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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Writing an essay, part three

And now, reproduced herebelow is  a ‘good’ essay that someone wrote as homework for my class about ten years ago.

I see the world through their eyes

I have the bad habit of rising late, and someone usually has to shake me awake in the mornings. One of my parents does the job, reminding me every time of all my faults and follies, which make me grumble as I brush my teeth. But by the time I leave for school, relations have sweetened up again.

I have mixed feelings about the way my parents treat me. The most common is anger – but strangely enough, it only serves to make the bonds stronger. I still cannot dream of taking a step in this world without holding on to the fingers of those who taught me to walk. It is through their eyes that I still see the world. My parents are the very staff and prop of my life.

I am fortunate to have parents like my father and mother. I wouldn’t exchange them for anybody else. Their influences on me are equally strong: if daddy taught me the consonants of life, mummy taught me the vowels. But I do take sides in their quarrels sometimes – generally only to have some fun, or get one of them to do my bidding.

It is not as if I always think positively of my parents: far from it. There are things about them that I strongly dislike. Why do they always have to be austere about trivial things like buying me a chocolate, for instance? And in matters such as this, it is my mother who invariably takes the tougher line and yells at me. Father is milder, but sometimes he has to make a token show of anger to stay in mummy’s good books. Thank God he cools down almost at once!

I think my parents worry too much about me. Granted, at times they have good reason, but often they get worked up needlessly. They insist on supervising my homework, as if I were still a child. What does it matter if I sometimes want to take time off studies to read a comic book? Also, they take the privileged position to decide everything for me. I feel like stuffing my ears with cotton wool when they launch upon one of their pet sermons about how to be a ‘good girl’. I am sure they are just repeating the moral lessons that their parents preached to them, and I’m sure in their own time they were not much better children than I am – at least, if all that my grandparents tell me about their childhood mischiefs are true! Why do parents always think that they know best about everything?

I have devised ways to get around them, too, and amazingly, they often work. When I know that my mother wants me to buy the red dress and I want the blue one, I just demand the red dress, and instantly, my mother changes her mind – I must have the blue dress, and that’s final! I wear an annoyed look, but give in with secret relief. We are not such simple creatures as our poor parents think.

Yet for all that I respect and obey my parents in all the really important things. They have made certain decisions easier for me. I cannot summarize my feelings about my parents – seeing that they fluctuate at least five times a day – but I can definitely say that I love them with all my heart, and I shall never leave the path they have shown me with so much time and patience and care.

The best that can be said for it is that it is not as unspeakably wretched as the one I posted first in this series (I did have to iron it out quite a bit before it was presentable as it reads here, though: unlike in the best ones of yesteryear, there were faulty use of idioms and inappropriate and misspelt words aplenty). But – especially when read just after the previous one (‘Memory’) – I am sure no one can disagree with me that it is bland, shallow, narrow in scope and not very memorable (besides evincing a remarkable degree of helpless and unself-conscious dependence on parents – certainly not healthy for a teenager, as any psychologist will tell you, no matter how common a type it has become in urban middle-class India today. Incidentally, the writer is a fully-qualified doctor now). Remember, this is the best that kids today can write, and only one in several hundred essays that I mark is of this quality. Also note that this level of mental ability gets most of them into engineering college, not excluding the IITs (I needn’t even mention, I suppose, those who can only make it to hotel management and BPOs…). Such people are routinely referred to as ‘talents’ in the media these days, too: and by God, you should see the size of their egos, now that they have visited Umrica once or twice and bought a car…

I am sure that, with this gigantic talent pool, India will soon produce a dazzling treasure-house of new scientific inventions, literary wonders, brilliant musical compositions, amazing works of art, ground-breaking philosophical paradigms and every other kind of creative outpouring that together make a nation great. Aren’t we on the threshold of a golden age? I think the last time it happened was when the likes of Nagarjuna, Kalidasa, Aryabhatta, Susruta, Shankaracharya, the great early geniuses of Nalanda and enlightened monarchs like Chandragupta Vikramaditya and Harshavardhana were alive and active!


sayantika said...

