection that has become the new normal of their childhood.

The new phase of online classes
The new phase of online classes

My husband and I have known each other for 21 years now, out of which we have been married for 9. We will be celebrating our 9th anniversary this 20th June followed by Father’s Day on 21st June. It gets tough to keep the emotions in control when I see the child yearn for his Babai. I still don’t know if my husband will manage to get the weekend off from his duty and come down to Kolkata from his place of posting. Yet, I am praying hard that the child gets to wish his father in person and not over yet another video call, that has become a part of our survival strategy now.

At Cherrapunji in happier times
At Cherrapunji in happier times

I don’t have a topic to write about today or even this month because, to be honest, I am still trying to stay afloat. I hope to come up with a guest post before the month ends and plan for a theme for July. Until then, I hope you are taking care of yourselves and staying safe. Don’t forget to nurture your mental health in stressful times like these. See you soon.