I clearly remember that day, it was summer of 2009. I was in grade eight that time I had gone to the hospital for checkup. I had some cardiac problem back then. I was accompanied by my cousin brother. As we stepped out from the doctor’s room, he told me “you are physically very weak and you are not good enough in mathematics. It would be better if you start taking more fluid, doing exercise, gain some height and opt your career as an air hostess. I don’t think you can do well in studies.
Coming back to home staring at the white lab report card I wondered why he told me to become an air hostess instead of motivating me to chase my very own dreams.
I used to be among the top three students of class till the grade 5. But slowly my performance in mathematics started degrading.
No one look it as trouble till my primary level, neither my teachers nor my parents not even me. I was hardly of age 10 at that time I had my different world of singing and dancing. Everything I achieved was effortlessly, every subjects were too easy for me and I think I did not want to put any effort for mathematics alone.
In grade 6 our school merged with another, a totally different environment, I did not enjoy my school time and had really hard time in adjusting with the new environment. Our Mathematics teacher who was a disable guy in his early thirties. He was a very stingy person who never wore a smile in his face. He used to pull ear of student now and then. Every single heart was terrified in the classroom except those who stood on top five. Because those five boys were the real students in his eyes, they were the only students he taught to. Rest were only there to listen him silently in heart full of terror. Once I raised my gut and asked him question on the sums he solved in the untidy blackboard, he ridiculed me. Then I stopped asking questions in class. Everyone shared the same story as mine.
In the terminal examination of grade 6 I failed in mathematics. My class teacher told my parents “she can be among the top three if she work hard on mathematics. My whole world started changing. I was made fun in front of all the family members by my cousins and siblings. The result times were really difficult time then.
But I passed my final examination. I was promoted to grade 7.The same story continued in grade 7. I was no longer one of the creative and talented students of my class. My identity was vanished somewhere. I got a new identity of poor student since then. I was bullied by my some of my friends, cousins, siblings and some of my teachers as well. I was bullied, ridiculed because I was poor in mathematics but the very fact was connected by them with my sex. I was bullied because I was a girl. Because they were driven by the notion girl cannot do good in technical fields, their left brain is passive, only boys do well in mathematics etcetera. As none bullied guys who were worse than me. The joint effort of everybody was enough to pull me down and make me believe that I cannot achieve great things in my life.
In the eye of some of my teachers I was helpless, worthless though I was very good in other subjects. . I hated the word mathematics, I hated my school, my teachers, my classroom and everything. So I tried my best to find an excuse to stay at home. Tonsillitis, fever, headache, diarrhea every possible excuse I tried. I was afraid of mathematics and I Had considered mathematics as my greatest enemy who is much more powerful than me. In fact I was made to believe so. My poetry, my stories, my dance, my creativeness was never admired, never appreciated and never encouraged.
That time I was unable to understand why my brother suggested me to opt air hostess as a career. Which was a representing thought of the flawed generalization that women’s left brain is passive. Academically weak girls can make their living only on the basis of their beauty but not on their talent.
In spite of growing hatred towards my class and mathematics I was working hard. The result of second terminal examination of grade 7 was distributed and my score on mathematics was 38. I was failed the pass mark was 40. 38 haunted me all night long. I hated school days after the day of result every teacher and every student was asking about the result. Cousins asking about result was more troublesome. Someday I cried in agony.
Nobody could imagine how difficult it was to a girl who has just completed 11 years of her life when the whole world is judging her capabilities on a single ground i.e. mathematics.. For what was she weak? For life? Why she was treated differently? These thoughts could make insane. The only thing that kept motivating was the words of my grandma. She would tell me “no matter whatever happens in your life you should never give up. Take everybody’s comment in your head and labor hard to prove them wrong”. She used to recite the verses of Ramayana (one of the ancient Sanskrit epic of Hindu mythology) to motivate me.
In the grade Itook tuition. My tutor was a kind lady. She motivated me a lot by sharing her stories with me. In the first terminal examination of grade eight I secured eight position among 40 students. I was so happy. My tutor was happiest. I thanked my grandma and my tutor. I now knew the power of love, kindness and motivation. Similarly I secured fifth position on my finals. I remember when my lady teacher took a time to praise my hard work in front of the whole class. My self-confidence shifted radically.
In grade 9 my study was okay. My tutor was married and moved to another part of the city. Mathematics was again a subject to be afraid of. I did okay in grade 9 and I was promoted to grade 10. My school leaving certificate (SLC) examination was near.
One evening of March, I was with my friend and my uncle. I made a minor mistake in calculation of amount I had to pay to my friend. To my surprise my uncle told me puffing the smoke “I am damn sure that you foolish girl won’t score more than 65 in mathematics in your SLC examination. My friend looked into my eyes in surprise. I was hurt. My parents were never so cruel, they never hated for not doing well in a single subject, never hated me for failing, and they never pushed me to meet their dreams. But my uncle broke my heart. On the same day I promised myself that no matter what I’m going to prove him wrong. I started spending my late night solving mathematical solutions lying in my bed. In the mornings I woke up earlier than other days took sip of strong coffee to avoid sleep and started to study. My SLC exam was over and did well. I was waiting for the result. I wanted to break all those prejudgment, limitations set by people around me except few.
On one fine evening the result was published I scored 78 percentage in my SLC and I scored 72 in mathematics. It was one greatest achievement of my life. Disappointment was seen on my uncle’s face.
I completed my higher studies in good marks and I did very well in my undergraduate life without any difficulties. Now I am a graduate. Immediately after my examination I was asked by my neighbor to help her little girl in the studies who has leaning difficulties.
She cannot solve the sum even after teaching her for 2 hours for 3 days. She literally has no idea how to do the sum. It broke my heart to hear this 11 year old naïve “you know what I am as worried about my future as I have learning difficulties, I cannot solve sums which the children of my age are capable of. It hurts me when my parents tell me “we don’t what you will do in your life”.
Not only because my tuition student has difficulties in mathematics and she shares similar story to mine today I am motivating her in every possible ways, every single motivating story, my own story and renowned personalities, teaching her ways to grow a positive attitude which seems like impossible at the end when she shows the same pessimistic attitude. I am doing this cause to empower her is to dismantle the misguided stereotype that females are weak in mathematics, science, technology and other technical fields and to respect and encourage their creativity.