Absolutely relative or relatively absolute

RG, or relative grading was met with a lot of anxiety, especially in the first trimester of MBA. For most folks, the grading concept (CGPA instead of percentage) itself was new and on top of that, it failed to register why a 85 out of 100 could still fetch you a C grade just because 60% of the class was scoring above 85. Why would some courses have more As than others? Grr .. no logic existed, it was a radically different idea just like the multiple captain theory suggested by John Abraham err … John Bachhan or someone like that who coaches Shahrukh Khan’s cricket company. But if we look further, most of us are obsessed with relative grading, albeit in a different shape and form.
When I look back at any achievement being discussed in front of some people I know, immediately what pops out like a reflex action is ‘comparison’. Examples I can think of are:
Example I (from many years ago):
My mom: ‘My son has got into IIT (supported by a wide grin) and he is joining IIT Kharagpur, Metallurgical engg’.
Neighbor Aunty’s visiting sister, nibbling at sweet offered by mom and along with a comment on how sweets can cause undesirable changes in latitude and longitude to the love handles on her anatomy, adds: ‘My cousin’s daughter graduated from IIT Kanpur 2 years ago and she did her M Tech in Computer Science. Metallurgy, I hear, is reserved for low rankers and market is not so good.’
My mind: What???
Example II (from 2 days ago):
Me: “Wow, that was great choreography! Although the dance looks obscene in parts, I love the choreography. Simbu dances well and look at the way others in the screen are choreographed. Great stuff!” (my comment on Where is the Party? Song from Silambattam)
ABC: You should see my niece. She is just 5 and dances so well. Her elder sis went to India recently and did her arengetram!
My mind: What??? How the hell is that related?
Example III (this one is ultimate – from many yrs ago):
Srini cracks the WB JEE and gets a rank of 15 in the state. Uma’s mom is not too happy because her daughter’s rank is around 2000. She calls Srini’s mom six months later and says, “Hey do you know, these WB JEE guys screwed up. They did not add Uma’s marks in Maths, her strong subject – otherwise she would have got a better rank, maybe even in the top 10. Should I sue them?
Srini’s mom: How did you come to know?
Uma’s mom: Uma’s professor is in WB JEE dept and he was so surprised to see that his brightest student’s rank was so bad that he checked. He came and apologized to her in private. He is so heart broken. We had to console him and say its ok.
Can you believe this? The above is a true story!
Example IV:
The worst comparisons happen when kids’ math marks are put up for public debates at Tam Brahm get togethers. I learnt Carnatic music in Kolkata and that was where I had my maximum access to Tam Brahms – mamas, mamis, babes, guys. Tam Brahms are obsessed with math and I was fortunate to be good at arithmetic. But since I never hit the elusive ‘centum’ I was never as good as the preaching mama! The comparisons of kids’ performances in math and music were almost never constructive – it neither motivated the kid nor helped strengthen his or her friendship with a ‘superior mathematician’. Hope that at least the next generation parents treat math and Carnatic music in a different manner. There are a zillion ways kids can grow up to be successful.

After all, if we just stop comparing and look at the absolute value of something, we can appreciate things much more without losing our peace too.

Strange isn’t it, that although we love to compare, when it comes to us, we don’t like being compared. When we are graded, we run away from:
Relative Grading at college,
Hate the normal distributions that are at work during appraisal cycles because promotions cannot be given to everybody,
Hate it when you take the pain of cooking great sambhar only to be compared with the sambhar that your mom cooked for you twenty years ago,
When you think somebody looks beautiful and hear the comment that she is not as beautiful as her mother,
When a baby is born (and actually most new born babies look like red tomato smileys – cute they are) but oldies flock to see if their thumb is the right size and how the baby’s eyes look like its mother’s and argue amongst themselves ad nauseum that the child’s nose (note the child is just 6 hours old) looks exactly like his / her great grandfather’s nose!!

Absolutely relative or relatively absolute – whatever! I would urge the use of comparisons in a positive way and not to dilute the extent of an achievement. What say?


6 thoughts on “Absolutely relative or relatively absolute

  1. First things first – Your blog is a nice break from my supposedly hectic MBA schedules. I can laugh away to glory imagining whateva is written..
    Coming to relative grading, I was so glad bout this method to chuck the poor performers in my team (forced ranking). I think lyf comes a full circle and it’s giving me night mares in MBA !!
    Either ways who says ‘Grades Matter’. Hardly matters !!

    Ranga: Thanks, it is a nice break for me as well 🙂 Hardly matters – thats the truth.

  2. I can’t beleive Example III actually happened! LOL!! Ipadiyum ponnoda ‘lost honour’-a kaapathanuma?! kashta kaalam!
    Let’s just hope the future generation will not write a similar blog with us being the subjects :))

    Ranga: Yeah buddy, sincerely hope so 🙂

  3. Hilarious! Loved the music comparison, I can totally imagine it. In fact, i think I have done something in similar lines too, mentioning Rishi’s dance! 🙂

    Ranga: Aiyyoo wish I knew about that, then i could have smuggled in a different example, there is no dearth of it anyways 😉 paavam rishita 🙂

  4. Been there, done that.

    Maamis are the most irritating species in the world. Have your forgotten how ages are compared and then all the maamis wonder why your daughter is ot married at 22 years, one day?

    Ranga: Haha … or when your son is not married at 29 years!! Yeah, maamis are seriously irritating but can provide a lot of entertainment value too to an outside observer.

  5. Very very relevant . J Krishnamurthy exhorts us to avoid comparisons. Just look at a thing or a person with a fresh eye and mind, cleansed of all past prejudices and expectations. No past influence or future expectation , be in the present. In K schools, we avoid comparisons between children. We dont have ranking system. ( i was a K school teacher )
    Academically weak kids are the biggest sufferers — they are compared everday to a high-ranking kid. Such kids might uneash the kind of violence we saw in the Chennai Law College Atrocity.
    Relative grading makes sense only in very, very few situations. Maybe when doing a statistical study of a set of grades.

    Ranga: Yes, Ram, unfortunately I feel bad for the academically weak kids. They could be great in some other field but such comparisons make them sad and can drive them to do bad stuff. Also, what kind of confidence are we building in them? That way, I am glad that IT and ITes has made a difference in a small way by embracing ppl from all fields. Whatever be the reason – supply / demand, but at least access to IT jobs has ensured many parents dont look at Engineering and Medicine as superior options followed by CA etc. How ridiculous, isn’t it?

  6. ur love for maamis never end 😉

    Ranga: You bet, I am simply awed by maamis – that is a never ending love story! 😀

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