Saturday, May 15, 2021

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The Ultimate Kick

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

It was a habitual Sunday. All my cousins and I were at my grandma’s house, playing our most loved make-believe game, “The Revenge of the Ninjas.” We made it up one day when we were dying of boredom. We were playfully kicking and punching each other on my grandmother’s bouncy blue bed. It was like war in the noisy room, causing the place to resemble a monkey’s house. The pillows were on the cold floor beside the bed and the bed cover was almost ripped apart by the pulling and jumping being done on it. Being the worrier I am, all I could think about was “What were my parents going to say when we had made such a mess? I don’t have to worry about my grandmother because she loved us playing and not bothering her, but what about my parents?” While my brain was busy thinking about this, I lost my focus on the game. I almost never did this because of my naturally competitive spirit, hence my cousins decided to take advantage of my distraction. In the split second, I went from being distracted to not feeling anything at all. 

The pain in my stomach was terrible. It felt like I had just been playing in a boxing match with a champion and lost. The crying and screaming that I was experiencing were taking up a lot of my energy, making me light-headed. My cousin had just kicked me straight in the abdomen. I was sure she didn’t mean to kick that hard because we had made a directive that there was only fake kicking and hurting. If this rule was broken, the consequences were deadly, and they wouldn’t be able to play Revenge of the Ninjas anymore. But I was convinced that she had not been listening when the order was passed.

 “Owwwwwwwwwwwww!” I screamed as soon as her leg made its way into my delicate stomach.  Her follow up to what she had just performed was what made we as angry as I was. “It wasn’t my fault, you weren’t paying attention,” she retorted with an evil grin on her smug face. Groaning was all that escaped my quivering mouth at that moment.  I was furious she kicked me and she couldn’t apologize, moreover blaming her mistake on me? 

Not long after, the room began looking sad and everything started to look blurry. The smell wasn’t r eally recognizable, and even if it was, my memory fails to bring it back to me. Then everything went black.

Black was all I could distinguish in my peripheral view and I felt the weird sensation of numbness and something else that I cannot describe till date. 

Apparently when I was in this faint position it seemed to my little sister that one kick had sucked the life out of me. “Guys…Tara is…dead,” she advertised to the whole family, Stopping in between each word to wipe back tears that were streaming down her tomato looking face. As usual my family thought it was another one of our make believe games. Nevertheless, my mother trailed behind my sister into the now dead quiet room. My mother had this look on her face that was screaming the quote “Why do I need to be pulled in every one of their games?” When she took a step into the room, she realized something was wrong. All of my cousins looked guilty, and they had worried looks on their faces.  When she glanced over at me, she disclosed a little gasp. 

My sister, being the spontaneous one, was already out of the room. She thought she had the best idea . If she poured water on my face, I would wake up from the dead and she’d be the family’s hero. Well, the next time my eyes opened and I saw color, felt like I was in a swimming pool and could faintly hear my sister cheering overhead. After hearing what had happened to me, everything seemed surreal. Had I just fainted? I questioned in my head. 

Seeing that I was submerged in water from head to toe,  I knew it had to be one of my sisters insensible ideas. Little did I know that experience was the beginning of stories of my fainting, and very soon, I would have more to tell. 

In the Rain

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Pritha Nag

Splish splash. The rain banging against the floor and bouncing back up creating small pools of water that ripple against the wet cement ground. The water is loudly banging against my window as I longingly lookout. My first monsoon in India. I love the feeling of rain. It’s always reminded me of the rainy days that I was so used to in London. I love waking up to a gloomy Saturday morning, with the rain pattering hard against the window, or falling asleep with the gentle patter of water against the window with the curtains loosely shut. Today the rain is harder than usual, making shrill noises against the floor and the wind howling against the trees swaying aggressively. 

