I Am Done Playing The Game Of Grades
Warning: Deliberate use of expletives, reader discretion is advised (NSFW)
I scored 95% in my Class X CBSE English exam, and even got a “0.1%” certificate for it. I strutted around, as the simile goes, proud as a peacock.
2 years later, in the Class XII CBSE English exam, I scored a grand total of … 60%. To say I was as broken as crushed rock wouldn’t be exaggeration.
One of those numbers has to be complete bullshit, right?
But as a science student who gives a fuck about English in Class XII? The real tests are the engineering/medical entrance exams. Unfortunately, I had developed a passion for hiding Tom Clancy novels between the pages of my prep books. (That ought to tell you something about their ‘fatness’)
Unsurprisingly, I did not qualify to be considered for the prestigious IITs, and ended up with a rank of 80,000 in the AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Exams). That meant I could not even get hope for an admission in the NITs, aka Not IIT.
My parents turned out to be more committed than me though. A few months later I found myself enrolled in NIT Calicut, one of the top 5 NITs, but in Production Engineering aka, wasn’t eligible for Mechanical and didn’t want Civil. (Yes, there is a pecking order of courses, within one of the top 5 universities, within the second tier of engineering institutions in India. And I thought Inception’s plot was convoluted.)
Four years of mess food (look it up, it’s an adjective for bad), cheap alcohol, and hundreds of hours of pirated video games later I graduated with a 7.5 CGPA, whatever the hell that means. I still have no clue how they translated alphabetical grades into random CGPAs. What mattered though, was that I found myself in possession of an appointment letter from a company that is a household name in India.
After sleepwalking through 12 years of school and 4 years of college, I was deemed ready to face the world. Armed with a prestigious engineering degree and a well paying job I was ready to take my place as a respected member of society. I had made it.
I even received a certificate that said, ‘Congratulations! You are now a Bachelor of Technology in Production Engineering’. I guess they forgot to write SUCKER at the end.
Welcome to the real world
If you thought out of syllabus questions were tough, wait till you have your first annual performance review.
If you thought ‘vector spaces’ were mind boggling, you are in for an unpleasant surprise the first time you file your income tax.
Oh, and grades were back. What, you thought you had seen the last of the grading system when you left college?
I had fallen into the trap of believing that college was preparing me for life in the real world. I was suckered into it, the same as you.
Company policy said that all new hires will get the same grade after one year of “probation”. Fair enough.
But because everyone got the same grade and without doing any “real” work, I thought it was the default grade. Which meant we would get better grades in the future, right?
Enter, the normal distribution curve. Who knew that a graph and an equation we vaguely remembered from our textbooks would have such drastic consequences.
By the end of the second year, my drunk colleagues had been rudely woken up from their stupor, and the sober ones had been driven to the comforts of whisky. Somehow, I had managed to get the top grade. How? Can’t explain. Why? I doubt even my boss would have been able to answer that. But I didn’t care because it meant I would be getting more money than my colleagues.
I had no intention, nor the desire to leave the comfort of this job. But the end of the second year also marked the end of the contract. The disillusioned among us started seeking refuge in the nobler pursuit of academics. There was talk of GREs, GMATs, and CATs. Random 3 digit numbers, 4 digit numbers, and percentiles were being discussed over tea and in the corridors.
Promises of a fresh start were made. Dreams of a better life were woven. Check ins at airports were Facebooked. I looked on from my comfy chair wondering what prompted these poor fools to forsake the graces of such a benevolent master. I became the wise asshole who pontificated on the futility of an MBA, who snorted at their stupidity in deciding to go back to the unforgiving world of the grading system.
Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to leave me a memo that was supposed tell me I was being fucked with again.
Unplugged from the Matrix
It seemed I was destined to endure the banality of comfort year after year, until I could finally retire with dreams of traveling around the world, a bountiful pension to do it with, and a live happily ever after.
But unable to stand the grandeur of such glorious dreams I decided to withdraw my membership from the elite club of the employed.
If I had my job, I could have bragged about getting an A, becoming a Manager, maybe even my six figure salary. I can’t do any of that now.
In the few months since I quit, I have seen living dragons, but they never told me what percentile of population that put me in. I have hiked to the summit of a volcano to watch the sunrise, but I wasn’t awarded a degree to prove that I did it. I swam with sharks and manta rays, but the ungrateful creatures did not even have the decency to tell me if my swimming skills were an A or a B.
Out here, outside the Matrix, no one seems to understand the concept of grades, or promotions, or degrees, or even a regular paycheck. Maybe they do, but just don’t give a fuck.
As a product of the education system my life was defined and measured in grades, qualifications, and paychecks. It’s strange not having to constantly bitch about the crappy job or strive for the next promotion and pay-grade.
I wish someone could have told me all this the day I found out I had scored 60%. Or maybe, even 2 years earlier, the day I found out I had scored 95%.
But who cares? That was over 13 years ago.
I am gradually learning the art of not giving a fuck too.