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Expectations - Poem .... With Reflections on - Is It Possible to Be Devoid of Expectations ?! How to Balance Them ?!

Vanita is an engineer-researcher-consultant-artist: a gifted singer-poetess; & writes in English-Hindi-Gujarati on her diverse experiences


Time goes on and on.

The future, absolutely unknown.

And ambitious as he is,

Man always expects bliss.

Joy, to the present they nurture,

These lovely dreams of future.

But, alas ! It is a fact that

Everything does not happen just as we expect.

- Vanita Thakkar (29.06.1987)

29th June, 1987 was the day on which my Secondary School Board Examination (commonly known as Class X Board Examination) results were declared. I had topped in my school - among all those who had appeared for Board Examinations : Secondary as well as Higher Secondary, but, had scored lesser than expected. My scoring percentage had never gone below 80% throughout my schooling and I saw myself scoring an unexpectedly low 76% and was dejected. We (my teachers, family, friends, relatives, well-wishers .... and I) had expected much higher marks and percentage.

I was a student of Gujarat Secondary Education Board (GSEB) and for Standard / Grade X, the Examinations are conducted centrally by the respective state education boards, as per the prevailing education system in India. I had been a student of Central Board (managed by the Central Government Education Department) till the previous year, that is, till my 9th standard / grade. In the Central Board schools, there is an internal board examination in the 9th standard, which means the question papers for the examinations are from the Central Board - sent to schools all over India, but the assessment takes place locally. After completing my 9th standard, my parents decided to shift me to a state board school as that would ensure easier and better scopes for university admissions in Gujarat. There are limited seats for Central Board students in the state run universities and higher studies in Vadodara was a top preference for both, my brother and me.

Education - with respect to contents, style as well as atmosphere - in state board schools was very different. Taking extra coaching in the form of tuitions outside the school was so common that I was the only student in my class - both sections - who had not opted for any external coaching. There were optional subjects to be selected - I opted for Hindi instead of my mother-tongue Gujarati since I had never had any formal education in Gujarati. There was a choice of two out of three between Sanskrit, Special Geography and Typewriting and I wanted to take Sanskrit and Special Geography, but both classes were going on simultaneously. So, I took Sanskrit and Typewriting. For typewriting, we had to go to a separate affiliated institute for a session of one hour after our school hours, every working day. I had scored well and highest in both of those subjects. The problem was in Science, Mathematics and English. I was complimented (and unknowingly consoled) that scoring this good percentage in English medium was commendable. In Gujarat State Board, English medium results were always lower and poorer than Gujarati medium results. The common reason that I got to hear from most people was that the English medium paper assessment was too difficult for the available qualified staff. Some people even told me that my cursive (and pretty good) handwriting (that was much loved and appreciated by all, especially my teachers - so far) must have been too difficult to read (that is something very disappointing) !!

This poem and my parents were the only ones who knew how disappointed I had felt at my result. No, no, there was one more person (Ha, Ha ....) : My father had accompanied me to my school for collecting my result. I tried and managed to remain cool while accepting all the compliments and Pappa was cheering me up on our way back as we boarded an auto rickshaw. He was happy and wanted to celebrate. He asked the auto rickshaw driver to stop near a sweet shop and got down to get the sweets. I realized how sullen my face had turned, when a genuinely concerned auto rickshaw driver asked me, "Beta (an affectionate way of addressing a kid or younger one), have you failed ?" Oh God !! .... "No", I replied, "I have passed ...." as I saw my smiling father return back with a packet of sweets and board the auto rickshaw ....

I had written this poem in the quietness of the evening that day, sitting all by myself in our little backyard and decided that I will score higher - at least, not let my results go further down - in the two years of schooling left before me. I could manage that and I topped in the next two years as well, even though in my Higher Secondary Examination also, I scored much lesser than expected in one of the main subjects - Chemistry and could not cross the 80% mark.

Further Reflections on Expectations ....

Expectations are often mentioned at several places - in philosophy, in religion, in relations ....

My experience in the above mentioned incident was with reference to expectations of results of my efforts in studies. Till the above incident took place, my results used to be better than what I would expect. I would estimate how much I was likely to score, and I would never get lesser than what I would expect. Also, here, even though the results were not up to the expectations, and perhaps up to the caliber, they were not altogether bad. My friends would not understand my dismay, which would surface out spontaneously, as they had a very different background. And I was scoring more than them !! So, some even looked upon it as my "hypocrisy" !!

The study material that we got in State Board schools was also not as good as I was used to. Text books were most disappointing .... Making notes, going to the library, reading reference books .... was something that did not appeal to most of my new class mates. In Secondary School, I was the only student who went to the library regularly - much to the joy of my teachers and librarian. In Higher Secondary, our English Medium library was never found open !! And perhaps I was the one who was most disappointed about it .... But, this was not all. Studies went on in their own course. I was in Science stream and there were hardly ten or eleven girls in our class. Our group of seven girls was most amazing. We had had some most memorable wonderful times together and the seven of us are still in touch ....

People try to philosophize expectations by saying - "All troubles are due to expectations .... There should be no expectations ...."

How true is it ? Is it not OK to expect a human being to behave like a human being - as the most beautiful of creations ? And is it really possible to stop expecting ? Is life so isolated ? Are our ethical rulings, religious preaching and legal systems not based on expectations - to maintain order and peace in human society ?

Expecting someone to stop expecting is in itself an expectation !! (Ha, Ha ....)

Perhaps we forget a very important fact of Life - there is no independence in physical, emotional and social ecosystems. There is interdependence, which has to be respectfully and lovingly enjoyed. And that leads to "independence" - a word that belongs to the world of spiritualism.

The problem, perhaps, is not related to expectations being there or not, as expectations cannot be ruled out. They cannot be non-existent. However, a balance of expectations has to be established and maintained in our relationships and dealings everywhere - in personal, professional and social lives as well as in our relationships and dealings with our surroundings, our environment, our ecosystem and our beautiful universe, as a whole. This is a collective responsibility, wherein everyone, every individual plays his / her significant role.

© 2020 Vanita Thakkar