My sister enters the room, looking outside the window along with me. “I wish I could go out”, she sighs. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to go in the rain I just would much rather watch it than be out in it. I don’t want my clothes to get drenched, my hair and my whole body. I just nod back at my sister. She disappears for a few moments, and then quickly returns. “We can go!” she squeals. “What?” I exclaim. “Um, no.” My sister looks at me and she gives me a look that I know is going to make me feel bad. “Please! We really won’t get to do this again.” I sigh in and decide that I’ll go down but I won’t leave the shade that will cover me from the loud downpour. My sister rushes down, and I can’t help but feel a little excited. 

I reach downstairs, and cautiously step out. The rain is still pattering very hard, but it won’t be long until the pattering starts to wither down. My sister runs out in the rain and runs to the very back. The back doesn’t have any shade, I think to myself. But as I peer back it actually looks fun. It doesn’t look like it would matter too much if I wet my hair or my pyjamas. It just looks like it would be fun and that’s it. Maybe this is what people mean by living in the moment. So I cautiously step into the rain shivering and muttering to myself “It’s so cold, it’s so cold.” I finally find my sister and she looks like she’s having a blast. I join her in jumping in the rain, at first reluctantly and slowly, but I start enjoying it so much that I’m having a blast. I’m jumping up and down, spinning around, splashing around and drenched. I’m smiling so much my face hurts, and I stick my tongue out and taste the rain. I close my eyes and turn my head up to the rain.

And it’s in that moment where I’m truly having the most fun. Making the most of whatever I have, and enjoying it to the fullest. 

Every monsoon that’s followed my sister and I have gone down and gotten drenched in the heavy downpour. Each time that followed I’ve enjoyed even more than the previous. Although it was in that first moment, the first time I stepped into the heavy monsoon rains. It made me realise that I didn’t always need to be so reluctant towards everything. I realised that I didn’t need much except to keep doing and trying new things that I wouldn’t want to do. Otherwise, how are we supposed to grow? 

My First Nationals Ever

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Aahana Khemani

I said my goodbyes and boarded a plane to Noida, Delhi with my mother. I was as nervous as an old rat being chased by a young cat, if only worse. After all, this was my first experience of going to nationals. I was a young 8-year-old artistic skater who won at the states and was selected to represent Maharashtra at the nationals.  

I went over my routine a billion times in the flight. I was staying at my family friend’s house in Delhi and was given a warm welcome. My other skating friends were staying at a hotel closer to the skating rink. Every day, I would wake up early and would go to the rink to either practice or watch the other competitors perform their routines. I was star-struck by how gracefully and perfectly the older skaters skated.

Then, it was time for my performance. I was excited as ever but also nervous. As I put on my sparkly blue costume and tied my hair in a tight ponytail, my hands shook. There were so many people performing in my category! I prayed and prayed that my routine would be amazing and that everyone would be staring in awe. 

I entered the rink, all eyes on me. The music played before I was ready. I felt lost and stranded. Luckily, my skating teacher cued for the music to start again and this time, I was ready. Bring it on! 

I twirled and jumped and spun and danced. My costume and my ponytail went along with the music and my momentum. I thought nothing could go better. I was so caught up in my joy, that when I was landing one of my jumps, I tripped and fell. The audience let out a long gasp. I was devastated. But, as I had been trained, I got up and gracefully continued. Everything went smoothly after that, but that fall, deducted many points. 

The results were out. I placed 9th. I was heartbroken. Those 5:00 am practices before nationals those hard-working training sessions. All to waste, I thought.

But, little did I know, that day I learnt one of the biggest lessons of my life. 8-year-old me was obviously going to be all teary, although, my dad told me, that failures were supposed to be celebrated and learnt from. Without failing, you can’t succeed. 

After that, I was more settled down. That advice really got me thinking. The next year, I placed 5th. My skating teacher and my parents helped me get there. From my reflections, dedication and practice would have taken me even higher. Like it did from my first to my second nationals.

