By Punya Srivatsava
My Unskooled Year
It needs courage to stand out from the crowd, especially in a society hellbent upon conformism. At 16, Sagarikka sourced that courage and the result is astonishing. Equal credit must be given to her parents – Savitri and Sivakumar – for their courageous parenting. After her 10th board exams, her parents suggested that Sagarikka drop one academic year and instead explore life in all its aspects.
This educational experiment started when Trichy-based Sagarikka couldn’t manage to procure ‘decent enough’ grades in her boards exams and she began doubting her self-worth. Her parents decided to induct her into another school – the school of life with real-life experiences as her teachers. What began was a year full of opportunities and learning. Imagine a 16-year-old completing the rigorous Kailash Mansarovar yatra or visiting Leh-Ladakh sans her parents; being an enthusiastic part of a rescue team during the Chennai floods, investing in stock market using her own discernment, or handling a car accident that injured her parents, on her own.
Written in a simple, straightforward manner, this book is quite engaging due to the teenager’s fresh perspective on the workings of daily life. Her clear-cut observations of the places she visited, conversations she had, and things she experienced made me wistfully wish that I could go back in time and unschool myself too. Her sense of humour too evokes a chuckle every now and then. Sample this: “People are boring. They always have four standard questions to ask: What is your name? Which class are you studying in? How many marks did you score? What are your future plans?…. I thought of hanging a placard around my neck which would read as: My name is Sagarikka. I just completed my 10th standard. My score is 8.2 CGPA. My future? God only knows.”
Sivakumar writes in one of the notes that are interspersed after each chapter, “Pappu (her pet name) is like the Chinese bamboo plant. She will grow at her own pace. We are aware that our only job is to water and nurture the plant, and allow it to grow.” And this has surely resulted in the formation of an individual who is not afraid to ask questions and thinks of service as her life’s purpose.
I hugely recommend this book, not only to school children but also to adults, as Sagarikka’s journey teaches everyone to unlearn alike.