doing things on our own
My sister called me recently, telling me that her science textbook’s bindings started coming apart, so what should she do? In fact, I assume it was a little stressful for her because our mother is very strict when it comes to these things, and she would not hesitate to lecture us about how we should be more careful. So, I could imagine my dear mother telling my sister something like, “Why couldn’t you care for your books better? If only you were more careful.”
The truth, however, is some books are bound pretty badly. I had similar issues when I was in school; my friends had that issue too. So, it’s not my sister’s fault, really. Years ago, I would take the divider from the geometry box, punch a few holes in the edges of the textbooks and stitch them up. I actually loved doing that.
So, I instructed her — on how she could stitch up her dangling book. It did not go very well. She got frustrated and started crying, and I felt so bad for even suggesting that she do it alone. I’ll probably get her a replacement from Amazon.
I would never hesitate to make life easy for her, obviously. But I also feel that knowing how to do things on your own doesn’t hurt. Sure, Mom would help as much as she could, and so would I. Sadly, she would not be around forever, and neither would I.
On some reflection, I realized that this urge to do things on my own stems from my own experiences. Beyond a certain point (mostly after high school), I had to take care of most things on my own. I filed for scholarships, got the paperwork done, wrote cold emails, and sent applications to banks, government offices, and whatnot. While daunting at first, I managed to get most things done on my own.
It was not always like that, however. I was very shy as a kid. One year, during Durga Puja, the BSF (Border Security Force) stationed in our sub-division held an essay writing contest. Children could write an essay on whatever they wished to, in Bengali or English. I remember sitting cross-legged and writing my heart out, confident about winning. Because I was so absorbed in writing the essay, I sat cross-legged for quite some time, only to realize that my legs had become numb. That freaked me out so much — I thought I would never walk again.
Well, back to the contest. I won a prize, as I expected. One of the officers called my parents and asked to speak to me. I chickened out, lol. Instead, I had Dad call my cousin, who then talked to the officer about when and from where to pick up the prize. Slowly, as I grew up, I did not have such options anymore, which sounds sad. Nowadays, I have to talk to actual people to get things done. Ugh!
Recently, I taught Mom how to withdraw cash from the ATM. Initially, I was hesitant, but it felt nice when everything went as expected. Even though I would gladly do it for her every single time, it feels very good knowing that she could do it herself. I’m teaching her how to make transactions using UPI (United Payments Interface) these days.
In saying what I said, I fully acknowledge that delegating certain tasks or having an expert do them is better. It might be time-consuming to pick up a niche skill or, worse, costly. But, I’m sure we can agree that there is a feeling of empowerment and satisfaction even that one gets when we do tasks on our own. Building something instead of buying a readymade product. Working through something from scratch, even though the solution is readily available.
I wonder if my training as an engineer also contributed to thinking like that. I’m glad it is that way, though. While I don’t claim to be an expert in any field, I feel good knowing that I’m competent in a few things by virtue of my academic training and life experiences. And I wish to keep feeling that for a long time. I’m optimistic that it will keep me grounded, at the same time, empower me to do things.
Writing this issue took me quite some time. First, I did not know exactly how much I should share and why. Second, I kept procrastinating — for no good reason.
I’m glad knowing that I’ll hit that send button in a few minutes. I hope you liked reading the issue and will make it a point to be competent in your own way. Have a great week ahead! Until next time, bye! 👋🏻