It was a warm and sultry monsoon morning in Chennai. A sleepy suburban locality abundant in precious flora was bustling with vehicles, the numbers far too many for a Sunday morning. A Sports event attracted the sudden hustle.
This event was not a regular one. The oldest participant in the event was not more than five years old, and the youngest was barely three. After the regular inauguration and performances, it was time for the races. The competitions were carefully crafted so that they are appropriate for the tiny feet and do not harm the developing muscle.
This contest was one with a difference. There was no podium wins, and the winners were not announced. Every child went home a winner. It was just another regular event until little Miss.N stepped on the track for her race.
Like every other child, the four-year old N couldn’t contain her excitement when she was made to stand at the start of the 30-meter track. With dark hair curling close to her jawbone, a cherubic face and a radiant smile, she was a sight to behold.
Once they were motioned to start, N and her friends hurriedly dragged a coconut with the help of a hula hoop across the track. They had to walk backward, pulling the coconut all the way to the finish line. There was anxiety in the air, but these tots were determined.
It was not a simple task considering the undulating terrain, the muddy track, and the penetrating heat. Some kids finished the race in a few minutes, and some took longer. When all of the others had completed, N had barely moved ten meters from the start.
What followed next is something all those who witnessed it would remember for a lifetime. N entirely focused on the coconut and the hoop, dragged the nut very carefully so as to not let it slip away.
As the cheers grew louder, N was more determined. Not once did she lift her head to look how far she has come nor did she look around to assess the distance left. Slowly and steadily, ignorant of the blaring music and the resounding cries of encouragement, she moved towards the finish line, her valor rising with every step.
It took her close to 11 minutes to reach the other end of the 30-meter track. As she halted at the end, (carefully watched over by her teachers), the 400 odd spectators gathered at the venue rose to their feet.
With her head held high and flushed cheeks, clinging on to her mentor, N walked back to the rest area. As she walked, the thundering applause grew louder and so did the whistles creating a melodious cacophony. While some eyes turned moist, others stared in awe.
Every onlooker assembled there witnessed a tale of diligence and persistence in that short span of time. A four-year-old taught the others well ahead of her in The Race of Life what it means to stay focused, resolute, and tenacious. In the end what matters the most is that you have a purpose and finish the race with dignity.
“The Child’s way of doing things has been for us an inexhaustible fountain of revelations” – Maria Montessori