Wednesday, May 31, 2006


She caught me looking at her note-book.
"What do you want?" she demanded, annoyed, her eyebrows questioning.
"Nothing." I remarked."Your 'd's look nice."
She gasped, and before she could raise the alarm we got our next word. The teacher hollered from the front of the class:
"Emancipation! EMM-an-SEEEE-pay-SHUN!"
I finished scribbling and looked at her notebook again. She was still crossing her 't' and dotting her 'i's. I shot a look at my notebook, and shrugged my shoulders.
Do I believe in perfection? Do we believe in perfection? Do perfection and morality go hand-in-hand? If so, where and when and how did all these notions ever get into my, your, our head(s)?
It was Monday night and I was mulling the above questions over an unappealing dosa. And as I took apart the dosa piece by soggy piece, I remembered where, and when, and how.
D, of course!
And I felt like Archimedes out of a bath tub. No, no, before you ask I didn't, unlike the great man I have no illusions about my...err...anatomy. Not that many people would be interested in the first place anyway.
D was a classmate in school. We kinda grew up together. As in both of us were the tallest members in our class of our respective genders, and since we had this rule of a boy sitting next to a girl sitting next to a boy sitting next to a girl, we ended up sitting next to each other for the whole of primary school and for a couple of years after that as well.
Anyway, coming back to the point about perfection, it was an alien concept to me. Of course you can't expect 8 year olds to be bothered about perfection, can you? But then all that changed when D joined school.
You couldn't miss her in the crowd. She towered above the rest of the girls. And she stood out in other ways too. Everything about her was perfect. Right from her laminated text-books (which never tore even at the end of the year when I would be lucky if I retained the cover page on mine) to her spotless and shining shoes (maybe her Dad polished them at night; maybe she had a maid who took care of everything; maybe...) to that irritating oh-I-finished-my-homework-didn't-you-? smile of hers. And it hurt. Oh yes, it did. In a very juvenile, male-chauvinistic, how-can-a-girl-be-so-damn-smart-? way. Yeah, yeah, the male ego is fragile, I know.
And you know what hurt the most? Her handwriting. You could take a ruler and all her letters would line up, as in the legs and the loops would all be of the same height, down to the last freaking millimetre. I actually did that once when she wasn't looking, just to make sure, and I nearly died of shock. And mine? Forget it, you don't want to know...all that I can say in my defence is I was practising to be a doctor. No, really, I was.
But yes, being benchmates took its effect. And it was not long before I chucked my ego into the class dustbin and started taking writing lessons from her. She couldn't believe it initially, becasue we had this anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better clash going on. But once she got over the shock of schooling the enemy, she turned out to be a wonderful tutor (sheesh can't believe I just called her "wonderful"; note to self: tighten up! tighten up!).
We had copy-writing class, and my letters which would go climbing all over the page started dropping into a disciplined order. She would prod with her pencil and mutter under her breath when my 't's started getting lazy and began looking like my 'f's. She would taunt and tease me for my 'p's and 'q's. I guess that's the only way I would have learnt. But slowly, the writing improved and it was not long before my marks improved as well.
The reserve between us melted as well. We started exchanging books (I read most of Nancy Drew thanks to her), hell, we even did a play together in school which had just the both of us! And it was not long before she forced me into changing again.
I used to be a shameless cheat when I was little. Exams and games mainly, and there were other things which didn't matter at all.
It was on the day we got our Maths test marks -- a test in which I placed my notebook on my lap and copied my way into the cheaters' hall of fame. She looked at me in disdain and asked me, "How can you lay claim to something you've not earned? What are you proving? And more importantly, who are you fooling?" This was in class 5; we must have been 10-11 years old. Gee, the girls start early, don't they? I took a one-way guilt trip to hell that day.
And again it hurt. Not in a moral sense or anything, I was too shameless for that. In the same juvenile, male-chauvinistic, how-can-a-girl-be-so-damn-right-? way. And I decided to give up cheating. I tried. I struggled (old habits die hard). But I never cheated for the rest of my school life (or rather, for the tests that mattered; I still continued to do so on inconsequential tests which carried fines), and the thrill kinda died after that, and the guilt was overwhelming (All that changed in college though when the usual disilusioned-with-the-system phase hit home and cheating didn't matter anymore; at least morally).
Anyway, it was not long before we were slugging it out in the tests on honest terms, competing for the top honours in class, sometimes losing to the other by the slenderest of margins (you will forget what I just wrote. You are feeling sleepy. I will count upto three and you will forget everything. 1...2...). But she was a sport, probably the most sportive female I've run into, and she would be the first to congratulate and acknowledge her coming second. And I learnt to do the same.
Anyway, coming back to the questions I was mulling over, D was undeniably the first person to teach me that 'If something is worth doing, it's worth doing it well', that 'You cannot claim that which is not yours' and that perfection and morality are one and the same. D left school after class 7, which was quite sad actually, and I've not seen her anywhere since, but I guess I owe her a lot.
In this age of cover-your-back environments at work and cut throat competition around you, it's often quite easy to take the easy way out and compromise. Sometimes I stand tall. On other occasions, I've gone to sleep with a heavy heart. All the same, I guess D would be happy knowing how I've fared.
"Come on, let's go! It's late. We can tune the carby* tomorrow."
"We were supposed to finish this today. And what if the boss asks us?"
"We'll tell him we finished it. Besides how much more can we tune it? This is as much as it can go."
"Naa, let's tune it one last time. I'm sure we can squeeze some more torque here..."
"F*** man. Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because if something's worth doing, it's worth doing it well, and besides you don't claim something which you've not earned..."
"Spare me the philosophy. Where is that frikkin spanner when you need it? Might as well get started on this."
"Over to your right..."
* carby - Informal term for a carburettor


