The benchmark 

Things seldom change drastically. Things usually happen and their occurrences also happen to be in cycles. I bet it was sometime around 1998, my first biggest failure in life till then. The math exam had gone horribly wrong. I went from being an above the average bloke to the mayor of damnation town of fails-ville. The number is still fresh in my memory. I had scored 18 out of a whopping 50 in math. 

Till that point, I had never set aside the time to sit down and seriously study. I never bunked my classes and whatever I could assimilate in the class was usually good enough to pass all exams in moderately decent colours. The shock got to me. It felt weird to flunk an exam. It was a cycle test of sorts, the numbers really didn’t matter but they did help us figure out where we stood. 

Then again, unlike most sensible folks, I didn’t vouch to make changes to life, make that time to sit down and seriously focus on my studies. To hell with that. I decided to live with that disappointment and not so surprisingly , it barely took me any time to get over it. The fear had slowly seeped into my heart. I’ve struggled with math ever since. 

There are nights when I still have nightmares about repeating school through classes 11 and 12 all over again. The first time that nightmare kicked in, the next morning I rushed to my dad to see my engineering degree again. I wanted the assurance of it being legit and the comforts of knowing , beyond all reasonable fearful doubts, that I had indeed cleared all my exams. 

Yeah, it was the most horrible failure of my life back in the day. The funny irony to life is that once we declare something as ‘THE MOST’ crushing failure of life, it does end up setting a benchmark of sorts. From failed exams to squandered relationships, from staying stranded to being financially broke a given month, the failures have been many and at different points in time, for different failures, I’ve had the audacity to call them as the single most crushing failure of my life, SO FAR. 

Remember when I started my blog suggesting that events occur in cycles, I meant that. The nature of failures have been relatively the same. The initial panic has always been the same. That feeling of immediate helplessness, that taste of doom, the mind going blank, the paralysis of fear, well , none of them have ever changed. The only thing that has changed is my realization that things happen, sometimes we fail, some more than the rest, but failure is inevitable. The only thing that has changed in me is the realization that the failure might not be the biggest failure of my life forever! It probably would not get inducted into the hall of shame of all the failures that have challenged me over time. 

Things seldom change. The one thing that has a capacity to change is the way we choose to react to that failure. Our choices make that difference. Our choices define what we are and what our life is all about. So, how come the blog about exams and failures. Just so happened that I saw a flood of posts on my facebook wall about exams and results and safe guarding kids against thoughts of suicide. 

It is a serious problem that I wouldn’t dare joke about. I’m probably the luckiest bloke in the planet. My folks did take all my failures with a pinch of salt and have never imposed a thought that I’ve lost a life because of my mistakes. They’ve always stood by me, telling me that I could do better , if only I put my mind to it. That has always been my strength. The assurance that no matter how messy things get because of my actions, my parents would probably remind me to do a better job next time around. They’d never remind me that I goofed it all up because I’ve been useless and worthless. 
It’s not that parents would wake up any given day and decide to use cold cruel words to taunt their kids. The expectations that parents carry in their hearts, the dreams that they carry in their eyes, it would be rather dim to assume that kids are unaware of them. kids pick cues faster than us adults. They have an affinity to sense the context, sense the gravity of the situation. They do lack the maturity to understand repercussions or the longevity of such consequences. It takes us , adults, a lifetime to realize that nothing lasts forever and especially our failures. How could we expect such awareness from kids? 

Anyways, exams and results time. Hope your kids have fared well. Laddus are in order. In case they fail, chillax. They’d go on to write the story of their lives in the way they see fit. If one can’t even fail, then what else can one be capable of? 

Karthik 

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