I have a recurring nightmare. No Freud interpretation of dream type analysis required. It actually happened. I did my ICSE Board — 1978 batch. Disaster. Chemistry and Physics paper, I blank out. I’m unable to answer half the History paper. I don’t understand most of the Hindi questions.
And I face Mathematics much like protesters face a posse of police. “Which is the acid that smells of rotten eggs?” Absolutely no idea. “How cold is the Tundra region?”.... No clue. The fault was mine, I had spent all the preparation time leading upto the board exams, studying about life. In 1978 ‘studying life’ included three crucial things — pataoing girls, Pakistan vs India test cricket on our black and white TVs, and Pink Floyd. (I definitely didn’t focus on menial knowledge like the abbreviation for Potassium Permanganate.)
Exams over, off we went to see John Travolta groove to Saturday Night Fever, at New Empire. We were totally bindaas. And I passed — how, I’ll never know.
Exams were one of the necessary by-products of childhood. Never to be taken seriously. Just one of the things you leapfrogged over to sprint into adulthood.
Cut to 2013. My goddaughter, Ayesha, studying like a beast for her ICSE. Quantum physics, logarithms, Pythagoras Theorem, flying out of the textbook into her 17-year-old head with the fast motion effect of Keanu Reeves ducking bullets in the MATRIX.
“Why you studying so hard, it’s not really gonna help you in life?” “Dude,” my harried goddaughter rasped, “in your time, even an appalling 50 per cent marks were enough to get you into any college....man today, with that terrible percentage, I wouldn’t be allowed to pass the gates at St Xavier’s, or even the compounds of Sydenham and Jai Hind. It’s 95 percentage, dude, maybe more, but nothing less.”
She downs her 12th can of Red Bull.“I have Geography tomorrow.” “So you’re sorted?” “Yes, I know my portion, but I’m staying up the whole night to revise it.” “The whole night, from now till dawn?” I enquire, panicked.
“You got it, bro, that’s what dawn usually is.” “Oh,ok. Want me to stay up with you?” “Awesome. Mom and Dad are going to sleep. So yeah you can take up my portion, say about 3 am...” So there I am, taking up her portion, Maths, Bio, Chem, gotta admit some fab new subjects like art, computer science, and yoga.
And I’m thinking, where did it change. We lived our adolescence the way it should be lived — cheerful, carefree and childlike. Angst was an adult thing. You didn’t jump the gun in the stages of life.
And my beloved goddaughter. Sleep deprived and stressed — a self-imposed cum societal demand to grow up long before she deserves to. Is she a new generation of adultescents?
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.