The Soliloquist said...

Gee.. Me cant imagine a "perfecto" s world...
Guess the D disease is spreading..

Whats life without a little evil here and there ???

"Sometimes I stand tall. On other occassions, I've gone to sleep with a heavy heart."...

Liked this line.. I v been like dat so far too.. and hav felt vindicated ...

But doesnt it take guts and brains to scheme, to manipulate and to bend the rules????. The ones who moralize are the ones who lack the courage to defy morals... (a renegade philosophy, maybe..)

Afterall, man isnt made of steel... and the spine isnt a ramrod.. U wud get a backache if you keep standing tall and lookin up at the sky...

Karthik said...

A couple of quick observations !!

The first time i heard abt "Emancipation" was when i prepared for my GRE ..

And i thought u work in a Electronics firm !! U sound as though u work in a Mechanic Shop !! He hee .. Jus kidding !!

There are gals like u'r "D" in every school.. And i guess this is something of a virtous cycle .. It's something like they intially start perfectly and the moment they come to know that people (specially boys) look upto them, they act as though they are Perfection Personified !! And this is a peculiarity reserved for gals .. One more example - suppose a gal dresses well for a week and some guys notice her appreciatingly, she continues the trend !! If the male ego is fragile, the female ego grows on the 'weakness' of the male ego !! But heck, it's always good to learn good things from either Guys or Gals !!

And as far as cheating goes hmm .. Have cheated(i.e. copied) all thru school .. It's not one of those out of laziness - i used to read well, but just something of me against the system !! And u wont believe it, i even "checked" my answers with a buddy in the highest exams of them All .. That my friend scored less than me inspite of the same answers is a story for another day !!

P.P.S - And i did YAWN thru the middle !!

Brood Mode said...

My knowledge of you stands reinforced :)

could have been shorter though...

Ok Ok i AM a sucker for short crisp stuff

musafir said...

the soliloquist: Excellent point you raise there.

