“One student commits suicide every 55 minutes in India”, a headline flashed on my TV screen as I got ready for a long day.
That headline shook me. It was a tight slap in the face of all the parents, who believed our schools were making kids stronger and wiser. This headline was mocking at their trust as well as mine. But, it was more than the headline that shook me. It was ugly memories that started surfacing. And, today I am going to share one particular memory with a hope that a little Madhu somewhere might read it and find her hope and strength in this story.
If you have excelled at solving algebraic equations or remembering chemical reactions, then this story isn’t for you.
This story is for someone who was a failure at them. And, wants to know if Life is just a mathematical equation or chemical reaction. Or, is there more to life?
My childhood was tough.
Like any other kid whose parents were in a transferable job, growing up was hard for me. Friends would change so would my home and school. The only thing that remained constant was Change. The two things that couldn’t keep pace with the frequent movements were my studies and me. Saying ‘good-bye’ to friends is never easy. But, during those days it was even more painful because the only mode of communication available at that time was letters. Goodbye meant that I won’t meet them again and our friendship will get restricted to some words in letters.
Adjusting to a new school was a big challenge. New teachers, new classmates, and sometimes, new syllabus too. Under these circumstances, it was difficult for me to cope up and my marks dropped like a sinking ship. Fortunately, my parents never scolded me for my results. But, the reactions of teachers and few classmates used to bring tears to my eyes. They used to make me feel not-good-enough; not adequate; which was a huge blow to my self-respect.
In the midst of continuous change, there was a constant.
Like a true life companion, it would wipe off my tears, build my wounded self-respect and turned me into a warrior, who refused to give up on her dreams and herself. And, that was ART.
While I was in 9th class, my father received another transfer letter. The news made me sad, the current city was nice and I was doing well in studies too. We shifted to Darbhanga. I joined a CBSE affiliated school and this was a turning point in my life. I joined the school after the summer holidays and had no idea of the syllabus.
I still remember my first day at school. The first period was mathematics; the teacher wrote an algebraic equation on the board and asked me to solve it. Since I missed my school for a month, I failed. What happened next has remained within me forever. The teacher laughed in front of the whole class and said,
“You know nothing and you are just wasting your father’s hard-earned money. Go back home, learn some cooking and get married.”
As the whole class laughed at me, tears rolled down my eyes. I cried a lot that day. Because not only my potential but my existence was being questioned. Why? Because I couldn’t solve one equation. I wish someone could have told me that life is much more than algebra. You don’t need to learn formula of oxygen to breathe Life.
Getting punishment became an integral part of my daily routine. I was not just losing in studies, but I was losing in the game of life too. I felt lonely, stressed and anxious. My only ray of hope was my best friend Sonia. I used to share everything with her. One day she took me to her aunt’s place. Her aunt was a famous Madhubani artist. She used to sell sarees and stoles to art curators from India and abroad.
The moment I saw Madhubani art; I fell in love with it.
I asked them if they could teach me. But, they had no time. So, they let me learn by observing the artists. I picked up the art form very quickly. I also helped them in understanding the real worth of their art in the international market, which helped them in making more money. Suddenly, I started picking up the pieces of my shattered confidence and putting them together on the canvass of Madhubani painting to get my esteem back.
It felt as if I had found my super-power. The super-power of handling life failures in stride. Slowly and gradually I managed to pull myself to a level when the school punishments stopped. And, I understood that school might be about a mathematical equation. But, Life Isn’t. If life would have been a mathematical equation, then why these 18 world-renowned mathematicians committed suicide (Read the list here)
Art not only helped me in school but has helped me in every stage of life.
It gave my family hope when we went through financial troubles; It gave me strength when life challenged me as a mother; It gave my kid beauty when he was surrounded by ugliness and despair. So parents, let your kids paint their dreams even if they can’t fulfill expectations of our mal-functioned or broken education system.
Because life is not a mathematical equation but an art, that enables you to find yourself and lose yourself at the same time.
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