Do not play the Great Game!


This is an amazing piece of writing by Ma’am:1_wk8A0w4oT-e54E38O5y9yg.jpeg

It is a time like no other.

You are about to start on the most important, most awaited and most respected race of life — the Rat Race.

If this word conjures mild negative feelings in your mind, blame your idealistic teachers, some unnecessarily wise people and some obscure columnists for that. They might have tried to spread fear and disgust against this greatest race. They might have gone as far as demeaning it or belittling it. They might have tried hard to convince you to do ‘meaningful’ work, whatever that is. I mean, every child knows that work must be necessarily boring, mundane, repetitive and meaningless. How else do you define work?

The Rat Race sees the largest participation all over the world. Of course, billions of people cannot be wrong. So, cast aside any doubt that you may have. Do not pause to think, just prepare to run.

Like all races of the world, the biggest prize goes to the fastest runner. The fastest runner will be awarded the golden opportunity of ‘settling’ in the dream land of milk and honey, which awaits you with open arms with its black luxury sedans, eight-lane expressways, overflowing departmental stores, glass-front skyscrapers and so many other wonderful things.

Comrade Rat, you just have to get a couple of things right — that’s it — your one-way ticket to paradise is confirmed. Don’t forget, rats all over the world are doing far more for far lesser prizes. It’s because they don’t know the correct techniques. But worry not, I am here to guide you.

I am sure you have been told and re-told about the necessary things you need to do. But this to-do list will help you to absolutely nail it and hence you should also nail this list in every possible place of your house (including the bathroom).

  1. Read not ‘for pleasure’, but for vocabulary, reading speed and scores.

Of course, reading textbook is different. They can make your grades look good. But which person, in their correct mind, can pick up a story book for fun? But alas! Those horrible things now stand between you and your dream. Sadly, the steps to paradise is marked with vocabulary. We can hope that the gatekeepers of heaven will eventually understand the futility of reading and reform the SAT test. But till then, you must put up with this nonsense.

So, dig out that useless device called Kindle, dust it and read. Even though you are forced to do this, never forget the true objective of reading. It is to gather vocabulary and increase your reading speed, NOT to get enjoyment out of it. While reading, if you happen to have the feeling of ‘enjoyment’, put down the Kindle, take deep breath and wait till the feeling passes.

2. Comrade Rat, beware of people called ‘friends’. Friends are enemies.

Self-optimisation is going to be the key ingredient for winning this race. Things like ‘friendship’, being ‘helpful’, ‘volunteering’ are severe roadblocks on your way. These will only reduce your scores. In order to win, you must demotivate friends (especially the ones who will also give SAT), be selfish and secretive, and never do anything which will not decorate your CV.

For example, you can sneakily collect past exam papers on the net, practise them before the mock tests to score highly. This will go a long way to make friends feel inferior. Or, if you have luckily come across an English or Math book which can help in increasing your scores, never utter a word about its existence to friends. Or, if your school teachers ask you to volunteer for the Contest Week or to take classes of junior kids, agree only if they promise you in writing that they will mention it in their recommendations. If they don’t give you a confirmation on this, feign a stomach ache or dysentery.

Don’t even write an article like this one because no newspaper or magazine is going to publish such a writing, so such an activity cannot add to your resume.

3. I still see you often indulging yourself in something called the Great Game. That treacherous game must be avoided like plague.

I will not have to remind you, Comrade Rat, the immense importance of the extracurricular activities. Every second of your life that’s not spent in collecting grades and scores (in SAT, APs, Subject Tests, Board Exams) must be spend in collecting achievements in extra-curriculars.

Think objectively and selfishly, Comrade. Does the Great game add to your profile? Does scoring a century in this school-invented game add to your list of achievements? The gatekeepers of paradise will laugh at you, Comrade Rat. Hence, never ever play that thing again. As per the colleges, it is not an ‘extra-curricular’ activity. Let me tell you what is.

If your parents are rich, go to Congo or Zambia — take a picture of you feeding the poorest child you can catch near the airport. The gatekeeper of the paradise are real suckers for that kind of stuff.

Or publish a book (it doesn’t matter if anybody reads it or not, so don’t bother about writing quality) — daddy can surely pay a willing publisher to help you. If unfortunately, you possess poorer parents, participate in every possible competition you can find — swimming, poetry, singing, dancing, story-writing, karate, weight-lifting or archery — try to win at least one of them.

In case of failure in everything, community service will rescue you. Go clean the tables in the town library or donate your faded and shredded clothes to homeless people. Those colleges really prefer self-optimising people who can pretend to be saints. That’s really the ultimate character trait to posses. If you are in doubt, look at the richest people in the world.

I think with these precious advice, you are now ready to embark on your journey. Cross your heart and make a solemn promise to yourself that you will never violate the instructions given here. Follow them blindly and the paradise will be yours.

All the best!

What should you do with your life?


On the occasion of Children’s Day (2018), Sir wrote a very valuable piece advicing the students to choose their careers wisely, instead of just crazily running behind glamour and money.  

