Friday, February 06, 2009

Talent, thy Name is Tanima

Tanima, I recently discovered, is blessed with talent. She can draw and paint, knit and crochet, design and sew, cook and create. That's a whole lot of skills, I would concede. Ever since I was young, my parents being Bengali parent prototypes, frowned on too much of extra-curricular activities, be they physical and strenuous or indoor and sedentary. Hence Mitu (my sibling) hardly found occasion to develop her evident passions for art and dancing, while I was not even the remotest bit encouraged to learn singing (thought in that my parents were a notable exception, since one of the most marriage-worthy features of Bengali girls are their mellifluous vocal flourishes) or any form of sports (although I was considered a decent athlete in school, especially in running and broad jump). While children of our age but enrolled in schools affiliated to other boards made the most of their evenings amidst games and giggles, we were advised to concentrate on our homework and hone our reading and spelling skills. Our longing glances outside the window at the fortunate others and our innocent childish comparisons were interpreted as rebellious rants and criticised with befitting asperity. Quite naturally, both of us grew up sallow and sickly, our immune systems ill-developed and our aesthetic aspirations nipped in the bud. I was fortunate enough to fare well academically but my sister, alas, was a victim of our educational system, too mediocre to do our parents proud. When I had the intrepidity of advising her to refrain from taking up science at the higher secondary stage, my parents (and so-called well-wishers) suspected the nobility of my intentions. She did not fare well in the concerned exam. Not because she was not intelligent but because she could not relate to science and the excessive dedication necessary to do decently in the board exams. And so surprise surprise, the victim became the scapegoat herself.

When I outraged my father by deciding to pursue English at JU instead of appearing for the Joint Entrance Examinations and consequently, entering the hallowed (and what's more, tested, tried and typecast) portals of medicine or engineering, most people (especially relatives) suspected that I had failed to clear the former exams. I persevered, undaunted, and did manage to draw the attention of most of the professors who matter (and are living legends, so to say) at JU. My attachment to my subject was so strong that although I did burn the oil at all ends and do quite well in both my graduate and post-graduate levels, I actually managed to thoroughly enjoy the whole tenure too. However, it was then that I discovered at the numerous college fests, to my immense dismay, that there lay a whole wide world beyond the academic threshold, where people were respected and even celebrated for their innate talents in singing, dancing, debating, dramatic acting, drawing or athletic abilities. Where they won accolades and were remembered for years to come, with fondness and envy, respect and even reverence.

And later, when I worked as counsellor and tutor at an institute in South Kolkata offering guidance, training and counselling services to students who wished to pursue higher studies abroad, I discovered that their target countries preferred all-rounders to mere rankers. Where just showing a decent GRE score would not ensure entry into an esteemed school or university. And when I went to interview people in the course of freelancing for a newspaper story on MBA as the latest career fad for 'The Statesman', this fact was reinforced by the astonishing avowal of the Regional Manager of the leading CAT-training institute in Kolkata, that even the IIMs considered the CAT score one of numerous other eligibility criteria to study the much desired stream. Extracurricular activies scored well there too. I was traumatised.

I have now learned to respect anything and everything that lies beyond the scope of our limited educational endeavours in India. I was the strongest and only supporter of Mitu when she proved drastically radical in her choice of career and went for fashion designing. I knew she had potential and would do justice to all the expenses that would be incurred in course of her academic training. I would not allow my parents to repeat the mistake they had made with me. I won prizes for art in school (in MHS). I did well in needlework class. Friends tell me I have a melodious voice and should have had it trained professionally. If my parents supported me, I might have taken up interior decoration. It fascinates me and I honestly believe I might have an aptitude for it. But maybe it's too late. Maybe I'm too old to start anew.

That's why I take vicarious enjoyment in Tanima's gifts. She says her parents rued her academic medicrity. I encourage her to overrule such orthodox assessments and believe, instead, that she is naturally gifted. Everyone, with a little effort, can do well in academics. You need to be blessed like Tanima to have other talents. God-gifted ones.




Casuarina said...

Quoting Ayan's email :

"Hallowed portal or medicine and engineering!!!!

I take offence, though I still aspire to be a pastry chef and as
far as my culinary skill goes, should still be able to do that...ahem!"

Clytemnestra said...

Hey I don't think its ever too late to learn. And my dear should I do a guest post outlining your many talents that never cease to inspire and amaze me? :)

Casuarina said...

@ Ayan : How abt fulfilling your pet project instead of taking offence ? :)

@ Clytemnestra : Thanks, girl, for believing in me to that extent. Kindly accept a virtual blush, Ma'am ! :)


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