I think the first association I made with the word ‘education’ was that it was something very serious, and very boring, but an inevitable and painful undertaking that every human had to go through. I was told, by my parents, and by most other elements in the society, was the only thing that could ensure my place in this world, and provide me with a “stable” career, so that I could spend the rest of my life in unending happiness and peace. And so the neural circuits in my tiny brain wired itself into one strong message. I started school, and the first things I learnt were the multiplication tables, and the alphabets. These were important lessons no doubt. The alphabet taught me how to read, a pretty useful tool to share ideas in this world, and the multiplication tables taught me to calculate. That’s pretty useful too, especially when buying and selling. But see, the thing is, I was never told about the usefulness or practical application of my education it just felt like that “studies” was a different world altogether and had very little to do with real life. Somehow, I never felt a tangible presence of my education in my day-to-day activities. And this conundrum pervaded throughout most of my school life. Life in the books and life in the world were two distinct entities. I studied about Gulliver’s travels but somehow it never got me interested in reading books and exploring the rich world of literature. I learnt the exact date on which the battle of Panipat was fought, but somehow it never got me curious about History, it never got me to introspect into the human condition of our past. In school they taught us the green in the plants was called chlorophyll and that it absorbs energy from the sun and helps the organism in making its own food, but that never got me fascinated about the mysterious lives of plants living outside my house. And don’t get me started about Algebra. It never stimulated my imagination beyond the rules and the formulas I learnt and applied. So why did my education fail to evoke interest in the one thing it was supposed to evoke interest in – creativity. Well, this is because it was evoking my interest in something completely different: MARKS. Yes, marks were like drugs. You just couldn’t get enough of it. All that matttered in the end was how much marks you were getting in an exam. That defined your status in the social hierarchy of the system. The more marks you got, the more “well-off” you were perceived in the eyes of your peers and everybody else in the society. And man, that hit was worth dying for. And so for the entirety of my school life, all I chased after was marks. How to get more marks on an exam? I paid extreme attention in classes, with special focus to text that the teacher said was important for exams. I underlined those texts. I took private tuitions for a few subjects and traveled long distances after-school in the chaos of the city to attend these private tuitions. I bought special workbooks that gave me more important questions to solve. I bought books other than the prescribed textbooks. We called them reference books. And they contained more important questions that needed to be solved. I bought this book called “last 10 years question papers” and it contained all the questions to the all the exams that had been conducted in the last decade. This was the goldmine of all workbooks. This was the ultimate hack. You see, human behavior, at times, is quite predictable. And I took advantage of this vulnerability. By solving past questions I could align myself with the predictability of humans who were setting the question papers, and in turn align my studies with that predictability. In other words. And as time passed, this line of thought kept reinforcing itself with the intensity of a hammer striking an anvil. Then came the engineering exams. When I started preparing for it, I didn’t exactly know what “engineering” meant. I just knew it was something to do with technology & robots and once you completed it you got a job with lots of money. The job and the money weren’t the attractions though, they were far too distant in the future. The reason I took up engineering was because every other “smart” kid around me was doing that, and because it was a great honor if I could make it to the top engineering colleges of my country – That would earn me the praise and respect of everyone. Another hit. And so the same old quest of questions and answers began all over again. And this time there were specialized agencies that were needed to help us figure out the relevant questions: the coaching institutes. The competition was ruthless. Millions competing in the same race. The coaching institutes enabled us to run in the race, with the right set of concepts, and worksheets, and practice problems, and mock tests, and other assessments. Now, I’m not saying that all this was worthless and that I ended up learning nothing. I learnt a lot. About differentiation & integration & Newtonian mechanics & physical chemistry. About chemical reactions & imaginary numbers & electromagnetic waves & mineral structures. These were all supposedly wonderful things to learn. The problem was they didn’t feel so wonderful. It felt as if the joy out of these subjects had been sucked out dry. There was a sense of haste, to complete a topic, and then jump onto another, and then complete that and jump onto something else. There were so many fucking topics that had to be crammed in the head. The worst part of this endless ordeal of solving questions was that I never developed the ability to question. To question why I was doing what I was doing. To question, whether the history that was taught to us at school was the capital T-truth. Whether there was any capital-T truth at all. To question, how the Newtonian law of mechanics were operating on the bicycle I rode. To question, what chemical in the capsicum I ate made the taste so unappealing. Somehow I was so enmeshed in running towards the next set of questions, towards the next set of mock tests, that would improve my marks, improve my rank in the competition, that I completely forgot to see the practical benefits of my education. In other words, I failed to understand why I was studying what I was studying. This reminds me of John Lennon’s famous quote: It’s also reminds me of the Joker’s famous line This exactly happened when I finally landed in an engineering college. I didn’t know what to do with myself. After 2 decades of solving questions and regurgitating answers, my brain was fried. I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want to study anymore. Instead I wanted gratification. Gratification with a vengeance, for all the torturous-years of my childhood. And so I threw myself into all the distractions available I bunked classes, I pursued women, I smoked weed, tried LSD, watched films: lots of them, read books: lots of them and kept on doing these in a loop. Even though I was training to be an engineer, it was more of a self-imposed liberal arts education. And for the first time in my life, I could say with some confidence, that I was learning, by unlearning all the crap that had been systematically pushed into my system. At the end of my college, I got a job, that paid me loads of money to write some code and do a bit of Microsoft Excel. It had nothing whatsoever to do with what I had learnt in college. Or before that. I picked up the skills on the job. So if you think about it, roughly 2 and a half decades of my education was completely trash. Given the premise that my education was meant to enable me to earn money, it completely failed to do so, because none of what I had learned at school and at college was being used to generate the money at my job. Now you might argue that it was not the skills, but the intelligence, and the presence of mind, and the maturity that my education gave me, and that it prepared my mind to deal with problems of the world. But when I look back at those gruelling days of classrooms, and teachers, and marks, and ranks, and exams, and workbooks, and special tuitions, I don’t see any maturity or presence of mind. I just see myself getting more and more numb. Getting more and more trapped and limited in my own head, and numb to the world around me.