Learning to survive

For donkey’s years we have been told to study hard during our school years as it is in those portals that the foundation of our future lives are set, and that school portends what success one may achieve later in life. Why, pray, then, is there such a wide chasm and dichotomy between what one learns in school and the practical side of a work-a-day world where one has to necessarily be street-smart, savvy and shrewd?

Though teachers do their duties steadfastly and follow carefully-thought-out syllabi besides perpetually correcting endless stacks of notebooks (not to speak of the lesson plans!), there is a lacuna in the education department concerning scholastic priorities. This is because the information one needs to know as adults is not at all indoctrinated or taught at school or college at any stage.

So where, indeed, is one expected to learn it? For example, school did not teach us about basic bank transactions, which is imperative for one to know. In fact, it was only after finishing school and college that I came to know the difference between a fixed deposit and a recurring deposit and the difference between credit and debit.

School didn’t teach us how we would pay bills and taxes, and one would have been for a long time clueless as to what house and car loans and loan waivers were. Now, when I see harried adults muttering indignantly about paying their fast-approaching EMIs, I’m sure many children may not even know what an EMI stands for.

School didn’t teach how to make snappy, effective decisions or even how to avail of discounts in shopping. When my sister said that lucre, moolah and dough (all slang for money) make the world go around, I was flummoxed trying to gauge why chapatti dough could be deemed so very important!

School didn’t teach us survival techniques or what a premium is, and how life insurance policies actually work. School didn’t teach the difference between black money and white money, and why some people resort to black magic if not blackmailing. School didn’t teach how to handle menial labourers, like maids, security personnel and drivers, who must be handled adroitly.

School didn’t teach one what a Provident Fund is, what a HRA is, and why one needs to file one’s income tax returns annually. School didn’t teach the process of applying for a passport and visa nor did it teach one how to reserve a plane or train ticket or even how to cancel it.
Once, when I was in school and my brother told me that he had just got his green card, I looked at him and said, “Oh, you too got your ration card?” The expression on his face was priceless!

Sometimes, I wonder where was one expected to imbibe the above important information that entail a person’s survival against all odds? Some parents are illiterate, and not everyone has helpful siblings and friends who will assist.

However, I proudly say that in this morbid scenario, there is a silver lining: For school did teach us, among other facts, quadratic equations, and why emperor Ashoka will definitely go down in history as the greatest emperor ever!

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