The session was a part of our ‘Tuning the Teens‘ programme. This session was on orienting the students towards a choice of career. It was my turn to be on the dais. I looked at the eager young faces that looked at me in anticipation. I searched my mind for a story that could connect to the child in them. And then I remembered Akshita.
“I teach first year medical students. Whenever I ask them what prompted them to choose Medicine as a career, I end up getting stereotyped answers.
‘I have always loved Biology.’
‘I have always wanted to serve society.’
‘It is a respectable profession.‘
These are the answers I always hear. Recently, one boy smiled and said he hadn’t really thought about it. That at least was an honest answer. Most students get into Medicine only because Medicine and Engineering are the norm in India. These are considered lucrative careers and parents work hard all their lives to earn their children a medical degree. The child knows from kindergarten that he is going to be a doctor or an engineer. And so, when you ask students this question, they are puzzled. For they have always believed that this is the career they were meant to pursue. It appears odd to them that there must be a reason for it.
And that is what set Akshita apart. When I asked her this question, her face lit up and there was a glow in her eyes.
‘I have always derived my happiness from giving. When I was a child, I lived with my grandparents. They lived a life of generosity, and seemed to derive immense pleasure from it. For them, happiness was always collective happiness. Once they even brought a beggar child home, gave him a good bath, a change of clothes and food to the stomach’s fill. Perhaps it seeped in unconsciously into my mind. I remember how for Diwali, I would collect money, buy crackers and distribute them to the slum kids who could not afford it and would watch with longing eyes the kids from affluent families bursting crackers. The glow on their faces was priceless. At some point, I knew I had to choose a career where I could give a whole lot and make a significant difference in people’s lives. And so, I opted for Medicine.’
Education ideally, is supposed to nurture our curiosity and creativity and transform us into individuals capable of working to the best of our genetic potential, and thus contribute meaningfully to the world. Instead, the modern Indian education system successfully kills all our inherent curiosity and creativity and transforms us into robots capable of handling systems.”
I looked at my audience- adolescents who were listening attentively, inspired by Akshita’s example. They clapped hard.
Akshita is a teacher’s pride. A student who restored my belief that a student could do wonders as long as there was a teacher to believe in them. She reinforced the fact that a teacher could make or break personalities.
I have watched Akshita unfurl into a confident, compassionate and competent medical student who studies because she wants to know how she can help people. She has made steady progress in the course of her medical school and I have no doubt that she is going to excel. I watched her shed off her initial fear, hesitation and inhibition and slowly acquire wings. I see her slowly getting ready for a future that will ask much in order to give back. And she has learnt this lesson early.
This lesson that life will test you intensely before it considers you worthy of its miracles.
When I think of Akshita, I remember her beautiful, sparkling eyes that seem to reflect the infinite beauty in the world that surrounds her. I remember those dimples that make her smile rather attractive. I remember her infectious enthusiasm. And the excitement in her tone as she talks about a million things that have touched her.
‘So alive….so full of life!‘, I think to myself.
Life and only life has that spark in it that makes people phenomenally beautiful. She is a living example of that. I can lose myself in conversation with her for she has so many things to talk about…
Things that matter….things that inspire.
She always makes me feel part of a large world where there is so much to explore. There is that element of rawness in her that makes her so loveable. And I can tell that this spirit of hers will endear her to her patients.
That rawness also makes her vulnerable and gullible. But I have always believed that the happiest people are always the ones who can feel the currents of life in all its intensity. She is full of memories and that makes her a delightful companion. I have seen her through her moments of vulnerability, and I can say that she has resilience in her spirit. I believe that vulnerability and resilience is the best concoction one can have, for that enables one to feel everything and live life to its fullest, and yet find the strength to come out of setbacks. Akshita’s spirit easily puts insensitivity to shame.
Akshita has taught me that a student teacher relationship is rather special. We are both die-hard fans of Randy Pausch who brings out the essence of a teacher-student relationship in his book, ‘The last lecture.’ We have a lot in common- a deep love for nature, the inclination towards aesthetics in day to day life, a love for people and books and music, a passion for travel, and an undying thirst for the richness of life.
The mind is indeed the most beautiful of all creation and I am in perpetual awe of how we connect with different people, and how we derive a deep sense of purpose from some of these connections.