By Dr Rajan Sankaran
We were at loggerheads that day, my seventeen-year-old son Soham and I. Soham was to apply for undergraduate study at a prestigious university in the USA. Normally, the university in question does not interview applicants outside the USA. I felt, however, that if Soham had an interview, his chances to get in would be brighter. Through a colleague who had some contact with the university, I found a way for Soham to have an interview.
We were about to leave for the interview when I saw that Soham was wearing slippers. Not only was it a cold day but I felt that he should dress smartly and strongly insisted that he wear shoes to give a good first impression. He absolutely refused.
I was beside myself with anger and even flung a pair of trousers hard, not knowing that my mobile phone was in the pocket. The phone broke. Soham would not budge. He said, “if you insist on my wearing shoes for the interview, then I will not go.”
Ultimately, we went to the interview with him wearing slippers.
Much later, when things were cooler, I asked him why he was so adamant about the slippers. He said, “I wear slippers now, it is who I am. I want to go as myself. I don’t want to put on a false image of myself, if they see me as I am and can accept that, then that is the place where I want to be.”
A little after this incident, back in India where I live, the admissions officer from Yale University visited India, and spoke at the school in which Soham studied. Although Yale was not on his priority list, Soham went to the meeting. After the admissions officer gave his talk on Yale, Soham asked him why Yale would start a unit in a country like Singapore that had an authoritarian regime.
Such a question would hardly be asked by students who wanted to get into the good books of the admissions officer. It could be a sensitive issue. But Soham was just being himself. He believed that debate was the best way to bring the best out in someone.
The officer responded and gave his point of view. Soham counteracted it with another argument. The debate between the two of them went on for half an hour. Soham came out impressed enough with the officer and his openness to debate, to apply to Yale.
The application landed on the table of the same admissions officer who sent a personal handwritten letter to Soham, offering him a place, and it said that he hoped that Soham would accept and Yale needed people like him. The rebellious nature of my son had found a university that accepted him for who he is.
I had been so angry with Soham before the ‘slippers’ interview. However, when I reflect on the incident, it feels as though Soham is probably right. We should strive to be in a place where we are respected for who we are rather than be somewhere where we have to put up a front.
If someone can accept you then that is the person or place where you need to be. Soham continues to be like this and it is the way in which he leads his life.
Some may think it strange that a father is learning from his child, but we should always be open to the lessons that life throws at us, regardless of whom or what is the teacher. This life-lesson from my son taught me another, powerful way of looking at life.
Dr Rajan Sankaran is an internationally-famed homeopath, spiritual thinker and practitioner of holistic healing. His new book, ‘Dog, Yogi, Banyan Tree’ is an insightful and inspirational chronicle of personal and spiritual self-discovery. It is available now in paperback from Amazon UK, priced £21 and published by Homeopathic Medical Publishers. For more information visit www.dogyogibanyantree.com