Another page from my dateless Delhi diary…
The date and the year are of less consequence; it was a hot April afternoon. I saw the three of them walking on the footpath in Subroto Park and offered them a lift. They got into the car hesitantly.
“Thank you Sir. I am Ravindra Sharma, he is my brother Navin and he is my son, Ajay (names changed),” one of them broke the ice as they settled in the car.
“I am Group Captain Ashok Chordia,” I introduced myself and asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“We have to board a train from Nizamuddin railway Station. It will be kind of you, if you could leave us at the nearest bust stop on your way,” he urged.
“The Station is on my way. I’ll leave you there.”
“So nice of you, sir.”
Then there was prolonged silence. The three sat quietly, perhaps not knowing what to talk about. I have experienced this type of a mix of reticent and introverted behaviour on the part of simple people in the presence of strangers. In the presence of service officers, the behaviour seems to be more pronounced.
It was going to be a fairly long (15 kms) drive along the Inner Ring Road and was going to take in excess of 30 minutes. Silence with four people sitting in the car would be menacing.
“You don’t seem to belong to Delhi?” I initiated a polite meaningless conversation.
“Sir, we belong to Kota. We were here for a counselling session for Ajay.”
“How was it? What does your son intend doing?”
“Just so. I am disappointed with his board exams result,” said the father with concern.
“What’s the matter?”
“Sir, he has scored 94 per cent marks. He just doesn’t read. If he studies properly, he can get more marks. He wants to do engineering. Why don’t you advise him, please?”
My jaw dropped. “Here is a father dissatisfied with his son scoring enviable marks, and he wants me to guide him? What advice do I render a kid who in my assessment is brilliant,” I wondered.
I did not want to disappoint the father so I continued talking. In a while I realised that the boy was very intelligent and could understand concepts rather fast. Therefore he used to take less time as compared to others to complete his assignments. Repetition used to bore him and that’s where his ideas conflicted with his father.
With much thought I came out with a piece of advice to him, “If you read more books of each subject you will have a deeper understanding of the concepts. Solving question papers and numerical problems from different books will give you a strong base. Lastly, if you still have time, devote it to improving your communication skills––an effort that will stand you in good stead, what ever you do later in life.” All three were listening to me intently.
“Sir, I’ll do as you have suggested,” assured Ajay.
“That’s good. You are capable of better performance and must try to exploit your ability to grasp things fast to broaden your knowledge base and communication skills.”
The father was happy with the interaction. At the railway station, I took him aside and advised him to give a freer hand to the boy to manage his studies. I told him that meddling with his approach to academics might be counter-productive.
The chapter was over, I thought.
A month later, I received a call from Ravindra, “Sir, you have cast a magic spell on my son. He is a transformed being now. I want to thank you for making a difference.”
“I am happy to hear that. I hope he continues to work that way. Convey my good wishes to him.” We exchanged some niceties before disconnecting.
It was not over yet.
A few months later, I received another call from Ravindra, which put me in a very difficult situation. “Sir, I am in dire need of your advice. Ajay wants to take a sabbatical and prepare for IIT entrance examination. If he doesn’t get through, a year will be wasted. What shall we do?”
In a few seconds which seemed to last an eternity, I gave a thought to Ravindra’s request for advice. I realised that he had called me with great hope. I found it difficult to turn down his request. But then, what advice could I give him?
I collected my thoughts and organised them in the few seconds in which we exchanged less important information. Then I started, “Ravindra, our lifespan is 75 to 80 years if we lead a decent life. One year in a lifespan of 75-80 years is a small fraction; it is insignificant. If you allow, Ajay to have his way, he will put in his heart and soul in the preparation and, in all probability, he’ll get through. It will be great if that happens. If he doesn’t get through, the hard work that he puts in through the year will not go a waste. The knowledge that he will gain, will stand him in good stead in whichever college he joins subsequently. Besides, if he doesn’t make it to the IIT, he will come to know of his limitations. One last thing… if you let him take a sabbatical wholeheartedly and support him in his endeavour, without bothering about the end result, he will love and respect you more than he does now. I feel he deserves your willing support.” Ravindra thanked me profoundly for sharing my thoughts.
For the next few months, I waited eagerly to hear from him. There was silence.
Much later, when I had forgotten everything, Ravindra called me again. It was a courtesy call. “How do you do, Sir!? All’s well here. Ajay is doing very well. He’ll be an engineer soon. He joins me in conveying regards to you for all the valuable advice you gave us.”
“That’s heartening. What about the sabbatical? Did he take it? Did he get through to IIT?” I was curious to know.
“Sir, I gave him a free hand; told him to go ahead and take a sabbatical and prepare for IIT. But then he decided against it. He got admission in a college of his choice and a course of his liking. I’ll keep you posted of his progress.”
Ravindra has been calling me occasionally to share his little joys.