Archive for May, 2008


Karate and Social Sciences

May 27, 2008


When you are young, it’s the thrill of doing something that gets you doing many things. Dheeraj was about twelve, when he enrolled in the Karate Classes. Three days a week, two hours per day and a lot of kicking – he thought. Only after joining did he come to know that there would be absolutely no sparing (Karate equivalent to fighting), while he was in the white belt stage, which was the entry level for new joinees. It would be vigorous exercising for 45 minutes and Khatta practice for the remaining time. (A Khatta is like a dance. The steps, moves, punches and kicks are all done in a sequence – Orderly way). After about six months, Dheeraj at last entered the Orange III level.  (White, Orange III, II, I, Brown III, II, I, Black I, II, III…. Is the sequence in which you progress. The colour of the belt is different for different schools of Karate). When you reach the Orange belt level, you are expected to spare (fight). Dheeraj was well built, quite tall and have an above average structure. So, he was eager to do this. There were four points one needs to score to win over his opponent. The point awarded, depended on the quality of the hit.


The first day of fighting was a disaster for Dheeraj. He had to fight a senior. Before he could move, there was a high reverse kick, which landed straight on his face. Blood. He had seen blood before, while playing many of the outdoor games. But this was different. The next class got only worse. This time he had to fight the Sempai (Master). But there was no blood this time, Only a few kicks and falling down. Of course, Dheeraj was on the receiving end always.


He felt this was unfair. He had just started to learn how to fight and straight away he was pitted against his senior and master. There was this uneasy feeling inside him as this continued for some more time. He could no longer be patient. He asked the Sempai – “Don’t you think this is unfair? Why don’t you let me fight the guys from my batch? I might be able to hit them better and score more points”



Rohini was very good in Mathematics. Her love for numbers and problem solving always reflected in her results. She always topped the class in mathematics. The interest and enthusiasm she showed in mathematics impressed everyone. It came naturally to her. She was always proud of her marks in mathematics. Her Social Sciences teacher, who was also her class teacher, was not all that happy as she was not doing well in other subjects. She called Rohini to the Staff room and wanted to know what was the problem in other subjects. Especially Social Sciences.


“Its so hard for me to memorize. I mean, look at maths. If I practice solving a particular type of problem, the formulae and the methods get registered automatically in my mind. But in Social Science, I have to force myself to memorize. I find it really hard to remember the events and especially the dates. I am not interested in them.”


The teacher was shocked. She was from a different country and a different way of teaching altogether. She was new to the ways of urban India.


“Is this the way all the students learn?”


“Most of them, yes”


“Why do you have to memorize the whole syllabus?”


“Because we want to get more marks. That’s how you win in life – getting more marks. And you get more marks by reproducing the text book word by word”


“What you learn out of those lessons are not important to you?”


“Not If we get good marks. As long as we keep getting good marks, how we get it and what we learn out of it, doesn’t really matter”



The Sempai (Karate Master) asked Dheeraj – “Why did you join Karate?”


“Because a lot of my friends did. Many of my neighbors are already in brown belt.”


“What do you want to learn in Karate?”


“I want to reach the highest belt possible, in the shortest possible time. I heard that Black X is the highest. Or is it the red belt?”


“So, if I offer you the black belt immediately, would you happily take it?”


“Why not? But you haven’t answered my question. Why do we have to fight with you and seniors, and not our own batch mates?”


“Since you are curious, Ill tell you. In Karate, we train you to hit in self defense. But more importantly, we train you to cope up with the pain inflicted by an opponent who may be much stronger and larger than you. Being able to get back to your feet, even if the opponent has landed a powerful punch on your face, and getting in position to fight back is more important than the most powerful punch you can deliver. Irrespective of your strength and skill, you can always expect your opponents to be better in Karate. You cant always keep winning in Karate”


Perhaps so in life, too.



Destination Infinity


“You can buy education. But not wisdom”


Pushing the limits of Unconventionality

May 12, 2008


Much like the Grandes Ecoles in France, the Indian Institute of Technology is as hard to get in considering the sheer numbers that write the examination and the percentage of them that do get the admission. Alok, like any other upper middle class family in India, always wanted to get into one of them. They don’t teach education in India – they preach. Grades are not a reflection of the amount of work put in by him, but rather a reflection of the extra effort put in by the cousin or neighbor who managed to score 0.5% marks more than him.  Of course, there are hundreds of other engineering colleges to get into for the lesser intellectual. But Alok was determined not to be one of them. He still remembers all the work that was put in for the preparations, and more importantly, all the time he lost which would otherwise have been spent happily playing cricket or some other games with his friends. His tenure at IIT was better. He was able to indulge in occasional movies and some indoor games. But peer pressure kept him busy with course material for most of the time. At the end of the course, though he was having a couple of offers, he decided to start his own company. He wanted to become an entrepreneur.


“Wasn’t that a big risk?”


“Well no. If you look at it from my perspective, it was not at all a big risk. I have already lost a quarter of my life, to achieve what ever I have achieved till now. I have been fulfilling the dreams of my parents, teachers and relatives. Its time I take control of my life and fulfill my dreams”




The Black Mamba is the deadliest snake in Africa. They can grow upto four meters and once bitten, even a small giraffe could die in minutes. They are extremely venomous. They could move at speeds of 25 Km/h which makes them the fastest moving snake in Africa. Jack was always fascinated by these snakes. All he needed to catch one of them was a long rod with a small holder which could squeeze the neck of the snake, thereby making it impossible to lounge forward and make that deadly strike. There was two occasions when he came very close to death. Once when a four meter fully grown Black Mamba was able to escape the catching rod and came right in front of his face directly staring at his eyes. Jack didn’t flinch a bit. Even if he had made a small quick movement, he would have died for sure. After a few agonizing seconds, the snake went off on its way. The second occasion, a snake did bite him when he accidentally let off his hold on its neck. He was totally paralyzed for a week and put on partial life support systems. He was able to listen to others and also see but could not move a bit. Finally his own anti venom (which he helped prepare by extracting the venom from these snakes) saved him after a long battle because about 10% of people are allergic to the anti venom, and he was one of them. But nevertheless, he has caught a lot of these snakes, took a lot of pictures of them, made documentaries, extracted their venom to make anti venom and saved a lot of lives and made a rather successful career out of it. A successful career, I said.


“Wasn’t that a big risk?”


“Well no. Not if you can understand the nature of these snakes. They would strike only in defense and only when they are cornered or feel threatened. But otherwise they exhibit a remarkable level of tolerance towards humans, sometimes even in captivity. They don’t strike unless you agitate them. Otherwise how could I stay with a couple of Black Mambas in a closed room for hours together, when we were raising funds for a wild life project? If they were so deadly, they would have certainly killed me”



Destination Infinity.


PS: The second story about the Black Mamba is a real life story.