Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Nina: <sobbing> Nana I got a D in math.

Nana: A D in math? How did that happen? You have been neglecting your studies, haven’t you? I saw how you were spending all your time last week watching videos about Chandrayaan2 and Vikram. Nina, you need to take your school work seriously.

Nina: No, Nana. I have been working hard on math. It’s just that the exam got messed up. Just before I had to submit the exam paper I accidentally dropped some water on it and three pages became unreadable.

Nana: But did you do your best to prepare for the exam?

Nina: Yes, Nana. But how does that matter? In the end I am a failure. That’s what my report card will say. There will be a D sitting right there mocking me for being so fond of math.

Nana: What an absurd idea! I am surprised at you, Nina. I, your wise old grandpa have been trying to mock you for years and I haven’t succeeded and now you say a single letter typed up on a report card has succeeded. I am insulted.

Nina: I’m not in the mood for jokes Nana. How can I ever show my face at school again? All my friends will make fun of me. I should never have shown off in math class. I know now that was stupid. Showing off is bad.

Nana: Wait a minute! What do you mean by showing off in math class? How were you showing off?

Nina: Whenever the teacher would ask a question, I would enthusiastically raise my hand to answer. Sometimes I would share some interesting math puzzle or technique I had come across. Everyone thought I was really smart and good at math.

Nana: So what’s wrong with that?

Nina: Well now all I have to show for my abilities in math is a big fat D. I shouldn’t have made myself so noticeable. Now I will attract ridicule. I should have just kept quiet.

Nana: That’s nonsense. Weren’t you really excited when ISRO was sharing every step of the Chandrayaan2 journey with the world?

Nina: Er.. Yes But that’s that got to do with anything?

Nana: Well ISRO did not know if it would succeed. In fact it was undertaking a very difficult task. Lots of things could go wrong. And some did. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have shared their journey with the world. Imagine how much you would have missed out if they didn’t. You yourself said they would succeed next time. And ISRO scientists did not go into hiding after that.

Nina: But that’s ISRO, Nana. They already succeeded with Mangalyaan and did amazing things. Who would criticize them when something went wrong on a very difficult mission?

Nana: But ISRO has been criticized a lot in the past for being over ambitious. Many counties and news papers criticized ISRO’s efforts with hurtful cartoons and stinging articles. But ISRO proceeded with Mangalyaan anyway, in spite of ridicule. The success of Mangalyaan shut up many critics, but you think at least some of them won’t use this opportunity to ridicule ISRO again?

Nina: But Nana, ISRO has been doing so well for so many years. In such a complex mission things can go wrong. That’s nothing to be ashamed about. They’ll get things going again.

Nana: How is it that you are so willing to forgive ISRO for their problems with the Vikram Lander, but not yourself for the D in math? Face the ridicule like ISRO did and chug ahead and bring home an A next time. Don’t drink water till after you have turned in the paper. What good is hiding away going to do? What good is not answering questions in class or sharing interesting puzzles with your friends and teachers going to do?

Nina: But Nana, it’s hard and so embarrassing. I can’t do it.

Nana: Of course, you can. ISRO has to do it on a world stage. You only have to do it in school.

Nina: Nana but ISRO has so many people cheering it on. Not that many people make fun of ISRO for what happened, and those who do are worthless trolls.

Nana: And why do you think your situation is any different? You underestimate your friends. I’m sure they will cheer you on, and those who do make fun of you, well you need to learn to ignore them. Come on now stop moping and go have some fun with math.

Nina: Okay Nana. By the way, did you know that there are some interesting connections between music & math and that math can be used to figure out which notes would sound pleasant when played together?

Nana: I see you are back to your usual annoying self. Hmmph. I liked you better glum and quiet. I see that no good deed goes unpunished.

This post is a part of the #NinaAndNana series I co-host with Kanika G. This post was originally published here.

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