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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Decisions must be yours - Ask our Counsellor Q&A column

[The following column answered by me was published in the Deccan Herald Education supplement on December 31, 2015]

Dear Madam,
I come from a remote area and humble background, where I struggled to get a single meal after I lost my father and brother during my primary school. Later, life become very hard and I struggled a lot. With great difficulty, I have completed my graduation and post-graduation in regional languages (working and studying) and was struggling to speak in English.

I somehow came to Bangalore and joined a BPO and slowly learnt the language. However, I still face a problem while constructing sentences and speaking in English. I am not able to put in words easily while speaking and writing. I have been humiliated and frustrated. I lost promotions also due to my lack of good English. I have joined coaching centres, but they don’t seem to be working.

I thought of taking competitive exams, but due to hesitation in English (presenting, writing analytically and speaking without stopping). I am feeling frustrated and can’t achieve what I want to and push myself down day by day. 

My query is — is there any course where I can improve my English. I am ready to quit my job and pursue my dream. I request you to kindly provide complete details of any institution in India (address and contact number) where I can realize my long-cherished dream. 
Or can I join any English major degree which can help me to overcome my fear, struggle and fulfill my dreams? If yes, please let me know about the good colleges in India. I am anticipating your valuable guidance.

Dear Ganapathy
I understand that you have hesitation in communicating in English and I applaud you for the courage it must have taken for you to send in this letter. Learning a new language and successfully communicating in it, has more to do with your confidence in yourself and your willingness to make mistakes and learn from them, than it has to do with joining the best course available.

I am not in a position to answer your question on best courses available, because that is not my area. However, I would like you to take inspiration from our current prime minister who could not speak English when he came to the position, and now  is giving speeches in English in different parts of the world. 

So don’t lose hope. Just practise, practise, practise. More than a class, find yourself some friends with whom you can speak and not be afraid of making a mistake. Ask them to correct you if you say something wrong. Let them know that English is not your strength area and that you want to practise the language. 

Ask them if they can help you. You won’t learn anything new unless you are ready to make mistakes in front of others. One learns from one’s mistakes. So be upfront about your hesitation, and your desire to improve, and seek help from everyone you can.
There is nothing more to it. But this route requires you to not only take some risks, but risks in front of others. So reach out and you will be surprised at how many people will be able to assist you in this journey.
All the best.

Dear Madam,
We feel our son, who is 10, has a very high IQ. We are not sure if it has to be checked at this age and for any purpose. He is quite good in studies, but we are just eager to guide him right. He gets easily distracted; he thinks too many things at the same time. His teachers find him difficult to handle because he gets diverted very easily, although they are very happy with regard to studies and his performance. Perhaps, we are not feeding him enough knowledge, information that can make him a thinker and better focussed.

He is also a voracious reader. Any book, riddles such as crossword, sudoku make him sit with concentration and rapt attention. He is also very good at drawing. We sent him to train under professional artists, but they couldn’t make him draw the usual way. 

He has his own choices and cannot sit patiently with the pencil and colouring, the common way. But when he puts his heart into anything particular, or his daily scribblings, they are excellent.
Our questions are:1. Is it too early for us to worry about his focus? 2. Do we have any special courses/scholarship for high IQ kids in India? 3. Is there any postal courses (not as a hobby) in drawing for kids like him in India?
Dear SA
I cannot answer the specific questions you have raised at the end of your letter. However, it would be good to get your child evaluated by a psychologist for IQ, attention, focus etc. What that will do is it will tell you whether your son is within the norms of normalcy, or outside of it and needs special attention. Without this evaluation, you will not be able to give him the inputs that may be appropriate. So take the first step. Also be observant about his interactions with peers and his other behaviours and discuss these in your meeting with the psychologist.

Dear Madam,
I am 27 years old. I have completed computer science engineering in 2013. I was supposed to have graduated in 2010. Right now, I am in a dilemma. I don’t know which path to choose. I didn’t give many IT interviews because of my backlogs and low grades. I have chosen UPSC as my aim now, but my dad tells me to go abroad for MBA. He tells me I can’t clear UPSC. But I want to stay in India, as my mom is not well and she wants me to be in the civil services field and sometimes she is also worried about me. I am afraid about making the wrong career choice. I am an average guy, but I have some confidence that I can clear UPSC, but many demotivate me so that I don’t do work hard enough. I am scared. Please guide me.
A student

Dear Student
Please believe in yourself and do what your heart desires. Ultimately, there will always be many people giving you a lot of advice, based on their own assessment, their own value systems, and their own aspirations for themselves and for you. You could take all those inputs, but ultimately, the decision must be yours. It is helpful to remember that there is not only one right choice. 
You can make any choice you take work for you or not work for you. You can go abroad and do your MBA and make a great success of it, or you can waste that opportunity and make nothing of it. Or you can take the UPSC exam and make a success of it and a success of the opportunities that come up because of it, or you can waste it by not living a meaningful life. There is more than one path to success and happiness, because ultimately, success and happiness depend on how you define it for yourself, not on how others define it for yourself.

Don’t let other’s assessment of your capabilities colour your decision. If your heart lies in taking the UPSC exam, please take it and give it your best shot. If it doesn’t work out, there will be other paths that you can go down. You could do MBA then. Or you could do the MBA and then do the UPSC also. Like I said, there are many paths you can go down, and each path can be right for you. The important thing is to believe in yourself and make the choice that you feel fits best for you at this point of time.

Also, try and understand your fears. Answer the question – what is the worst thing that you are scared of happening? Often, when you name it, you will realise that ‘worst fear’ is not something you won’t be able to deal with. All the best.

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