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Late bloomers

It's never too late to become an achiever. PRINCE FREDERICK speaks to those who started behind schedule but ended up at the top



I knew that all i had to do was stay focussed on my goal.— Robin Singh

IT'S WELL-KNOWN that not everyone who does well at school succeeds. It's not as well-known that there are a number of people who fare badly in the early years but go on to become achievers. Welcome to the world of late bloomers. It is one that parents, teachers, the media and society at large do not sufficiently understand.

"Nine times out of ten, wrong assumptions are drawn from a child's performance at school," says A. S. Balachander, principal consultant, International Centre For Personality Development. "Failure to score good grades or lack of motivation to compete in sports leads many parents to conclude that something is wrong with their child and that he will not amount to much. There is nothing wrong with these children; they are simply on a slower timetable."

Actor and lawyer

Some come into their own a little later than others. Actor and lawyer Charuhasan is a good example. He first went to school when he was nine years old. An injury in the leg at age four kept him home-bound for five years.

Although a private tutor had introduced him to primary education, he was found wanting when he took the entrance examination at Yadava School in Ramanathapuram District. The principal refused admission, despite young Charuhasan enjoying support from `high places'. "My father D. Srinivasan was at that time vice-president of the Ramnad District Board and in-charge of education. I was considered such a moron that even my father's recommendation did not help. The principal reportedly told my father's clerk that I was fit only for shepherding goats," says Charuhasan. "The bogey of late-starts has haunted me all through. Although a few years of education gave me a law degree, it took me many years to obtain the courage required to practise as a lawyer. My very first case was a disaster. I could not even introduce the case properly in court. While I had to call it `a suit on a promissory note', I called it `a note on a promissory suit', sending everyone into peals of laughter. Even as an actor, I had a late start."



Late achievers can cope with disappointments better. — M.B. Nirmal

Unlike his younger brother Kamalhasan, who has been an actor from the cradle, Charuhasan was 50 when he first wore greasepaint.

Moulding clay

Mani Nagappa did not study beyond Sixth Form. Much as he wanted to, he could not. Because he was pathetically poor in Tamil. He switched over to Sanskrit, only to learn that he had jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

"My Sanskrit teacher told me that I had nothing but clay in my head. I took his remark as a blessing, thanked him for it and used the clay. I became a sculptor," laughs Nagappa at the memory.

It is a pity that teachers "do not explore other talents that a child may possess," says Dr. Rangarajan, consultant psychiatrist, Malar Hospitals.



It took me many years to get the courage to practise law. Even as an actor I had a late start. — Charuhasan

"The system has to be blamed for it. It overloads the child with so many things for which he has no talent or inclination. We are bringing in a little bit of everything and in the process messing up everything," says Jyothi Thomas, Secretary, Indian Association for Pre-school Education. "A system that does not allow a child to focus early on his strengths has to be dismantled."

"Late achievers are not people who slowly emerge from mediocrity. Traditional wisdom says that about them, but it is terribly wrong," says Balachander. "In most cases, the potential was there just beneath the surface. But until later in their lives, these men and women were denied the right environment that could foster their abilities and enable them to bloom."

"It is just that they have qualities that are special and these special qualities do not allow them to fit into the system," says Dr. Rangarajan.

Undeterred by setbacks

Studying in a school in Kundrathoor that had few teachers and where most classrooms were empty, M. B. Nirmal did not give it his best. He managed to score the bare minimum to matriculate, and when he approached Loyola College for admission, he was laughed at. He was well into his forties when he became prominent as the founder of Exnora.

"Setbacks in early life can teach invaluable lessons," says Nirmal. "Late achievers can cope with disappointments and failure much better because they are well acquainted with them."

Silver lining

Late start in one's career can have a silver lining. The time spent in the sidelines can mature you. Although cricketer Robin Singh showed promise even as a teenager, he had to wait long before he could play for India. This waiting did not get to him. He did not feel belittled by this early rejection. What is more, he did not treat himself as a failure, instead believed in his abilities and his future. "I knew that all I had to do was stay focussed on my goal," says Robin.



My teacher told me i had noting but day in my head. I took his remark as a blessing and became a sculptor. — Mani Nagappa.

"Have you seen late bloomers such as dahlias and canna lilies. They may need more time to bloom. But when they do, all other flowers in the garden would have shrivelled up. They outshine all others. Some people are like these late bloomers," says Balachander.

Some people go up like rockets, but come down like sticks. Then there are those who have a poor start, but finish well. Your child may well be one such late-starter.

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