Comprehension passage question: How do the old and young consumers differ in buying goods? What I want to write: Older Indian consumers, true to their traditions, only buy materials when their predecessor has been broken beyond repair. They buy materials for their utility, not for their novelty. Younger consumers buy goods as much for the ‘shopping frenzy’ as for the possible use of the goods in question themselves. Guess what response that answer will get? A zero. Here’s what I’ve been instructed to write in my English exam, over and over, and why I “practice” English at all: People of old age who buy things do not waste them. They only buy what they need and not for show. Youngsters, however, buy because they think that new things will make them happy and often do not need what they buy.
Ladies, and gentlemen, let me present the GREAT CIRCUS that is CBSE Board Examinations of India!
Let me tell you what kind of words are a big no-no to be used in your ENGLISH LANGUAGE EXAM, just for example: ecstatic, cosmopolitan, counterpart, flippant, extensive, painstaking, blunder …It pains me to write these examples! In fact, I’ve been told not to write the word ‘gratitude’. “Stick to ‘feeling thankful’, Ruchika”, the teacher said. Now I googled some of these words and I am definitely not happy to tell you that many of these appear on the “tough words” list for eleven year olds. And we’re eighteen, months away from college. At this point, I should put my Word Power Made Easy under my bed, forget what equestrienne or plebian mean and stop watching tv shows that are in English. God forbid I learn a new word. My problems with this whole set up is that it DEMANDS for me to be regressive and if I should improve, it would actually go against me. (Let’s not go into how much I freak out about being limited.) It eventually boils down to this: the English exam, the one exam that can be filled with expression and promise becomes a dull scrap of a words fitted to a dry, calculated equation.
Sure, I’ve tried holding my tongue for the duration of the examination, but that’s when things get confusing. The question paper freely uses the words “wanton” and “callous”…. and then they tell me I can’t use the word ‘GRATITUDE’??!! Do tell me, CBSE, who pushed you down symbolic stairs that you fell and banged your figurative head. For those who have absolutely no context, I’ll give you the reason we put up with this nonsense. You see, in the great show of being objective and just, CBSE takes our answer sheets, bundles them up and then flies them off to some hush hush school, the senior teachers of which then mark our papers and hand us a few numbers that eventually become our marks to define everything. Teachers in my school openly say the CBSE result can NOT be predicted. Why? Because it simply is not about what you write, at least not after a point. Because if my paper flies out to a school in rural India in a region that didn’t even want to speak English in the first place and may or may not have protested the use of the “British coloniser’s tongue, you traitors to all that is Indian”, what we slang-call “government school” in short, my marks will depend on how much the person reading my answers understands of English. Or how much they like my handwriting. Or how many papers they have to mark that day. Or how their coffee is. And who’s going to challenge them? Who will ensure each answer sheet gets its due consideration. Well, as you can imagine, when Indian students prepare for board exams, especially those in the Arts and Humanities, their instructions for battle are something as follows: 1. Write 3 paragraphs for 5 markers. Nobody cares about the first or the last paragraph, it just has to be there. 2. Longer questions must occupy 2 sides of the answer sheet, shorter must not go beyond half a page. Eff the word limit. 3. If they ask about the disarmament treaties between the USA and the USSR, you start your answer at the bloody Cuban Missile Crisis and then describe the Cold War. 4. Put all math solutions in a BOX, failing which, the examiner might not find it, getting you a zero. 5. Draw a line after each answer. Secure 10% marks. 6. Unless absolutely impossible, draw! Tables, charts, star shaped bullet points, just draw. Finally: everybody knows I make loads of mistakes, I do, but the best part about my exam throes is when I find shamelessly too many grammatical mistakes in my English language question paper. I bring them back to my mother, concerned, am I getting cocky, to have her confirm there’s an error, and that I wasn’t out eating hay on the day they reinvented grammar.
I did a course with the British Council Division near my home recently, and only once blogged about that. Now some might give me puzzled looks, these kind of things are SPECIFICALLY to blog about, so why not? Well, for the mere fact that there WAS nothing to blog about..
I talked here about a Conversation Club I attended after class at the same place, and here about a story I wrote for class. But that was that. All I did in class was have fun, and how do you blog fun?
But then eventually the classes ended. I really was surprised by that, it felt we had only just begun. But the tests and evaluations came on, and rolled and rocked, and I failed one so bad it made me sad… But it ended, all of it. I no longer meet the others every Wednesday when I missed school and every Saturday when I hated getting out of bed so early. Sometimes I even wish I could have all of that back… but it ended.
Of course, everyone said they’ll keep in touch. I had a picture of all of us so I sent that to everyone and said, you know jokingly, that we should meet up, and the first place we visit is someone who cooks good! I hope those guys all got the picture… none of them really replied. And all of you took down my blog address, so if you read this, REPLY!
Today I got not one, but TWO emails. And both from two lovely ladies from the group.
One of them is Shipra, the calmest of us all. Really, the first thing I felt when she came in was how peaceful she.. just looked! Unfortunately, Shipra was the one clicking that picture above. A lot of people are missing, they left early, but now I wish Shipra had been here. She works as a news reporter (I hope I got the term right, we talked who is an anchor and who is a reporter and all that). I just texted her to give me the timings of her show…
The other one, was Lulabi. My first impression with her was.. kinda awkward. I didn’t get her name right, so I called her Lullaby. Imagine that! Just try twisting that pronunciation to focus on LA and you’ll be fine. Here’s what she wrote:Dear Ruchika, Thank you for this endeavour n sorry for late replying. I was tied up in an assignment. Of course all of us promised to kip in touch, I will do my bit. Someday all of you should come to my place(gurgaon) and I will cook for you. I am not a great cook but I cook with great passion. After a long time I had great time being in the class and really enjoyed being a student. Definitely the credit goes to Tapsi and all of u. The course was so tightly woven that I heardly got opportunity to interact with others, especially u. Yet I found u very intense, focused and mature.I must admit that, I liked your smile and dream in your eyes. Someday you will be a great writer and I can proudly say that I know her. I hope your summer vacation has started. What are you doing these days? studying or focusing more on writing? Whatever you are doing you will suceed. All my best wishes are with you. Take care & keep in touch. With warm wishes, Lulabi
I don’t think she knows what that email meant to me… I really don’t think so. There is no way that I will ever lose touch with her, not after this…
I haven’t been keeping well lately. On top of that it’s 44 degree Celsius in Delhi and I feel like I am sitting on the hot metal base of a pressure cooker. I miss my friends, my best friend especially and my health is acting up like a drama queen! There’s lots and lots going wrong, and I really needed to smile today…
And Lulabi nailed it.
I really don’t think she knows what she did, but it means a lot to me that she said; “dream in your eyes.”
People forget being nice when they are hassled. We often need reasons to be nice. I always found that strange, but Lulabi was perhaps the one exception to this formula, even in class. She just treated all of us, total strangers, like neighbours, like people she knew.. It only befits that she’s a social worker. She’s a welcomer.
I can’t hope to describe what that email ignited in me, for that might just destroy the effect. I just know that I HAVE to thank Lulabi, and everyone else who was in that class with me, Shipra too, for giving me memories of happy times.
Excuse me now, for I have pulled open that section, and am now deep in living those moments again.
Thank you, English Evolution A2.