Rising suicides among school children because of pressure is worrisome

by Ashvini on June 8, 2011 · 33 comments

in My Personal Thoughts

It is really unfortunate that suicides by students in college and schools across India has been rising tremendously. In fact every time after results are announced, we hear a spate of students committing suicides because they could not secure admission in their colleges of choice or could not get enough marks to move on to next grade.

Suicidal tendencies

From this post, we can see that around 1600 students committed suicide in the last three years due to rising stress and competition.

More on this here here. In fact it has now become a national news shows how bad the situation is.

It is more unfortunate because many students commit suicide as they are not been able to live up to peer pressure, competition and parental expectation.

I have never been able to understand the need to get excellent marks. Yes, it is important to make a great career and get into best colleges, but not at the cost of the lives. In my childhood, I remember the days when I shifted from regional language medium school to an English medium school, I was could not understand anything that teachers and the principal used to say. I had to often ask my classmates about the meaning of each and everything word in English.

Earlier in the class, I was often treated not-so-well by teachers for my poor English skills. Eventually I had to call in my parents to explain to the teachers that since I am new to the English language I have difficulty picking it up. It was a tough journey. There was no internet during those times. There were no “self teaching courses” as today. There were no “coaching or tuition” classes.

All I had was my English book which was to me was as difficult as Greek or Latin. I use to look at the with a lot of amazement as if they were some magic words. I slowly worked on my English. From a no one in English, I can speak and write now in English very well.

Fortunately on my part, there was no pressure from my parents to get the best grades. I often had toppers in the class licking their wounds when I scored highest marks in those  subjects that I liked. It was not the English but ancient language “Sanskrit” that I excelled in and later on in Physics. I never studied for grade but still topped in subjects of my choice.

Why I am using my own life as an example? Just to show that people perform best when they are left to grow by themselves. In organization, society and family, often an individual is put under a lot of pressure to perform even though he/she is either not competent or not interested enough. I could for e.g. never be good at sports how much I tried. It was not my cup of tea.

The undue pressure on the kids to be excellent in all subjects is frankly leading them to wrong path. I know kids who score more than 90% in almost all subjects but at tremendous cost to themselves. Under pressure from all sides and because the media craziness about scoring more and more marks, only thing on their mind is to get to top and score the most.

In one of my post how schools are destroying entrepreneurship, I talked about how excess of courses in schools is actually destroying creativity and individuality of a student. It makes him/her run a perpetual race, unable to understand what he  actually needs .When he moves on to a college, unfortunately, the same system continues with all its negatives.

Parents add up to the pressure on children

The aim of an average parent ( Indian or otherwise ) is clear. Their child should go to a school get good marks, get into a good Engineering college and finally get a good job. Nothing wrong with that, except the fact that the protagonist of the story( the child) never gets a chance to explore his abilities fully. A child, right from childhood looks for approval from his parents, then teachers and then bosses for almost all his life. To live up to the constant need to meet expectation, he works harder and harder, almost crushing his own soul internally.

When there are bad results a child does not have the maturity to take the stress and parent’s frown. Often this results in child taking extreme steps of harming himself.

How schools add up to pressure on the child?

Schools add up to a different kind of pressure on the child. In a school, there is a large variety of students with different abilities. Some of them are exemplary in studies and some are good at sports. Unfortunately, most of the time comparison between students is based on % of the marks obtained rather than the quality of the answers. The common denominator remains the same.

Hence, a student scoring 75 % is automatically assumed better than the ones scoring 70% . However, real life issues cannot be solved just with higher marks. The success of a student in the later life is hardly dependent on the marks that he or she has received in the school days. Unfortunately as if in a time machine, students are put to exams every year leaving no time to develop their own abilities.

Current scoring system is odd in my opinion of looking at children’s performance or knowledge. Here is how it harms them->

  • It makes them cram the books and not analyze subjects.
  • It puts them under undue pressure to perform
  • It tells them that failure is not right and they have to be right always if they want to be successful
  • It stops them from thinking out of the box
  • It does not prepare child for handling real world problems.
  • It forces them in a herd mentality
  • It widens the gap between entrepreneurial and job oriented mentality.
  • It discourages thinking and analysis.

