Shivanshi Khanna

We Are More Than The Marks We Score

One of the many times I experienced failure at school was when I couldn’t score well in Hindi. Despite working hard, I couldn’t perform well in that subject. One of the many times I experienced success at school was when I scored well in Mathematics. It was one of those subjects where my hard work successfully materialized into good scores. 

Until school, I defined failure in terms of the marks I scored in an examination. It didn’t matter how hard I worked, how many sleepless nights I invested in my academics, or how many sacrifices I made to prepare for an examination. It didn’t matter how I scored what I scored. The only thing that mattered was how much I scored. If that ‘how much’ were any bit less than what I had aimed for, then I would consider myself a failure. 

Such an understanding implied that I considered marks as the only parameter to judge one’s success. Throughout school, I believed in this definition of failure and success. Such a definition caused no harm till I continued to score well. However, it took only one bad performance to shake my self-confidence and lower my self-esteem. 

I prioritized marks to such an extent that it began to take a toss on my mental health. It was only then that I began to question my understanding of failure and success, thereby identifying toxicities in it.

Firstly, it was unfair to conclude I was a failure based on the result of any examination. I was promoting a culture that believes in marks being the only determiner of success in academic and professional life. Secondly, it was unfair to negate my hard work, and obedience based on the result of any examination. I was being severely critical of myself in an unhealthy and unconstructive manner. Thirdly, it was unfair to focus only on the results and not the learning experience. I was communicating that only the destination matters, not the journey, i.e., what matters is only how much you score, not what you learn.

I took my own sweet time to see through the flaws in my thought approach. It took me a long time to burst my bubble and arrive at a definition of failure and success that was much more holistic, one that was willing to see beyond marks. It was then that I realized that life is not a race but a marathon. We are not a failure if we are unable to achieve a specific score in an examination. Even though the system is rigged to favour those who score well and discriminate against those who don’t, we are still much more than the marks that we score. We are our hard work, and passion. We are our experiences and our learnings. 

Written by Shivanshi Khanna ( Young India Fellow ’22)

You Don’t Have To If You Don’t Want To

When I passed out of school in 2015, I held a board examination result that stared back at me with a 100% in Economics, and a 99% in Mathematics. I was proud of my result and grateful for the circumstances that led me to achieve it. On one hand, my result was testimony to my strengths as a student. On the other hand, my clarity regarding the college course was one of my strengths as a person. Defying all the societal expectations, and peer pressure, I found myself enrolled as a student of Journalism at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University. This was in spite of initially enrolling for Mathematics Honours at the same institution. 

The decision to pursue a non-mainstream under-graduation course was not the first time I exhibited the ideology of – you don’t have to if you don’t want to. During class 8th, I understood my passion for academics, determined by identifying what I was not passionate about. Thus, in class 9th when I got the opportunity, I opted out of studying science, one of the most favoured subjects, thereby initiating my journey to learn economics at the school level.

Even during college, though economics was my minor during the 1st semester, I later on switched to English for the remaining three semesters. Yet again, I chose a subject that interested me more than the other.

All these three moments have become some of the most crucial moments in my life. Back in class 9th, what some interpreted as leaving science, others understood as studying economics. Post-school, what some interpreted as disregarding mathematics, others understood as studying journalism. During college, what some saw as leaving economics as a minor, others understood as pursuing English instead.

However, I never saw any of those three moments of my life in any of such manners. I was simply pursuing passion which came to me in the form of several different subjects. Even though I was bold with my choices, I took years to accept that they were okay. I took my own sweet time to realise that one does not have to pursue a specific subject or course if one doesn’t want to.

So, how to choose a course? Well, had you asked me this question a year ago, I might have answered it differently. However, if you were to ask me today, then I would nudge you towards a course that interests you. This is because whether you are a school student or a college aspirant, always remember while choosing a subject or course that you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Written by Shivanshi Khanna ( Young India Fellow ’22)