I know weekends are not meant for one to sprawl on the couch and watch TV. And if you still insist on it like I do, it is at your own peril as you will be treated to the most boring programs particularly during the day. On the so called entertainment channels it is usually the replay of the saas-bahu serials or one of those singing competitions – every channel has its own either to select the Golden voice of India or the Indian idol or the Chotey Ustad or Li’l champs and their regional versions. There is a lot of good singing, even more of drama and glamour and hype and plenty of tears in the elimination rounds. What is distressing about these is that many times it is not the children but their parents who cannot handle it when their child is eliminated. The extent of the pressure this must put on the kids became clear when a little girl stopped her song midway and announced that she wanted to leave the competition. Reason: the previous week another child had been eliminated and on hearing this her father had a heart attack and had to be hospitalised. Fearing a similar fate for her father were she to be eliminated in future rounds, the girl decided to opt out of the competition.

Why can’t the parents be a little more relaxed about these contests and their results? After all their kids are on television, they are selected to perform because they are among the top 30/40/50 contestants. Isn’t that good enough? Of course it would be great if their child tops but there can only be one winner right? Does this make everyone of the others a loser? And it is not like it is the final concert for them – this is just the beginning and if they do not see realistically where they stand vis a vis the best, how can they improve?
And if parents do not have the right approach to a competition, how can they inculcate in the child a sense of balance in the face of failure and to learn from every failure.
I understand that it is natural for a parent to feel that their child is the best but then to work oneself to a heart attack when the child loses?

If this is the case with a singing competition, one can imagine the kind of pressure on children when it comes to studies. No wonder bright kids who feel that they have not lived up to parental expectations commit suicide. An article here in the Times of India today says “In 2006, 5,857 students — or 16 a day — committed suicide across India due to exam stress. And these are just the official figures”. And I assume it must have increased in the past two years. And what is even more scary is the what the president of the Counsellors association of India says:
“for every student who commits suicide, there are 10 others who have attempted it.”

I do not have any figures from the past to compare and decide if there has indeed been an increase in the number. It could be true that the percentage of teens breaking under examination stress is the same or even less considering the total number of teen population today. And it may also be true that all these may not be cases related to examination stress. But we do have these numbers now and we do know that at least a large proportion of these happen around the time of examinations and results. And today’s parents are more educated and more informed and more conscious about parenting. Some children perform well under pressure but most don’t. And why should there be this kind of pressure anyway? So that they can be called “Ravi ki ma”? have you seen that Bournvita advertisement? I think Ravi ki ma should go get a life and have her own identity than try to get it vicariously through her son’s achievements.

Is it possible to help these children overcome their stress with some support from the teachers and parents? Or is it our examination system that needs to be changed so that there is more continuous assessment rather than assessing a one time performance in the board examination? It is also sad that the 12th standard children have multiple pressures from the board exam, the entrance examinations for IITs, Engineering/ medical colleges and what not. This is really the most difficult time of their lives. Certainly this stress can be eliminated by using the board results as the criterion for admission. or let there be no board exams . Let the children finish school after 12 years and then enter college based on a competitive examination depending on the discipline they choose.

All that means government and committees and many years to decide. in the meantime, whether it is a school exam or a competition we need to impress upon the children that it is important to give one’s best but there is life beyond the results, however bad they are. And it is important to learn from one’s failures and not be devastated by it or run away from it. And this shows the complete failure of our educational system to build their personality and to instill in them the ability to
“dream--and not make dreams your master”,
“think--and not make thoughts your aim” and above all
“meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”

Oh first we must teach these to the parents so they don't get heart attacks if their children do not top. SIGH...
28 Responses
  1. Altoid Says:

    I followed the Chhote Ustad season. Did you see the one where one parent got hysterical because his daughter got voted out and he made loud claims on how he had computers set up in major cities to vote and he didnt see how his daughter could not have made the votes. Talk of announcing on national TV about the underhanded tricks these polling contests use.

    And the other one where one kid got eliminated in the top 3 round and how his brother and family made a scene.

