When 19-year old Unmukt Chand was denied a hall pass to sit for his semester exams by his college St. Stephen’s, he touched a chord somewhere amongst many in the country.
After winning the U19 Cricket World Cup, Unmukt was given a hero’s welcome back home in Delhi, only that his college, St Stephen’s, and Delhi University played spoilsport (literally) and snapped him back to reality. Having been away playing matches for his country and state, Unmukt had fallen short of the minimum required percentage of attendance needed to sit for the exams.
While the media and the general public rallied for Unmukt, which eventually helped him get directly promoted to second year of college on the basis of his marks, several pertinent questions were raised about the importance sports is given in our country.
Many blamed the elite, exclusive St. Stephen’s College for being so rigid with its rules and not allowing a talented student like Unmukt to take his exams
. But being part of Delhi University, the college had to adhere to the rules set by the varsity and not make an exception even for Unmukt.
Blaming the college came easy to most, since they were the ones who denied Unmukt a seat. But if you see the larger picture, it is the society which should be ‘blamed’ for having a mindset where everything else is given secondary importance other than academics. And the rules set by the university perhaps reflect that very mindset.
Let’s face it. All of us, right from childhood, have been taught that to get good marks in school and college was of prime importance and other talents were just to be treated as extra-curricular activities. In a country teeming with people, the only way to excel is to get good grades during your academic years so that it guarantees you a good ‘well-paying’ job later in life. In the race to excel in academics, parents often push the child to do something which he or she might not have an aptitude for. The child may not have an aptitude for academics but have an inherent talent and interest in arts or sports, but is compelled to stick to the stereotype and struggle with his scores.
I have seen several of my classmates struggle through college and school years simply because they never had an interest in books but had an interest in art and music. Even if few of the parents accepted that their child’s interest lay in something other than studies, there were never enough facilities to nurture these talents.
Post school, there are actually very few colleges in our country which offer degrees in music, art, and the like. Sports academies may offer coaching but most of them cater to the popular sport of the country – Cricket.
Unmukt’s case was highlighted only because he is a national level cricketer. There are several others like him who excel in the not-so-popular sports like basketball, football, etc., but media does not rally behind them when they are denied degrees. Because cricket is followed as a religion in our country, Unmukt’s case was keenly followed up. But every year, thousands of dreams are shattered simply because of a flawed system, one where education is given prime importance and other talents are treated as secondary. So many students give up on their dream of pursuing a sport that they may have excelled in all through their school life, simply because these sports do not have a future in the country.
I agree that education is important. I wouldn’t have become a journalist had I given up on studies post school. But then, journalism was my calling and I am glad that I got to do that. But I also know a lot of my friends who would have rather been dancers or footballers than teachers or lawyers, but could never pursue their interests seriously because they weren’t given the push, and neither were there enough options to hone their skills. Also, parents wouldn’t agree to the fact their lad was pursuing a dream which did not guarantee them a monthly salary.
Basic education is necessary to survive in today’s world and most often, people fall back on their degree when other things don’t work out. But if a child is good at a particular form of art or has the aptitude to excel in sports, it seems illogical to confine him within the classroom only because the society has been working in a set pattern. A society needs a footballer as much as an engineer.
At a time when the country is getting laurels in various fields and not just Cricket, it is required to glorify their achievement so that some mindsets are changed. The government needs to highlight the achievement of a Mary Kom or a Saina Nehwal as much as that of Virat Kohli or a Suresh Raina; so that the next time when a child wants to take up boxing as his career, his parents need not flinch and outright refuse.
It’s time to think beyond prescribed books and introduce a change in the system. So that people don’t stop dreaming and don’t give up on what they believe in just because the society doesn’t have the hindsight to think big.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)