Who is first?
English Translation: M. Venkateshwarlu
Telugu original: “Evaru First?” by P.S.M. Lakshmi
Aravind ran into his home while shouting at the top of his voice, “Mummy, Mummy”. His mom Kumari ran out from the kitchen into the living room, wondering what happened.
“Did you see this?” Aravind thrusted his exam papers into his mother’s hand. “Even this time Subhash topped the class. I came in second again.” On seeing the papers Kumari said, “ you scored well.”
“ I scored well?” retorted Aravaind with exasperation. ” How did I score well? Subhash topped the class AGAIN,” emphasized Aravind just in case his mother failed to understand the importance of the situation. “In Hindi,” he continued, “I am third, forget alone coming in second.” Kumari understood her son’s frustration.
Subhash always topped the class and is looked upon as a hero by all his friends. Aravind wants to come in first and it’s been his long cherished wish to do so. Aravind always worked hard to prepare for his exams and was a good student. He also expressed confidence about topping his class after he wrote his exams. However, he came in second place. Even though Kumari understood her son’s determination to top the class, she felt that he took unnecessary pressure in the name of education as he saw it as a competition.
Whenever her son felt unhappy looking at his results, she tried her best to cheer him up. She always told him in the past that he studied well and that if he wrote down everything he studied, he would remember well and definitely top his class. But Aravind came second Everytime and it was getting even more difficult to console him after each exam result.
As if he read what was on his mother’s mind, Aravind asked her, ” you always said that if I studied well and wrote everything I learnt, I will top the class. Then why am I failing to do so? I think the teachers are being partial to Subhash and awarding him the highest marks as a matter of routine, despite how he writes his exams. Why don’t you come and ask the teachers?” At this point Aravind was looking for all possible reasons for why Subhash beat him at studies.
Kumari made Aravind sit in her lap and said gently “Aru nanna, you should not find fault with your teachers and should not suspect them. A teacher is equivalent to God. In your prayer to God (Daily school prayer) you recite “Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheswara, Guru saakshat Para Brahma, Tasmai Sri Guravenamaha ..(Sanskrit sloka stating that Guru is equal to God) no? It means your Guru is Brahma, He is Vishnu and He is Shiva. In this world, a teacher is the only God we see. Doubting your teacher means insulting him. A teacher is one who lays the foundation for your future learning and such a person should not be insulted.”
“Does it mean that I will never top the class?” Aravind still couldn’t let go of the idea of scoring more than Subhash.
” Dear Aravind,” continued Kumari, “Your dad and I have always asked you to not focus on competing in tests. Try and understand the subject matter, that will help improve your knowledge and you will learn new things. Try to focus on what the teacher is saying and see if you understand him. Your teacher is instrumental in helping you understand concepts and not just learn them by rote to score in exams. If you do not understand what they say, ask them to repeat. Once you understand the concept, come back home and re-read to remember. Try writing down the points you grasp so you can memorize them easily and this in turn will help you in the exams.”
“Am I not doing that already?,” asked Aravind impatiently.
” You are, in a way, dear.” Kumari tried her best to offer encouragement to her son without making him feel bad. ” I know that you study the way I just mentioned, however, you are lazy when it comes to writing down what you learnt at school. Moreover, you put yourself under a lot of pressure by thinking repeatedly of your failure. At your age, please don’t worry about the outcome of your exam. Just think about how much knowledge you gain by studying and enjoy it. Knowledge gained now is going to be very useful when you grow up and become valuable members of the society.”
“But mother,” protested Aravind.
“No more discussion. Talk to your dad if you want. We are both on the same page about your studies and don’t want you to get into competitions and ranks. Unnecessary competition also breeds jealousy.” said Kumari sternly.
“Why will there be jealousy mother?” Asked Aravind innocently.
“Didn’t you ask me to come and talk to your teacher earlier? You wondered if they were awarding Subhash the top marks as a matter of routine? That’s not good thinking. We do not want you to see Subhash as your enemy. All this is because of jealousy. You and your friends should hang out together and not worry about who outdoes whom.”
Aravind truly understood what his mother was saying. Kumari felt a sigh of relief to see this realization from Aravind. She worried how kids would grow up in this fast paced society. She wanted to keep her son safe from this mentally crippled society and not want him join a rat race of people trying to trample one another in order to succeed. She just wanted her son to study happily and grow up to be a well rounded person. He could choose whichever career he wanted after he grew up. Now everyone doesn’t need to be a doctor or an engineer right? Thinking this, she walked into the kitchen to prepare dinner for the family.