'Shifarish': Mild dose may help; heavy one can be lethal

They must get their children into the school or college of their choice. So many permutations and combinations go into this short-listing process. But the next choice is not in their hands. Their children have to be chosen by the school or college. Waiting for a seat is most agonizing.

Uncertainty looms large. There are indications that they might get a seat. Then there are enough evidences to the contrary. Parents study past selection criteria, gleaning data from the know-alls in the locality. Parents whose children are already in there also can provide crucial information. The hapless parents search for information from all over. If one day ends with hope, the next one begins on a note of scepticism.  
Tests and interviews are another hurdle on the way. Some say they are all an eye-wash, for there are other considerations. Other considerations vary from one place to another. One of the powerful, yet tricky one is the scope for recommendation by some worthies.  Even here there is some risk. In some places it works, and in some places it doesn’t. So that's real tight-rope walking!

The last straw in most cases is a word from someone really influential, someone who really matters.  It must clinch the issue in your favour. For this one must know the anatomy of recommendation.

You have to find people who are either close to the authorities of the institution, or too important to be brushed aside. So small fries won’t do. You need to catch some real big fish. Who are the big fish? 

The easiest is to catch hold of someone who likes to do the job.  There are people who like to flaunt their contacts, and thereby pander to their own egos. They feel on top of the world, when someone approaches them for a recommendation. If they succeed, either because of their recommendation or in spite of it, they feel happy. They can pat their own backs.

There are hordes of them around who belong to this category. That they are found worthy to recommend is itself very gratifying to them. This category is the easiest to approach. They will promptly do the job. They may telephone someone who matters, right in your presence. What better way to convince their proximity and influence?
Some who recommend for a seat will not take ‘no’ for an answer.  There might be very good reasons for not giving a seat to their candidate, but they would have none of it. Once they recommend, it must be granted, no matter what. This is a dangerous category. They harbour a revenge and badmouth the institution and its authorities thereafter with relentless regularity and enthusiasm, or even victimise the institution if they can.
Their inflated egos go for a toss when their ‘word’ is not given due weight.  Their bruised ego takes a long time to heal. Many institutions become victims of the spite and venom of this category once in a while. Parents who sought their help may never know the troubles they triggered.

There is another category of recommenders. They recommend anyone for anything at the drop of a hat. They don’t even enquire and find out the details. They would call up for a recommendation.  When asked for details, they won’t even have basic information like the candidate’s name or parent’s name, or any such relevant facts.  These are a special genre of recommenders. They are a tenuous, unreliable kind.
Another category of recommenders are even prepared to go with you to the office of whoever is concerned. They may not even care to seek an appointment to meet them. They believe in taking them off guard. They are somewhat naïve, because they do not care to stand on any formalities. Manners are alien to them. They go the whole hog at the slightest hint. They are supposedly ‘do-gooders’ who do a lot of harm unwittingly, to all concerned.

This is the season of recommenders. So your choice of the person who should recommend matters a lot. Choose the recommenders meticulously, just as you choose the school or college carefully.  Recommendations can cut both ways. Mild doses may help, whereas heavy doses can be fatal. What is true of medicine is true of recommendation too.

Given this scenario, do you need a recommender?  You are the best recommendation, remember. A parent and the candidate are the most influential persons, as far as a good school or college is concerned. Believe me, others don’t matter much to a school or college worth its salt. But let this be a secret!
(The writer is principal, Little Rock Indian School, Brahmavar)

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