Dear Sir,
With these three essays, you shown the standards of excellent, presentable and poor writing. I feel these three posts are the perfect guide to write essays.
But what you said at the end is definitely true. Instead of admiring talent, we are simply glorifying mediocrity these days.

Thanks and with regards,

Shilpi said...

I had to read the previous essay again to let go of the bad taste left in my mouth with this one although I was still pleasantly surprised when I read the first couple of paragraphs of this one because the English sounded perfect (and then of course I read your comment) and very proper. It's unimaginative, goody-goody and unappealing but not "wretched" and makes one roll one's eyes around (red dress versus blue?!). It's the thoughts in the previous one and the way the student sees life that make one pause in silence to let the images emerge...not just the niceties and beauty of expression.

I almost want to send a couple of essay answers that a couple of my students wrote/write. One student had written about the number of rooms in her mother's house as compared to her dad's and about how she (and everyone apparently) looks at how others are dressed for an evening party and likes to be with the best dressed and high-powered moron and not with the janitor...and all this in an answer on 'Class stratification' at the fag end of a semester! And the language - less said the better.

This post of yours did get me chuckling though because of your last paragraph.

Thank you.

Rajdeep said...

" And you, what are you? … talking twaddle all your lives, vain talkers, what are you? Come, see these people, and then go and hide your faces in shame. A race of dotards, you lose your caste if you come out! Sitting down these hundreds of years with an ever-increasing load of crystallized superstition on your heads, for hundreds of years spending all your energy upon discussing the touchableness of untouchableness of this food or that, with all humanity crushed out of you by the continuous social tyranny of ages – what are you? And what are you doing now? … promenading the sea-shores with books in your hands – repeating undigested stray bits of European brainwork, and the whole soul bent upon getting a thirty rupee clerkship, or at best becoming a lawyer – the height of young India’s ambition – and every student with a whole brood of hungry children cackling at his heels and asking for bread! Is there not water enough in the sea to drown you, books, gowns, university diplomas, and all?"
--Swami Vivekananda.

Echoes something that Sir has tried to tell so many times, especially the 30 rupee clerkship part...

Comment on the last paragraph: Sarcasm at its best!

Debotosh Chatterjee said...

Recently ,after India's humiliating defeat against SA , NDTV aired a show in which Dean Jones was in conversation with the dummy of Manmohan Singh , both being professors in their respective fields. all that the two 'professors' did was to horribly mess up between cricket and economics and equating growth in India's GDP with that of the bowling of the men-in-blue. similar is the kind of thing happening in our country regarding education and development ; we are equating a decline in sensible learning to the 'development' of the country and that is one of the main reasons for which this disastrous downfall in educational standards is not really being apparent to the common man !

Rajdeep said...

India's 7 most corrupt industries. Note that the shining IT also is not an exception!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I wonder why you sent this is in as a comment on this particular post, Rajdeep: unless it were because education has been listed as the third most corrupt industry in India at present. It shames but does not surprise me. Indeed, I have been commenting myself on how crass commercialisation of the get-rich-quick-and-quality-be-damned variety has affected this sector very badly over the last two decades ... witness the fact that the promoters of new schools and colleges are professionally mere tradesmen as a rule, and have nothing to do with education, nor care. As I have observed before, this is one area where the 'liberalisation' program set in motion by our revered Singh-ji is going to have dire repercussions for ages to come: a land full of people with degrees in their pockets and nothing in their heads, neither real knowledge of any worthwhile kind beyond petty technical skills, nor morals of any kind, all out to make a quick buck at the public expense, because that is all they have been 'taught'...

I am also glad that the truth behind India's much vaunted 'success story' is beginning to unravel at last like a pus-filled tumour which has burst (I hope all my readers look up the link you have provided). All the papers are now loudly 'discovering' that we are actually living under the most corrupt government since independence, which, in the name of accelerating national progress, has allowed a relatively small minority - every kind of petty thief, crook, cheat and criminal wearing the mask of politician, bureaucrat, criminal, businessman and celebrity - to get rich by exploiting, depriving and defrauding the great mass of their countrymen.