It is really unfortunate to see the cascading effect of the pressures of the society, parents and schools on young minds. The rising suicide snuffs away ingenious, young minds who could have become great scientists, poets , artists or doctors. Sad but real!!!

About The Author

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Nitin Nandan March 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Hi Ashwini ..thank u for initiating this subject. i came across this as i m researching on this topic. i read this all, very useful…I am writing smthng abt english medium schools.. do u thikk we can talk about it in details… can u give me ur mail id or cell num… looking forward . Nitin

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena March 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Hi Nitin,
You are most welcome.
Since my email could be spammed if I post it here, please use contact form at http://aks-blog.com/contact. I will reply once I have your email.

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sid waykul February 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

truly an insightful read …..abot 2dayz failing education system …….sad but true :-(

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena May 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Thank Sid :) . Haven’t seen more comments from you. I would love to see them.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena’s latest article :Build and will they come? Maybe yes

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Krishnaa Ananth LaxmiNarasimhaa February 14, 2012 at 10:05 pm

That’s a good One, Ashwiniji. Keep it going! Great work.

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena February 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Thank you Narsimha ji for your appreciation. Keep coming back :)

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Shivangi Sharma July 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Ashwini u r really very right in what u hve said.as a student i wondr why our parents force their dreams upon us………WERE THEY NOT STUDENTS ONCE…..DID THEY NOT SUFFER THE SAME PROBLEM???????????????all the parents mst go through ur article nd realise tht we too r born free nd hve got some dreams to accomplish.

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena July 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Hi Shivangi,

Thanks and welcome to my blog.

Yes, parents need to be understanding than ever before and guide children rather than taking command. I wish you the best and hope you achieve your dreams.
Keep coming back :)

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Shivangi Sharma July 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Thnx ashwini!!!!!!!!!!

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Aakash Agarwal February 9, 2012 at 12:51 am

Firstly I would like to thank Ashvini for sharing his great reviews with the mass…I would also like to share something that we cannot stop our parents to build pressure because it’s not our parents it’s the external society who somehow insults them if we are not up to mark…but we have to control ourselves. I remember a famous saying by Albert Einstein that “A SINGLE PIECE OF PAPER CAN NEVER DECIDE MY FUTURE”………………..

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Steve Shoemaker June 25, 2011 at 5:41 am

Ashvini this is a topic I have not read much about but I have to tell you what you are saying makes perfect sense.

I never thought about it until I read this that why we were in school we never really thought about the subjects and really internalized any true knowledge.

Like you say we just crammed and memorized just enough to pass and do well on a test. That is not true learning.

And like you allude to I wonder how many graves are filled with wonderfully talented young people who died with their music still inside. Interesting post.

Steve

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Hi Steve,

I love to see you comment on my post.
“Tragic” is what comes to my mind when I see so many kids committing suicides. True knowledge only comes through application and schools rarely provided opportunity for that( at least in my times).
Life is all about race to be at top without even thinking that there are possibilities of living a fulfilling life on the sides(away from the top) as well. Unfortunately the system has failed these youngsters.

Thank you so much for commenting and have a great day.

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Shivangi Sharma July 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm

True steve.our education system needs to be changed!

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Stuart June 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Ashvini, this is a very worthy and highly-charged topic you’ve chosen to write about here, and I commend you for it. It takes a lot of courage to be honest and open about such an emotional subject.

I remember hearing one day that the No. 1 cause of death for children 18 and under is ‘suicide’, and my immediate thought was “Why?”. Why is it that our future generations are in this state that they turn to killing themselves as a viable option? Why have we, as the elders, let it come to this?

I’m 24 now, so I no longer class as a junior, but I recall my days at college where I was 17-18. Those were probably the worst days of my life so far. I felt left out from popular groups because I didn’t take part in ‘rites of passage’ like alcohol and drugs, and few people talked to me. I spent most of my spare time alone, and had few ‘true’ friends. I didn’t feel suicidal, but I felt like a spare part in this world.

Yet, none of the teachers bothered to help me, no-one even asked how I was doing. My personal tutor who I saw twice a week just saw me as someone to tick off on her chart as ‘seen’. She didn’t really care. I couldn’t find any adults that did care. Luckily, I’ve progressed and developed into what I am now, and I can look back on that time as a learning experience, but others aren’t so lucky.

