Saturday, May 19, 2012

Those Little Moments of Victory

When in school we were always made to believe that what we study now will hold us good in the future. It’s been ages since I had passed out of school and college, and I am still waiting for that moment when I can use integral calculus or Einstein’s theory of relativity in my job of transferring data from one cell of the excel sheet to another, or even using trigonometry to find the angle of elevation of my office building at 3 P.M on a hot afternoon. I was an average student in school who had issues in concentrating on the same page for too long during exam preparation time. I prepared smart rather than preparing hard, instead of studying every important question mentioned by the teacher I would go for the ones I felt were the most important. Which were hardly a dozen. Out of twenty chapters. So it was when in the exam hall blankly staring at the question paper that nothing made sense would I realize that there is another way of preparation–the idiot’s way. To pass in an exam paper of 100 marks, 35 was the minimum. I being a scrapper by nature who even licks down the last remnants of bournvita from the glass of milk, used to scavenge for marks through the complete question paper that would total upto 35. This meant :

Answering a 12-marks question in 3 lines hoping I would get one mark for each line.

Answering a 5-marks question that I did not know an answer to with up to three pages, hoping the examiner would be impressed with my efforts of providing a detailed answer which was nowhere related to the question asked, and grant me marks just for the pain I took in underlining the subheadings and making diagrams with sketch pen.

In a section where one had to answer only eight 2-mark questions out of ten, I would answer all the ten hoping the examiner would forget to count and grant me marks even for the extra questions I had answered, in the process getting 4 extra marks. Each mark used to make a difference, the essence of which only those who flunked by 2-3 marks would know. 

(I had earlier mentioned that I was an average student, I guess I should change it to horrible.)

And still If I was not confident enough of passing, I would make sure I used up a total of 40 pages hoping I would get one mark for each page. 

I made sure that the outlines to my answer sheets were neatly decorated, people believed in underlining and highlighting the main points to a question. Something to which I did not concur, since I would not want examiner to focus on my answers which were wayward, beat around the bush and in most cases had nothing to do with the question asked.

My confidence level as I left the exam hall would be three times more than the time that it was when I had entered it, and even left the brightest minds of the class flummoxed at my cheekiness. But that cheekiness only lasted till the exam results were announced.

In short, my answer paper was like a high budget Bollywood movie–it was beautifully packaged only to house a pile of crap inside it.

Since passing out of school and college never have we felt a really serious challenge to memorize anything, no theorems, no equations, no historical dates or numbers, no prose or poetry. Recently at work while browsing I had come across the A, B, Cs of radio call signs, the ones they use in military and in action-oriented video games. A for Alpha, B for Bravo, C for Charlie, D for Delta…. and so on.

Having grown up on a steady diet of war related movies and games like Black Hawk Down, Tears of the Sun and Call of Duty, the whole idea of memorizing the call signs gave me something worthwhile to do whilst pretending to work. Also it could come in handy while discussing office gossip just in case we ran out of code names. And as I kept mumbling the names over and over, repeating again from the start whenever I missed out an alphabet, I realized that I had gone back to being a six-year old memorizing his multiplication tables, one of those rare instances where I am exerting my will on the brain to remember something, a list of alphabets no matter how useless they were and could never be handy in real life had to be remembered because there had been nothing worth putting the effort to memorize something in a long long time.

All our office related processes have a manual to it­–a set of do’s and don’ts, a SOP written out in word document which can be referred to when in doubt. It does feel good to do all that is not written in MS-WORD or carved in stone, to go old school and write it down on a piece of paper, to memorize stuff that tests your patience, that oils down the rusted mechanism of your brain. Sometimes we live our lives fighting the larger battles that we forget to celebrate our own little moments of victory. Sometimes it’s not about getting into the Hall of Fame or being the Employee of the Month. Sometimes it’s just about just trying.

R for Roger Out!

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