Moments of Truth

That every day we face. And being honest about it!

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Location: Monroe Twp, New Jersey, United States

TeeBee for many, Manthru for some, Sunny for a few, Myna for selected, Suresh for record. Hailing from Thrissur of Kerala and now lives (read survives) in Monroe Twp, NJ with wife and daughter.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rank: A Curse and Burden

I got the intimation from Calicut university just when I was about to wind up my Masters in IIT Madras (Chennai) by the end of Nov 1998. I was surprised because I had said good bye to Calicut university exactly three years before. But then these are expected from a system where delay is the order. The letter and a certificate informed me that I am the first rank holder of Computer Science and Engineering batch, 1995. When my father's younger brother told that we would publish it in newspapers, I said No. I knew that there was no significance. I knew that there were equal or better performers. It was no mean feat with 4 years of hard work especially when I was down for almost a year with a series of surgeries in 1993. But ranks are not significant. It just says that the candidate is a potential performer. Just like others. Probably I was a bit more patient, spent a little bit more time in finishing up the portions, wrote the answers in a bit more detail without skipping a single question. That's it. The marks came along and rank was simply a byproduct.

A few years back, I got a call from home telling me that my cousin (Raji Sivaraman), father's sister's daughter, has the 13th rank in the SSLC list. Incidentally, she had broken a record I had set for SSLC examination in my village and that was sweet. Did I ever inspire her to study so hard? Did I ever inspire a single person from my village to work hard to achieve heights? Did I ever inspire anybody to take on life as it comes? If yes, that's the most important thing in my life than a mere typewritten certificate. A rank is not an end. It's just a beginning. A beginning of more hardship to come in the never ending pursuit of truth in this journey of life.

It brings a smile when I hear about the tension of parents on the date of publishing the results or the kind of circus they do to get a spot in the first three in competitions. I am lucky that I did not have such parents. I am happy that my parents allowed me to study the way I wanted. I am glad because they encouraged reading and also allowed me to help in their work. I am thankful to God that I did not get the toys I wanted, I had only a limited set of dress to change so that I was never confused on what to wear, I always liked the food and found it tasty because it was not unlimited and was available only when the time came. So nobody will be surprised if I tell that I knew about the Engineering entrance examination results during a lazy morning walk on the way back home after buying meat on one of those festival occasions. A school teacher who is just blocks away from my home called me to inform that the results had come. He showed more interest than self to search for my number and it is people like him of Mundathikode village, my wellwishers, who had instilled confidence during my early stages of life.

Recently I heard that the education ministry in Kerala has decided to change to a grade system in 10th standard than the old rank system. It is one of the good decisions that will make life better for many students. I always had my doubts on the rank system. How can somebody be possibly said of holding first rank when the second or third rank holders are only one or may be half marks behind. It is not fair because we are comparing apples and oranges. The circumstances are not same and that is the reason why I oppose it. For example:

1. It is possible that the rank holders are from two different schools where different set of environments exist forlearning.
2. The teachers who taught the students could be skilled differently and some credit goes to them too.

3. Parents of the student do play a role. The equation is not same with a well educated couple and somebody who have not even finished preschool.

4. What about a headache or a health condition that makes it bad for the candidate on the day or around?

5. What if somebody dies in the family? Where is the weightage for time lost/psychological condition?

6. What about the mental condition of the teacher who is evaluating the paper? What if there was a big fight at home before he/she starts evaluation?
I can think of a lot of points in these lines to prove that grade system is better than a rank system. I wish good luck to the new system. Recently I heard from my wife, who incidentally is the second rank holder of EE 1996 batch from Kerala university and the first rank holder of PSC lecturer examination, that one main reason for her to like me was the rank I mentioned before. What a shame? Good that her reasons had changed in the years after marriage. I love her for not considering the ranking in the society, a curse still happens to rule (even educated mind). I just hope that our daughter loves us for the parents we are and not for the burden we hold.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I happened to see your blog while looking for atleast a page where my name is mentioned being an SSLC rank holder.
I saw some interesting points in your blog.Rank system is not something very good;I agree but like any other competition (sport,singing,dance),you need an extra factor to stand high.I feel that extra factor does count in our lives wherever we are.We call it luck,god's grace,blessing whatever it may be.To make it big,you do need something more than mere preparation.In your own blog ,you were happy when you heard your relative scored more than you;but you did mention her rank.why?is that important?according to your own words,you should only count the marks.right?then,why were you touched by the "rank"factor of her?

3:25 AM  
Blogger Myna said...

Thanks for stopping by. I do respect your views.If you read the blog once again, probably you will realize that it was just a fact mentioned. I was happy for her not because of the rank but because it was rare that somebody from my village/family does a good job at education. Anyway, more than fifteen years of my work in industry confirms that that kind of certificate has no value when you move forward.

11:14 AM  

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