This children’s day, let’s talk about a time when you will no longer remain children.

Some of you dread this possibility. However, most of you are eagerly looking forward to it. After all, your education has been a preparation for adulthood — and you are excited that you will finally be able to reap the benefits of this investment: this unique education that you received.

Your talk and writings reflect this hope. You anticipate being leaders of corporations, famous movie directors, top bureaucrats, celebrated authors and successful entrepreneurs. Nothing will please me more if many of you indeed attain such glory and success. After all, that will provide the most convincing proof that our unconventional education is what education should truly be.

However, what I wish for you most is not success and glory, but happiness and contentment. And I am worried that with your sky-high expectations, you are setting yourself up for a life of misery and dissatisfaction.

It is time to remind you of the three basic rules that I discussed in the common meeting:

1. Life is suffering.

2. Extraordinary success is rare.

3. We all are grains of sand.

No matter how talented, wealthy or powerful, no one is going to escape misery. Being children, with your whole life ahead of you, you are understandably hopeful about your future. But tone down those expectations. Expect difficulties instead. Failure, disappointment, disease, bereavement, conflict — these are sure to come in everyone’s life. If you expect them, you will be more prepared to deal with them.

You not only do not expect much difficulty in your life, most of you expect to reach dizzying heights of success. At this point, it is important to remind you that out of the 7 billion people on earth, only a minuscule percentage become CEOs of big corporations, successful entrepreneurs, famous authors and movie-directors. How small is the percentage?

1%?

No. Think smaller.

0.1%?

No, think smaller still.

0.01%?

That’s 700,000 people. Do you think there are that many top CEOs, movie directors and famous authors? Not at all. Let’s take CEOs first.

I presume you don’t want to be the CEO of a company where you are the only employee — you want to have some employees to manage! So let’s talk about a reasonable size: a 2000-strong company. In the US, there are only 4794 companies with more than 2000 employees. So we can say there are only about 5,000 attractive CEO jobs in the US, and possibly 20,000 worldwide.

How many famous movie directors do you think are there in the world? This is an even rarer breed than CEOs. Again, given that you don’t want to be a movie director who did not ever commercially release a movie, less than 1000 will be a reasonable number here.

How many successful authors are there? Again, numbers are difficult to come by, but Wikipedia’s list of notable 20th century writers contain a sum total of 1113 names, most of whom you have not heard of. That’s only about 1000 reasonably successful writers over a century.

Well, let me not belabor the point. We are not reaching anywhere close to that 700,000 figure. With all the extraordinarily successful people combined, we might just reach around 70,000, if we are lucky — 0.001% of human population.

No matter how much I believe how special you all are, how very talented, I will be astonished if there is even one such success story among the 120 students that attend the common meeting every morning. Because that would mean our common meeting room has a 1% ratio of extraordinary success: 1000 times more than the rest of the world. Even with the great education we have imparted, I think that’s highly unlikely.

Let’s face it: SUCCESS IS RARE.

In addition, success is often counterproductive! Not all of those ‘successes’ that we discussed — the CEOs, movie directors, authors made the world a better place. Some exploited workers to amass wealth, some fed us simplistic stories to perpetuate harmful myths. Many of those who ‘changed the world’, mostly changed it for the worse. Only a rare few left a positive imprint in addition to being successful.

So success, in itself, may not be something to aspire for. In any case, extraordinary success is unlikely to come to you.

It is time for a bit of humility.

It is time to acknowledge we all are grains of sand.

It is time to note that most of you will just ‘get by’.

However, ‘getting by’ itself is an achievement in a world where more than 4 billion people live on $10 or less per day. That probably explains why a lot of you, and your parents are so excited about the possibility of studying in a top university. Though the graduates from even those top-50 universities of the world only command a mediocre $6,000 a month salary, that’s an exciting number compared to the abysmal $10 per day, which is the level most of the world population is at.

We live in a world where barely getting by will earn you bragging rights among neighbours and family members. You don’t need to be super-wealthy, you don’t need to achieve anything of note. The education that we provided you will equip you to get into one of those universities, get a mediocre job, earn a moderate sum of money, and that will put you above most of the humanity. That is the root cause behind the feeling of superiority most of you are going to experience even after leading a mediocre life.

You have the extreme poor to thank for this feeling of superiority. It is they who would give you the bragging rights without achieving anything of note.

Now, does that sound too inspiring?

Now that I have put your ‘success’ in perspective, perhaps you can try to aspire for what truly counts: happiness.

Let’s get this clear: happiness comes from work. It comes from being in the ‘zone’, it comes from accomplishing something challenging, it comes when your work makes a difference.

True happiness does not come from recreation. You may argue that you may feel happy at the company of a friend, but true friendships are also forged while working for a common cause.

Happiness is when what you love to do, what you are good at, and what the world needs are in harmony.

The Happiness Diagram

Happiness comes when you are in the overlapping area in this Venn Diagram: let’s call it the ‘Happiness Intersection’.

