So whose cat is out of the bag?
I’m writing this in a very angry mood. Achha bhala socha tha (I had very well thought), of funny topics to write about this week and suddenly this stupid CAT jumped out of the bag and spoilt so many peoples’ moods. A lot of you have written to me about how unhappy and disappointed you — and those who claim to love you but actually love how well you do in a test— are with your scores in the MBA entrance exam.
Well, sorry to note that you are sad but there is nothing I have to say to you. Simply nothing. I’ve got tired of writing, several times in this column itself, about how I have little faith in the very concept of examinations —of any kind— as a measure of how well your life will turn out to be. Because, believe me, for every disappointed person who perhaps flunked some hi-fi exam, there are three ‘successful and yet depressed’ people waiting for their turn on the shrink’s couch. So if you still insist on making exam results or admissions as your index for happiness and self-worth in life, you deserve the misery.
Anyway, as I said, today’s column is not for students who gave the exam and did or didn’t score well. It’s not even for their parents who are either distributing sweets or avoiding relatives, depending on the results. Today’s column is for an entity called log or ‘people’, as they are the root cause of many a heartburn. “Sab ‘log’ result poochh rahe hain (everyone is asking the result), and I feel like crying,” writes Trisha, going into a long account of how she’s avoiding family functions because everyone would ask her how she did in the exam. These log comprise you and me — relatives, neighbours, colleagues — people who have no direct bearing on someone’s exam results but knowingly or unknowingly make their lives hell by showing interest in it.
Sir, koi kaam nahi hai aapke paas? (don’t you have any work) How can you not realise that your stupid, and mostly fake, interest, in someone’s life may rob them of their moments of happiness in the best age of their lives. Here, I want you to look into my eyes and take the following three pledges with me. Trust me, if you follow these, today someone else’s child will thank you silently and someday your own will love you for it.
Pledge 1: I’ll never ask anyone how they did in exams
If someone wants to share the good/bad news of their exam result with you, they’ll do it anyway. Please don’t be under the impression that by remembering to ask what percentage someone’s son or daughter scored, you are showing that you care about them. Bull.Shit. You couldn’t care less about their percentile or whatever it’s called, but so often there’s no other topic of conversation, so the moment you meet the offspring of a relative you may not even have met in years, you shoot off typical questions like: kaunsi class mein padte ho? (In which class do you study) Oh you have board exams this year…hmmm…that’s serious (as if it’s a disease), exams over? result aa gaya? kaisa raha? (is the result out? how was it?)
In all probability, you will forget what they answered before you finish off your next gulab-jamun, but unknowingly, you may have touched somebody’s raw nerve and made a young boy or girl experience some anxious moments while answering your questions. Admit it. You don’t give a damn if they scored 62 percent or 82 percent or 102 percent (that day might also come at the rate things are going). You just asked for the heck of it.
Koi aur topic nahi hai? (is there no other topic) Talk about their interests, something nice that they are wearing, something as silly as the weather…any damn thing. It need not always be related to their studies. Believe me, helping someone be relaxed and at-ease in a conversation is the biggest virtue. Adopt it.
Pledge 2: I will not be an uninvited career-counsellor
Since advising is our national hobby, I can’t tell you not to indulge into it sometimes, but please keep a healthy check on it, if possible. For some strange reason, a lot of people derive pleasure in believing that they are most qualified to tell someone what to do with their life. But at least wait till someone asks you. In most households, there are differences of opinion between parents and teenagers about what course or career choice to pursue. Aise mein, some guests try and take sides with either of them just to score points.
Adding fuel to someone’s fire will not fetch you anything, my friend. If there is a genuine insight you can contribute in helping someone reach a decision, please do. But don’t make vague statements like ‘Engineering kar lo. Wahi best hai,’ (do engineering. That’s the best) when the poor guy may be at war with his folks as he wants to be a musician.
Remember, every word we casually utter adds to an unsaid pressure on the mind of someone who is going through a phase of confusion and turmoil. Don’t make it worse for them.
Pledge 3: I will know when to shut-up
I’ve been told that this column has a huge readership. In so many followers, I’m sure there is someone who knows someone higher up in our central board of education. Mujhe ek sifaarish lagwaani hai (I want to give one suggestion). I want to pitch that at the elementary level, every Indian is made to compulsorily undertake a course on ‘when to shut-up’. Seriously. We’ll become a developed nation…or at least a happier nation, if we get this one thing firmly in our heads.
Koi sunta hi nahi (No one listens), everyone’s busy giving an opinion. All.The.Time. In the context of today’s topic, if we are at least observant enough to notice the moment when our interest in someone’s exam results turns them uncomfortable, and stop pursuing that line of discussion, we would attain nirvana. I’m sick of people who get so absorbed in listening to their own voice that they become insensitive to their audiences’ feelings. The next time you ignore the evident body language of a young child who is not comfortable giving you the subject wise break-up of his/her marks in front of the entire clan, I will personally pay the under-world and take out your supari.
Be sensitive, yaar. Did you enjoy discussing your report card with near strangers when you were a student? I’m sure not. (Are you saying ‘yes’ because you topped every exam?….what a scum you are).
Don’t ever do anything that made you nervous and uncomfortable while growing up, to another person’s child. Never to yours too!
Sonal Kalra takes the pledge of never writing about exam results again. Whether your Cat ever jumps out of the bag or not, is not her business.