First published in September 2017 edition

Sunil was trying to pronounce the word “Chapter” correctly. The ninth standard student said, “saapter” once more! This time, Rupa Madam was absolutely furious with the way he pronounced such a common word, which any primary school child would effortlessly pronounce correctly.

She rebuked him, “Sunil, I can see that you have not bothered to carry out the learning task that I have given you yesterday. Can you tell me what it was?”

Sunil kept mum and started looking from side to side. He was scared and embarrassed for not remembering the assignment that Rupa Madam, his private tutor had given him the other day.

Rupa Madam continued in a commanding tone, “Going forward, please pay attention in class to the instructions being conveyed. Savitha, can you pronounce this word for me, please?”

Sunil’s eighth standard sibling responded instantly, “Yes, Madam!” She pronounced the word correctly.

Highly impressed by the girl’s performance, Rupa Madam patted her on the back. It was only that morning that the children’s mother brought Savitha to her. Rupa Madam remembered how this bright little girl was introduced to her by her mother who opinionated as follows, “Madam, Savitha is a very stupid girl. She is not as intelligent as Sunil. Please teach her so that she can pass the forthcoming examinations.”

A sensitive mentor, Rupa Madam was somewhat hurt by this introduction. She fully empathised with Savitha who felt bad by her mother’s opinion of her and how she expressed it publicly.

Rupa Madam looked at Savitha with kind eyes. Though she did not verbalise her thoughts, she seemed to say, “Don’t feel bad, Savitha, I am with you.” Wanting to know why her mother thought that Savitha was a lesser intelligent sibling, she started a conversation with Savitha.

She asked, “How old are you Savitha?”

Savitha said, “I am eleven years old, madam.”

Rupa Madam said, “I see. But, you are just eleven and studying in class eight? How come?”

Savitha’s expression was blank. She said, “Rupa Madam, I did not attend play school or kindergarten. I was directly admitted to the fifth standard by my parents. That is why I am in the eighth standard now.”

Who is intelligent and who is not

Rupa Madam could make out that Savitha was too young for her standard of formal education and that was the reason she had slight difficulty in grasping whatever was being taught to her in school. Secondly, she did not have healthy eating habits. Her parents, being busy earning their livelihoods, could not afford to spend much time in supervising what their children ate the entire day. Savitha would most of the time binge on biscuits, potato chips and chocolates to satiate her appetite. What were supposed to be snacks constituting only a small portion of the normal diet recommended for children of her age, became a staple for her. This resulted in a number of dietary deficiencies in this, otherwise, healthy girl. One of the deficiencies that affected her academics was poor memory. This deficiency proved to be a hurdle in her academicperformance.

Thirdly, the nice girl appeared to be depressed.  Everybody at home seemed to ignore her. Her parents would always compare her with her brother and tell her how much more efficient he was. Rather, in reality, this was not true. It was their misconception. Her brother, in turn, felt he was superior to her and taunted her for the same whenever he got an opportunity to.

Teachers, parents and mentors who did not understand these issues simply labelled her as stupid.

When Savitha’s mother came in the evening Rupa Madam decided to speak to her about all that she had observed about her daughter.

The mentor took her aside and said, “Your daughter is a nice intelligent girl. Her poor academic performance is not due to lack of intelligence but due to many other reasons, which I would like to discuss with you.

Firstly, I request you to stop calling her stupid and that too in front of other people. This behaviour of yours is harming her emotionally. Even constantly showing her lacunae in comparison to her brother is also contributing to her depression.

Most human beings are born intelligent. We cannot simply label people as stupid or intelligent. We often tend to judge people’s capabilities based on their behaviour and what appears to be may not be so.

Please treat your daughter with love and respect and see how she makes progress. Love and respect will work like an elixir on your daughter and build her self confidence, which will go a long way in developing her personality and career.”

Savitha’s mother realized the mistake that she had made. Sadly, she realized how much she had damaged her daughter’s emotional and intellectual development by constantly criticizing her. From that moment onwards, her attitude towards her daughter changed to an affectionate one. Instead of calling her stupid, she tried to understand Savitha’s issues and offer solutions. Her parents’ change in attitude towards Savitha greatly influenced her brother. He started being polite to her. All this change in her family made Savitha feel happy. Her emotional security grew and her depression vanished. Her memory and intellectual capabilities improved in leaps and bounds. She started eating well too. This helped her cure her nutritional deficiencies and become mentally efficient and emotionally stable.

In daily life, she showed greater presence of mind than earlier. Academically, she was a more productive girl. Her attentiveness, power of grasping concepts andquality of answering questions increased a lot. In a few days’ time, Savitha’s name was included in the top ten students of her class.

Savitha, her parents and her friends opened their eyes to the fact that one cannot simply label a person as intelligent or dull. Most human beings are blessed with good intelligence. Even those who are known to be very intelligent use less than one percent of what nature has endowed humans with. Then, how can one say that someone is intelligent while another is not?

Word meanings:

  • lacunae – defects
  • elixir – tonic
  • misconception – wrong opinion
Who is intelligent and who is not
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