Now, if we reverse this diagram, this is what you might get:

The Pain Diagram

If you are at the intersection of work that you don’t like, work that you are not good at, and work that the world does not need — it’s guaranteed that you will be miserable.

Let’s call this the ‘Pain Intersection.’

I see that a lot of you are running fast towards this intersection. You are not thinking deeply about where you are going and whether you really want to go there.

To earn some minor bragging rights (relative to the abysmal standards of the most of the world), you sometimes feel pressured to do things that are conventional. You want to study, give exams, get a job. If the job sounds good (say, investment banking, or consulting), and if it’s in a place whose name sounds good (New York, or London), then you think you will be happy. But what will happen is this:

You will do work that you don’t like to do: Building spreadsheets with fake numbers, cold-calling, attending boring meetings, commuting long hours, having soulless conversations with colleagues will be the main components of your day.

Not just you, no one likes them. That’s why the world is full of dissatisfied employees.

You will do work that you are not good at: In this school we did not teach you the art of flattery. We did not teach you unquestioning obedience. We did not teach you to be a hypocrite. We did not teach you to accept the ways of world, no matter how nonsensical it seems.

Well, those are some of the skills that you have to be good at to survive in the world that you covet. But sadly, we are sending you out there without much training on those areas.

You will do work that the world does not need:In this world that you are thoughtlessly running towards, you will try to prove your identical soap or shampoo is superior to another. You will try to pitch to a client to raise capital that he does not want. You will sell yet another civilization game to bored teenagers. You will manage money for people who have plenty.

Having reached this Pain Intersection without much thought, you will then wonder what went so wrong in your life. Why are you so miserable? Maybe a job-change is in order? Or maybe you should leave this city and relocate elsewhere? Maybe you just need a vacation?

Well, none of those will provide you with any succour. Even after the job change, the relocation, and the foreign vacation, dissatisfaction will continue to reign.

Because you are firmly lodged at the Pain Intersection. And it’s almost impossible to get out of. By then, to earn further bragging rights, you have bought a car and spent a fortune (according to your standards) furnishing your house. You have to think about your child’s education fees. You have to send some money back to your parents.

No matter how much you hate it, you wake up on Monday morning and board that transit, with thousands of others who are in a similar mess. But that’s cold comfort.

It is at that point probably you think about those common meetings long time back, where you were warned about precisely this fate. Those days seem to be from a past era, a time of happiness that you can never touch again.

You think, how did it ever go so wrong? In those idealistic times, you did think about writing stories, analyzing movies, opening schools, spreading awareness about evils of technology. What happened to all those ideas?

Probably they were not very well thought through. They were fashionable at the school, so you parroted them. You did not think deeply about what made you happy. You did not think much about what you may be passionate about, what you are good at, and what the world needs.

We did lay out a path for you which incorporated these three areas. We knew that you love the school and would be happy spreading the kind of education it imparts. We knew that you would be good at it, being the products of this very place. We knew this is the education that the world needs.

In Path 1, you could have done all these that you dreamt of. You could have been an app developer, a movie critic, an author, a social commentator, an entrepreneur, an activist, a teacher, a psychologist, a leader — all rolled into one.

In the school, we developed more apps and softwares than many technology companies. We showed you, and the broader world, that movies can be educational. I personally wrote many articles which were instrumental in changing the mindsets of people. At every common meeting in the morning, I explained our society and the world to you. As I ran this school, I understood the finer points of business that are not taught in MBA schools. As I spoke to your parents in large gathering, I led them to dream bigger.

I have been an app developer, a movie critic, an author, a social commentator, an entrepreneur, an activist, a teacher, a psychologist, a leader — all rolled into one. Because I chose the perfect path, I have contributed to the world, I have been happy, and I have been successful.

You could have been all of those too.

More importantly, you would have been valuable to the world, you would have lived among people who you love and who love you.

Though happiness is always elusive, but maybe, just maybe, you could have found it.

***

Thankfully, this future is imaginary. You are not yet in the Pain Intersection, and it is within your power to prevent it from happening to you. After all, it’s your life, why should you sacrifice it for minor bragging rights granted to others?

You must aim for happiness. You must aim to be at the Happy Intersection.

All of you cannot choose the perfect path. We do not have that many positions. But you must aspire for it. You must work towards it before it’s too late. You should acquire skills, be responsible, be kind, and work actively to be the ‘chosen ones’ when the time comes.

Those of you who will not get the perfect path must also think deeply about what you like, what you are good at, and what the world needs. Maybe you will be able to create your own perfect path, like I could.

I wish you all the best.

Thank you, Sir


This is a letter of gratitude to Sir from X (Ankini Banerjee) where she talks about how the experience of the last 9 months offered by Sir culminated into a great positive change in her personality and a phenomenal result. 

To the greatest teacher there could ever be —

I don’t think I can ever forget that dreaded text message we all received from the school just two weeks before the critical exams, saying that all classes had been cancelled for the remaining days. It was as if lightning had struck. Our preparation wasn’t even close to the finishing line — we hadn’t even begun our English and History writing classes, and a bulk of Physics C: Mechanics was untouched. It felt so cruel back then. I remember thinking, ‘How could Sir just cancel all classes on a whim? Doesn’t he care about our results?’ But, as I later realised, this incident was a live demonstration of how cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same colour.

