Saturday, January 3, 2015

The best isn't always easy to find

This is the fourth in a series of articles dedicated to school-going kids, written for the GUYS AND GIRLS section of Ceylon Today.

Schools are like home, aren’t they? You live in them. They grow on you. You spend 13 years there. It’s sad when you have to leave. And they don’t just grow on you. They form part of your life and part of who you are. They define you. Not just the teachers, not just your friends. The truth is that everyone and everything associated with your school will be used to measure you.

So what’s the “best” school? Not a tough question now, is it? It’s the same answer after all: “Mine”. That’s what everyone says. They cherish their schools. Love them. Think back on them. Wherever they are. It’s only natural that they consider them the best. They may have their flaws, their little imperfections. But in the end, they are a second home. And let’s admit it: we never insult our homes, do we?

Things aren’t always this easy, though.

The year is closing. Fast. A new year is coming. You know what that means. Cricket. Rugby. Matches. It’s a season for cheering and for good, clean fun. If someone asked you what the best part of the year is, the answer wouldn’t be too hard to give, would it? That’s what schools are about. Not only what is done inside. Not just exams. There’s a whole lot more. For us, therefore, the answer to what the best school is will depend on what we think. That answer, for us at least, will remain the same. No matter what.

There are those who will insult. They will jeer at you, they will hoot at you, and they will tag names on you. They will also badmouth your school and everything it stands for. That will make you angry. Naturally. That’s what insulters want, after all. Equanimity is difficult in such a situation. You need to remain calm. A problem, because when your second home is being rubbished, it’s not easy to take it calmly. You want to bite back. Return the insult.

Still, getting angry isn’t the answer. There are other ways. You can ignore. You can smile. You can think that what propelled your enemy-of-the-moment to pick on your school was his ignorance. You won’t be wrong in this. It is true that you are what your school is. Briefly put, your adversary wants to insult you. He knows that picking on you won’t rile you up.

It’s all to do with patience. Personal attacks can be endured. You can be patient. So your adversary does the next best thing. He picks and chooses. He wants to make sure you’re angered. That’s where your school factors in. He pastes labels on you. Needlessly. And then, at the end of it all, he hints that what he has said about you is also what can be said about your school. This is where you can break apart. If you do, it’s understandable. But you don’t have to. Not all the time.

It’s all to do with how you look at the world. Everything is made up of what we make of it. Same thing with schools. Nothing can take them away from us. We grow up with them and they never age. They remain immortal. Years, decades, sometimes centuries are with them. That’s what’s so special about them. But not the only thing. Whatever meaning we give to them stays. A part of our heart, no matter where we are, resides in them. And when that’s insulted, we strike back.

But there are other ways of looking at this. The more philosophical among you will view things differently. Whenever you are insulted and whenever your school is poked at, you will remain quiet. That’s playing it smart. Getting enraged and vowing to return the bite is part of the game. It doesn't guarantee victory. Not all the time. What's more, you might even prove what the adversary is saying if you bite back.

I once talked with a boy. He was probably the most reflective child his age I came across. He talked rarely, and when he did, there was much he opened to everyone. Problem was, not everyone was willing to listen. I did though. And when time passed, I ran out of stuff to talk about.

I suddenly got to talk about schools one day. This boy’s school had a history. A long one. So long that he could be proud of it. I asked him what the best school was. The answer was not what I expected. “It all depends on how you see it aiya,” he said, “My school is good the way I see it. Your school is perfect the way you see it. So you can’t really say what the ‘best’ is. It amounts to the same thing. It's all relative.”

No other child has answered this question the way he did. He was honest there. Very. Some may say that he was undercutting his school, but the truth is that he was being philosophical. He was looking at it in a different way. I am sure that he will be able to face any insult with equanimity. In any case, he taught me a lesson that day. A lesson I think not many will take to heart.

It’s entering a new year. A time to boast and be proud. A time for matches. A time when passions are aroused and overflow. It’s all about good, clean fun, hence. Through all that, it's important to remember one thing. Losing your temper means losing half the battle. Always.

Equanimity is the magic word. Without it, you’ll get angry. That’s just hot air. It won’t get you anything. On the other hand, if you are calm, if you smile at your adversaries, everything will be alright. And at the end of the day, that’s what we want, isn’t it?

Written for: Ceylon Today GUYS AND GIRLS, December 28 2014