on 20 August, 2013

Of Grades, Laddoos And Life

So a popular educational website’s advertisement on national television goes something like this:

A harried father (let’s call him Dad 1) trails his finger down an exam result to find that his son has scored 90%, thanks God in an obligatory namaste, yells “YEAH!” and rushes over to feed his son a motichoor laddoo. The son, happy with his score, his mouth wide open with an ‘Aaaaaa...’ is shocked when the same laddoo is pulled right out of his mouth (cue ‘Naaaaa...’ in the background) by Dad 2 and given to his eager nerdy kid, who with a deft robot-like move opens up his mouth. Dad 2 now looks at Dad 1 and says haughtily, “92 percent!”, while wiggling his eyebrows in an extremely non-creepy manner. Dad 1 is absolutely crushed and casts a dark, disappointed look at his harrowed son who hangs his neck in shame - obviously, what is 90 percent aaj ke zamaane mein? However, the laddoo trail doesn’t end here. 

The bichaara nerdy kid also loses the damn laddoo as it is grabbed by a lady - let’s call her Mom 1 - and given to her nonchalant, yawning son, who stands up straight with almost military-like discipline on seeing the approaching laddoo, while Mom 1 says with thinly veiled contempt, “94 percent!”, leaving Dad 2 traumatised. Of course, you’d think at least the 94 percent waala will get to eat the laddoo - which has by now seen the insides on two other mouths (ewww..) - but heck, no! Indians are overachievers, na?

Some highly ambitious mother posted her son's success. Not-so-happily, of course.

The laddoo again makes a move and goes to Mom 2, whose driver pitches in from behind her with a, “96 percent!” Mom 1 smiles with an axe-murderer look in her eyes, and her son looks down, probably thinking, “Shit yaar! Kaash aur padhai ki hoti!” The laddoo finally goes to Mom 2’s daughter, who rolls her eyes in a not-so-subtle manner, and the ad goes to featuring the website content. Of course, the Kaun Banega Laddoopati winner is revealed towards the end; a kid with a giant-ass trophy in his hand, who munches on the laddoo with such happiness on his face, one would think he achieved nirvana. 

So I’m going to list down the things I learnt from this ever-so-enlightening advertisement:

  1. If you score anything less than 95% in your exams, you don’t get the laddoo... But what does the laddoo stand for? We’ll come to that later.
  2. Indian moms and dads LOVE to compare their kid’s scores with their sister’s/neighbour’s/ kitty-party aunty’s/ colleague’s/ random-parent-they-run-into-school-corridor’s kid’s scores.
  3. If you spend thousands on your kid’s future and make sure he scores +95%, life toh set hai, boss. Nothing can go wrong after that!

Note: The score has to be above 95%. Anything below that and he is doomed to a life of ignominy.

These aren’t my views, of course. Like I said, this is what I’ve learnt from the advertisement.

So what does this laddoo stand for? Why does everyone want it, and why does that stupid kid in the end look so happy on having it? I think it means different things for different people. For a low income, middle-class family, it stands for the prospect of a better college, and consequently, a better paying job. For a rich family with plenty of equally rich friends to prove a point to, it stands for an opportunity to show-off. Besides, parents do tend to use kids as trophies for flaunting purposes. What else can that silly laddoo stand for? The fact that your parents are happy, that you haven’t disappointed them? Whatever it may be, the laddoo stands for all the good things in life, which you aren’t entitled to, or will not get if you do not score well. 

I’d have no issues with this rather bizarre advertisement if it did not promote the corrupt ideology that good marks lead to a good life, while bad marks lead to a bad one. While the first statement might be somewhat true, the second is fallacious on so many levels. I am done with my basic education. 10th, 12th, IIT, AIEEE, CET, BITS, and college. I've jumped all the hoops there are to jump and I can tell you there’s absolutely no relation between marks and success. Hard work and success, hell yes. But marks don't mean a damn thing, especially in the backdrop of our Indian education system. Being the class topper in all my school years, my smug, overconfidence-bubble burst when I failed to clear the IIT, while those who used to score way below me in school led a glorious four years at IIT-B. Right there. That’s proof enough to negate everything this ad stands for.

Let’s think of what the last kid does in life -

Since he’s scored like 96 or 98 or whatever overachieving score, he’s forced into taking up Science in 11th and 12th. Of course, post 12th, he’s told he has to take up engineering since the degree stands for great job prospects after four years of college. There’s a little part of him that would rather pursue a degree in English maybe, since he enjoys writing enormously, but come on, that won’t pay the bills, right? Let’s say he gets into a good college. He enjoys the course and does well. He later goes for Masters abroad, scores a good job, sticks to it for 20-25 years, and thinks he’s made it in life. But of course, there’s a tiny vestige of disappointment that he could never truly pursue what he really wanted to: writing.

No points for guessing who the kid stands for.

Here's the advertisement, if you wish to take a look:

Disclaimer: I do not mean to demean the reputation of the portal mentioned in the advertisement. This is purely my opinion keeping in mind how parents have augmented their expectations from kids. Neither does this post mention the portal's name nor does it talk about it's content.

Image Credits - Screenshot of some post on Facebook

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