When we all came to school a few days later for an Economics mock test, I was scared. Ever since we had first gotten a severe scolding from you back in 2014, I have always had a subconscious fear of coming to school. Different people have different reactions to harsh criticism, and mine, though not intentional, was awfully wrong. I had gradually forgotten to see you as someone who cares about us and wishes the best for us, as the teacher we all loved. In my anxious mind, you had become a strict, authoritative figure who was to be feared.

That day too, I was terrified. I almost expected you to lash out at us for not having a sincere attitude towards work. But what happened instead was completely unexpected. You didn’t have the slightest hint of anger on your face, not even a look of irritation. There was only an expression of pure disappointment. When we approached you, you even spoke to us, but in your voice was that same coldness, as if you had finally given up on us. If you wished, you could have scolded us again, and we probably would have been forced to work, simply because we were afraid of you. But I am grateful you didn’t, because it made me realise that you weren’t some stern, frightening person, waiting to scold us at every possible opportunity. You have feelings too, and obviously you would be disappointed if we, who have seen your struggle up close, became a hindrance rather than your support in your battle to create the perfect school. Your reaction made me regret all those times when we had disappointed you, and I, instead of trying of empathise with you, had just feared your wrath, and fallen sick repeatedly and missed school. But I think after that day, I have gradually learnt to control my irrational fear of you.

I am certain you could have made us achieve these fantastic scores even if you had just continued to take our classes for the last few days, but then we would have remained a bunch of immature, irresponsible kids. With our lax attitude, not only would success have eluded us, we also wouldn’t have been able to bring about any positive change in the world.

The entire of the previous 6–9 months have been intense, but I believe that the last few days have been the most enlightening and transformative. As we gradually learnt to cooperate with you, we realised that enjoyment could be derived from work itself. Towards the beginning of our intense preparation, I often felt indignant towards you for putting us under so much pressure. I would think ‘Why can’t we have a little bit of fun?’ But honestly, coming to school every evening to practice Literature papers with you was fun. Writing AP English essays together everyday and then reading your perfect answer was fun. Of course, it was not the kind of frivolous fun that we had always created for ourselves. It was a fun that was accompanied by hard work and satisfaction. You have always made our school time pleasurable through interesting discussions, movies, and books, but who would have thought an intense exam preparation could be made enjoyable as well?

We all know that there is only a single person on Earth who could teach Physics, Literature, Economics, Chemistry to such a high level yet so simply. But what makes you the greatest teacher is the fact that you taught us to dream, and aim high. All 5s in APs, and perfect scores in SAT subject tests would have really remained a joke to all of us had you not shown us that it was achievable. We often rank each other according to academic performance, calling some students “better” and others comparatively “weaker”. But I don’t think such a ranking should even exist, because our scores, our achievements are all yours in the first place.

I know I have already said this, but the last few months, as well as making us achieve academic success and growth in character, has also made me personally closer to you, and to all of my friends. Last year, I had shown a selfish streak when I didn’t share an important piece of information related to the board exams with my classmates. I was under the misconception that achieving success alone, and excluding others from it, would be fulfilling. But the last few months, as all of us worked together, I learnt that happiness is greater when shared with close ones. Last week, when everyone’s phenomenal results were announced, I genuinely felt happy for Nonny’s Literature 800 and Vulture’s Calculus 5. But what affected me the most was your reaction. You always had high expectations from us, and I never thought it would actually be possible to live up to them. But every time you talked about the results, you looked happy, and I think that gave all of us more satisfaction than any great score or any college admission could ever give.

A thank-you note


Nonny writes a letter to express her gratitude to Sir for everything he has done for her in the last 6-9 months which led to her exceptional performance. 

During the last 6–9 months, me and some of my friends went through an intense experience during which we prepared relentlessly for the oncoming exams. Although I did not realise it then, reflecting upon those months has made me understand that this experience not only made our fantastic results possible, but it also changed all of us at a fundamental level, making us much more mature and responsible than we initially were.

This would not have been possible without Sir. I remember how he worked tirelessly to ensure our results – learning all of our subjects himself so that he could teach it to us in the best possible way, taking classes from morning to late evening while at the same time managing all the responsibilities of running the school. I also remember some of the times when he, exasperated at the lack of cooperation from our end, refused to take our classes, thereby forcing us to start taking more initiative.

The perfect illustration of this is our Calculus and Macroeconomics result. When we first started studying Macroeconomics on our own from the textbook, we understood little of the complex concepts. Some of our best scores were only in the range of 600–650. When Sir realised that we were unable to learn Macro by ourselves, he started teaching it to us. In a week’s time, every single one of us had gotten an 800 in the mock test. The story of Calculus is the same. After months of doing sums from the textbook without really applying our minds , we were all scoring around 600. To improve this dire situation, Sir started personally taking Calculus classes at the beginning of the Contest Week. By the time the Contest Week had ended, all of us had moved to 800.