    Really, its shameful. The kids should be learning the art/skills. If they can win competitions that good, but with the right spirit. They shouldnt be picking up on these shortcuts to win, winning isnt the ultimate goal.

    It was really sad, some of the kids had a lot of potential. And sometimes I even feel that a lot of it is dramatised for the special effects. Takes away the fun of tv contests. And its become even more prolific after contests have been thrown open for public polling...all the regional votes and state-based requests from contestants...all punjabis please vote for me, all assamese vote for me- etc etc.

  2. Hip Grandma Says:

    unfortunately every line written is true.Long,long ago when Priya was in standard two I made the mistake of asking her teacher where she stood in class.
    "she is among those who can be left to work on her own" was her reply.I noticed that she avoided saying that she was good.

    "May I see the marks of the girl who tops the class?" i asked.
    "what for?"she asked.I won't have you compare your child's performance with that of others.She is a promising child and let her be."

    I learnt my lesson for life.

  3. Unknown Says:

    Brilliant post Usha.
    I have similar concerns about the current young and young-adults generation. Our education is so competitive that people are highly pressurised to perform well. To add to this, all other avenues like art and commerce are looked down upon compared to medicine and engineering.

    We need to play our part and tell any parent who comes to us for advice to let the child do what he/she desires and support him/her as much as they can. I've done that a lot of times and its usually better if the parents take all the pressure and avoid exposing their children to peer pressure by insisting that they do not compare report cards or indulge in discussion about who got a better college or a better course.

    Check out this post and the rest of the blog when you get time.


  4. Anush Shetty Says:

    Very thought provoking post. Infact I hate these reality shows for the same reason. How many guys who have won reality shows have made it big is something the junta should ask.

  5. Praveen Says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Praveen Says:

    Thought provoking as usual...brought back memories frm my school days and my parents. :(

    I had been doing extremely well and gradually comparisions with other kids gave me terrible complex and I began to slide down, actually down and down. Didnt really come out thru wit 'colorful marks' but I understood life is beyond that.

    Its crazy...there was this Airtel super singer om Vijay TV a coupla months ago and when a little boy was elimated his mom went on to irritate the judges...the kid looked chilled out but I wonder what was goin thru his mind..

    God drive some sense into these parents. Loved the closing part of ur post.

    Visiting ur blog has become a routine now and I love it.

  7. Choxbox Says:

    true usha. trying to create the 'killer instinct' kills a lot of other things in a kid.

  8. I failed to secure admission in the IIT's, and I am confident that I am no less than any of my friends who did succeed. My friend and colleague also did not, and he is a chaired professor of finance in one of the most prestigious universities in the world. My uncle failed twice in his undergraduate program in mathematics, but went on to winning the gold medal in the law school and become an advocate in the Supreme Court of India. A nephew of mine showed promise in creative design early on, but failed in his higher secondary exam. He graduated with flying colors from a famous institute for industrial design in India. After completing his graduate program abroad, he now works for a world renowned design company in Europe.

    Just a few real life examples to encourage children who may feel that they have not lived up to the expectations, should this famous verse from Gita fail to perusade them to get a grip on themselves and move on:

    Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
    Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani

    — v. 2:47 Bhagavad Gita
    [Do your best and be detached from the results - my translation]

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Hi there Usha. :)

    A heart attack, wow! I didn't know about this one. I have heard from my mom how one of the parents argued with the judges etc when the child was eliminated.

    I agree with 'the rational fool'. From my immediate experiences I have seen how it is the aptitude that eventually makes you. To encourage the children to explore varied interests to let them know what excites them would be so much more prudent. I will be a happier parent if I succeed in helping my kids discover themselves than expecting them to be nothing but "successful"! Of course, what is 'to succeed' is VERY relative to begin with.

  10. Praveen Says:

    :) wow The Rational Fools comment made my day. Truely inspiring.

  11. ~nm Says:

    I've been thinking about this issue lately after reading suicide cases or attempts by children as little as in 9th standard due to exam stress.

    And its not just the exams, its these music or dance or any other competitions as well. Every parents wants to show off their children! And trying to prove how intelligent or great their children are.

