Turning unreasonable anxiety into unlikely ideas

Category: writing Page 3 of 5

Shayar (poet)

कल एक शाएर के कमरे के बहार से गुज़रा
खिड़की से देखा वो कागज़ पे कलम रगड़ रहा था
उसमे से खुश्बो की तरह नज़्म उठ रही थी
मौका पा कर मैं एक पन्ना चुरा लाया
कोरे पन्ने ने घूरा तो लगा लिखना कठिन होगा,
कुछ पन्नों के कोने बटोर लिए हैं मैंने
जिनको जेब में सहेज के रखा है
गर कभी गुरुर होने लगे खुद पर,
उनको गिन गिन कर सामने रख लूँगा

Abilene Paradox

The Abilene Paradox

Can fear be squashed like a bug?

Here’s a short story I wrote. In an Abilene paradox a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of many (or all) of the individuals in the group. Sometimes, the phrase “Road to Abilene” is also used to refer to this.

(Opens as PDF in Google Drive)

No Fear

Fear and Learning

Learning and teaching are difficult. When someone tries to teach, they expect results. To ensure results are acceptable, exams are taken. To force desired results, fear is alarmingly popular.


I get anxious in crowded places. For me it is a nightmare to drive on a road with bumper to bumper traffic with people looking for a chance to cross. Sadly, where I live, this is what the roads look like most part of the day. So I took driving classes. The instructor, a young guy, realized that I learn quick but failed to accept that I can have trouble driving.

But when I am anxious, I don’t act proper. When the traffic is heavy, I get concerned about everything around me. Sometimes, I’d stop to wait for a car to pass. The instructor wanted me to concentrate on driving. I’d skip changing gears or switch to the wrong one.

It appeared as if I was ignoring what he said. This irritated him. After all, he had taught me everything and I had demonstrated that. He could not fix my distractions. In turn, he triggered my anxiety by shouting. He told me that I must not make mistakes because it bother “him”. Well, I couldn’t care less, but I tried. His attempts to treat me like a school kid made me smile.

School teachers

The instructor acted similar to teachers who go from motivational to insulting without affecting a change. They get frustrated despite good intentions. Over the years, they come up with more techniques, trademark remarks, punishments or tricks to make kids learn. Some stick to fear in varied forms. Expertise in a subject is one thing, understanding learning is another.


It is not what a teacher thinks the kids know. It is what the kids know. This is where exams come, to establish learning has happened. Students do everything to pass exams. Under pressure, we tend to fake. Exam is not a guarantee of learning. We know that from friends who were bright yet failed or those who passed but didn’t grasp basics. Like a driver’s license gives permission to drive but doesn’t guarantee that you will be not be rash.

At school, homework is evaluated to ensure that you have practiced. But how should we practice? I have never been into a discussion which talks about how to practice. Although, countless times I have been asked my rank, grades and marks.


The assumptions related to why and how to learn go unchallenged.  Each one of us, carves an individual style. We figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. However, we continue to believe in techniques that work for all.

The problem is that common techniques do not help everyone. Attention to individuals is considered a burden. Do you know at least one person who paces up and down while preparing for exams? Or the one who switches off all the light except the table lamp?

It is convenient to make the whole group learn in the same way. No doubt, this fails quite so often. Then we resort to seeding fear. Fear of punishment, failure, shame, underachievement and ridicule. Fear may make kids practice and score marks. It does not foster curiosity and makes dangerous associates. Like school with punishment, failure with ridicule and exams with anxiety.

The Dinner

The Dinner

Garett frowned as he tasted the food. He looked at others for reactions. Moira looked at him and knew what he wanted to say.

Ferris kept eating.

“This is terrible!” Garrett said.

“I didn’t expect the food to be so bad, perhaps they should fire the cook. How can anyone eat this shit?”

The manager, after listening to Garrett, apologized profusely, offered a complimentary drink and got all food replaced.

“I think Ferris enjoyed it. Man, are you used to eating stuff like this?”


“Then why are you eating it?”

Ganges at Varanasi

The Ganges

The Ganges starts ferociously. Plunging and rushing through the narrow valleys and gorges, it lets nothing come in its way. It slowly and steadily erodes the rocks. Oblivious to what lies ahead, it moves unfazed about the destination. The vigor is fascinating to watch but intimidating to handle. It doesn’t fear obstacles. This is youth.

In its middle course, the river is slow, calm and muddy with the burden that came along with youth. It grows wider and deeper. At certain places, one bank cannot see the other. Growing in capacity, it is slower in changing directions. Through the meanders it continues to set a path. It is predictable and patient for those who rely on it.

Finally, in the lower course, the river loses its jest. It leaves all that it accumulated and dumps it in the delta. Water flows into the sea, carrying no hint of its source, losing identity.

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