Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Write of Passage(s)

While writing a long drawn out angst filled apology for my prolonged absence is very tempting, I believe and actual post will make my sincere regret clearer.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Author has not fallen off the face of the earth. Rather she has been perching on a particularly unproductive pimple on its wide lovable cheek.There is a general belief within the layman masses (look at me- so elitist!) that being in academics involves the amassing of knowledge. And they are not wrong: I've been doing just that! Over the past twelve months I have gained considerable knowledge in the areas of a) Cooler maintenance (wiring, tubing,plumbing and fibre-reattachment) b) window re-modelling (detaching, reattaching, grill-removal) c) Survival cooking (how to cook pasta when you only have maida, salt and half a thimble of milk powder to help/toasting bread on a candle) d) Multi-tasked make up (how to use a chapstick as lipstick, rouge, eyeshadow and burn treatment) e) Animal Husbandry ( getting rid of 'husbanding' animals from your hostel corridor) f)basic plumbing. While these skills are nuggets that you pick up by chance on the way to academic Valhalla, there is one that will find you and bury itself into your psyche whether you want it or not.

Observe, if you will:
"A singular specific Felis Catus observed a non-kinetic stance upon a horizontally positioned fabric production created by the interlacing of two distinct fibres."

Translation: The cat sat on a mat.

While most traditional occupations requires one to put in a requisite number of hours, an average academic is required to meet a word count. In the ideal circumstance one would know enough about the subject to be hard-pressed to stay within the word count. However since research requires prolonged work, and work is anathema to most of us (ok fine! me), one would usually be struggling to write enough about the subject to not disgrace oneself before peers and professors alike. As a result, every year,those trees that were lucky enough to have escaped the felling glance of the NET/Board exam paper-makers, meet their demise fulfilling their wasted existence as a medium for our outrageous faff. And having spent the large part of my blog-absence fighting the colossal abomination created through the evil copulation of course-work and cumulative procrastination, I am placed in the prime position to enlighten the impressionable reader on the right way of creating high-flying hogwash.

1.Always maintain the Grass-Gas Balance. It is humanly impossible to churn out a thousand words with nothing more than your advanced thesaurus. There must always be some grass to create some bullshit:The trick is to hit the right proportion between the grass and the gas. The student must maintain a minimum 40-60 ratio if she is to escape egoscopy, for the professor is a canny breed. The skilled student must outwit the natural cunning of these superiors, distracting them with the right kind of shiny bait. To this end I recommend the Sabari Express Pazhampori technique.
The pazhampori served in the Sabari Express is large, golden, succulent-looking and characterised by a distinct lack of banana.The crisp burnished skin tempts the hungry traveler to flout experience and buy the snack, only to sink teeth through the interminable layer of fried batter before getting at the golden fruit within. And yet, the simple fact that we spent money on it and that it is pazhampori keep us munching on the disappointing, oily, unhealthy item. The assignment must beguile the poor prof into ignoring their better judgement, egging her/him into reading through all the tasteless faff to get at the nugget of thought within. A way with language and the occasional showy folder and/or nice stationary, will always help this cause.

2.Two words are always better than one. The Oxford English Dictionary lists up to 228132 words. Any academic must always try to include as many of these as possible. In fact, coin a few of your own while you are at it. The example sentence is proof of the expansive properties of this method. True, precision and efficiency are irredeemably obscured. However, word count is prodigiously boosted. Judicious use of this method may not make you an intellectual but may help you sound like one. Remember, adjectives are an academics best friends.A descriptive prose often proves to be the best recourse for the intellectually dehydrated. It also helps to provide homeric epithets to names/ ideas that will inevitably be repeated in your ill-researched paper. This is apparently called 'flabby' writing but given that our substance is paper-thin we don't really have much room for weight-watching.

3. What's in a name? Lots. Name dropping not only helps lubricate government channels but also makes your feather light paper seem more substantial. This is a more effective method of paper-weighting than the much touted Jargonaut, where the writer overloads the paper with bombastic jargon. The Jargonaut runs the risk of seeming as insincere as it actually is whereas name-dropping carries an aura of brown-nosing humility. And the bigger the names the better- literally. Longer names increase word count! But on a less bimbettic level, names-big,small or medium sized- give an impression of secondary reading and may often represent the sole grass for the rest of the gas (refer to point 1). For the same reason, it is imperative that one disguise ones disgracefully rudimentary knowledge with timely reiteration of the Names. But the diligent slacker must know that the name alone cannot wield much power. For optimum results, one must endeavor to substantiate this name-dropping through the universally beneficial medium of the Quote. A well placed quote can not only conceal your gaping ignorance but also legitimately increase word count and page length.
However the student must beware the perils of hollow quotation.
Familiarity breeds content. Feigned familiarity breeds discontent. And a bad grade.

4. And of course there is the the Cow-Coconut Tree Connection. Remember the story of the exam candidate who had practiced an essay on a cow? Unfortunately the paper asked him to write about a coconut tree. But our hero (who was definitely an academic in the making) was not one to be daunted. He simply stated that a cow was tied to the coconut tree and then proceeded to talk about the animal. We academics already carry the stereotype of vagueness hence the resourceful student can make use of this to put in some paper-wasting digression. To the canny academic everything is related (even if one is not mallu). A little deft manipulation and one may be able to tie together two completely disparate ideas to create a legitimate sounding paper.

These four pointers will help the fledgling academic piece together a paper that is like a 'made in china' product- it looks good but wont last in the long run. However, as most Eleventh-hourists will agree, quality is usually the least of our worries when faced with a long dead deadline and a prof who has become so disillusioned that he would be painfully grateful to receive any paper from his charges.

The future of academic thought slouches unaware of the cancer growing in its breast as the multiplicity of mediocrity chokes away what little idealism that survives its great institutional Machine. Thought is churned, recycled and recast in the molds of wrenched language twisted out of shape within the jaws of the academe.Language has been chained and bowed by the heavy weight of pointless papers which will never inspire, never stimulate. And the thinker falls asleep and cricks his neck.

But we shall not be daunted. As Anupam Kher so neatly phrased it, "language was created to satisfy man's deep urge to complain." I shall use this maligned language to malign those who force me to malign it.
Which is why I shall now return to my neglected course work and struggle to churn out 2000 words on a subject I am unfamiliar with.

PS: Readers who want to read what this post ought to have been should check out George Orwell's delightful essay on the subject.