From one culture to another

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Ayanna Puri

Right in front of me stood this small yet rustic shop. I took a step in, then another and another, and another, until I had finally reached the inside. “Wow” I whispered to myself. It was like I was hit by a bright rainbow of colors and a symphony of sounds. There was this counter with two men behind it, surrounded by bright, vibrant and aromatic snacks. There was a blue jolly ranchers packet, with pictures of rainbow-colored lollipops on the front. And there were bright yellow, green, blue, brown and red chips that didn’t look like your normal Doritos or Lays chips. The entire room smelt so salty, spicy, and fruity all at the same time that I needed a lot of restraining from wanting to eat it all. If that wasn’t enough, there were toys too. All sorts! There were bouncy balls of all the colors, and stickers of characters that I didn’t recognize at the time, like Chota Bheem, Doraemon, and Krishna. I was amazed! But then all of a sudden one of the men started talking to me. He sounded like he was asking me something, but I didn’t know what, though it sounded familiar, I couldn’t comprehend what it meant. I later learned that language by the name of Hindi and was India’s national language, I was a bit embarrassed since I am Indian!

This was when I just moved to Mumbai, India just under four years ago. I was 9 at the time. You see, I was born and brought up in Hong Kong, and I was still new to the way India worked. Born Indian but I was a bit clueless about the ways of the people of my country. I was intrigued by so many little things. I was still unsure how anyone could possibly eat so much spicy food without any water or milk, or even bread! I didn’t quite understand why people ate with their hands, or why younger people touched the elders’ feet. The only Hindi words I knew were namaste, compared to Mandarin where I could write a whole essay.

Not only that, but I had just joined a new school, and had no friends at all. I didn’t know anyone and had no clue how to interact with them. I had the same friends in hong kong my entire life that I missed so much. That’s why I found this was a bit weird. I remember entering school every day wishing that I could just go back to my old one. I remember waking up every day wishing that this move was all a dream.

But it wasn’t and I had to face it. I had to deal with the fact that I now lived in Mumbai, and not Hong Kong. 

After a few months of living in Mumbai, I realized that there was no going back, and I realized that if I even remotely wanted to enjoy Mumbai as a place to stay, the only thing that would have to change was my mindset. From that day on, although hard, I tried to interact with more people from my school, and soon enough made friends, that four years later I have become some of my closest and earnest friends. I tried to keep an open mind to the new traditions and came to enjoy quite a few of them. I will always have a part of Hong Kong in me like traditions like the dragon dance, moon cakes, and lanterns, the streets filled with the aroma of fresh dim sums and fresh noodles! And no matter where I am I will always have a part of me in Hong Kong. But I’m glad that I moved on from my “only Hong Kong” mindset because if I didn’t there would be so much more that I would miss out on. 

There is so much that I learned from this new experience when I moved my life over 4 thousand kilometres across the world. But one thing that I’ll never forget is this – In my life, there will always be change, I might not always like it but it will be there and there’s nothing I can do to change it. The only thing I can change is how I cope with it. I have the power and control to make the change to the change, I could make it a positive experience, or a negative one. It’s up to me! The only thing constant in life is CHANGE. And I have decided that I will always take my ever-changing life and make the most of it.  

Participating in the Global Youthfest Virtual Conference

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Samvita Amladi

Listen with Attention, Speak with Intention- a guideline given to us before the conference started. A part of netiquette, internet etiquette. However, I take it as advice for life. Pay attention to those who are talking, and speak with persuasion and interest when you are talking. 

I participated in the Global Youthfest Virtual Conference conducted by the JUMP! Foundation. This was a two-day conference where people from all over the world came together to attend seminars held by experts and entrepreneurs. 

After introducing ourselves in the chatbox of the Zoom call we realised we were interacting with people from such diverse backgrounds. The hosts proceeded to tell us about the seminars that were available during the first one hour block. What made this such a unique experience was the ability to choose your own subjects and customise them to what you want to learn. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what JUMP!’s real purpose is. They want to equip you with the strength to be an independent citizen of the future. School teaches us what to use in adulthood, but experiences like this teach us how to use it. 

