This is a difficult time, but also a free time to do things you always wanted to do, but never had the time. Read books away from exams. Read classic literature from India, and from all over the world. If I may be a little self-indulgent, you can pick up a copy of my book Music Box and Moonshine at Amazon India or Rubric Publishing online, and read my translations of some of the most famous authors, such as Tagore, Bibhuti Bhushan, Sarat Chandra, Saradindu Banerjee, Leela Majumdar, Mujtaba Ali, Bimal Kar, or Sunil Ganguly. They will open up your minds. You can also be creative, and if you like painting, do some now. If you like to play an instrument, do it now. Or any other passion you may have. This is the time to do it. Take your minds off exams. You were ready for them anyways. When they announce everything is normal, you can go back to your studies, and be ready again quickly.
Only thing I would strongly advise against is please do not waste your time watching stupid TV shows, playing mindless online games, or doing even more harmful things for the body and mind. And you know very well what I’m talking about.
You know what? Take your pedals off the rat race. I know your parents and guardians wouldn’t like me saying it, but I have never been a believer of this colonial, pre-historic, money-oriented career-driven education in the first place. I was a brilliant student, but never did well in board exams when I was in India. Guess what? I never regretted it. Since the time I became a student in the American universities, I flourished, and exams came as smooth as possible. I know you’re asking now, but Sir, I have to be in India and live in this system. What choice do I have? Well, you decide you want to live for money and wealth, or you want to live for your passion and happiness. You decide. It’s your call.
Again, I am telling you, read classic literature, world literature, Indian literature. Read poetry. Write poetry, or whatever you want to write. Start a diary of your own, and write about your feelings. Write about your life, your love, your passion, your happiness, your sadness. Write a page or two every single day. Ten years, twenty years from now, this will be prized asset for yourself and your future family. Think about what you want to do for the rest of your life: what makes you happy, and what makes you feel it’s a drag but you still have to do it only because others are forcing you, asking you to do it. Take a large piece of paper, and jot down your strengths, your dreams, your weaknesses, and your frustrations. Make a plan how you want to make use of your strengths, and overcome your shortcomings. This is the time to do it. If you need help, let me know. I will do my best to help you. You can also talk to your friends and people who truly love you because of who you are.
I would strongly recommend Rabindranath Tagore, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Noam Chomsky my guru, Sister Nibedita’s The Master As I saw Him, Short Stories of Satyajit Ray. Read poetry — poetry opens up your mind and helps you to imagine. Poetry helps you to understand the non-materialistic side of the world. Read Pablo Neruda, Sunil Ganguly, Walt Whitman. Want to read some serious social and political stuff? Read George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. Again, Noam Chomsky and Manufacturing Consent — it has a series of videos too. Watch some fantastic movies: Ray and Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta Trilogies, Ritwik Ghatak, Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen, Buddhadev Dasgupta.
I hope it helps. I will be more than happy to answer your questions. Be brave. One of my inspiration poets Robert Frost wrote:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Do take the road less traveled. I have.
Dr. Partha Banerjee is a human rights activist, writer, educator, media critic, and musician. Born and raised in Kolkata (Calcutta), Banerjee now lives in New York with frequent visits to India.