    The other day I was watching Lil Champs and the father and brother of a boy called Amir, blasted off when he was eliminated and tried to turn it into a communal issue saying that Amir was eliminated because he was a Muslim. I was so flabbergasted at their outburst.

    I, as a parent, am going to try my level best so not put this kind of a pressure on my kid.

    And I guess we need to save these parents' first from such attitudes and the children will be automatically be saved.

  12. rajk Says:

    I'd watched a much earlier episode of the little champs some time back when one of the contestants' mother made a big hue and cry about her daughter being eliminated. Her reasoning was that the other kids were older than her child so they had undue advantage! Clearly, the girl herself looked uncomfortable with her mom's emotional scene! I was shocked at the attitude of the parents.
    I totally agree with "Rational Fool" that "success" in various exams is no guarantee for later happiness in life. I have always been an above average student but I can't honestly say that I've done any better than any other "average" student in my class.
    What is important is that children be given the exposure to the options that are available to them.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Usha: The other extreme is the kind of feckless parenting that some are practising in the name of freedom to choose a lifestyle. The UK is consumed with headlines about Scarlett Keeling and Shannon Matthews (alive, found) these days.

    If there is a choice between these two extremes, I would prefer the Indian hyper-competitive model of parenting. :-/

  14. true. the people who need counseling are the parents. kids can handle pressure easy enuf, from what i have seen.

  15. diya Says:

    How right you are, I used to watch some of these competitions too till they started making them like melodramatic serials with contestants saying mean things about each other the judges having arguments and contestants and their parents weeping or losing it if eliminated. one program dedicated a single day to the elimination drama--- the person who is going to leave us is....then silence and suspence music plays .... twice thrice a hundred times in that half hour--- can give a normal person a heart condition not for the weak hearted. We have created a hellish existence for ourselves and our children. I recommend bogey wogey which is a dance program which does not have theatrics during the elimination (some of the children are prococious though) and K for Kishore which follows each other in Sony on Fridays and Saturdays.
    Usha, I have been following your posts since I was in Delhi now I am in your city, will you be my friend. I have taken the liberty of tagging you because I want to get a glimpse of your previous posts which are special to you, will you visit my blog and decipher the tag? I am a clumsy beginner in the blogworld.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    If they are not superbrats we insult their self esteem;if not we push them over to the brink in a bid to excel.
    Neku onnume puriyalaiye!

  17. Lavs Says:

    I completely agree with you –“meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same”.

    I saw one program (I think in Jaya TV)- Little masters. The VJ was consoling a crying child in the most irritating manner. C’mon, it’s a kid and you cannot talk to her like grownup. Had I been that kid’s parent, I would have slapped that guy then and there!!

    And yes parents need to grow up first!!

  18. I don't understand how people can make scenes like these in full public view. Won't it always leave a bad taste in the moutn later ?
    I think its slightly better where the contestants are a little older than kids. I used to follow Star Singer on Asianet.... all the episodes I saw (elimination) were dignifiedly done, with the contestants showing their disappointment, but no scenes... Dunno if there were any I didn't see. I hope I am big enough to not pressure Sonny boy in his studies- am not worried of the extra curricular activities..

  19. Anonymous Says:

    really good blog. ... write again in these type of topics

  20. i wish people would realise that without failure there can be no growth. we learn from our mistakes.
    people should just chill, treat everything you do with your best effort,and take pride in that.
    it's not about winning or loosing, but more in how you approach things.

  21. Usha Says:

    altoid: I have a friend who teaches in a school and tells me that there are some parents who come every time she gives out corrected papers with marks demanding to know why she cut 1/2 or 1/4 for the child.This in the 3rd and 4th grade. What will the children learn from their parent's behaviour.
    And I find it disgraceful too when they appeal in the name of their state - were they selecting the Indian Idol or state idols.

    Hipgran: What motivated you to do that? did you think you could help your child fare better? because I know You would not have done it just to see your girl come first in class.