Changes are required, the sooner the better :-)

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Hello Stuart,

Thanks for dropping by and for commenting as well.
I can see that this post is really bringing back many memories in minds of readers of my blog. But what I hope to achieve from this post is all about awareness of how much torture kids have to go through before they become adults.

You faced both academic and non-academic pressures and still came out in a better position is an indicator of your mental strength. Here though I feel that children are not so strong so as to withstand pressures of expectations and many of them succumb to these pressures. It is very unfortunate. Recently I heard that one univ. raised the cut off to 100% for non – core subject students. Can you imagine 100%? There can be no wrong done then. Everything that you write has to be approved 100% by the teacher or forget admission in the university. Its crazy and leading us to wrong directions.
I am really getting interesting opinions from all parts of world and its nice to see us all connected on the common thread. We need the world to be a better place than ever before.

Thanks and hope to see you again on my blog.
Ashvini

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Swami Balendu June 16, 2011 at 1:03 am

Dear Ashvini,
A very well-written article on a serious and important topic. We run a school ourselves and see it a little bit from the other side, too. We are the ones to tell the teachers to add creative aspects into their classes to make students learn with fun. The traditional system in our schools is not based on learning by exploring or experimenting. It is plain learning, pushing words, figures, names, languages and everything there is into your head. The result is that children with good memories have good marks and others don’t. But 80% of the class does not understand what they have learned.
And then add on top of that pressure from all sides. This breaks a child’s mind.
In our school we actually need to convince the parents to send their poor children to learn free of cost, so we don’t face issues of pressure by the parents but we know how important it is for them to learn free of tension and with fun.
Much love!

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Dear Swami ji,

Thanks for your wonderful comment. I think people like you can really make a difference because of your experience. I think there is a burning need in our country and across the world to glamorize grades and marking systems. It is really making drones out of children. It is very important for us to change the school system before we see tragedies of these kinds increasing.

Thanks and regards

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Mouh June 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm

This is sad. Education isn’t everything. I mean it is important to be educated, but it is not the prerequisite to getting a good job or a good life. The last time I checked the list of the richest men on earth, I found that many of them are school drop outs! Li Ka-shing is a school drop out! Who doesn’t know Bill Gate! He is a school drop out too! We have to change our idea of intelligence and remove the industrialism mind set from our lives. If you are not good at certain subjects, you are stupid. If you are not good at this and that, you won’t get a good job. The industrialism mind set is the cradle of all trouble. I really feel so sad when I hear such things, Ashvini. That’s because I have been in a similar experience and I deeply know how students feel. Tears welled up in my eyes when I read such students suicide stories… :(

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Hi Mouh,

I am really sorry that your past was brought to you because of my post. Infact upon reading that you had tears in your eyes, I too felt very sad.
I did this post to outline the conditions of thousands of children whose suicides fill up newspaper everyday( one more happened today because she scored 85% instead of 90%). The question is how to make everyone understand what you have said? Enterprising nature needs “Education” and not “literacy” and a person who is prepared for challenges can handle life much better than those who are just literate. Here in India it is so common that people dread exam results. I wish all of us could do something to console them , get them the examples you have put forward.

By encouraging awareness, we can take their minds off the path to destruction.
Thanks for your soulful comment. I hope you are doing fine.
Ashvini

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Carolyn June 15, 2011 at 7:17 am

Hi Ashvini, Very interesting post. Unfortunately, teenage suicide seems to be growing other places as well, though perhaps not as much as in India. Last year there was a town in England where high school students allegedly had a suicide pact. It’s such a tragedy when so much of life is ahead of them.

Your post reminds me of the debate between the infamous Tiger Mom and the more Western way of raising children. What is a parent’s roll in pushing/supporting their children? There are ongoing discussions, but I’m on the encouraging, supporting side of the fence. But that’s what works for our family.

Bravo to you with resisting the pressures from your teachers and succeeding in spite of their lack of faith in you.

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for your comments and welcome to my blog.

I am not in favour at all of “Tiger Mom” style of raising kids. It is akin to telling them what parents want. This is exactly the antithesis of what entrepreneurship is all about. It is about independent thinking and thinking about giving back to the world. A kid born in constricted environment will never ever develop those skills. In India the pressure to do well is excess because of very high competition. Today one college talked about 100% cutoff for the entry. Can you imagine that ?
The kids lose their innocence and creativity because they are put on a treadmill. I feel this neither helps society nor it helps individual children.