Rajdeep said...

Yes, you are right. It was because education has also been listed. As you said, these days newspapers are full of the pus filled tumour. Had there been an earthquake there then the much vaunted nuclear story would also have gone poof...
Dire repercussions for years to come? Well I shudder to think about that...
Best regards,

Rajdeep said...

" neither real knowledge of any worthwhile kind beyond petty technical skills, nor morals of any kind, all out to make a quick buck at the public expense, because that is all they have been 'taught'..."

Most of the world is tending towards that. The advanced countries more slowly because there were some values in the past due to which they became 'advanced'. But it is all surely happenning. This does not mean of course that India should also follow suit or rather take the lead! It is sad but that is what the Kali yug means isn't it? As you have also said several times, I seriously believe that literacy and education and two different things. A highly literate country can also have bad education or highly ignorant citizens. All this is reflected in news and ads too. Something something the world prefers... The question that comes to my mind is "what do you mean by world?" Suppose it is TV sets. Then more than half the world doesn't possess TV's. Then how come does the world prefer that? Today's trend is to delude oneself by sounding extra positive. If you don't sound positive then you are negative and that is not wanted. Then one has to be 'positive' to the extent of being unrealistic. Criticism and debates are hence not tolerated. Take Japan for example. Any radical today is feared. But debates and rebellious youth for the high cause were the order of the day in Meiji and post war Japan. Lack of which is one cause for stagnation in recent years. Hard work and discipline are still there, but the fire and passion are missing, and hard work is soon giving way to pretending to be busy when there is no work and extraordinarily busy at times due to lack of planning and zeal. When there is no direction, all the rowing takes the ship all over the place i.e. nowhere! In short, all we are doing is pretending the ultimate objective even though the reality is not there. That is my opinion. Please enlighten us about how you feel.

Sayan Datta said...

Dear Sir,
The most distressing thing about this essay is that the author expresses a kind of contentment, even pride in a helpless dependence on parents. There was a time when goody goody children and mama's boys used to be the butt of ridicule; but now that there has been a volte-face, its hard to expect people to know any better. Glorification of this base outlook, which I believe is endemic to our country, sends shivers down my spine. My god, I would have died before saying that I need to hold on to mama's fingers to cross the road, even when I was a child!

The good thing about this essay is that it isn't as execrable as the first one and somewhat presentable.

Sayan Datta

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Isn't it both pathetic and disgusting, Sayan, parents treating grown children as though they were still helpless toddlers, and the children happily accepting it as proof of their "love"? I swear I have seen plus-two level kids being ferried around by parents everywhere (though many much younger schoolchildren travel alone by public bus or bicycle too), and college graduates being accompanied by parents to job interviews. So many parents consider this normal, this desperate urge to keep their children from becoming real adults for as long as possible... as a result I see so many adults still behaving like kids that I often say the voting age should be raised to 30! I also think this is a major reason why literature is so feared ( boroder boi, porte nei!); unlike science, it poses a major threat, because it apparently allows youngsters to grow up quickly...

Sayan Datta said...

You are one-hundred percent correct, Sir. Somehow I think that this trait is more typical and prevalent in Bengali households. Reminds me of this very famous line - "Sopto koti satane re, he banga janani, rekhecho bangali kore, manush koroni"

Suvro Chatterjee said...

'santanere', you meant, Sayan. Other readers, not being native Bengalis, might be mystified by the reference to the devil!

Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,

Your 'Writing an essay' series gives ample proof of the deterioration that has taken place in the last forty years which seems to have accelerated in the past decade or two. This essay reminds me that you constantly tell us that a thorough grounding in humanities is essential for a person to be called educated.

As for the girl's unself-conscious dependence on her parents, I think Indian parents take secret pride and satisfaction in making their children dependent on them and it disgusts me.

About your satire in the last paragraph,it makes me sigh.

Warm regards