    Guns:The thing is most young parents don't think that my advice is worth taking. They think I am under some idealistic illusion and completely out of touch with the harsh realities of today's competitive world. :(

    anush: I would also like to know where these class toppers are 20 years from now.:)

    Praveen:Yes most children crack under pressure and end up doing worse than what they normally would have.
    Thank you, keep visiting and sharing your opinions.

    Choxbox: So true.

    The RF:And I have a couple of examples of IIT grads and gold medalists who are doing nothing spectacular in life.

    Chitra: Oh for most success is coming first, getting into IIT and then a US univ/ job or computer science and job with a top IT company.

    Praveen: Please visit his blog. You will love it.

    nm:What? he said that it is because of his religion? and they allowed it to be broadcast on national television? I am really shocked. What is the message for the young child?

    Rajk: Someone commented in an earlier post that some children need parental encouragement to take their studies seriously. But they get carried away i think.

    Shefaly:Why go to either extreme? Is it so tough to provide the environment where they are allowed to bloom naturally ? if parents don't know their own child, who else can?

    How do we know: Have you seen parents who children are about to appear for the board exams - they act like they have been visited by a ghost.

    Diya: Oh yes, those dramatic pauses and silences _ I hate them.
    Sure we can be friends. Will check out your blog. Hope you have a great time in Namma Bengaluru.

    Maami: Nekkumdaan. Anaa onnu puriyaradu, inniku naan schoolukku pona 8 classlaye fail ayiduvennu nenaikaren. apram en amma sonna madiri pathu pathram thekka vendiyadudaan. :)

    Lavs: Ya there is too much drama in these shows. Sometimes I wonder if they are all orchestrated.

    JLT:Be involved, help him where he needs it but do not push your unrealistic expectations on him. Encourage him to give his best without court martialling him if he fails some time.Let him know it is alright to fail but what is important is to have the strength to get up, brush the dust aside and try again.

    naveen: welcome. Will do.

  22. Usha Says:

    Rouhana: Totally agree with you.

  23. dipali Says:

    Pride in one's child and his achievements doesn't mean all this kind of hysteria which is so detrimental to the child's well being. These TV competitions are so skewed anyway because of the public voting. I do my bit by no longer watching any of them!

  24. Dear Usha
    I check your blog now and then and really enjoy reading your sensible and thought provoking articles. This is the first time I am leaving a comment here. I agree with all that you have said about our education system.

    And that "Ravi ki ma" ad...I hate that ad and it is the most irritating ad I have seen in the recent times. I am so glad that you share my opinion !

    I had written something on similar lines a few days back( about our education system)

  25. So true, Usha. I just cannot watch these shows as they depress me...but I guess we are in the minority.

    I stopped watching the Bournvita Quiz Contest when, from a program that inculcated healthy competition with team-work, it became an individual talent-spotting and promotion program. I just hated it.

  26. Usha Says:

    Dipali: I think the whole competition is conducted for the voting so the phone guys make all the money and sponsor these programs. In the bargain the guy with real talent doesn't win.

    Ranjani: Thank you. will check out your post too. We all seem to be worried about the educational system but are the policy makers worried?

    Deepa: Yes, they are depressing. wasn't the Bournvita quiz contest wonderful when it was a radio show?

  27. Mahadevan Says:

    Every parent today suffers from 'Ravi ki Ma' syndrome.

    We are not satisfied if the child does well. We expect him/her to do better than the other child.

    I have seen 5 year old boys, barely the height of a cricket bat, carrying huge cricket kit on their shoulders, meandering towards the cricket Stadium at 5.30 a.m. because their parents want them to be Sachin Tendulkar. To be obssessed with an icon is not to be identified with encouraging sport.

    "The false lies not in our Stars, but in ourselves. We are underlings".

  28. Usha Says:

    Mahadevan: "We are not satisfied if the child does well. We expect him/her to do better than the other child."
    We seem to want them to do better than all children that age!
    aiyo poor baby. ya but they will tell you that when he makes it to the national team when he is 16 , he will thank you for this.
    I have stopped commenting about these even to my close relatives. They think I am a dinosaur.
    Remember that child who was forced by his father to practice table tennis so hard that he collapsed and died before a tounament last year?
    But we don't seem to learn anything from these stories.