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The following interview is based on a conversation between Ms. Bela Raja, Editor of Sparsh, a newsletter from the Resource Centre, The Valley School, Bangalore and Mr. Hafeez Contractor, one of India’s leading architects. Mr. Hafeez tells Ms. Bela about his school days in this interview.
Ms. Bela Raja (BR)– editor of Sparsh, a newsletter from the Resource Centre, The Valley School, Bangalore
Mr. Hafeez Contractor (HC)– one of India’s leading architects
HC’s Nightmare and Academic Life
HC says he used to have this terrible nightmare which has disappeared over the last four to five years. BR asks him what it was and why it disappeared. HC says he used to get continuous nightmares about appearing for a maths examination where he did not know anything. He says his psyche must have gotten over it because he doesn’t have to think about education anymore and there is no time to get nightmares.
BR asks him about his earliest memories in school. HC says that in the first and second year, he was a good student. After he reached the third standard, he lost interest and never studied. He used to be interested in games, running around, playing jokes and pranks. He would copy in class during exams. He would try to get hold of the examination paper beforehand and study it, as he could not remember things that had been taught in class.
However, later, one sentence spoken by his Principal changed his life. When he approached the eleventh standard, the Principal called him and said that he had been seeing him from day one. He was a good student, but never studied. He had taken care of him until then but he could no longer take care of him so he should do it himself.
He talked to HC for five minutes. The principal said HC didn’t have a father, so his mother had worked very hard to bring him up and paid all his fees but he had only played games. He should rise to the occasion and study.
HC used to be a very good sportsman. He had been the senior champion for many years and was also the cricket captain. He used to play every game, but that year he did not. He would only go for prayers and eat and study. He normally used to copy and pass, but realised that once he was in SSC, he could not do that.
HC’s Memories in School
When he got a second class, 50 per cent, in his SSC, his Principal told him that he had got distinction. That was his memory of his school days. He did lots of other things but can’t remember. HC says he forgets things very easily and has to see things as a photograph to remember. He reads book and remembers the matter as a photograph but not through his mind.
BR asks that when he was in school and was doing badly, whether the teachers pulled him up and how that made him feel. HC answers he never felt anything on being pulled up because he was so interested in playing. He would receive a caning every week.
BR asks that when he knew he had made the teacher angry by not doing his homework or by behaving badly and knew he would get a caning, what the state of his mind was. HC says it would hurt badly and then he would have to forget about it, because he would want to go and play.
BR questions if he had ever felt insecure or threatened. HC responds that he was just interested in playing and nothing else. He was most interested in funny pranks. One day, he did not want to study, so he created a distraction and played ‘chor police’ for a whole hour.
Every Saturday they were allowed to go into town to see a movie. So, he would have no lunch and collect money from 40 to 50 students, and buy the tickets. On his way back, he would eat to his heart’s content.
He used to be the leader of a gang. They would have gang fights and plan strategies. These things used to interest him more than any academics. Students used to book his textbooks for the following year, because they were almost brand new as he probably opened them one day before exams.
HC’s change in his last years of school shows us how hard work yields amazing results. HC was always a good student but he did not hone his talents and skills, leading to his poor academic performance in school. However, this changed after his conversation with his principal.