QUICK READ Swathi’s plans took a dive when her cousin Gayatri pointed out some glitches.

Swathi liked to plan. It made things easier and helped her feel safe. Her grand plans were safety nets and Swathi liked the thought of them swinging beneath her, invisible to anyone except herself.

Planning for things was a part of her thinking process and she hardly ever thought of it. That was why she was surprised and pleased when her cousin Gayatri, staying with them for a few days, said one day, “You like to plan everything, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Swathi nodded. “That way,” she explained, “I am always prepared!”

“It is great that you are like this at 12!” Gayatri, ten years older than Swathi, said admiringly.

Swathi tried to pretend it was nothing but she was bursting with joy. She felt warm all over with the pleasure of being complimented and longed to say something that would show her appreciation.

“I have everything planned!” she blurted.

“Really?” Gayatri seemed genuinely interested. “So, what are your plans?” she wanted to know and Swathi opened up under her cousin’s interest.

“I want to be a doctor,” she began. She had never told anyone of this ambition and was pleased to see that it impressed Gayatri.

Encouraged, she went on, “And specialise in something… and I want to top my class too,” Swathi went on.

“Wait a minute!” Gayatri said, a frown on her face. “I can understand having to plan for something that is in the future, like becoming a doctor, and specialising. But a grand plan to top your class? Why can’t you just do it now?”

“There is a girl named Nitika in my class,” Swathi explained, “And she always tops the class while I am second. It has been that way since we started school together. But…her father will soon be transferred. Then Nitika will go away. And then… then I will top the class!” Swathi smiled at the thought of that day.

“Swathi,” Gayatri said, sounding puzzled, “Explain something to me. Why do you have to follow a grand plan that expects you to wait for Nitika to go away so that you can top your class?”

“You don’t understand!” Swathi said, “As long as Nitika is in my class I can’t top the class! That is why I plan to wait till she leaves and then….”

“Swathi,” Gayatri said, “Stop! You don’t have to wait to study hard. You don’t have to plan to study hard and top the class!”

“Then?” Swathi asked.

“You just do it!” Gayatri said, “For once stop planning and do it!”

When Swathi had thought over this new idea she realised that Gayatri was right. There was nothing stopping her from working hard even while Nitika was her classmate. So, Swathi stopped waiting for Nitika to leave. Instead she began to work harder than she ever had.

And now, she is waiting for the results of her final exams. Whatever the result, Swathi is prepared for it. And that is her new grand plan.