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This essay is more or less a transcript of what I said in a recent parents’ orientation, last Sunday. Even though the words are not verbatim, I think it summarizes what I said quite well. The footnotes are my comments, in retrospect.

Well, thank you so much for inviting me to speak to the parents. It is a great honor for me to be addressing so many parents. I won’t take much of your time – most of you here have at least 15-25 years more life experience than I do, so please take everything I say with a pinch of salt. I’ll attempt to share an honest account of my experience with the boarding system here.

Oh, by way of introduction – my name is Debashish Reang. I’m from the state of Tripura. I first came here some 9 years ago. Left the school about 7 years ago. So, it’s been quite sometime. Time flies! I studied here from Class 11 to 12. Since I’ve also been asked to speak about what I did after school – umm, post school I studied Electrical Engineering from IIT Kanpur, and then I sort of decided “maybe I wish to study some more.” So, I went to IIM Ahmedabad, 1 for two years initially. After spending a year there something else worked out, so I spent the second year abroad, in Vienna, studying for a master’s in Strategy, Innovation, and Management Control. I studied at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Yeah, that’s about it for now. 2

Coming back to life in boarding. I came here as a clueless Class 10 pass kid; never left home before that. But the things I learned here helped me quite a bit later on. Like sir (the boarding head) was saying, it taught me to be self-reliant and independent. That skill proved useful in B.Tech and I when I spent my 23rd year, living abroad alone.

As the presentation (there was a presentation by the school people) showed, each day is meticulously planned, so there is always something to do – mostly studies but there are other activities too, as you saw. I mean, I personally feel you should mainly focus on (or at least inform your children) studies for Class 11 & Class 12. There are so many things to explore later on. Even I am actively exploring things right now. It’s quite exciting.

The school system provides a sound foundation and offers the environment to do well, in my experience. For example, once they realized I had some chance of making it to an IIT, they accommodated a few of us in the staff quarters. By the way, I did not know about IITs before coming here. I did not know that there are these autonomous institutes where you can learn everything under the sun 3. All of us are doing alright – one is based in the US, another works for a multi-national corp, and one more guy recently finished his medical education from a reputed college in Delhi.

The doubt sessions held outside of school classes proved mostly useful. As I was saying, the school provides enough support to do well. The system was quite accommodative of my requests, so that was quite nice. 4

Now, you know your children better than anyone else. You must have known them for 14, 15, 16 years. However, if possible, try not to take them out of the boarding in Class 12 because there are so many external factors. Of course, if you deem that is absolutely necessary, that’s a separate case. But, speaking of externalities, there are so many things that the boarding takes care of. None is going to wake them up early in the morning for studies, or remind them to take their meals thrice a day.

A lot of things are taken care by the boarding system that they otherwise would have to do themselves. Considering the competition (we just crossed 1.4 B population), I feel it won’t be wise to let 15 year olds live by themselves in a PG (paying guest). And if they were to fall sick, considering the competition it’s only going to make things worse. So, yeah try to talk to them against that option. I mean I lived abroad for a year, on my own but I was also 23 then, which is 8 years older than 15 years. So yeah. 5

In closing, I just have one small request to make – please be kind to them. Like I said, you know them best. Encourage them to do their best, but don’t be too harsh when a test or two don’t go how you wanted. Please be kind, sometimes amidst all the competition you may not hear out their concerns but if you don’t hear them out who else will? There is so much to do after the two years here. That’s all I think. Thank you.

Thank you for hearing me out. It has been an absolute honor.

Oh, by the way it seems some habits don’t die even when you become parents. Like I can see that the front seats are empty, but the back benches are filled up. Don’t worry I used to a back bencher too. That drew a huge laughter xD.

This came as a surprise after I was done speaking: I totally forgot about it, but the boarding head also pointed out that I tried debating in school for the first time, by chance. Surprisingly, I won the state level inter school debate competition, as the best speaker or something. It’s been so many years to that.

Author’s notes

  1. Parents reacted quite warmly to the IIT Kanpur statement. The IIM Ahmedabad statement received blank stares around the room. Not a lot of people from our region go to IIMs or care enough about them, I suppose. 

  2. You can read my essays if you’re interested in the intricacies of the programmes I pursued etc. 

  3. Sure, I came to know about the IITs at the school but as I keep saying, IIT Kanpur was truly life-changing for how it shaped me – in terms of my outlook on the world around me, the access to opportunities, and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to grow up around some of the smartest people in the country. 

  4. Honestly, I discovered that if you do well in your tests, they were willing to bend some rules for me. For example, I could skip the dreaded morning PE exercises so that I could get extra 30 minutes of sleep or continue studying in my room after evening snacks instead of joining the queue and going to the school building for evening studies. They were also cool with me going to the library after lunch without a written consent from a teacher so long as I did okay in my tests. If any current student is reading this – Try to do well in your tests, you should be fine! 

  5. From what I could recall, one of the times (I won’t say it was the only time) I cried (like cried-cried) was when I fell sick, due to irregular eating. It was the ONLY time that I wished I did not come away from home. However, my circumstances were also different – I come from a remote small town in Tripura where opportunities are limited after Class 10. There are a couple of nice schools in the state capital, Agartala. But it’s not feasible for most families to move to the capital. And I think it’s quite irresponsible to let 15-year-olds live by themselves in a state capital where they basically know none else. So, a boarding school made sense. Please don’t take the statement as me fear mongering or anything like that. If your circumstances are great enough, I don’t think you should be considering sending your children to boarding in the first place. 

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