Apart from these two subjects, my most memorable experience was the preparation for Literature. When me and Sir first got started on this impossibly difficult subject, he told me that in the end, I must get a perfect 800 in the subject test. I had not even believed it possible, given that most of the passages and poems that appeared on the test were nearly indecipherable to me. But once he set the target so high, I began to consciously work towards it. We read and discussed pieces of literature (primarily Shakespeare), analysed poems written by noted poets such as Wilfred Owen, and relentlessly solved many past question papers together.

During this preparation, something that struck me about Sir was that he always seemed genuinely interested in whatever we were doing. This particular trait of his was apparent no matter what the subject was – be it Mathematics , Chemistry or, in this case, Literature. Whenever he would see a poem that he really liked in one of the question papers we were solving, he would immediately look it up in the Internet and read some of the other poems written by the same author. Some of the junior students may remember the time when several poems were posted on Twitter and some of them were even discussed in the common meeting. That sudden love for poems came from the incomprehensible poems in the Literature papers. It is this reaction which is really the secret of success: being passionate about almost anything.

He was always tolerant with me, but not always with the overall class. I particularly remember an incident when, fed up with our laziness and apathy, Sir suspended my entire class and told us that whoever was genuinely interested in learning would have to personally contact him and set up a time to meet. That jolted us out of our passivity, and forced us to actually make some effort on our end. It was times like these that helped us to stop being kids, and instead made us take initiative like adults.

Another experience that helped us grow up was the presence of the honour code. Whenever we give a mock exam in school, there is nobody monitoring us, making it extremely easy to cheat. Yet the thought does not even cross our minds, unlike many of the junior students who would probably jump at the opportunity. The implicit trust that Sir placed in us made us much more responsible and mature, because we did not want to do anything to risk losing that trust.

Overall, these last few months taught us that life does not merely consist of fun and frivolity, so much so that we sometimes feel exasperated by the junior classes when they are being lazy. But I doubt that we would have learnt much from this experience had it not been for Sir, who ensured that we actually underwent this difficult and intense experience without trying to avoid work or slack off. In the end, this experience did not only give us these great scores, but, perhaps more importantly, it made us grow up into adults.

Want to be stupid, friendless and unproductive? Sleep less.


This is an article that Fluffy, Nonny, and X (Class XI, 2018) jointly wrote, exhorting you to sleep at least 9 hours every night.

Mr-Bean-Matchstick-Eyes-Funny-Image.jpgLet’s get it straight right at the outset — sleeping less than 9 hours a day makes you dumb, irritable and disease-prone. It will decrease your scores, it will reduce the number of friends you have, it will reduce the number of years you will live.

But most of you end up sleeping only 7 or 7.5 hours a night. That’s criminal. Let us tell you why. Stay with us while we explain it fully. This will be long.

Before you start thinking that we are just preaching something we don’t practice, let us admit that we are not the epitomes of discipline either. For years, we have slept less than the prescribed 9 hours, and most of the ill-effects that you see described here have been drawn from our own experience. That’s why you should heed us. We know what we are talking about.

One final point. Though we give you plenty of stories from our lives, we don’t draw our conclusions from those only. The points that come after are backed by solid science. We must always trust science, over our lazy instincts.

Let’s begin, then.

One of the greatest effects of sleep loss is mental laziness. A couple of years back, many of us had just created Gmail accounts and we would stay up late at night, chatting with each other. The next day in class, Sir would be the only one speaking (even though it was supposed to be a group discussion, and not a lecture) and the rest of us would be staring blankly, often not even registering what he said. We didn’t realize then that this was due to lack of sleep, so despite numerous scoldings, the classroom “discussions” remained as boring as ever.

Not only do conversations become dull, but productivity also diminishes due to lack of sleep. For example, we read more slowly, or solve sums more slowly when we sleep less. Nowhere that’s more vividly demonstrated than the SAT scores — which dramatically improve after a month of solid 9-hour sleep.

Less sleep makes you forget things. Motu was once supposed to inform class X that their exam was going to start at 8:00. Evidently his brain had switched off on the short journey from the conference room to admin computer lab. By the time he reached there, he had changed the time to 8:30. Had he slept enough each night, a blunder such as this would surely not have occurred. As you can see, lack of sleep can reduce your sharpness.

As opposed to that, consider Nonny, whose SAT math score rose dramatically from a mere 720 to a near perfect 790 after she started sleeping at appropriate times. So clearly, lack of sleep can prevent you from reaching your true potential.

The consequences can get more damaging as you grow older. Senior students often have to study a lot and prepare for exams. With the burden of textbooks on our shoulders, we tend to think that sleeping too much will result in a lot of wastage of time. There are two flaws with this argument.

Firstly, most people tend to waste zillions of hours engaging in other frivolous activities. Those hours would be better spent sleeping. Secondly, the dichotomy between sleep and work is non-existent. Sleep is the time when new memories are processed in the brain. So if you spend too much time studying and too little time sleeping, you won’t be able to remember much of what you read. In other words, you may spend all your time staring at your books, but you won’t learn anything if you don’t sleep on your new knowledge.