We used the first few minutes for a short speed meeting, where we were organised into randomised breakout rooms. We were given a few prompts to spark a discussion- What are your objectives for joining this conference? Which topics or sessions do you feel most comfortable with? Which will be completely new? How do these topics connect to the global picture? This was an opportunity to get to know each other better as well as see if we share the same morals and beliefs.

My objectives were to see the world as an amalgamation of perspectives, to see how people around the world think and view things differently, as well as to observe how Social Entrepreneurs make a distinct difference in this world. 

Each workshop facilitator gave us a 30-second elevator pitch describing what we would learn and take away from their session. I started out in my comfort zone, Art Therapy. We were told to start out with a yellow background, then to colour freely, to see what the page wants the art to look like. Each session was an hour long, we had 10-minute breaks in between, to stretch and recuperate. I then attended the seminar for Social Enterprises, composing of a short introduction to entrepreneurship, and a Q&A session with the two founders of the enterprise. To make sure we wouldn’t get tired, the hosts organized an energizer, a few minutes to teach each other something exclusive to our culture. In this energizer, we taught each other the first five numbers of our mother tongue. I then attended three more sessions- “Advocacy in the Time of Coronavirus,” “Remembering the Heart,” and to mark the end of the day “The Closing Session.” 

There was such a difference in the age group but not a difference in how we, as a people want the world to be. We should realise our role models don’t have to be those who are in power now, but those who are changemakers, and believers in acceptance. There were some who had done more research, had more experience, were more composed, and more direct with their opinions. Although I still idolize Michelle Obama, I feel there is a certain connection between us and those who are close to our own age when it comes to the way we want to live and want the future to be.

Although it may seem bizarre, I remember liking the closing session the most. It amazed me that even after spending almost 6 hours at my computer, I still had enough energy to participate in the closing session enthusiastically. This is where the first guideline really made sense. 

Listen with Attention, Speak with Intention.” The closing session was an opportunity for us to Speed Network- talk to each other about our day and specific events we enjoyed. Like the opening session, we were given a few questions- What was your highlight from today? If you could invite any person to come and speak at this conference, who would it be and why? If you could send a message back to yourself a year ago, what would it be? If you could send a message to yourself one year in the future, what would it be? Who is one person that inspires you and why? What role does the youth play in leading the world through COVID? We discussed these questions in breakout rooms and had an amazing time talking to each other about these topics. I found myself cherishing these moments a little bit more as I learned about the people I was having a conversation with even more. 

I looked forward to the next day with even more anticipation. Day Two was similar, but offered a slightly different lineup of programs. Even though the people you’ll meet will most likely be far away from you, the connections you’ll make will be personal and longlasting. The closing session for day two was a little more focused on maintaining these connections. The hosts, acknowledging that we had all become closer, planned a speed networking session, again to appreciate the day and talk about what we took away from this experience. 

Before this program, you could say I was quite the pessimistic-realist. However, after this experience, I see a future that isn’t filled with apocalyptic disaster, but rather capable individuals ready to restore humanity to Earth. Maybe the world would be a better place if we did not ridicule those like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and Yara Shahidi. But rather Listen with Attention, and Speak with Intention. This generation needs empowerment in order to be reminded that they have a role in today’s society and to decide the new normal. This experience reminded me that I have a duty, that we as the youth have a responsibility, to make this world the way we want to live in it before it is decided for us.

Lost

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Arav Barmecha

Lost. We have all been there. Maybe you have not experienced it but I am sure you have seen someone. Getting lost. You feel like no one knows you and you feel helpless, separated from family and friends that is exactly what I felt. 

The first time I was lost was  at the airport when I got lost., I know it is quite embarrassing to be in the middle of a public airport asking around for your parents. It can be very scary and traumatizing. In my experience, I was waiting with my family on the ticket counter. I was just a 4-year-old boy. I glanced upon a Christmas tree and ran to it. I was intrigued by it. I stared at the tree for 5 minutes. 

The tree was huge and covered in lights. I went back to the place where my family was and they were not there. I panicked and ran to a security guard. I said “ I’m lost”.

