Bela Raja: There is a contention that giftedness and learning disabilities go hand in hand. Do you think this applies to you?

Hafeez Contractor: Well, take some students from my class. Those who always stood first or second are today doing very ordinary jobs.

Bela Raja: I have come across this situation in so many different places where people tell me that their class toppers are doing very ordinarily today.

Hafeez Contractor: In school, I think living our lives there made us street smart. I have learnt more by doing what I did on my own than what academics would have taught me.
Ms Bela mentioned that there was a belief that giftedness and learning problems are mutually contradictory. She inquired if Hafeez agreed that this was the case with him.

While hearing Ms Bela's point of view, Hafeez highlighted a few of his classmates who had consistently received first or second place in academics but were now working in ordinary occupations. Ms Bela agreed with Hafeez since she had heard from so many people who said that their class toppers were no longer doing anything special. The statement implied that those who applied logic and learned things without mugging would shine in the world. For instance, nowadays, to score high marks, people would mug up everything from the course book. It did not give an essential knowledge. After the exam, the child would forget everything. But if they were learning things in a logical way, they would remember it in their lifetime. It would make them succeed in life.

According to Hafeez, the kind of life he had at school made him street smart. Here "street smart" means smartly doing things independently or by choice rather than forcing anyone. It also meant that Hafeez had gained the experience and knowledge necessary to deal with the potential difficulties or dangers of life by becoming street smart.
Coming back to Hafeez situation, he had learned more by doing things on his own rather than what academics would have taught him. Finally, he said he became a famous architect by exploring a lot of things. Even though he was mischievous, he was interested in designing and drawing. His interest in understanding things in the form of images or drawing had made his life a pleasant one.
Meanings of the difficult words:
GiftednessHaving special abilities
Street smartSmart by doing things independently/ by choice rather than force
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2008). It so happened. The Treasure Within (pp. 25-33). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.