Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What it feels like to be a Dumb Child

“He’s the most talkative boy in class, but also really smart, and my favorite.”

It’s difficult being one of the top scorers in class, and lucky. Definitely lucky. To begin with, there’s a high chance that you have parents who really care for your brilliance in academic pursuits, while also stuffing a buffet plate of extra-curricular activities down your throat. And then, there’s the diligence with which you prepare for class tests or exams – mostly out of the fear of not making the parental Shiva open his third eye. For a top scorer, life begins with a fear of meeting expectations, first of the Mata-Pita who believe their child is an incarnation of Vishnu; and then, a few years later, expectations of everyone around, which the protagonist will disguise in the words “expectations from self”.

While this may sound supremely immodest, I have lived my share of being an “intelligent boy” over the years, mostly by accident. All my cousins were asked to be as smart as I was, when the only basis of evaluating smartness was a figure assigned to you by the Board of Secondary Education at a time when you were already bored of secondary education. The sibling would be given a hard time with multiple applications requesting emulation of the elder brother’s behavior of a susheel, adarshvaadi and ten on ten scoring individual. Teachers in school found it easy to nominate students for council positions just like people in the neighborhood found it easy to nominate me as a friend for their children’s social circles. The perks were there, of course, as was a belief in the golden rule that hard work paid off.

The hard work gradually translated to guilt when I grew up and realized that I was doing better at exams by studying on the last day, while a few of my friends put in much more effort, studying for days and still wouldn’t manage to touch a rank worthy of a discussion. The guilt would make me work a little harder, in an attempt to justify to self that I probably deserved the kind of academic “success” I had so far seemed to accidentally achieve. People would come up to me for advice and inspiration, and I would silently thank my parents for having pushed me enough through the years to help develop those mental faculties, while I doled out life advice like it was a batch of fresh, puffy bhature from the local sweet shop on a Sunday morning.

However, the academic façade aside, I would feel like an absolute fool for not having any interest in political happenings around the world, being so non-opinionated about things that seemed to matter in this age and time, sucking monkey balls at Math, and generally, being an over-emotional goofball who was far away from achieving the more important goals in life, like being “street smart”. But I would hold the blanket of academic scores closer, hoping the shroud wouldn’t fall off in a gust of wind and make everyone realize how stupid I really am, and so undeserving of all the things that so happened. The impostor syndrome, clearly, is not a gender specific disorder.

Circa 2016 brought with itself an opportunity to spend a year with some of the country’s best brains at one of India’s top B-schools, also known as a parallel universe so confined in these few self-sustaining acres that the world has literally been crushed to a patch of land that I temporarily call home. With the rigorous curriculum, I feel literally cut off from life outside of this campus, while ironically gaining wider perspective about global business in such confinement.

As one accidental entry among a group of deserving peers, I now find myself scrounging for an opportunity to excel, while the others sprint through academic rigor and performance with such elan. The shroud finally slips and in all honesty, I feel more than judged on a number of occasions.

I constantly seem to live in the anxiety of people judging me on my academic grades, and disregarding all value that any other skill could bring. Even though I know people have better channels to invest their leisure thoughts in, it makes me wonder if this anxiety is what every child goes through who feels he is unable to meet their parents’ expectations of academic outperformance.

I try really hard to grasp concepts requiring high quantitative abilities with as much swiftness as my peers from engineering backgrounds do. I acknowledge how their training in quantitative subjects over the years gives them an edge in this regard, and I should not beat myself about it. But it makes me wonder how much a person’s experiences and learnings over the years contribute to their intellectual placement in the social hierarchy. It clearly does, and it’s sad when I realize that outside of this campus, the world is brutal enough to quickly pass judgment and call someone stupid while completely disregarding the various tangibles and intangibles one may have been blessed with as a matter of pure luck, which may have led to that academic advantage.