The guard took me to a stage and announced that there is a lost kid whose name is handing me the mic, Arav Barmecha. Meanwhile, my parents had sent my sister to find me while they were figuring something out with the security to find me. Once they heard the announcement they rushed to the stage. I was ecstatic to see them again and I apprised them of what happened. That day I learned a valuable lesson, If you get lost, stay where you are and ask for help. I still use this to this day, I’ll tell you how.

Have you ever had a great idea and then you just get lost in your ideas. That happened to me in one of the busiest places in the world, Japan. One of the other times I got lost. I was 11 years old and I was thinking of how when the magazine of guns get over they are no use in the fight. I was thinking that if you make the magazine and grenade they are going to be so useful. We were coming up the main road and there were two streets. I went down the left one and my whole family went down right. I realized I was alone and started to run in the street. My grandmother realized that I was not there and told my mom. My mom ran down the main street and my dad started walking down the right street and saw me running in the other lane. I ran to him. My uncle ran after my mom and it was so chaotic. After my Uncle caught my mom. She told me that if I get lost I can also go to the last known place, Apple Store on the main street. I felt so enthralled to see them again. It was truly a relief to see my family again. 

Now we all love games but I loved them so much I did not leave the arcade with my family. It is true, I was playing a game when my family was leaving the arcade and my sister called me. I was in a game and I intended to finish it. Once I did finish the game and made a high score, I made my way outside where I found nobody. I started to panic. This time I had a phone so I called my dad and there was no service. I did the only sensible thing. I stayed there and played that game. Later my dad realised I was not there. They rushed back to the arcade and I was there playing that game. 

All these experiences have taught me so many things, for example, if you are lost, stay where you are or go to the last known place. All these lessons have made me aware of how to handle situations like these.  

Untimely Goodbyes

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Vir Kamath

The year was 2015. I was having the time of my life as I was enjoying and spending a well-deserved summer vacation with my mom in Singapore. It was indeed a memorable one with moments I continue to cherish. Little did I know what life had in store for me. 

It was May 18th 2015 and I was looking forward to another beautiful day. The time was around 7 am in Singapore where I awoke to the sound of my mother sobbing. I was disturbed by this and immediately went to comfort her. I was a bit surprised to see her talking to my dad via facetime that early in the day. My mom gave me the phone and went to another room. Thinking that my dad would know what happened to mom, I asked him “what’s happening, dad?” What I heard next tore me apart. 

The words that came next were “ Nana passed away.” Nana is grandfather in Hindi. I was beyond shocked, sad and couldn’t believe what I heard. It was the first time I experienced the loss of a loved one and had no idea how to react as I was only nine years old at the time. I first comforted my mother and then we quickly made the decision of returning to India. On the plane back home, however, tears poured down my eyes. They were tears I was not able to hold back. It was at that moment I realized and registered that no matter what I did, I would never in any way get to meet my nana (maternal grandfather).

From the time we touched down in India, I was trying to cope and understand the true sorrow and sadness of losing a loved one and how to get over the loss. 

I did something I had rarely done before to get over my grandfather’s death, that was going back to all the positive and happy memories and moments we had shared. My nana was a very warm and kind person who I loved to visit and spend time with. As a grandparent, he was there for me and always sparked energy when he walked into the room. He also introduced me to the sport of cricket. Cricket was a sport that I found boring and did not know much about but my nana changed that. He taught me about the rules and some players and teams that he was a fan of. Today cricket is one of my favourite sports.  

Another memory I cherish is when I went to Jaipur and it was the last time I visited him in his house. I was about 7 years old, it was summer in Jaipur when we went to visit my grandparents for a few days. Due to the weather, I dug a few feet into the ground to make a pretend mud pool (out of pure curiosity) as that was a particularly humid day. However, I never got to complete making the pretend mud pool fully as my mom and I had to go back to Mumbai. As I got back to my daily routine in Mumbai I eventually forgot about the mud pool in Jaipur. After my nana’s death, my grandmother told me a story which made me miss my grandfather even more. After my mom and I left Jaipur, some people wanted to fill the hole up and redo the garden. However, my nana put his foot down and did not allow anybody to touch my pretend mud pool. He wanted to remember it as I had left it. When I heard this, I just broke down and couldn’t stop crying, I never realised what he meant to me and how much I missed him. These are some memories we made that I shall never forget. 

