There were these three badges when I was in fourth standard (which un/fortunately I never had to wear) – each a different colour, for first rank, second rank and third rank. I suppose one was green, another red and the third orange or yellow. My memory fails me, I just recall that they were colourful and attractive and jealousy-invoking. After every term exam, when the results come out, the badges were given to the first three rank holders, and they got to wear it on their shirt. Proudly.

I remember the first and second rank holders, they were always the same people, just that they kept exchanging their badges every term. But the third rank holder’s name or face evades me.

A few days ago, my son came home with a badge, his face brimming with pride (but struggling not to show). It was the badge of the school “Safety Marshal” – the children who were responsible to maintain the “safety” of others at school. Whatever that may be, his badge reminded me how much I had longed for one of those three rank badges, but how I never got any close.

Anyway, during my son’s PTM, the teacher did not seem very concerned about his grades and I quickly asked if they were okay, and she said “Yes, Yes, he has good grades for most of the subjects; he is doing well.” Funny how the focus has shifted so far away from red, green and yellow. It’s good of course, no pressure on the kids, and no pressure on the parents, but then I began to wonder if things would come full circle again and one day the teachers would find out that the students have lost their competitive spirit and it would be good to give them some boost with red or green badges. I must insert here that except for a little envy for those girls wearing badges, no amount of competitive spirit was awakened in me when I was ten.

I do not know what happens in my son’s school, what he thinks, what he feels, and he sure has no inkling of how I survived mine. That’s the best thing about the generation gap. We don’t understand each other and we get to explore everything new. One day someone would come up and say, Look, I think we should give colourful badges (or whatever is the latest fad) to children who perform best in class, so that the others can aspire to be like them. Besides, it is good to encourage the hardworking, talented lot. Now we ignore the performers, say that everyone who participated is a winner, and so those who actually have done outstandingly well will get demotivated and think, “Why should I do it? I am considered the same as that kid who knows nothing.” Wow, what an idea. That would so motivate them to perform. Let’s bring in the badges.