My favourite teacher came calling

As I entered the dark alley around the corner, I could hear footsteps behind me. Too close, they were too close, I murmured to myself. Hurriedly I picked up pace and gave a sigh of relief when I felt I had left the shadows far behind. Noticing a bench close by in the park, I sat down to take a pause. Suddenly, I felt a hand creep up on my shoulder and smack me softly. I was so scared; I could feel my heart skip a beat. Gathering my courage, I turned around to see who it was and was puzzled to see my shadow.

“You! Why are you following me? I thought I had left you far behind.”

“It is teacher’s day and I thought you might be missing me”, said the shadow.

Perplexed, I asked, “Why would I think of you on teacher’s day?”

“Because, I am your teacher! And you won’t be able to grow more if you ignore me. I came here to remind you of this very simple fact.”

Continuing, the shadow said, “Don’t you remember the day you realised that medicine was not really your cup of tea, but science was? That is when you moved into Life Sciences. Or, that time when Mumbai University snubbed you by delaying the results for Master’s in Library Science, so you joined TISS instead.”

“Yes, of course I remember. Those were such depressing failed moments for me. Why would I want to recall them now?”

“And what did you learn from those initial failures? Did you not learn new things? Discover new passion and realised that your joining TISS did not dim your passion for books but instead fueled new interests?” Elaborating further, my shadow prodded me more – “That premium job where you were not selected at the final stage…you had so many hopes and dreams pinned on that one. I felt your dejection and sorrow then, but I am so proud of what you do today. Yet, you so often only think of occasions when you felt let down and allow these thoughts to snatch away moments of happiness.”

By now, I was alert. My mind was racing with images and visuals of my past. Each word spoken by my shadow hit me hard like the needle of a sewing machine that rhythmically pierces through deeper and deeper. My heart truly bled when thinking of those failures. Somewhere down the line I had forgotten to rejoice over the opportunities that came my way because of those vain attempts at career or personal growth.

In a flashback, I remembered my sabbatical year wherein I had taken to learning about intra-day trading on the stock market. My first earning took me down a road of which I had not the faintest of idea. The adrenalin, the rush that I experienced each day when the stock markets opened, for, I could make little money. And then, came the losses. At the end of the year, net-net I was in a no-profit-no-loss situation. However, I came away richer with experience of the markets. My understanding on investments vis-à-vis savings became clear. I was able to shift my mindset and work out my financials accordingly. And strangely enough, the year of learning to be in the stock market game taught me to look at local and global economics differently and understand how policy decisions influenced the financial world.

I now realised who my shadow was. I turned around and embraced it tightly.

“Failure, my dear friend, why were you in the shadows?”

“I was not. I was in the light. It was those cobwebs around your eyes that did not allow you to see me with clarity. You had blind sighted me.”

Ashamed of myself, I uttered how naïve I had been. For, where would I have been if it was not for my failures? How would have those new challenges and opportunities come by if I had not stumbled and lost my way in between? Would I have ever experienced the newness and joy of life but for the umpteen efforts made to rise and grow?

My failure is my most favorite teacher. It is my constant companion, following me, and yet holding me up when I lose my way and falter.

How do you treat your failures?

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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