The ill-effects of lack of sleep isn’t just confined to work. Sleep can make you happier as well. Consider Dos, who sleeps nine hours every night. No matter what is hurled at him, be it a scolding or a bad result, Dos is never downcast. On the other hand, GG sleeps for only six hours every night. No wonder she is always staring into the middle distance with a vacuous, melancholic expression.

If all of this isn’t worrying enough, imagine a scenario far into the future when you have already spent a good number of years not sleeping properly. Well, you might not actually have to imagine it because we already have a living example of such a person in our school. Mule was once one of the sharpest and brightest students of our school. But of late, he has started going to sleep very late. Now, in class, he often asks questions that are either utterly irrelevant, or were answered one hour back. He is getting mostly Bs and Cs in the pre-boards, even though Path 2s are expected to get a string of As and A*s.

Apart from making you dumb over time, sleep deprivation can also take a toll on your health. Because sleep boosts immunity, lack of sleep can make you fall sick more often. You’ll understand that this is true if you have ever had a fever and recovered quickly after a whole day of sleep.

Furthermore, growth hormones are released in the body during sleep. To prove our point, let’s take the example of Fluffy. For many years, Fluffy would be going to sleep at one o’clock in the night. As a result, she is now smaller than many of the class six girls in our school.

Sleep loss also makes you fat. Sleep promotes the release of hunger-suppressing hormones. As a result, when you are sleep deprived, you tend to eat more than you need to.

All the health benefits resulting from sleep finally enhances athletic performance. Even if you don’t care that much about your mental abilities decaying, you surely don’t want to become a bedridden, obese dwarf.

‘Well, all that is fine, but I genuinely don’t feel sleepy’, you might say. Maybe you don’t, but that is only because of modern inventions such artificial lights and gadgets. Naturally, there isn’t any light after sunset. So evolutionarily, we are built to go to sleep at that time. However, these modern technologies now keep you awake beyond the biological sleeping time. So, try to discipline yourself to switch off all lights and avoid all gadgets (e.g. TV, smartphone) at least half an hour before going to bed. That way, you may find it easier to fall asleep at an appropriate time.

And if all of this fails to convince you, ask yourself, why would you even want to stay awake and suffer in a world as horrible as this one?

Why I chose Path 1


Bhau (Class XI, 2018-19) explains why he joined Path 1.

1_4xsfTBics2P6I77lEqHDSg.png
What bananas can teach us

Look at these three bananas.

I bought the first one from a fruitseller near the municipality office in Suri. I took a photo of it before having it.

I bought the second one from the newly opened More supermarket at Suri. I took a photo of it too and then ate it. I must say, that taking the photo of the second one was more pleasurable than eating it.

The first one didn’t look as good as the second one, but tasted far superior. The second banana which looked healthier, had a more pleasing colour, and had fewer wrinkles, tested bland and powder-y.

I downloaded the photo of the third one from the web. They say it is from a supermarket from a developed country. It does look far better than our first and second banana. Longer, more perfect in shape. But going by the trend, maybe it will be even more tasteless than the second banana!

Things that look good may not always taste good.

Things that sound good may not always give you a good experience.

For example, ‘Stanford University’ sounds good, but who knows whether it is going to be the best for you? ‘Investment banking’ sounds good, but have you actually talked to an investment banker to know how his job is? Come on, even IIT sounded quite good before Sir explained why it may not be great.

To judge what might give you a good experience, you need to actually experience it, or at least you need to think deeply about it.

When it came to choosing the ‘path’, I was not lured by what sounds good. I knew I already experienced the best place in the world.

To tell you the truth, I did not always know this is the best place in the world. I liked it here, sure, but I thought surely the world outside must be full of such places like our school, even better ones.

Wisdom came suddenly, when I visited Delhi with Sir to attend a conference. A high-level educational conference, attended by many principals, even senior members from the ministry. There were many speeches, panel discussions. There were many informal conversations I had with people.

During the whole of that time, I did not meet even as many sensible, intelligent people as I have inside my tiny, 12-student classroom.

I understood that the world outside may not be as advanced as we thought.

But I am happy to report I met one interesting person. Well, he would fit right in here at our school. A senior journalist from the Economic Times, we had a great dinner together. Many interesting conversations, almost as good as our class discussions. But one thing that he told Sir stuck with me.

He said, “Your boys will find it very difficult to adjust to the world outside. After Levelfield, everything else will seem a compromise, second-rate.”

Sir said, “No, no, they will not go to such second-rate places — my students will go to top universities abroad — Harvard, Princeton, Yale etc.”

He replied with a smile, “Yes, even those places will be unsatisfactory for them.”

That comment suddenly put everything into perspective. I understood why I found the conference so unsatisfactory. I also understood the look of utter admiration that I see from some of the visitors that we meet at the school.

I must talk a bit about the visitors.

