Education Plus

Being extraordinary

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

My grandmother was “extra-ordinary.” If you had met her, you might have just seen a quiet sari clad woman, a radiant smile and nothing that would dazzle you into thinking her life was anything other than normal. There could be nothing farther from the truth. She had led an unconventional life, brought by circumstances, and one filled with rich experiences. She exuded a quality of rare inner strength, which is gifted to those who plunge into the classroom of life. She rarely spoke about her life story and even if we cajoled her, it came from a place of true acceptance. Perhaps, the legacy she left us was the manner in which she had come to terms with the events of the past, not letting any remnants of hate or bitterness eclipse her dignity, grace and warm sense of humour.

Perception of a hero

At a Writing workshop conducted for students, we asked the group to write a descriptive paragraph about heroes in their lives. A majority of them chose people who had been awarded or recognised for their contributions in sport, art and film. What we noticed in the writing of this group was a lack of a personal connect to their own lives and an overwhelming attraction for the trimmings that come with celebrityhood. For example, the number of vehicles owned, the six figure salaries and their various international appearances. A small group wrote about family members who had helped them in some way. There was one person whose essay stood out. She wrote about a teacher who had high standards and whose valuable criticism, though hurtful at times, fuelled her to work harder. She said the process helped her learn to objectively listen to criticism and value those who take the time and effort to help us grow.

Addiction to importance

In a celebrity-ridden culture with access to twenty-four hours of news, it is easy to get caught in the illusory web of hero worship. The idea that we are important only if we are constantly photographed, talked about and written about perhaps forms the foundation of our addiction to social media. The nature of social media thrives on the basic human need for recognition and importance. Over the years, we find that increasingly our students’ self-esteem depends on their social media presence. If they do not have a certain number of “likes” on a comment or post, it affects them into believing that there is something wrong with them.

For one moment, if we zoom out of this madness, we will stumble into an Aladdin’s cave called life! A treasure trove filled with the richness of those who interact with us and touch our lives on a daily basis. We can find heroes in every aspect of our lives, even in those moments we dismiss as ordinary!

Those who challenge us

Similar to the girl in the above story, if we spend a few moments to reflect and shift the way we perceive things, heroes might come in the form of the very people who challenge us.

A “difficult” family member who might have actually helped us see our own pettiness, once the storm of their hurtful comments have died down. A student who had the courage to stand up for his/her beliefs, however uncomfortable it may have made others. An employer who took the time to share his honest assessment, helping you to discover that your strengths maybe utilised in better ways.

Many years ago, Sara (name changed) was a student who was very good at theatre. In the small town she grew up in, she was the star of her college festivals. Deciding to pursue theatre, she moved to the city, where for the first time, she said she felt like a small fish in an ocean of professionals. She realised that while she was talented, she required a lot more training and exposure. Her hero came in the form of a director whose frank assessment of her abilities, really allowed her to become aware of her own inclinations. Up to this point, nobody had given her the bigger picture. She realised that she did not have the mettle to become a full time actor. Instead, she chose to study psychology and is currently pursuing a course in drama therapy. She says while it was very hard to hear her director’s assessment, the genuine advice he gave helped her find her true calling.

Those in the background

There are those who have helped someone just by their presence. When Rakhesh (name changed) was going through a tough ordeal at home, his teacher would spend her lunchtime just providing a listening ear. He shares that what he needed was not advice but someone who cared enough to just listen. His teacher has been an inspiration for him in his own line of work, where people have found comfort in Rakesh’s excellent listening skills. We can remember people who have helped us without asking anything in return. In fact, they would not have even talked about it. They can come in the form of a friend who you trusted with your deepest secret and never once used that against you, even when the friendship hit a rocky patch. It can be a security guard who gives you his umbrella on a rainy day or an auto rickshaw driver who shares his passion for poetry and on alighting, refuses to accept a fare!

Life is filled with a montage of ordinary moments woven together by the threads of beauty. We can find those moments, brought sometimes by the most ordinary people, some in the ways they comfort us, and others in the way they challenge us. Once you really start observing the world around you, it can reveal some extraordinary insights. In all probability, right now, you are someone else’s hero, just for being who you are! You never know where your own influence will reach, making those who come in contact with you more joyful. You may never be thanked for it or there might be no mention of you in any media, but the joy in being extraordinary might be just worth it!

Enjoy your own extraordinary journey!

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 6:24:14 AM |

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