 While remembering the moments I also talked to people like my mother and a few friends because I did not want to keep suppressed emotions and sadness inside me and just expressed myself which I really think was the right thing to do. The thing I do today and always will is spending as much time as possible with the people I love. I never take anybody I meet for granted and spend time, meet them or just talk whenever possible. This is also something that I did not do often with my nana and will not repeat the same mistake ever. 

Another happy memory that I have of him is our shared love for food and cooking. My nana was a fantastic cook and I remember spending many days watching him dish out delicious treats. His biryani, parathas, shahi tukda (an Indian dessert) will always linger in my memory and taste buds. He had this secret recipe of an Indian spice mix called garam masala which he would lovingly make each visit for my mother. This bottle of masala is my mother’s most prized possession in her kitchen even today. She hides it from everyone and uses it sparingly to make it last. He gifted her his last bottle of the spice mix and it’s still there in our kitchen to this day. Some days when I miss him too much I go into the kitchen, open that bottle, smell it and feel his presence once again. 

To all the people who are dealing with grief and loss, I would like to tell you all that in the beginning you are going to find it tough and will feel sad which is normal because nobody would want to lose a loved one. I would recommend that you try your best to remember the good moments and memories you shared with that person. Talk to someone when you feel down and out. You should express yourself till you get all of the sadness and grief out. Spend as much time with the people you love. Lastly, never take somebody for granted because sometimes we lose our loved ones and goodbyes happen unexpectedly.  

The Play Date

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This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Arthur F. Beaugard

After the conclusion of my explosive dramatic performance, I was honored with a round of thunderous applause as I scampered off the stage.

Before I was in this play, I never considered myself to be an outrageous ham who was obsessed with fame and fortune. After the play, I had already grown accustomed to this role and now entertained pipe dreams of making a name for myself in Hollywood. 

The play, which was the culmination of a year’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears (but mostly blood) in a drama class, was something that we, as a group, had been stumbling through at regular intervals for months. I initially only signed up for the class because I possessed a strong aversion to the guitar course, to the jazz course, and to the choir course, for I am, perhaps, the most musically-challenged individual I have ever met.

In the beginning, I struggled. The plot, which featured a couple of weathered sleuths hunting down some jerk who was switching around the street signs, seemed abstruse. My character, who was a guy that didn’t commit the crime but ended up admitting to littering and jaywalking out of nervousness, had a neurotic manner which it seemed I would have some difficulty replicating. The fierce and brutal nature of his emotions was challenging to play for someone as reserved as myself.

To paraphrase Dale Carnegie, education is buffoonery—there are plenty of educated fools. Intelligence is hogwash—there are plenty of educated failures. What matters—above all else—is persistence. Without persistence, man is nothing. So although the task seemed daunting,

I persisted. Every bus ride, every shower, and every night before I slumbered, I repeated my lines. I repeated them until they were not lines on a page anymore but living, breathing bursts of emotion which I uttered automatically.

At the dress rehearsal, my performance seemed forced and dreary. Many men would have given up at that moment, but I kept practicing. On the first showing of the play, I gave a highly praised performance, and I kept improving so that during the second show, I gave a performance that defied all expectations and cemented my legend in the schoolyard. The sense of accomplishment was profound and it made me enter a dream-like sweat-drenched state of deep thought. I left that school that summer, but not without my name etched into the brains of those hapless children.

A Journey to Confidence

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By Diya Barmecha

This article is part of The Ascent’s Summer Program 2020

Commitment, Confidence, Resilience, Vision, Integrity.

