Dressed up as a 'rockstar' in one of the preliminary rounds of the Fancy Dress Competition.

Purnima’s son dressed up as a ‘Rockstar’ for the Fancy Dress Competition.

Here in India there are a lot of competitions conducted for children in a healthy way.  Our son recently took part in a competition in early November.  You see, it is Children’s Day on the 14th of November and the kids who win are awarded on that day.

It was a fancy dress competition.  He was all dressed up.  He had reached the final round after clearing two intermediate rounds. He dressed up as a ‘Rockstar’ for the first round and then as ‘The Earth’ for the second round. For the finals, the topic was a bit tricky. We had to dress up depicting any opposite. So I was thinking of good and evil and hot and cold and such things. But he came with Indoor and Outdoor games. Maybe they are not really opposites, so I got a confirmation from the teacher-in-charge and then dressed him up to depict Indoor and Outdoor games.

And just when we were waiting for his chance to get on stage and perform, there was a mother, whose child’s only competition was my son.  She came up to us, and tried to discourage my son and demotivate him.  I tried to shield him away from her and her stinging words.  She joked about it so that I wouldn’t take offense and complain…but tried to do the damage nevertheless.


He will have to learn, I know, 
that all men are not just,
all men are not true.
But teach him also that 

for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish Politician, 

there is a dedicated leader…
Teach him for every enemy there is a 


I asked to be excused because our turn was coming up. No, she didn’t leave us alone. Another parent understood what was happening and tried to get us some peace, but no, it was not our day.

So, I said we needed some air and came out of the performance room. I could see that my son was beginning to get visibly affected by this lady.

Steer him away from envy,
if you can,
teach him the secret of
quiet laughter.

In the corridor I told him to forget that lady and tried to tell him he could perform better in spite of all this anyway. We talked about the glitter packs we purchased recently. And then I told him I had some candies and chocolates for him. We spoke about our impending trip to my ancestral home. We talked about all that we would do on reaching there. We talked about the places we visited the last time we went there. I distracted him and made him forget the lady and her words to the best of my ability.

And finally I told him again that when he was ready, we could go back in and perform.

Let him learn early that 
the bullies are the easiest to lick… Teach him, if you can,
the wonder of books… 
But also give him quiet time 
to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky,
bees in the sun, 
and the flowers on a green hillside.

He was not ready.

So I told him it was okay to not win the competition. But it would be great to win it too. I told him we would get him a surprise gift whether he won or not. So his reward (present) was assured anyway. I told him the next time someone comes and tries to bully him or demotivate him, he should ignore them or just get away from the place. Or if it gets unbearable, tell them to work on bettering their performance.

He asked me, “If I do not get a prize, won’t this all be a waste?”

And then I said, “Trust your efforts. Trust your confidence.” I don’t know how much he understood. But I spoke to him like I would speak to an adult.

“Maybe next time I should ask that lady to mind her business,” my son said at last.

“Atta Boy!”

In the school teach him 
it is far honourable to fail 
than to cheat… 
Teach him to have faith 
in his own ideas, 
even if everyone tells him 
they are wrong… 
Teach him to be gentle 
with gentle people, 
and tough with the tough.

“So what if I have missed my turn now, he asked?”  “That’s okay. Let’s go back and see what’s happening,” I said.

“But they won’t allow me if my turn is missed,” he said.

Try to give my son 
the strength not to follow the crowd 
when everyone is getting on the band wagon… 
Teach him to listen to all men… 
but teach him also to filter 
all he hears on a screen of truth, 
and take only the good 
that comes through.

“We do not have to compete. We do not have to win. We can just chill out if we wish,” I told him. Some elder boys, maybe early teenagers came our way. They smiled and chatted with us for a while. And they asked him to perform in front of them. He did. They said he was awesome. Go on, go fast and get the first prize, they said. And they moved on. It must have been their break time, I believe. 

Teach him if you can, 
how to laugh when he is sad…
Teach him there is no shame in tears, 

Teach him to scoff at cynics 
and to beware of too much sweetness… 
Teach him to sell his brawn 
and brain to the highest bidders 
but never to put a price-tag 
on his heart and soul.

We went in only to be ushered in immediately on to the stage. One of the first grade teachers held the microphone for him. And he started performing, the star, that he was. And suddenly he faltered. I held my breath. Maybe he remembered that lady’s words?  Her demotivation?  Was her negativity was getting to him? I hoped not!

He went silent. My heart cried. I willed him to continue. He spoke one more sentence…and went still again. This wonderful teacher told him to conclude it if his performance was over. He stared blankly at her…5 seconds…10 seconds. She directed him to thank the guests and leave. He did that.

Teach him to close his ears 
to a howling mob 
and to stand and fight 
if he thinks he’s right. 
Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, 
because only the test 
of fire makes fine steel.

She later asked him what went wrong. He did not confide in her. And another teacher told him she expected more from him because he was her star.

Let him have the courage 
to be impatient… 
let him have the patience to be brave. 
Teach him always 
to have sublime faith in himself, 
because then he will have 
sublime faith in mankind.

“Amma, I will get a prize, I am sure,” he told me that evening when I took him to the school cafeteria.

I said, “Ok.”

“I know I faltered. But I will still get a prize,” he said once more.

Is that confidence or over confidence? Or dreaming on?

I waited for the results. A few teachers came to the cafeteria for a cup of tea.  “Hey, aren’t you the guy who was amazing on the stage up there?”

“Yes, I am that amazing guy,” he said in all his innocence. And they all laughed.  I kept nodding and looked away. I did not know what to say because I thought they must have mistaken him for someone else.

“You talked about indoor games and outdoor games, didn’t you?” the other teacher asked.  Ok, that was us. No mistaken identity here. We were ‘amazing’, huh? I thought we faltered.

This is a big order,
but see what you can do… 
He is such a fine fellow, 
my son!

The results were announced that evening on the website.  That lady’s child, whose sole competition was my son, got a prize.  We got a prize too!  There were seven prizes given away and we were somewhere in the middle.  No, not the rock bottom like I anticipated.  I know his real capabilities, so I know he is capable of more, but this was still sufficient enough for a first grader to get a prize.

We came home and spoke at length about this experience.

The world is not a beautiful place. It is not an ugly place either. It has evil men (and women). And some great people too.  I do my best to give him a good mental and emotional balance. And then this world he grows up in is going to be his best teacher. He has to learn from his experience.

And I know next time, he will be careful with people. He will also know whom to trust. He will also know to shut his heart out to unnecessary elements. He will also know to open up to people whom he can trust and love. Life is a bed of roses along with some thorns.

And I hope you also read Abraham Lincoln’s poignant letter to his son’s teacher … AND TO ME.

What lessons have your young children learned from their personal experiences in this beautiful and harsh world?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Purnima, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.

Photo credit to  the author.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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