Learning To Swim
Learning To Swim
“We will either have to detain her in the ninth grade, or she will have to prove to us that she is worthy of another chance,” says Mrs Jacob, the principal of Modern High.
I feel like the world is tearing me into pieces, bone by bone, flesh by flesh. We are currently seated in front of my head mistress, who is looking at my score card with disdain. The amount of humiliation I feel right now, cannot be compared to anything else. My eyes start welling with tears, but I keep them at bay.
On the day of results, I still remember vividly, how all my classmates had received their report cards, and one of the teachers had announced that I had to get my parents to collect the score card. People had made fun of me, calling me a ‘fat ugly failure.’
“But what is the issue? Is it her grades, or is it her behaviour?” asks my Father.
“It is her grade. Her grades have been consistently low,” says Mrs Jacob, setting the score card in between my father and her, and taking her red pen. She looks at my Father and then at me and then stares at my report card, thinking about something.
“She is only passing in English, but failing in every other subject. We cannot let her appear for her boards if she cannot even pass the papers. Our school has had a hundred percent passing for the last decade. We cannot put the image of the school at risk,” says Mrs Jacob.
“What is the way that she can be promoted to the tenth grade?” asks my Father, leaning forward and placing his arms on the desk.
“At the start of the next academic year, she will be reappearing for all the tests, other than
English. She has to pass in all, only then will we be giving her the promotion. Even if she sinks in one subject, she will be held back.”
“What would you like to do Alicia? Do you want to repeat the year or reappear for the exams?” asks Father.
Reappearing for the exams would mean that I will be missing out on the first few days of classes. But, I cannot tolerate one more minute in this school, let alone one more year.
“I’ll reappear, I don’t want to repeat the year again,” I say.
“All right. It is fixed then. I will let you know the details,” says Mrs Jacob, as she stands up from her chair. “You have approximately twenty days to prepare. Fare well, Alicia.”
With that she walks out of the office and we follow behind her.
On my way home, I remain silent throughout the drive, while Father hums along with the radio.
“Daddy?” I say, suddenly.
“What if I fail Daddy?” I ask him, sadly.
He looks at me and smiles, his kind smile.
“Failure is a part of life, my girl,” he says wisely. “Not one person has a life that has no failure. Failure is a stepping stone to success.”
“But if I fail, would you and mother not be ashamed of me?” I ask as tears start streaming down my face.
He stays silent for a while, making my heart sink. If I fail, my parents would be disappointed in me. If I fail, people would not only talk about me, but about my parents too. If I fail, we would become the laughing stock of the society.
“Let me put across a question to you. Just because your mother burns a cake, does that mean that you will be ashamed of her?” he asks me.
“Of course not. It is just a cake!” I exclaim.
“Exactly. This is just an exam,” he replies, smiling. “Always remember Alicia, marks do not determine your life, or the kind of person you are. Marks are just mere numbers. It is the action you perform and the attitude you show that makes you the person you are. Don’t worry about failure. A phoenix too rises from the ashes. Even when it is burned down, it rises back into the mighty bird, it was!”
He says this as we reach our car park. As soon as I get out of the car, I head over to him and give him a hug to show my gratitude. As we head towards the apartment, I see my Mother standing by the window. My father looks up and gives her a cheerful wave. After all this, how he managed to be so cheerful, is beyond me.
As soon as I reach home, my mother wraps her hands around me and I melt into her arms.
Everything that I held together till now, breaks out in a heart wrenching cry. I cry for all the times I’ve failed. I cry for the main reason I became so passive: bullying. I cry for all the times I’ve had to face other students towering over me, taunting and harassing me like it’s the funniest thing in the world. For them, it is.
“Calm down, baby,” my Mother croons. “We will get through it together.”
“How are you and daddy so optimistic, Mother?” I ask through the tears.
“Because you are our daughter. Academics don’t matter to us, when you have made us proud as a human being,” she says as she pulls me to the couch.
I smile at her and wipe away my tears, determined to do well in the coming exam.
“Why don’t you go get changed, and I’ll set the lunch on the table?” asks Mother.
I nod my head and go up to my room. Father told me that it was okay to fail, Mother too said that I am not disappointing them, yet I cannot help but wish that I was someone else; someone who could make her parents proud of her, someone who was an ideal daughter, not someone with red marks all over her report card and someone who is perpetually lost in a world of progressives.
“Alicia!” I hear my Father call, after lunch. “Come to my study, will you?”
I go to the study, only to find him sitting with a chart paper, spread out in front of him.
“Come here, lets chart out a schedule for you,” he says, while drawing lines on the chart.
“We are going to use chart papers for you to study, henceforth.”
From that very moment, my studies began. We would get up early in the morning and study for hours at a stretch. One step at a time, I successfully completed all my subjects on time.
On the first day of my exams, I saw my fellow students go to the tenth grade classroom while I was walking towards the examination hall.
“Failure!” screamed one of the boys.
My face burned with humiliation, but I tried to not those words get to me.
My first exam went well, and that gave me the boost to do well in rest of the papers.
Exams came and went, and I passed with flying colors.
Those few days taught me the important lessons that I would remember for rest of my life. One, is that falling is a part of life, but what is important is that one stands up and faces the adversities, rather than giving up. The second important thing in life being that everything looks big in the start, but baby steps is what it takes, to simplify matters. And the last being what Father always told me, ‘Put your best foot forward, but expect the worst.’
The entire experience, though humiliating is something that has taught me a lot about life. I have learnt to swim at last!