Last year, during the long chat I would have with Dad every alternative weekend, we discussed his life journey. In typical ‘Tuesdays with Morrie‘ style, he talked about his childhood, growing up years and the interesting times that he had lived through. When we were talking about his Engineering days, he mentioned the term ‘ATKT’. I suddenly paused, stop taking notes and looked up at Dad. “Pappa, you, you are talking abt an ATKT.” (For non-engineers, ATKT (Allowed to keep terms) is a process in the Indian education system to allow students of pre-graduation and graduation to study in the next grade if they have failed in 1 to 4 subjects. The students must pass the papers they failed before entering into the next grade.)

Dad looked up at me with a ‘devil may care’ look and said, “Yes, I had failed a subject in my second year of Engineering. So, whats the big deal about it?” Well, after all, he was 81 then and he was talking about something that happened with him 60 years back, when he was 21. I agreed with him, it was not a big deal anymore. 

I could not help sporting a big smile. Puzzled to see me smiling on his failure, Dad enquired what was I smiling about. “Pappa, I feel happy to inform you that I also had an ATKT. I also failed a subject in my Engineering. It was in the third year and I did not have the heart to tell you. I hope you agree, it also is a not a big deal!!.” Dad kept looking at me and then as he smiled, he picked his handkerchief to wipe off tears. It was a surreal moment for me, at 46, sharing with Dad about my own moment of failure, 25 years late.

  • Did my Dad sharing about his failure make it easy for me to share my own? Definitely.
  • Would it have been better  if he had shared it earlier, maybe when I was about to go to College?  Definitely.
  • Do we all make it a point to tell our children all the good things we have done? Definitely.
  • Do we think that our kids will make fun of or look down on us, if we tell them about our failures?  OF COURSE NOT.. DEFINITELY NOT 

Yet, we hold back those negatives, those failures, those disappointments. We DO NOT want our image to be tarnished in front of them. They are our souls, part of us, they are the ones who would understand us the most, yet, we pretend everything is all right, we are supposed to be the He-Man, Superwoman, the ‘Mard ko dard nahin hota’ type IronMan or something. In reality, kids are noble and simple, they are willing to accept our faults as much as they want us to accept theirs. Its time for us to GET REAL.

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Hetal Sonpal

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