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I was free to fail and it changed my life

Source | LinkedIn : By Vir Amar Dasmahpatra

I spent 3 years in the Assam Valley School, a wonderful place of learning, cradled by undulating tea gardens on all sides. If you’ve studied in a boarding school and enjoyed the experience, you will relate to me when I state that these were three incredible years and I secretly wish I had the opportunity to relive them once more. It was a vibrant, joyful, existence where academics blended seamlessly with a wide variety of extra-curricular pursuits.

There was only one period in those three years, when I felt overwhelmed by anxiety and apprehensions – and that was towards the second half of 1998, when the shadow of the upcoming “Board Exams” became a persistent presence in our lives. All of a sudden the themes of “average percentage”, “mock papers”, “scoring patterns” and more featured regularly in my conversations with my friends. And in the process, I became acutely aware of the struggles I had with a few subjects (Mathematics and Physics being the most terrible of my tormentors). I would worry endlessly about what would happen if I failed in these subjects – most especially about how my family would react to the failure. Somehow I got the idea that my future hinged on the numbers that would appear on my final mark-sheet. The perceived cost of failure was terribly high and I felt as though things were completely out of my control.

In those days, the late 1990’s, mobile phones had not found their way to my school. My parents and I communicated through long, handwritten letters. About once a month, there was a phone call, which I considered a luxury because long distance phone calls were very expensive. On one of these calls, I shared my board exam anxieties with my mother, telling her that I was afraid of failing in some papers. She comforted me as best as she could – after all we were hundreds and hundreds of miles apart – and I left the call feeling just a fraction better. The worry-levels were still quite high.

But in the following week something wonderful happened. I received the weekly letter (with my mother’s tell-tale handwriting on the envelope) and took it up to the room I shared with 3 other boys, which was empty at the time. At my desk, I tore open envelope and pulled out the four folded sheets of paper inside it (yes, we wrote long letters to each other!). And there it was – a small newspaper clipping that fell out of the folded sheets and spiraled down to the floor. I picked it up and stared – it was a poem about Failure! She’d spotted it in one of the newspapers she read and had cut it out for me.

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