These are all things that a good leader has. Some things that I don’t have. A good leader can keep composure and make tough decisions, they need to be so confident in themselves that people can follow them. It is a hard job, a full-time commitment. Times when you aren’t being a leader and you just need to be alone, there are people looking. Every time you make a mistake there are people following you. However, every time you do something great there are others sharing your happiness. 

When I went into fifth grade, I was a happy child with my focus only on studying and learning more. I entered my fifth-grade classroom with a smile on my face and excited for my first year of independence and my first year of non-integrated sciences. My childish beliefs hid me from the reason everyone else was excited. This year there was going to be a captain for each house. Blue house was the house I had been in since I entered the school. That was my home. That documented all my wins, football matches, multiple chess tournaments and sports days. 

A captain meant that I had to lead the blue house and guide them. I knew that I was a good-hearted person with commitment but I didn’t have confidence. I could never believe in myself, but I did believe in others. I believed that everyone could do everything if they tried. The day of selection, you had to be nominated by a teacher and seconded by a student. I sat nervously, I wanted to get nominated but I was scared. There was no word that could describe the emotion I was feeling. The second that I heard my name being called out by a teacher and a student, I sighed and smiled. A lot of my friends and classmates looked at me and I was sure that they were thinking something along the lines of, “I thought all she cared about was studies, how can she lead?”

I put my heart into the campaign, designed a logo and a slogan. I was so excited, even if I didn’t win, I made friends with a lot of other grades and people. The hardest part of the campaign was the speech I had to give in front of the entire school. I had prepared a speech like everyone else, they all had a quote and other things that made it sound very interesting. When I went up, I shared a story, a story about who I’m not the usual person to run for and why I did. I think I inspired a lot of people.

At the start, I was nervous about talking in front of so many people but as I progressed with the story, I got a few laughs and smiles. By that time, I was very comfortable. Those people become my family.

The voting system was anonymous and each student’s vote was one point. The teacher’s vote was 10 points. The entire student body knew that I was going to get all the teacher votes because I was the ideal student, work always done on time, asked great questions, helped peers. Nobody expected me to run for the captain and so no one realised that I could win because I would get most of my points because of the teachers. In the end, I did win, I won by a big advantage. All the teachers voted for me because I was a great student and a natural leader. All the people in my class voted for me because they knew that if they broke a few rules I would let it go. All the younger grades voted for me because I believed in them and I believed that they could always become better. 

Becoming a house captain only lasted a year but my confidence in leading stayed. It made me a better person and someone that people could look up to. That year opened my eyes as I saw myself as not only someone smart but also someone who could be a leader. The people around me also noticed that and I was looked at through a whole different lens.

Society’s Perceptions of Perfect, Are They Right?

The Ascent claims no ownership over this image.

by Naina Sharma

In reality, nobody is ‘perfect’ or ‘normal’. There is no valid definition of these words. The only thing we know is society’s perception of these traits. A kind and warm personality,  a beautiful appearance and intelligence is everything a perfect person entails, as per society. What would happen to society if these perfect people were everywhere? If more people thought, acted, and looked the same way, would the world be much happier and safer? Or as every action has a consequence, what cost would we pay for such a perfect world? As I see it, there are multiple good and bad sides to this dilemma. 

People who are empathetic, kind, and generous are always in demand. Everyone wants to be around such people. But is it really good to be “good” all the time?  Perfect personalities are self critical, and indulge in self blame, instead of telling others when they’re wrong. This can lead to someone internalizing. They bottle up negative emotions, instead of being truthful about it, and at some point these emotions will burst out. Bottling up emotions can also cause depression and anxiety. When they hide their opinions, it leads to resentment. To be nice, people give up their own wishes and put others’ wishes first all the time. Instead of making themselves happy, they choose to let someone else be happy. 

Don’t get me wrong. Being a good person is never bad. The world would be a much better place if everyone had good intentions, erasing negativity, depression and crime – A Utopian society. Also, the way someone behaves builds their reputation. This affects the opportunities you get in life. Let’s use a career opportunity, for example. When a company has to hire a new employee, and if the candidates have amazing resumes, they look beyond the achievements at the references each can provide – these are always personality led and the winning candidate will not only be good at work but also a well liked person. 