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raverture @ personalized wedding favors June 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I agree that a number of students with suicidal instinct are increasing not only in India but also in other parts of the world. And it is not a good training ground for them that since birth you will put a lot of pressure in their mind. They will always think of competition and if they failed,they will pass all the regrets to himself/herself. This is not healthy. And the worst, if they could not accept their defeat and there is no one who to comfort them, make sure that they will suicide. That is why parents should always be there to them and let them feel that they are not alone. While they are still young, instill in their minds that they number one in your heart. Do not let them feel the fear, competition and pressure. Instead, let them hear your encouragements and success stories so that they will persevere and work hard to achieve their goals. Be their torch in the darkness. :)

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Robert June 10, 2011 at 3:43 am

Unfortunately this is so true.

There is such an over-reliance and importance placed on education it is bad for the kids, I feel that this is particularly true in Asian countries.

People want to live their lives through their children. This excessive emphasis on education kills their creativity. The education system needs a revolution. Have you ever seen this video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY I think you will really appreciate this talk, but you’ve probably already seen it.

The thing is, the current education system is outdated, and children all over the world are taught so many things that are completely irrelevant, theory-based and impractical.

Like you said, I think that it’s so sad that a small amount of children feel that education is so important that they kill themselves. In most cases I feel their parents are to blame.

Kids need to grow up, learn things themselves and experiment. Too much focus on education makes these natural processes very difficult.

How can such an outdated system be relevant in this ever-changing world?

Informative post, such a sad situation.

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Hi Robert,
Thank you for your comment and welcome to my blog.

Absolutely the education system here in Asia is inclined towards cramming and making people suitable for desk job. Infact entrepreneurship was integrated in Indian economy right from many hundred of years( India has one of the largest number of entrepreneurs ) but the recent emphasis on getting outsourced work ( which provides excellent salaries) has really tempered with the entrepreneur climate. It has converted a productive workforce as dummies for cheap work,
Of course when one gets a salary that one can only earn after years of being in business, it is very easy to drop the entrepreneurship and get a job. I seriously am not in much favor of outsourced work as it has destroyed the spirit of innovation and thinking. In fact it took me a long time to come out of the grip of easy salary and low level work.
I have seen parents comparing, pushing and making children carry burden of their expectations. A child is often a source of creativity. Give a young child a toy and you will see how much ways he can look at it. Unfortunately as they grow bigger, they have to ‘behave’ , follow a certain path and live as their parents want. Since Asian societies are family oriented, it is very difficult to develop individuality unlike western societies which have more space for individuality to develop.
I am a firm believer that entrepreneurs across the world bring benefit to whole of the world ( such as Facebook for providing platform against oppression in certain countries). I just want the parents/schools/society to let kids develop on their own rather than forcing a system on them.

Thanks for your views, suggestions and experience sharing and hope to see you on my blog once again.

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 13, 2011 at 10:59 pm

BTW…. Great video thank you for sharing.

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Robert June 21, 2011 at 4:11 am

Definitely man, you make some great points!

Yes, the world needs entrepreneurs for many reasons! They entrepreneurs that get big fuel country’s economy’s to perform well – just look at Bill Gates and how many people work for Microsoft.

Yeah I know outsourcing is big in India.

I’ll sum it all up “Jobs and Schools are killing creativity.” Bold statement but true.

Glad you enjoyed the video man, speak soon

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Sonia June 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Very touching post Ash! I never realized there were so many suicides in India for that reason. It’s weird how some of the kids in the US take their own lives for lesser reasons, but to them it amounts as high as not getting into a college as well. When I was in High School I have to admit, I wasn’t into my studies as I should have been, but like you for some subjects I was interested in, I excelled in. My parents were never down my throat about my studies, but they did expect me to do well, it just wasn’t “voiced” loudly like some parents might do.

We all want the kids of tomorrow to do well and make a name for themselves. Hell, they are going to be taking care of us when we are “senior citizens” so I would hope they get it right. I think parents focus on the mistakes they made growing up and don’t want that for their kids. At the same time, they don’t realize or think about the unknowingly pressures that they might put on them as a result. Unfortunately people never realize where they made mistakes until it happens to them and their child takes their own life. This is a subject won’t end till it ends at home, because that is where it usually starts.

