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Exam Fever

As anyone currently in the twelfth will tell you, with varying levels of dismay, the final exams are right around the corner. Parents everywhere are seizing their children's phones and taking time off from work. Panicked screaming ensues at intervals.


I don't believe there's a person on the planet who genuinely enjoys exam season. Actually, I take that back - there's no one in India who enjoys exam season. Partially, I think this is our own fault. Exams are the most important things in an Indian student's life, so parents seem bent on bottling up all the worry and concern they have about their kid's education and allowing it to spew forth in a torrent of "No more video games!" and "Delete WhatsApp!" commands during the two months surrounding the exams. Small wonder, then, that at 17, I believe the purpose of exams is to seasonally blot the sunshine from otherwise happy lives.

This whole exam fever thing does have some upsides. Okay, one - it…
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Learning to Learn

There's an interesting concept that's gotten a lot of traction over the past couple of years called "meta learning".  It's a term coined by one Donald B. Maudsley, who defined it as "the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized". Translated from Sciencese, Maudsley is talking about how we figure out ways to become more efficient at learning new information.

HR managers (you know, those overpaid dimwits you complain to about your coworker stealing your lunch?) like to call it "learnability". Most people with real jobs don't call it anything at all. In reality, though, it's an extremely useful thing to understand, together with the techniques you would use to get good at it.

Myself, I'm a decent-ish learner. Mostly, that's because I've had to learn things on my own quite often - I had to teach myself web design, app…

FEED ME!

I don't know how many people know this, but I love food. I love food rather more than is healthy, as a matter of fact - I'm far too often guilty of emptying an entire bag of chips over the course of a couple of hours. Because I come from an Iyengari household, where the question "What should we have for dinner?" has only two possible answers - chappati or rice - I've also had to learn to cook. That's okay, though, because I love cooking.

My love for cooking began when I was six or seven years old. I used to spend all my time hanging out with my grandmother, and it's from her that I inherited my love of cooking. I'd follow her everywhere she went, and a large component of "everywhere she went" was the kitchen. I'd follow her there too and chat with her, in my usual garrulous fashion. Aside from the occasional admonishment to stand back when she was lighting the stove or dropping something into oil, she let me stand right next to her while…

The Well-Educated Mind...

Last week, I wrote a post about education. In it, I mentioned getting a "good education". This week, I figured I'd expand on that theme a little bit.

Myself, I've experienced two education systems: ICSE and A-levels. I studied from first to tenth grade in ICSE and 11th and 12th in A-levels. Now, here's a confession for you: when I was doing ICSE, my grades were terrible. Then, when I switched over to A-levels, they suddenly rose. Why? Not because I suddenly began putting in more effort. No, my grades rose (I suspect) because I switched to a system that was  more suited to the way I learn things - a system geared towards understanding rather than memorization.

My ICSE textbooks contained pages upon pages of facts. That's all they were, a set of facts. Chemistry was a set of chemical combinations to study for the exams, Physics was the formulae and definitions we needed to pass the exams. We never discussed why anything was significant, or really delved into th…

The Hawaldar's Tale

Yesterday, I was rejected from Pre-RDC. As I was walking out of camp, a hawaldar I knew asked me where I was going, and I told him I was heading home. His response wasn't the usual hand-holding or the "You'll make it next year" that most people come at you with. Instead, he told me to focus on my education. "I'll probably be a hawaldar for the rest of my life because I joined the army as soon as I finished my 10th. Now that you're out of RDC, go home and study, get a good job." These are sentiments that I've heard echoed many times by other NCOs and JCOs. They also eerily resemble what other people who dropped out before they got a high-school diploma have told me.

The regret for people I've spoken to is that because they dropped out, they lost a great many opportunities that they didn't know they'd even have at 16. It seems like people don't realize that they need a good education - or, come to that, any sort of education - unti…

The Cadet's Diary

In many of my posts over the past two years, I have made subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) allusions to my membership in the National Cadet Corps. About a month ago, I embarked on what is known as the "RDC chain", a series of eight camps which culminate with the Republic Day Camp and parade in Delhi. Being, as usual, out of things to write about, I decided to write about the camps.

I was fortunate enough to have been born into an upper-middle-class family. I also happen to have a mother who is more than somewhat compulsive about cleanliness. Let me put that into perspective for you: when I was a kid, all our bathroom breaks on road trips coincided with the appearance of a Coffee Day by the wayside,  and not because anyone enjoyed the food (we're all tea drinkers at home, and anyway, you can't really enjoy a soggy, week-old sandwich). We stopped there because Coffee Days have reliably clean toilets. Sixteen years I was raised like this, and then packed off to an NC…

Bedtime Blues

I haven't been home for the past ten days. I've been off at an NCC camp, sleeping on a piece of wood propped up on four steel legs with no mattress and ridden with bedbugs. On top of that, I've been having to remedy my poor general knowledge, and the only time I get to do that is after 10pm. Needless to say, none of this contributes to a comfortable night's respite.


The fact of the matter is, for the past week or so, I've only been getting about four hours of sleep - on average - per night. Now, I'll be honest, for most of my life, the only thing interrupting my sleep cycle has been my mobile phone usage before bedtime. I'm accustomed to a good, solid 8 hours of sleep, and consider it essential to my day-to-day functioning.

Recently, though, I've had to work harder than ever during the day with less sleep than I've ever had. The weird thing is, I've been doing just fine! I still wake up every morning, I'm only marginally grumpier than usual,…