It is dogged persistence that pays off, writer tells young students

Journalists thrive on bad news. Like vultures, they feast on dead bones. However, journos too are humans. If they move around with a microscope looking for malfunctioning municipal facilities, they also celebrate what is good in everyday life.

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In these festive days—and I am fully aware of the unspeakable miseries some fellow humans are being forced to endure currently on our planet and festivals have no meaning for them–good news came home.

 I was at my favourite neighborhood cafe writing a story when my younger daughter Sara called to inform that her elder sister Nayab secured 89.93 percentile in the CAT exam 2023. Since I am not into management studies and hardly know ABC of it, I took help of my young friend Dr Rehan Ansari. A management guru, Rehan teaches and mentors MBA aspirants and students at some prestigious colleges. Rehan explained to me that this score (89.93 percentile) is really good. He was also happy that my daughter got this score with actual preparation of just three months. Had she got some more time to prepare, her score could have gone up.

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But I don’t believe in hypothesis. Like a karmyogi, I believe ‘you reap as you sow’. Try you must to excel, but don’t get disheartened if you miss the target. Like Dev Anand (Hum Dono) move with the evergreen song on your lips:

Jo mil Gaya usi ko muqaddar samajh liya
Jo kho Gaya main usko bhulata chala gaya

To return to the topic, I came home and congratulated Nayab for giving her best to the test. We had a small celebration at home with a feast of rosogollas, kala jamuns and mango malai. Small celebrations do matter in life.

Even if she doesn’t get into any of the IIMs, she will certainly get to do MBA at a good college. Here I remember late Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. Once the widely-read, famously wise Maulana said that many people spoil their chances to go places in life by imposing some strict conditions on themselves. They think that they deserve to be number one in all competitions and refuse to settle down for the number two position. They think they are super intelligent and it is below their dignity to get anything less than first class. However, history shows that those who exhaust their energy in winning the game in a single shot get fatigued and are out of the show. But those who go slowly preserve their energy, live for another day.

It is natural that parents keep high hopes from their children. My wife and I had thought that our eldest child Nayab would crack NEET and join medical profession. We put her into a coaching centre too. Everything went smoothly for the first year. In the second year, the Pandemic came and her classes went online. She couldn’t follow much of what was taught. Consequently, she didn’t find herself prepared to take the tough entrance exam. A fortnight ahead of the test, she put her foot down, refusing to appear for the test. On the exam day, as heavens opened and rains lashed the city, my wife shed copious tears. She thought her world had ended as her daughter would not become a doctor. I was not perturbed at all. I was cool. I recalled how my own father had mourned when I announced to him that I was not going to study science and become a doctor.

“Maine kab apne baap ki suni thi Jo meri beti meri sunegi,” I said. Life doesn’t end with one career option. Tu nahin aur sahi, aur nahin aur sahi.

The cardinal sin many parents commit is when they expect too much from their kids. Let the child bloom, let them achieve their own goals, not your goals.

The news of students’ committing suicide at “Kota coaching factory” is now so frequent that the town has been notoriously nicknamed “Suicide City.” Why are young and intelligent students taking the extreme step of committing suicide? Because they cannot cope with the pressure under which they live.
Suicidal thoughts are not new to youngsters. When a young mind starts living with guilt of not living up to the expectations of society, it gets depressed. Quitting by killing self seems to him the best option. In north Indian rural parlance this is described as:

Na rahega baans, na bajegi bansuri.

Our first priority as parents should be to find the way to keep our children happy. If my daughter didn’t want to become a doctor, who was I to force her to study medicine?

Give them guidance and counseling by all means, but don’t try to achieve something that you couldn’t.
In my own life there came a moment which can be called really very precautious. I have told this story earlier. But I must tell it again.

When I was in college in Patna and dreaming to become a journalist and making my own plans silently, my father heard of it and got enormously worried. He reminded me of my own promise that I would prepare for the Civil Services. Now that I was changing my mind again, he had reasons to be disturbed.
I had published hundreds of letters to the editors in various English dailies. I justifiably saw and continue to see them as seeds for my future profession. They were like my babies. But seeing my father getting miserable at my refusal to budge, I began blaming those published missives which were carefully and neatly filed. I saw them as roadblocks in the path that my father wanted to choose for me. I began seeing those letters as my enemies.

One late afternoon, in a fit of rage, I took the bunch of letters and walked towards the mighty Ganga in Patna. The Ganga was placid, benevolently flowing as it has done for time immemorial. Barring the times when it changes mood and wrecks havoc with floods.

I had decided to give my letters–those babies which I had burnt midnight lamps to create–a silent burial. I wanted to send them to the watery graves.

I was about to throw them into the ancient river when a hidden force held my hands back. A voice told me: “Don’t be stupid. Don’t strangulate the babies with your own hands. These are your creations. You have spent precious time and energy, writing and rewriting them. You spent time typing them out and personally delivering them to the newspapers’ offices.”

I listened to that voice. Put those letters back into the file and returned home. A few days later, I was on the Magadh Express Train to Delhi where late Zeyaul Haq, a magazine editor, was delightfully suprised to see this thin, bespectled boy in his 20s opening up the huge letters’ file on his table. The editor smiled and took the boy under his wings.

Letter writing graduated to article writing. One year later, the boy was once again on an express train, this time to the dream city then called Bombay. On an uncharted journey in a strange but compassionate city. Bombay never disappoints someone who has patience and determination to fight the odds. The boy had nothing to lose. He fought his battles doggedly.

Fortune only favours the brave. Landing and quitting jobs–paper after paper–the boy entered the iconic building reverentially and fondly called “The Old Lady of Boribundar”–The Times of India.

Just imagine what brought me here. Would have I been the same person had I thrown my published letters to the editors into the Ganga that late afternoon in Patna?

This story is not for self-praise or glorification. It is neither unique nor very extraordinary. It is for my daughter’s generation to understand that Rome was not built in a day. Every goal needs sacrifices. And advance planning with meticulous execution does bring you success.

So, don’t get disheartened if you don’t get the best B-school or any other institution in India or abroad. Settle for the second best.

Happy holidays.

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