Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This Sunday, I appeared for my karate examination. It was the second time for me. Last time, I was in class five, and used to train at another centre. There, I had some minor issues with the sensei, and dropped out right after I got my orange belt. Then, in the beginning of this year, we found that there was another class in Santose Club, just two-minutes away from my house. I was only too eager to join, and started attending from April. Though I had passed the examination and received an orange belt already, I had been out of practice for over two years, and sensei told me to start once more from the white belt.

I must acknowledge that I did not practice much at home. Whatever exercises I did were in class. My father told me many times to buck up and practice at least the warm up exercises regularly, so that I could keep lithe and supple. But I was just too lazy and unwilling to move. So naturally, I was feeling far from confident when the examination came along. I kept feeling that I would not be able to pass the examination, and would once again have to spend a year with the white belt.

The examination was scheduled from ten in the morning in a club in B-zone. It is quite far away from home, and we were going to give a lift to another girl, so we started off by nine fifteen.  This girl who came along with us had joined the class along with me in April, and unlike me, it was truly the first time for her. But she had worked hard at home, and was quite confident and relaxed while heading for the examination.

We reached the spot in good time. But like most other places in India, starting on time was quite unthinkable, and by the time the judges arrived it was nearing eleven. There were so many students, with an age difference so great that tiny six-year olds and people of my father’s age were classmates! And I saw how hopelessly some people were performing. Some of them were actually of higher belts then I am. This gave me some confidence. If these people had passed the examination, so would I. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after four and a half hours of sometimes easy and sometimes not so easy fighting and exercises, I was heading home again, none the worse for the experience.

This time the examination was much better than last time. Last time, we had had to perform without any break for four hours. I had been half dead by the time I returned home. This time we had been given enough rest and relaxation breaks. I managed to return without too many injuries, and a few funny stories to tell.

It is unbelievable how marks-obsessed people have become these days. I learn karate for self defence and for keeping fit, and I thought all others did the same. But yesterday, I saw a woman bring her little boy of class three or four, who was sick with fever for the examination. Her excuse: the marks he will get are very important. Much more important than her son’s comforts, it seemed. My mother was sitting with the group of guardians, mostly mothers, in the shade. She felt disgusted with their conversations. They were all praising all the other children but their own. They did not really care about how much their children were learning. All that mattered to them was the marks that their children managed to acquire.

When we came back home we told baba about this. He jokingly said, “When one of these children is confronted by gundas, he will say, “Do you know that I have scored 93% in karate! You should be very afraid of me!”” Not a highly unlikely thing to happen, is it?


Soham Mukhopadhyay said...

Nice experience, Urbi. The last paragraph was really funny. Some 5-6 years ago I also wanted to join karate classes- but didn't get a chance to do it. If you are very interested in karate - you can watch a program that often comes up in National Geographic channel. It's a combination of bio-mechanics and martial art. I don't exactly recall the name of the program, however. By the way I am one of Suvro Sir's students- passed ICSE this year.

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Urbi,

First of all congratulations about the exam! Good for you! This obsession with marks has been the bane of our generation in particular. But none seem to particularly learn isn't it. I have known kids whose parents forbade them from entering inter and intra school competitions for fear of their getting distracted from their lessons. I do see a few schools these days though, that give some measure of stress on all round development and are not keen or turning children into academic automatons.


Rick Gupta said...


While I like reading your blog a lot and I think you write very well for your age, I have noticed a disturbing tendency. You spend a lot of time being critical of others. I had such a habit once but now regret it. It is of course important not to follow the herd and to think critically about all that is socially accepted but may be a lot of times this kind of criticism is just a way of feeling that one is special and different from others. I think this is a dangerous tendency one must check. While a lot of what you say may be true you should probably also keep in mind that there is a lot to learn from every single human being no matter how ordinary and flawed he or she might appear at first sight. I hope you take my comment as constructive criticism, think about it and of course dismiss it if you find it unjustified.

Urbi Chatterjee said...

Dear Mr. Gupta,
Thank you for commenting. I am glad you like reading my blog on the whole, and have taken time to reflect and get back on the post. It is true that much of what I write is about other people’s faults and drawbacks. In future I shall certainly try to be less critical of people – unless it is unavoidable. However, there are certain things that I would like to point out to you.
1. I have often praised people for their good habits, and written critically about my own bad habits. In this very post I have done both. Didn’t you notice?
2. When I have criticized anybody in this blog, I have done so because I considered their habits eccentric, or abnormal. I certainly do not criticize anyone just for the fun of it.
3. When I criticize someone, it is very often because that person has knowingly or unknowingly done something harmful to others. Think about that marks-obsessed mother who had brought along her sick son to the karate examination. Don’t you feel that she is highly deserving of criticism?
4. I hope, too, that you have noticed a permanent fixture on my blog that ‘I keep learning, and realizing how little I know about the vast wonder that is our world’. Wouldn’t you agree that learning to see people’s faults – as well as my own – is a very important part of learning?
5. My parents keep telling me that there are far too many ‘nice’ people in this country, and far too few who have the guts to utter unpleasant truths about ourselves – that is one of our most fundamental drawbacks, because since we are always being nice to one another, nobody cares to notice and remove their own (often most unpleasant-) faults. What do you think about that?

I should like to hear from you again.

Shilpi said...

Dear Pupu,

I've had your narrative here running around my head for the last week now, and it's brought back all sorts of memories (some amusing and some pleasant and others not-so-pleasant) related to primarily my own short stint with karate, and of a couple of our own mails on the same subject from more than two years ago.

I've got to say that even though I took one of the exams (at very short notice and was informed later that I'd done well) - I had no idea that one got points for each of the sections. I knew one passed or failed but somehow never thought about how one passed or failed.

I'm extremely glad that you're back to learning karate again and that you've found a sensei with whom you can learn well. I'd urge you to practise the katas - and if you can manage it - practise them early in the mornings. Practising them is not just about perfecting the moves (which is in itself a very good thing) but they have a curiously calming and energizing effect on one's body and state of mind...not being able to practice the katas is the only thing I miss about not doing karate for long enough.

The only thing I can say about those mark-obsessed morons and the parents who keep insisting that their own children are lousy, is a loud and disgusted "Gah". Learning, I'd argue, has absolutely nothing to do with marks in an exam. Not in academics and not in activities like karate, art, singing, learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument and so on...but just imagine telling the parents the same. They'll most likely tell me, "Tumi porikhay bhalo nombor paoni - tai bole ki amar cheleta bhalo nombor paabe na?!" To which I could say, "Bhalo nombor peye ghoraar dim hobe."

Too many parents most likely push their children into different "extra-curricular activities" only so that the kids have a certificate at the end of their exams, and sadly, many of the kids grow up to be the same. The only thing that one can learn from such people is how not to be.

As for your response to the so-called Mr. Rick Gupta - three cheers.

My apologies for not replying sooner - but as you might know - I was trying to keep my comment short.

Take care. Keep writing. And lots of love,


Rick Gupta said...


Thanks for your thoughtful response. You are, of course, the best judge of such things and I am happy that you thought about my comment.