Friday, February 17, 2012

Mildendo ... stirs memories of school days :)

For the sabbatical readings, I had brought along with me works of fiction and serious academic books.  Oddly enough, it was the academic works that I have been able to read.  Am simply unable to relate to contemporary fiction. 

I wondered if the problem was with the type of fiction, and whether old classics will appeal to me.  Turns out that I am enjoying reading Gulliver's Travels, a copy of which I bought here in Chennai for the equivalent of two dollars. 

It has been a long, long time since I read this fantastic work by Swift and, for all purposes, it is almost as if I am reading it for the first time ever.  A few pages into it, I was reminded of the school days when an excerpt was this tale was an assigned reading. 

The English teacher was the same one who was all too familiar with my cheeks!  One of his questions stumped me in class: "what is the capital of Lilliput?"

The question was not during a test, but in class when he was discussing the text with the class.  Wondering why he picked on me, I said "metropolis," which, of course, is incorrect.  He gave me a second chance, and this time I came up with Djibouti.  Yes, Djibouti, of all places!

Such trivial pursuit has never been my idea of education, and even now the tests I have for students is not at all about trivia.  When discussing energy and oil, for instance, I might ask students about the meaning of "petroleum" and then give them clues on how to guess its meaning; that is not trivia, but a simple way to understand how this vital economic resource is found in nature. (hint: think of "petra" as in "petrified" and then "oleum")

Anyway, reading Gulliver's Travels convinces me that the problem is not with my inability to deal with fictional works--I am enjoying this fiction that is almost three hundred years old.  One of the oldest "novels" ever.  Like how I enjoyed reading A farewell to arms or any of the other "classics" that I have been reading recently.  Maybe I ought to simply stick to the classics and not even attempt the newer ones?

Or, perhaps raising such questions will lead to fights similar to those between the big-endians and little-endians in Lilliput? At least, I won't be slapped around anymore :)

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