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Saturday, July 29, 2006

on the subject of subjects...

My cousin brother, who's in Std 12 and on the verge of college-hood, recently asked me for some gyaan on which subject he should take up for graduation. Now I don't consider giving random global gyaan my forte, but its a sign of the times - it tells me that from being 'one of them' I'm fast becoming...well...one of 'the others' (people you ask for gyaan).
And there are other pointers as well. When Ma's 'daily nag' changes from "so have you thought about higher studies...a Ph.D maybe" (thats a part of the Bengali psyche i think, the 'higher' the better) to "so have you thought about when you want to marry...should we start looking", when reviews and filing tax returns are things top of mind on a breezy July morning, and when the most valuable (well, almost) files in your home comp are MP3s you know you're past 'Brahmacharya'.

Anyway, i digress. This post is supposed to be about how to help my confused li'l bro on choosing the right subject for him. The reason this has me confused is that its a very difficult choice, for me it was almost a trial-and-error, and my favourite subject has changed so many times in school that I lost count. And I've realised its very difficult to figure what you're best at, or what you'll enjoy doing the most, very difficult indeed.
Here's my list of fav subjects, or how they have evolved-

Class 1 to 4: I don't remember subjects, only remember I used to get punished a lot for not doing homework; my most vivid recollection of these years are the games classes - we had this huge football field with some twenty boys running after the ball and tugging at each others' pants and shirts at any given point of time. Goes without saying, I was terrible in studies these years.

Classes 5 and 6: I really started liking Maths, the only two Maths exams in my life in which I scored a 100/100 happened in Class 5. My Dadu (grandpa) was delirious, he used to be my principal tutor at home and the raison d'etre of my numeric abilities. Anyway, I got a whole box of Fruit n Nut chocolates from Dadu...i still dig after those...after the Class V finals and the nuts must have gone straight to my head coz that was the last I saw of the magic three figures in my answer sheet.
My fav in Class 6 was probably Algebra, we had a good prof who made a+a=2a and a*a=a^2 sound really very interesting - I was almost dazed by his magic.

Classes 7 and 8: This was a period of brief flirtations. I liked Chemistry for sometime, especially balancing equations, but it soon lost charm. I started disliking Maths, and I hated Geometry. Physics was interesting in parts but overall, this was a lacklustre phase were I studied to pass exams.

Classes 9 and 10: I was mesmerised by Shakespeare in Class 9, and we had a teacher who used to make the drama come to life in the classroom - the words were difficult and reference checks too many, but we still loved it. First Julius Caesar and then As you Like it, I had never enjoyed English classes so much before. Oh and the same teacher also taught us poetry - and, I'm serious, I even dreamt of Kubla Khan...of sacred rivers, pleasure-domes with caves of ice and caverns measureless to man. Little boy's dreams.

The other subject I loved was Geography - I didn't like layers of soil or kinds of rocks...stuff we were taught in the previous classes, but I grew really fond of drawing colourful rivers, seas, lakes and mountains in maps. If map-pointing was my favourite, topography came a close second, there was something very un-bookish and exciting about examining maps and terrains.
I also found History interesting, especially the freedom struggle part (a welcome break from studying details of medieval temples and Vedic literature) - but somehow the dates and details marred the effect a little bit.

Classes 11 and 12: Since I aws pretty confused after Classs 10 about what I wanted to do, and since I had somehow managed an A in Science in the Boards, I stuck to the default (it was still, my times) option of Science. I don't regret it but I don't think I was cut out. I hated Chemistry (the physical and inorganic parts were ok...the periodic table part was actually interesting, but how someone could like organic chemistry never ceased to amaze me), Maths was ok, Physics was the only science subject I actually liked, and Bio - apart from the frog-killing bit - was tolerable.

After 12, I was genuinely confused. My sister was watching movies (how cool is that...movies as part of curriculum!!) and studying Black literature...among other things... in JU. Even the names of her text books and lit critics (Goodness gracious...David Daiches, she used to say) started sounding interesting. I also had a sudden impulse to study Architecture.
And then I finally got admitted into Statistics for graduation, soon realised it was not for me and changed to Economics in the same college. And, despite having never studied Eco before, somehow it clicked - or so I think.

So how the hell is someone as confused as me supposed to give gyaan to someone on what subject is best for him??


  • Favorite subject is not a constant,this reminded me of my school days.
    Also, chasing a degree is often a matter of market value of the degree, not necessarily one's most preferred subject. What else would justify so many IITans selling soaps or writing storyboards...they chased the IIT tag but realised they were meant for other things.
    Your cousin has to make his choice and you will help him by confusing him actually :-)

    By Anonymous akash, at August 01, 2006 8:55 am  

  • Akash, you're right - no easy answers, and I'll confuse the poor soul some more.
    And yes, you're right about many IIT-ans doing other things - IIT is also a brand that allows you to do other things afterwards - that has to be kept in mind, everyone else may not have that option.
    I'm also a strong believer that every experience counts. I know a girl who studied Psychology at DU, then did management from an IIM, worked as a consultant in BCG for some time, and is now pursuing higher studies in Psychology from a reputed univ in US.
    Did her foray into management help her? I bet it did.

    By Blogger Deep, at August 05, 2006 4:52 am  

  • This maybe of help- Make your passion your profession if you go "deep" into it.

    By Anonymous Hiren, at August 05, 2006 9:52 am  

  • Gyaan deowaar kono boyesh hoye naa, kono joggyota'r dorkaar hoye naa. Lorhe jaan Bangali!


    By Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock, at August 10, 2006 12:13 am  

  • hiren: yes very 'deep' subject this

    JAP-da: shujog pe diye dile to chotto akta gyaan :)

    By Blogger Deep, at August 12, 2006 4:06 am  

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