Sep 04, 2016

Teacher, A Joy, But…They did it, Not Me!

Renuka Kamath

I watched her animated face as she spoke her mind. She said ‘I had two offers on campus and only two people in my life advised me to make the tougher choice. You were one of them. I have no idea why I chose the tougher one, but I did! Yes you asked me to make the choice to get into sales and not take the more attractive other offer.’ Honestly as I heard her, I wasn’t sure where this was leading and was wondering if she was going to accuse me of something I had inadvertently done. But then she said ‘It was very very tough. I went through periods of hating my choice. And I did learn and I am a better person today! I’ve learned resilience, a strange discerning ability of people, the ability to negotiate and convince. Thank you for helping me become a stronger person.’ It was easy for me to feel good about this and yes, give myself credit…why not? I did feel a sense of pride in what I was hearing and what she was feeling. She went on, earnestly and said much more. I kept listening, feeling good, watching this rather transformed shy and quiet girl whom I had taught in college.

After she was gone, I stepped back in my mind and thought over our conversation. It was obvious I had credited myself with too much. She had taken that decision, she had had the resilience to go and crack large government deals, and she had sat in those miserable unhelping bureaucratic offices and persuaded bureaucrats! She had the tensile strength to persist on months of unachievable targets for months, before she cracked her first deal and then there was no looking back. She did it, not me!

‘I can’t cope. It is hopeless. Life is hopeless. I am hopeless. I’m no good on this earth,’ he said. I listened anxiously, a feeling of helplessness rising in me. I wanted to stop him and I tried to, but his mind wouldn’t. I couldn’t stop his mind, could I? He continued after a pause ‘I enrolled for an MBA to please my father. I think I also wanted to prove to him that I could make it to a top school. Don’t know if he is still proud of me. But now I don’t want to go on. Everyone here is smarter than me and they know what they want. They are intelligent and they are clear about their future. I am a misfit here. Enough is enough. This is painful for everyone.’ By now I was at the edge of my chair and asked the next best thing that came to my mind (I am a bit quirky that way) ‘Do you have a girl friend?’ He looked at me like I had lost it! He gave me an incredulous look and a funny smile…ah, I thought there is hope. I thought I had hit the truth, till he said ‘My father would kill me if I had one’.

Shoulders slumped I resigned to listening, all the time wondering how he was going to clear his next exam and how he could make-up all those ‘F’s he was seeing in the horizon. Why hadn’t he been able to pursue his other talent (can’t reveal this talent without revealing his identity) for which he had a degree from the best college in London! A talent that would have made him happy and extremely successful. It was tough. My colleague and I kept a close eye on him and his friends in his batch helped out, never leaving him alone. The day he graduated, I received a mail from his father thanking me and the institute for looking after his son and ensuring he ‘survived’ the grueling time he went through. Two years after he graduated, I received a mail from him telling me about how well he was doing. That made me feel really good. But well, think about it, he went through a tough time (we all do at some time or the other), battled odds not against others but himself, is a successful executive, married and settled in a foreign land. He did it, not me!

‘I had a lot of odds before I got here. Too many aspirations and very few resources in my family. Giving up my job hasn’t been welcomed by my family and they don’t understand MBA. Too much rests on my success from here. I don’t have the luxury a few others have of enjoying their time here,’ he said to me solemnly. I’d always tell him to relax and give himself a few minutes of joy for the wins he had during his time on campus and he would with a serious look tell me that there was way too much to be done. I was worried about him, as I marvelled at his persistence and resilience at the number of failures that came his way during his first year. To watch him struggle through the Autumns internship placement was painful. Rejection after rejection is never easy to take. He said he hated the environment…envied his friends. He then decided to take my advice and go for a long walk away from the campus for a breath of fresh air. The beach was the last place I thought he would choose for a walk and my heart was in my mouth when he texted me! But then how little credit we at times give this generation. Today he is doing well, happy and ably supporting his family. We sometimes recall his troubled MBA days and he thanks me for being there. I in turn marvel at his resilience and strength of character. He did it; not me!

There is still ample room for improvement in me; my life. A number of students have touched my life and made me a better person.

They did it, not me!

They are the teachers, not me!

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