Ash thanks for sharing this with us.

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 13, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Hi Sonia,

I look forward to your comments as always and you bring a great perspective to the discussion.

I think you have raised important point about ‘making mistakes’. Almost all societies eastern or western wants their progeny to do things right. In my opinion this is where everything goes wrong. It is very important to make mistakes and fail. I remember in my college days, I had to cancel a small fair I was organizing due to a tragedy( a student of the college drowned somewhere). The problems that I had to face after the failures were tremendous and taught me to be strong and resilient. Till today, I never get scared of any troublesome customer situation because of the learning from the failure in college days.
Failure to me is the like a stone placed in our way which we feel is an obstacle but actually a stepping stone. But how do we tell this to parents who never experienced( or still dont want to) such troubles. If someone does not take risks, it is least likely they are going to teach about taking risks. Hence the chain goes on and on.
I only hope that if parents read this discussion they will have some awareness about letting kids do what they are good at.

Thanks for your comments. Love them :)
Ashvini

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Wim @ Sales Sells June 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm

That’s a thorough analysis of today’s school system and its consequences Ashvini. In my opinion today’s educational system focuses on the wrong skills. Honestly, when have you ever been marked for creativity or innovation? It’s always about reproducing stuff and following the guidelines. This creates a lot of pressure, especially for those people (entrepreneurs!) who like to step outside the boundaries and develop their own ideas.

Wim

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 13, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Hi Wim,
No , I have never been awarded for my entrepreneur skills. Though I have received admiration from people I know but it stops there. It is very difficult to stand up and shine when the system screams conformity. When I blog, a lot of people I meet ask me the question ” How do you make money?”. They don’t get it that I do it for fun and if I wanted money , I would not have left my job.
I have been like this right from my childhood and it may be attributed to my parents who never pressurized me to score marks. But they are a tiny majority. Most of them still do pressurize kids. You would not believe that how many kids in India goto tens of hobby classes during the summer vacation rather than playing in the sand. I think I am happy with life today because I played in the sand in my childhood. I hope system changes but there is a dim chance.

Thanks for your comments and hope to see you again here .
Ashvini

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Aswani June 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Ashvini, I really appreciate your initiative to come up with such issues. Students suicide is a grave concern these days. I think it has grown big like anything and seems that there is no end to this menace. If you are asking me, I would point my finger to the existing education system which has gone from bad to worse. Our education system does make people learn something but doesn’t make them sensible enough to think positive in their lives. Instead as you mentioned above, the present education system works more on creating fodder for the corporates which does create undue pressure on students and thus makes them prone to such extreme steps like suicides. Yes, parents too are to be blamed for this to great extent.

One of the things which I have noticed with parents is that they make comparison of their children with other children without realizing one simple fact – Comparisons breed insecurity and results in low self esteem. This in turn can have severe implications and more often leads to steps like suicides. Also, as you have said…expecting your child to perform out of the box always is very silly. Such mindset needs to corrected and even if you child is an under performer, he/she surely is very likely to be better and maybe exceptional in other areas. Parents need to watch out for those areas and must encourage their child to work on those. Then I am very much sure of the fact that it will lead to better growth of a child and he/she won’t be tempted for such extreme steps like suicide…!

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Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Hi Aswani,

Thanks for your views. I really appreciate your comment.

I don’t think that any parent want their child to be unsuccessful. They want them to do the right things , right from the start. Unfortunately taken to an extreme, this attitude breeds an unsuitable environment for their kids. In the end, when a child grows up all he is left with in his life is to get a job and move on. Nothing wrong with that but there are many children who would not want this kind of conformity.
The education system however loves conformity and would do anything to scuttle the innovative minds. I still remember my teacher tearing off my drawing because it had a political leaning. To me, as a little child it was excellent thinking ( a satire) but to my teacher it was not. I came to know of it only from my batchmates who innocently told me that she tore the drawing off. Thats how schools and teachers destroy independent thinking and create drones out of children. In the end some of the kids cant cope and take the extreme steps.

Sad but true and I can only hope this stops because it is too tragic.

Thanks for your comments once again.
Ashvini

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RACHIT SHARMA June 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm

quite true:(

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