Having underperformed on one criterion that is of prime importance at this “school”, the blow to my confidence permeates to other areas of my life. I question my worth in this place. I question my ability to make a difference in anyone’s life. I wonder, and then I, at times, succumb to the more comfortable yet exceedingly difficult to perform activity of letting go. While I find my way through this place and attempt to make my own little space, I wonder how difficult it must be to go through the same outside of this confinement, when the population size is large and thankfully more heterogeneous.

As I feel gratitude for the plethora of opportunities this place provides, I feel more thankful for the learning I will take back in terms of valuing each individual for their strengths beyond parameters of academic performance, monetary growth, social popularity or other such criteria that tend to give us a sense of superiority over others.

As a “dumb child” that the society I currently see would seem to call me, I can assure you that I have tried and I will continue to do so. But I would need the world to encourage me enough so that I find my own criterion to outperform on during my time here on this planet. I would hope you will continue to do so regardless of the size of your planet.

"He's the most talkative guy in class, and also my favorite."

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  1. I don't know how much others would relate to this, but i do, 100 percent. Just because we were one of the andhon mein kaana rajas at school, we'r expected to shit gold all the damn time. I relate with the guilt, and I relate with using my intelligence over my diligence. I relate with failing and sucking at math and doling out advice. At this age when I'm vying for a college after 12th, the amount of competition and my inadequacy in front of the super high scorers baffles me. I wish to be the same person who was given gifts like bicycles and guitars because 5th mein top maara. Oh how I relate with this, Sarthak. You've done it again, hitting the bull's eye. Thankyou for this. thankyou.

    P.S : I relate with being the talkative academic overachiever too. :')

  2. I can't say I relate completely. I was a top scorer till class 10th, but it didn't take me long to realize where I really stood in terms of academic intellect when I was thrown in with a bunch of IIT and AIIMS aspirants in plus two. Still, at the time I didn't feel dumb. I knew what my calling was, and despite not being a 90 percenter, I was more sure of what my future would look like than most of my classmates. And as for being street-smart, I have been a blessed kid in that regard. I learned to pull my shit together and look out for myself at an early age, because that's how my parents raised me.

    But I see where you're coming from. Being at an institute where only the best come gives you that sort of perspective. Most of the time I feel like I ended up in this place as a huge mistake. I quickly realized that school scores are in fact the stupidest way to judge somebody's intellect. There are people around me whose minds work at an altogether different level, so much so that I wish I could get a hold of one of their brains, unscrew it, and see what exactly is going on in there. I can only hope that one day I'll be able to match the calibre of these creative prodigies.

    I like this honest, self-baring turn that your blog has taken lately. I like how it helps me get some insight. Keep it up!

  3. Long ago I came across your blog accidentally and love happened!I felt a strong bond with your words! But soon lost the link to read you!
    Today,I met with an accident again!💛
    B.Com(h), CA, CS! Thus, I know what it feels like to be a dumb child.
    Whenever you next meet the most talkative child of the class let him know of my intense love for him!
    I am opening you a halwai shop, and deleting the word diet from my dictionary today!


  4. This is so so beautiful and honest. I don't relate one bit because never had the charm or the grey cells, but I most definitely loved this :). Leave the fear and anxiety for us average lads man!

  5. Hi Sarthak, honestly this article was suggested to me by a friend and I was not gonna read it, but when I started reading I could relate with the guy. Currently pursuing my MBA from one the so called "Top B-Schools of India", I felt I do not deserve this place as people are so competitive and intelligent that I feel myself as "Dumb" amongst them. Because of alot of things I failed my Fist year, though people still love me("one of the most talkative boy") but I have let down myself in my own eyes. But your article made me realize that there is a whole different world outside this campus which might accept the talents I have and ignoring my academics of this college. Really a nice article. Keep writing.

  6. Awesome and interesting article. Great things you've always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post. keep up and thanks for this. it's time to avail this Gutter Cleaning Services In Oakland Ca visit here for more details.

  7. Children who have learning difficulties may feel like they are always falling behind their friends and may find it difficult to understand ideas Brochure design company that others seem to understand with ease. Feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt may result from this.


If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D