Me and Motu are often entrusted to talk to the visitors, show them around. There are many school principals who come. There are some who wants to build a school. Some are journalists who are sent to cover the school. Regardless of their motive, their background, almost all of them are awed by what they see here.

They cannot believe that such a place exists. They cannot talk enough about it. There is invariably a look of utter admiration on their faces, looking at what has been achieved here in less than ten years.

Given the pace of progress, I know even more will be achieved in the next ten years, and I am absolutely sure that I want to part of that creation.

Why would I like to go out in the imperfect world when I can be a part of building perfection?

Why I joined Path 1


Motu (Class XI, 2018-19) explains why he joined Path 1.

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To answer that, let me go back to June 2016, when I spent quite a few evenings with Sir, working on designing the five pre-primary apps that our school made.

It was a great time. We discussed, debated and felt intellectually challenged. Whenever we hit a roadblock, Sir was always ready with a solution. We took just an evening each to design each of these apps. We then got them coded, and very soon we could see the fruits of our work inside the baby classrooms. It felt very satisfying that we identified a problem, quickly designed a technological solution, and very soon our product is being used on a daily basis.

I read in many articles (particularly in Philosopher’s mail) that it is very difficult in the modern world to see the connection between what you do in your office, and the final product that your company produces. That seemed scary. In future, I wanted to do something that has a more direct impact.

In our school, I have always been involved in various kinds of work. I helped out during the contest week and sports days. I talked to the parents to explain our school’s apps. I fixed many technological issues in the computer lab. I worked on and tested many of the apps that the school produced. I loved working on all of those, because I could see how they are immediately useful. I wanted to continue to do work that’s relevant and useful.

Our school taught us a lot of relevant and useful stuff. We learnt to speak well. From an early age, we learnt to navigate internet and use MS Office. We learnt a lot from the movies shown in the school. We learnt from books like Sapiens. We learnt to concisely write while using Twitter. Every activity in the school helped us grow and mature.

However, of late, after reaching class IX, I felt it was not the same as before. We had to study ‘subjects’ which are not immediately relevant. Even history, one of my most loved subjects, became one of the hated due to the invasion of textbooks. In our school, economics was about explaining real-life issues, but in the board exam we are asked to define ‘unemployment’ or ‘GDP’.

Please do not misunderstand — even those boring, irrelevant stuff was taught very well by Sir. He made those as interesting as possible. He even tried to give inventive reasons why we must learn those: ‘Real life is boring, so these textbooks are a preparation for that’, or ‘Learning this obscure math will sharpen your mind and improve your focus, which is useful for other activities.’

But as much as he tried, I knew I liked the relevant learning far more than the textbook learning. Prodded relentlessly by Sir, we all did well in the board exams, but I wanted to get back to our old life where learning was connected to real-life. I did not want many more years of textbook driven learning, which would be exactly what’s on offer if I had chosen Path 2.

I wanted to get back to organizing events, designing apps, learning to speak in front of an audience, reading great books. I wanted to get started on real life sooner. I did not want to waste time reading stuff you have no use for.

In case you are thinking that in Path 2, in the Western universities, learning will be totally relevant, you are probably wrong. Even the Cambridge board, which has a more modern syllabus than the Indian boards, is still focused on subjects most people will not use. There are no courses in most boards or universities on the skills that’s most needed in life: speaking, writing, coding, working with people.

So I will get started on working early, doing a degree from University of London after my 12th, sitting right here, working part-time for the school. I regret the fact that I still have to do this degree, which I know will add nothing to me in terms of learning (neither will any other degree that most of you will be doing).

But our society has not yet advanced enough to accept something as radical as not doing graduation! So useless as it is, I will go forward with it. At least it gives me a chance to devote most of my time to the school, learning real stuff by working.

The only thing I may still be interested in studying for is programming. Our school automates a lot of stuff through technology, and I have been part of that initiative in the past. In future too, I would like to be part of that effort. However, making software will be far easier if we ourselves can code. So that’s one skill I want to study for.

Sir tells me that there are 12-week long coding boot camps in California where we might go after we finish A level board exams. That will be an exciting thing to learn, and I am sure it will be quite useful for the school too.

Overall, I am quite happy that I have chosen this path where my work will be relevant and useful, where I will not waste many years of my life pursuing a useless degree, but where I would still continue to learn at a fast pace.

Accuracy in Exams: The Secret to Success


Nonny of Class 11 (2018) explains a few ways of increasing accuracy in exams. 

Scores on tests such as SAT or ASSET depend mainly on two factors. The first is skill — obviously, if you don’t have intelligence or strong concepts, your score is going to reflect your lack of ability. The other is test-taking strategy. Sometimes, even people who have the skills required to get a full score end up making a few careless errors. Therefore, their scores do not reflect their true ability. So, the purpose of this article is to talk about some of the common reasons why people make those careless mistakes, and how they can be rectified.

