I was born in a middle-class family where one usually spends their life thinking about how to save money for the future. There is no scope for dreams about anything but a traditional 9-to-5 job.
I started my schooling at the age of three. Until the seventh grade, my eyes were devoid of any dreams. I was leading a completely normal, aimless life. Even in my academics, I was far from an ideal student, scoring consistently between 50-60% in my exams. I do not remember having any special interest in anything. Life just went on.
One day, I installed an online learning application for my science exam the following day. While my exam went just fine, my life was about to be turned on its head. You see, the e-learning platform had soon started bombarding me with promotional emails and text messages. Initially, it did not bother me and I chose to turn a blind eye to those marketing gimmicks. However, one day, my mom received a call from them. She was told that they wanted to pay me an educational visit and put my knowledge to test. While I was barely enthusiastic about the prospect of exhibiting my knowledge (or the lack of it), my mom readily agreed to this proposal.
He came to my home the following weekend. I was sitting facing him, with my mom by my side. Honestly, I was rather nervous. After all, I had never been a passionate student, though I think I did manage to look confident enough before him. He started out with some basic questions on science, mathematics and general knowledge. However, my initial success was short-lived as he soon upped the ante and started asking tougher questions. All I could do was sit quietly and gaze into the abyss. Far from answering him, I was even clueless about the very questions that were being directed at me.
My embarrassment rubbed off on my mother, who somehow could not believe how little I knew. The humiliation, however, was far from over. Once he was done with his questions, he gave me the most demeaning telling-off I had ever received. He went as far as to tell my mom that she was just wasting her time and resources on me.
Despite my best efforts, tears soon forced their ways out of my eyes. He left after a while, and I went to my room and locked it. My mom kept quiet about the incident. I cried all night. It took me a lot of effort to drag myself out of my room the next morning to go to school. Even as days passed, it felt increasingly difficult to get over that humiliating episode. And as often happens with pent-up insult, it eventually transformed into an irrepressible anger. It was now up to me how I wanted to channelize that anger.
I visited the website of that e-learning platform and came over an annual contest they organized for their students. I felt so furious that I decided to participate without giving it a second thought. To back my decision, I began studying for 15-18 hours a day. After a month of burning the midnight oil, I sat for the exam. Much to everyone’s surprise, I came out on top. They sent someone from their team to hand me a gift hamper for my efforts. More than the gift, it was the look on my mother’s face that made me happy; I could actually see how proud she felt that day.
However, I was yet to vent my anger. I asked the employee if he knew the gentleman who had paid me that harrowing visit a month ago. He said that he did not. But a week later, I received a call from that man – the one who had shamed me – and he asked me if he could come see me again. I asked my mom, who agreed to this.
He visited us and, surprisingly, he was all praise for me this time. He even apologized for his earlier behavior. By then, my frustration had dissipated and I accepted his apologies. And then came the million-dollar question.
“Can I become your mentor?” he asked.
I agreed at once. He started counseling and mentoring me shortly thereafter. And his efforts bore fruit as I scored the highest in the NTSE (National Talent Search Examination) exam in my school.
I think I am really lucky to have a mentor like him. And to think that it all began with a really humbling experience!
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