It's something that I've thought about often -- whether being morally right often keeps you from getting your hands diry, so to speak. I mean there have been occasions when, in order to keep the moral high ground, I've shied away from doing something I really should have. Be it making my peace with people or getting the results I've wanted out of some activity. I find I'm more than willing to let things stay the way they are and be "moral", rather than forsake my principles for greater ends. It is something I'm trying to grow out of.

And yes, totally agree about the backache part! But whether it is due to a lack of guts and brains, I'm not sure. Even though the courage and the ability is there, it boils down to whether the end -- people or goals -- is really worth it. And I have a tendency to think they aren't.


1) I'm usually wary of people who make sweeping generalizations. And this is the second one you've made in recent times :) To me, it signifies a dislike for the details. Like someone once said, God is in the details. I'm sure you're talking from your own experience, but don't let that colour everything that everyone else has experienced. I've found it gets you nowhere.

2) Agree with you when you say it's good to learn from anyone and everyone. It's something I live by.

3) We learnt emancipation in class 4 or 5, if I'm not wrong, thanks to a wonderful English teacher.

5) You shock me with your cheating! :P

6) "YAWN" -- please substantiate.

brood mode: Partially agree with you when you say it could have been shorter.

People generally find a post long mostly when either it's uninteresting or written poorly. That 'Desperado' post was longer than this but nobody complained!

And when I said I agree partially it's because I posted it yesterday and read it today in the morning, and I cringed at certain places where the writing was poor. Need to tighten up. Thanks for the feedback :)

And what is your knowledge of me by the way? :D

catch 22 said...

Another good one. After I read this post i remembered the night when you were telling me the story of the movie 'Goodwill Hunting'. I donno whats the nexus between the post and the movie but I guess maybe on introspection on my part some connection might exist.

Off the topic I still haven the question raised by the movie. Hope u did.

Karthik said...

Hmm .. The next time i will be careful when i make a sweeping generalisation !! Maybe i love making such statements .. Will 'qualify' them with disclaimers hence forth !!

Yawn - Donno da .. Maybe since i sleep late, i often am half asleep at work .. It's just that on reading that Sleep 1..2.. I suddenly caught myself yawning !! I guess it wasn't anything to do with the story though !! And i lov stories ..

Final Wise Crack - I was taught that "The devil lies in the details"

musafir said...

karthik: One man's God is another man's Devil :P

To be pedantic, "the Devil is in the details" is actually the adage whereas what I said is actually the wisecrack :)

word verification: ootyda (Is Blogger asking me to take a vacation?)

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Well I could identify this with my sibling...the all-achieving-man-what-a-brillaint-student-and-what-do-you-mean-you-are-her-brother sister of mine...:)
That was as far as the handwriting and the moral righteousness goes!! :P

When I was in 8th I used to talk glibly about Spinoza's Ethics (and before you go whaddayamean that was more thanks to a wisecrack I read in some book...I had no idea who Spinoza was and cant really say was much interested then...)

But then I knew the meaning and spelling of the word Emancipation way earlier than she learned that :p

Anyway that was an irrelevant nostalgic journey...

I wonder whether the fatc that we seem to be indulging in auld lang syne way too mcuh these days a sign of disillusionment of the present...the less said about the future the better...

Can someone who has never lived in the present ever have a past? :|

consumerdemon said...

girish, as usual, blabbers.

i knew a girl like that too. let's call her Y. Y and I had this hate-hate thing going on in school. I hated the fact that she was so good at everything, that her handwriting was bee-yootiful and that everybodyliked her. SHe hated me on principle - i was tall, fat, loud, opinionated, didnt do my home work, took whatevr punishment they doled out without a squirm and read under my desk in social studies class. i changed schools in 8th std. and next year she came to my new school. i told everybody nasty stories about her and when she came, she was unrecognisable. not physically. she was intelligent and funny. on the 2nd day of school,red-faced, i apologised to her for telling people stories. she laughed it off and said that she had been an insufferably prosy and boring person. i was stunned. we became pretty good friends after that. then she went to med school and i to engg and we lost touch.