August 20: Until recently, 13-year-old Varun Sharma was an eager young national-level swimmer and Delhi state champion, with great dreams for the future. On August 10, mad at the winning exploits of this Ramjas School boy, a competitor’s jealous father made a failed attempt to kidnap him. In shock, Varun has not entered the Talkatora swimming pool, since then, reports the Hindustan Times .

Who was Varun’s real competitor? Not 13-year-old Raghav Verma, but his father, Dr Vimal Rai Verma, who works in a hospital at Janakpuri. Raghav, a student of Delhi Public School, Vasant Kunj, had been a star in Delhi’s swimming circuit before Varun arrived on the scene. That’s when, during practice sessions, Raghav’s father started taunting him for not being able to beat Varun in the pool. “Raghav didn’t ever complain, but he would look more downcast and try harder,” recalls Varun.

Vimal Rai Verma’s jealousy for success at any cost may have scarred two young lives in an incalculable manner. Maybe the lure of big money in sports is what egged him on; it certainly was not love for the sport or even a desire that the child should enjoy his talent.

Jealous ambition of a father
Jealous ambition of a father [Illustration by Shinod AP]

Parental pressure on children is becoming a harsh reality in most areas. Recently, the newspapers have been full of reports about “the programmed genius”, 13-year-old Tathagat Avtar Tulsi, from Bihar, who was forced by his father to memorise theories of physics to pass off as a child prodigy. In an interaction with Nobel laureates in Germany, Tulsi’s ‘genius’ was exposed.

A couple of years ago, there was the case of parents filing a case in court on the grounds that their son had lost out unfairly in a student body election in school.

By putting so much pressure on children to succeed, the parents damage their self-esteem for a long time to come. It’s time they thought gave it a serious thought.