An important and critical perception of perfect are looks. As per society rules, beauty is always physical. Perfect body, perfect hair, gleaming skin, typically fair, etc. The whole myth of first impressions are based on physical appearance. Your personality and your qualities don’t matter, only your looks do. The pressure to be beautiful is very high, and can lead to people being insecure about themselves. There are many negative points about society’s beauty standards. Each person was made as an individual. We were meant to be original, and not succumb to what everyone else is. Dressing, acting, and looking the way you want, shows your personality, and it’s a window into who you are. Many things affect people’s views. Television and books affect mindsets to show how someone should look and act. The people who are beautiful and smart are mostly shown as the hero, while the person who may be a genius is made to look reclusive, sloppy or unkempt. Film Stars are required to always look their best – on screen and off screen. On television, we watch fake people, see how they look, how they act, and we think that’s what reality is. Social media, portrays a certain idea of “life” and we all try and ape it. 

Being attractive can have it’s benefits. The University of Wisconsin performed a study which found that S&P 500 companies which had very attractive CEOs had a higher revenue than the companies with less attractive CEOs. The companies with CEOs who rated higher on a Facial Attractiveness Index got incredibly high stock returns immediately after a TV appearance of that CEO. When the exact same CEO was featured in a news article without images, the stock returns were much lower than before. This shows how people continue to judge the looks, and how important they are shown to be. Beauty can also give you an upper hand in politics. According to a Finnish study, both attractive male and female candidates do better at the polls than average-looking politicians. The study measured an increase of 20% in the number of votes an attractive candidate received, compared to the average-looking candidate. 

Another expectation of a “perfect person”, is a high level of knowledge. In populous countries like India, there is a lot of competition in everything, so having a higher IQ gives you an upper hand. 

Being intelligent is never a bad thing, it can however affect you in certain ways. People that are extremely intelligent, tend to think instead of feel. They are ‘factual’ and they analyze how they feel, instead of just feeling. Intelligent people often express their thoughts factually rather than emotional person, who may react first, and think later. They might scream, cry, kick, punch, displaying strong reactions. Logical people tend to overthink things, spending hours contemplating and analyzing even the smallest moments. At the same time, solutions come faster to people with a higher IQ than to an average person. This could lead to the smarter person becoming arrogant and discounting the other person’s hard work and perseverance.

Having a high IQ is extremely useful in many areas of life. In school, children with a  higher IQ are able to process and absorb knowledge faster, giving them a stronger chance of being successful. Intelligence also helps you develop good judgment. By having the ability to gather information, weigh it out, and consider its consequences, shows your judgment skills. Intelligence also gives you the ability to plan and solve problems, think logically, and understand unfamiliar ideas. These are important abilities in both personal and professional lives. People with these abilities are more successful in life. 

Interestingly, I took a survey of 20 students in Ascend International School, asking them three questions. “Would you opt to make everyone beautiful?” To this, 84.2% of people said no, and 15.8% of people were unsure. “Would you make everyone extremely smart?” To this 94.8% of people said no, and the remaining 5.3% had a mixed opinion. “Would you make everyone’s personalities perfect?” To this, 73.7% of people said no, 15.8% said yes, and 10.5% had a mixed opinion. To draw a conclusion from these facts, the people think that individual personalities are more important than being carbon copies of each other. 

In my opinion, having all of these things would be amazing, but with limits. A nice personality is good only till you are not true to yourself. Being beautiful is great, until you lose what makes you original. Being intelligent is important, until you lose touch with your emotional side. To me, the importance of being perfect all the time, as opposed to the pressure of improving oneself is different. Perfection means there is no need for improvement, no need for growth or learning. If so how will new ideas, learnings, inventions and new heights of science be conquered? We need to be constantly evolving and growing, making mistakes and learning from them. Humans are flawed – but that is what makes us perfect.  

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