Life's report card

If March is a month of exams, May-June is the season of results of one kind or the other. Results are a reason to celebrate or lament as the case may be. They seem to singularly define an individual, putting him in the minority elite class of toppers or in the huge land of averages.

I am not grudging the toppers their moment of glory. They have earned their place in the spotlight by sheer ability and diligence. However my concern is for the majority that does not make it to this top slot. The fighters among these will emerge stronger for the battle.

It is the sensitive souls that will die a hundred times — every jibe, comparison or evaluation will puncture their self-esteem, till there is no wind beneath their sails. To all those that wield this weapon my question is: Does success have to be measured by this stringent scale alone?

Let me tell you a success story of the ordinary kind that does not often get told. Recently, my 80-year-old father was awaiting results of a different kind of test; the kind that is done in a diagnostic laboratory that passes brutally honest judgments on every organ in our body. My father’s score on various parameters barely made the cut. On those that he scored below par, he was advised remedial action.

Anticipating results of any kind, creates a lot of anxiety and apprehension. For me that day, the truth that hit me was, that success or the yardstick used to judge it, is relative, to time, context and criteria.

My father is an ordinary man with an extraordinary degree of success that sits modestly on his shoulders. An SSLC pass, who studied in one obscure school in his native village Tirupundurai, in Tanjore, worked his way up the ranks at a leading corporate house for 20 years, growing from a technical service representative, to retire as a sales executive, entitled to medical care post retirement.

He raised four healthy, happy moderately successful children, who are active contributors to society. He can communicate effectively in all the south Indian languages and his English is almost impeccable, thanks to the daily newspaper. His ability to handle finances would put a modern day portfolio manager to shame. A man of healthy habits and pleasant disposition, he has aged gracefully, accumulating hundreds of friends and well-wishers.

At a recent family gathering, he made this rather stark announcement — “When I die, I want my body to be donated to the medical community; I can still be useful”. A hushed and uncomfortable silence followed, as any discussion of the inevitable does. It takes a contented man to talk about his end with such equanimity. That for me is a success story.

The report card of life marks us on several subjects. Remember one does not have to come first to be proud of our efforts. Each individual is a gem waiting to be discovered, polished and held up to the light, to display one’s numerous facets.

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