The first step is to practice a lot. If you keep practicing the type of sums that come in these tests, the process of solving them will soon become automatic. For example, if you’re asked to do a simple addition such as 2+3, there is no question of making a careless error. Your brain automatically knows the answer- 5. Similarly, if you keep practicing more complicated sums, you will get the ability to immediately figure out the answer as soon as you look at the question, thus eliminating any possibility of making a silly mistake.

The second step is to stop using your calculator. Tests such as SAT allow you to use a calculator, but for nearly all of the questions in the entire paper (apart from two or three rare exceptions) you don’t really need to use it. In fact, the calculator is a distraction — it disrupts your focus and often makes you forget what you were thinking about before you picked it up. It will also give you more calculation practice, which will result in a reduction of silly mistakes while performing simple arithmetic operations.

Another way that people make silly errors is by not reading the question carefully enough. In an attempt to read fast, people often skip over one or two words in the question, which lead to careless mistakes. The solution to this problem is to highlight the more important parts of the question. For example, a question may ask you to work out the number of minutes that a car takes to travel a certain distance. So in this question, it may be a good idea to underline the word ‘minutes’, so that you don’t end up calculating the number of hours or make some such other mistake.

The fourth step is to do proper roughwork. Your roughwork should not be illegible or unorganized — you may end up confusing yourself. If your roughwork is properly structured and your steps are methodical, you will make far less careless mistakes.

So keep this in mind the next time you take a test, and your scores will then really start to reflect your true ability.

The Whys, Hows, and Whats of Reading


This is an article by Aritra Ray of Class VIII (2018) on the importance of reading and the ways one can beef up his/her reading skills. 

People say that reading has become a redundant activity nowadays. What’s the use of reading when you can simply watch the YouTube videos, or read an Audible book, or open the TV to get updated on the latest news?

According to that viewpoint, reading is essentially a boring activity— it is what we did when we crammed for our board exams.

Why do we resist reading so much? One reason is, as I mentioned above, reading reminds us of the exams. To most people, reading means reading textbooks, so they hate it.

Another reason is that we are not evolutionarily programmed to read things. Writing was first invented by the Mesopotamians only 5000 years back, which is nothing compared to our 2 million year-long history on this planet; so reading didn’t have the time to become one of our innate skill.

This is why reading is a lot of work for our brains: we have to focus, persist and use our intelligence to make sense of what we read. As a result, most of us shy away from doing it. After all, who doesn’t want to be mentally lazy?

On the other hand, our brains are quite adept at processing images and visuals. But we must understand that text is irrefutably superior compared to images. That’s why we often say a book was better than its movie version. That’s why a long article is often far more insightful than a TV debate.

While images can leave a stronger impression, text can capture subtleties far better than images. As a result, reading helps us to understand things much better, leading to improved awareness and deeper insights. Reason and logic can best flourish through text. Reading makes us considerate and thoughtful, rather than overly sentimental.

Reading also gives us the privilege of exercising our imagination. Not only does it provide us with a brief respite from our daily banal lives, imagination is also the first step towards change and reform; hence it is a valuable resource in the modern world.

But none of these can take place if we don’t practice ‘deep reading’. But how exactly is deep reading different from our normal reading?

Analyzing the information carefully, connecting the text with the things we know, thinking about the text from time to time — all of these constitute deep reading. However, most of us are rather superficial readers. We skim through articles. We prefer quick reading rather than deep assimilation.

For most people, news constitutes most of their reading diet, and most news items are short and shallow – plunging them deeper into the habit of skimming and superficial reading.

So how can we break this habit and get into the practice of deep reading?

A good way to read deeply would be to try to summarize each article after reading it. In case of a novel, we can simply think about what happened after completing every chapter. In the process, there is a high probability of hitting upon a new insight or understanding, which we would have missed if we had read superficially.

However, even to get started on deep reading, we must possess some basic skills:
The Correct Technique: If we read very slowly, we would lose interest in the story and find it tedious. Thus we won’t be inclined to read deeply. So we need to develop improved reading speed. Some ways to improve our speed can be by reading fast-paced books — detective novels and thrillers and by reading subtitles of dialogue-oriented movies.

A Strong Vocabulary: We also need to possess a good vocabulary, otherwise we will frequently stumble on our way, and our understanding will also be limited. And the only way to improve our vocabulary is to diligently check every single unknown word that we encounter.

Relevant Knowledge: Reading does not take place in a vacuum. No matter how fast you read, and how strong is your vocabulary, if you don’t know anything about the world, you will not be able to make sense of what you are reading. So context is very important to gain comprehension. Context can be improved by reading insightful articles and non-fiction books.

Intelligence: Even if we possess the relevant context, we must possess intelligence to connect the reading material to the context. Now intelligence is probably the most difficult thing to improve on. Intelligence can be improved by solving thinking-oriented problems, being exposed to interesting discussions, and reading insightful materials at a young age.

Deep Reading is a can help you go a long way, but you also must choose carefully what you read. Poorly selected reading materials may actually be detrimental for you. Reading celebrity news, reading low-quality fictions, reading WhatsApp forwards and endless Facebook feeds – all of these are useless.

So read a lot, but read wisely.