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Attendance? Please!

Rohan JoshiCongratulations to the Indian Under-19 cricket team. They’ve won the World Cup, and brought themselves pride, glory and a future filled with endorsement deals. Special mention must be made of skipper Unmukt Chand, who led from the front (which is cricketspeak for “led from the front”) scored a stellar 111 runs in the final. MS Dhoni rewarded him with praise, the country rewarded him with adulation, and his college St Stephen’s, Delhi, rewarded him by not letting him sit for his exams because he didn’t have enough attendance.

Let’s go over this again. An institution of learning, a place whose job it is to prepare you to excel in the real world, barred a kid from giving his exams because he was off excelling in the (all together now) real world. That’s like not giving the BJP a hand in running this country because they don’t spend the required amount of time in the Parliament. Okay, bad analogy, that might actually be a good idea. But my point is this: one of the country’s premier educational institutions just told a kid that being one of the 11 best young cricketers in the world was less important than sitting through 18 eye-gougingly boring lectures of some subject that was probably called “Advanced Culture Studies: What do Item Numbers mean for the emerging Indian diaspora, and does popcorn aggravate irritable bowel syndrome?”

And then we cry about not winning things at the Olympics.

The principal of St Stephen’s said he was bound by university laws, the same university laws that are bent about six times a day by anyone who has “infloons”, an Indian word that means “My dad knows people, so I’m going to sit outside college making women uncomfortable in a t-shirt that ensures that Curiosity can see my nipples from Mars.” The principal in this case is the Reverend Walson Thampu, author of (and I’m not making this up) “Tongues of Fire” and “The Dream and the Dragon”, both of which sound like rejected Game of Thrones titles. I’m sure he is an extremely learned man, but something tells me that sport probably wasn’t the calling of the guy who wrote “Othappu: Scent of the Other Side”.

I’m fanatically pro-education. I believe everyone should have a degree at the very least, and a lot more if they can. And as a result, I spent many years in college, and some of them were even productive. I learned many things (beer-pong) while I was there, but if I’m to be completely honest, not many of them were in class. Lessons were, for the most part, still rote learning, and as a science student, I learned better in the parallel education system that was the coaching-class. One physics professor in college even spent most of his classes half-explaining concepts, following which he’d sit, let us leave early while saying “your coaching class will teach this better”. That probably had something to do with the fact that he had another coaching class to get to.

But back to the main issue here: Unmukt Chand and attendance. The only reason kids are in class today is to make up the numbers. To stay off the blacklist and make it to their exams. Class isn’t an enriching experience, it’s an endurance test. What do you learn in the average Indian college class? How to keep a poker-face. How to pretend you’re awake. How to feign interest. How to tune out white noise. What did Unmukt Chand learn at the World Cup? Leadership. Team-play. Dealing with levels of pressure that’d break the ordinary man. Screw the university, kid. You’ve already passed. And if you play your cards right and build a career out of this, you’re going to be a man of serious infloons anyway.

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/ therohanjoshi 

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