I was reading something today and came across the word benchmark.. Weird how a single word triggers a thousand memories.... It got me thinking of my English classes and i think thats what i'll write about today.I've always loved English class..English was the only paper i could score without touching the book and since i have been a book-a-holic from the time i could read (which was from the time i was five, i think) , i had very little problem with my grammar or composition. And i communicate much better in writing than by speech.. The only few years i had a problem were my 6th, 11th and 12th, when i hated my teachers. Well, I guess it is a bit difficult for the teachers to cope in schools where they have to deal with a class of 50, each student with different capabilities, but in many ways, its better not to be taught english at all than to be taught the way it had been done at school. Which brings me to the word benchmark.When i first entered college, we were split up into 3 streams. Heard the A stream or advanced stream was tough, so purposely wrote a bad essay in the aptitude test.. only 2 girls got thru in my entire class and one of them had to be me..and there were only 50 girls in my A stream class from my entire year. The first week was almost like a culture shock. There were no specified books and only our writing skills were concentrated upon.. We worked on paragraph writing - descriptive, narrative, analytical, response writing, note making and essay writing.. And the topics we took up!! Gender issues, dream theories, social themes.. It opened up a new world altogether. I mean, one can't talk about the tribes of India, the plight of the third sex or cross border conflicts without doing some serious time in the library. And everyone in my class was brilliant.. For me the transition from what my teacher in school expected from me and what i was expected to do in this class was frighteningly drastic. But after that terrifying first week when i felt most of what my class was talking about go whistling over my head, i settled down and started enjoying myself. The authors we took up were contemporary Indian ones - Mohinder Singh Sarna, Sujatha Bhatt, Ranjit Hoskote.. I discovered i hated indian authors. Most of them wrote very intellectual stuff that one had to read a few times to get the point of.. and most of them are depressing. Jhumpa Lahiri is reasonable, as in, i liked Interpreter of Maladies but i didnt enjoy her novel, the Namesake. Monica Ali's Brick Lane was nice as well, but one can hardly look to indian authors for entertaining reads. Most of them deal with the confusions an NRI goes through, a topic i dont give a damn about. I mean, why write in a style that gives your readers a headache?? Even if one is dealing with a serious issue, it can be written so that it is readable by everyone, which accounts for the popularity of books like the Alchemist that reach out to the common man..it is only in the intellectual circles that these books do the rounds and thats sad. Our debates were like raging wars and thoroughly entertaining to watch (i never took part, as i said, my communication skills start and end with the pen) and i marvelled at girls who knew so much and who could argue so forcefully....Ok, im getting off track as usual.Benchmark.. we were asked to write the third paragraph of an essay with the topic being benchmark. I almost cried. If i had been asked to write the first paragraph, its reasonable.. But third paragraph only?? Finally i wrote the first 3, then rewrote the third on a separate sheet and submitted it. Exam papers were scary things cos one never knew what to expect. My teacher was perfectly capable of giving a question like the benchmark one.. I remember once she gave us a question where she asked us to arrive at a statement on the word coercion and to build the same into a paragraph using an example. Scary. I was sure i'd fail every paper i attempted.Although in a lot of ways, it was one of the most demanding papers i had that year, it was also one of the most exhilerating.. To struggle for four hours in the library to produce five lines for a response writing assignment.. i've often asked myself if its worth it.. And i've always discovered that yes, it is worth it, not cos of my teachers approval of the style and content of my work but cos of the personal satisfaction that comes with doing a good job. And thanks to that one year, there is a very pronounced difference in my style and i have managed to get enough practice at writing so as to be able to write about anything, anytime. And that, my friends makes it worth all the struggle!
(The main reason i wrote this is cos i miss having english classes!! Took up popular fiction as my GE this year but it didnt come close.. sigh!!)