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Object Oriented Life

In the grip of road rage, I have often thought of violent solutions to my problems. Just today I was thinking how much traffic would be improved if there were no pedestrians crossing the road. Even in places with Foot Over Bridges (FOB) people tend to cross the road; often a high-speed high-traffic speedway; right in the shadow of an FOB.

How simple it would be, I mused, to simply pass a mandate that absolved the driver if he/she ran over a pedestrian jay-walking within 250 meters of a FOB. It would rapidly solve all problems and the road would become smooth and hassle free.

Now I've wondered at how many people would actually run over the pedestrians crossing. I don't think anyone would be able to resist the reflex braking when they see someone running right in front of them. I have often witnessed car pile-ups due to one driver braking to avoid hitting (even a) dog. But that was beside the point. The chief flaw in this system is that it loses sight of the objective of a FOB: to safeguard the life of the pedestrians.

By introducing a potential life-threat as a PART of the system, it loses sight of its objective. Why? Because it gets lost in the procedure to get pedestrians to cross only on the FOB.

I'm not going into discussions regarding the moral implications of a death-reinforced mandate etc. I just had this epiphany today while driving back from work.

Another example can also illustrate this very thing. People who prepare for the IIT-JEE often take the aid of professional coaching centers. They are taught by immensely knowledgeable people (or so they seem at that point, no doubt some truly are) who introduce them to the concepts and applications of the same necessary for the exam. Now, the IIT-JEE had become a purely Objective Type Examination by the time I was in such a center. An OTE has multiple-choice questions, with one (or for some questions, more than one) correct answer. As a result, only the answer mattered. The IIT-JEE, much like the CAT, is an elimination based examination. The purpose is to reduce the number of applicants so that only the top percentile get in. Thus it is a test of both long-term as well as short-term time and resource management. Long term in the preparation time for the exam and short term in the exam itself.

With minimum cut-offs for each section, each candidate is required to maintain a minimum level of aptitude in every subject. This is to ensure that the candidates learn how to reduce their weaknesses, while at the same time maximizing their strengths. For example, a candidate exceptionally good in one subject cannot focus on that alone, he has to get by in the others as well. It is with regard to this that I finally return to the original topic.

In my coaching center, as in all places, there were a class of elite students. They always scored in the top 1 percentile, always solved the seemingly unsolvable questions thrown by the teachers and had an aura of assured calm. Some of them were the 'all-rounders' and some were the 'specialists'. The specialists were supreme masters of any one (or at most) two subjects. And usually they didn't get in the top percentile because they scored pitifully in the others. However, undeterred they continued honing their skills in the subject of their choice, proud and confident of their ability to get into the 'depth' of the subject they liked. (I can say all this because I was one such 'specialist', I laugh at myself in retrospect but that's no use to me now). Ultimately, the fact remains that you can only do so much 'research' at the +2 level. It was a waste of effort and time. Knowledge never goes to waste but that very same knowledge and depth could be attained at a later stage by specializing in the branch of ones choice or by researching it in the post-exam holidays if one was so inclined. Ultimately, very few of the specialists scored well in the IIT-JEE because at the end, it was an objective paper. Only the answer mattered. Not the method.

However, all these unfortunate students were misguided in their objective. Knowledge is always an objective, true. But sometimes, one has to stick to the goal in focus and not on the process. The process was studying and concept-building towards the objective of getting through the JEE. But when the process became overpowering, one lost sight of the objective and thus one suffered.  Not just mere failure at an exam, it comes at a cost. Disillusionment, denial and disregard. I myself understood this today. A good five years after I gave my JEE. Perhaps I will remember it next time.

I doubt it.


  1. I just stopped by to thank you for participating in last week's Limerick-Off. I hope you'll be a frequent participant. :)
    Madeleine Begun Kane


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