Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Hi there,

In this issue, I am going to allow myself the pleasure of making some off-the-cuff observations about the subject, intelligence. This word as understood by the common man has several meanings and frankly, its meaning is as varied and numerous as the people who try to explain it. In most people, it is an indefinable attitude of superiority over others, (“Oh, Yes. He does not know”) although some of them are refined enough to sound less arrogant. (“I really wish he knew”) Some people regard themselves intelligent, just because they happen to be different in certain ways and habits from others. But to the multitude, intelligence primarily consists in the yellowing, dog-eared certificates, gilded medals, laminated degrees and faded photographs of forgotten performances.

If we rid ourselves of these vanities and complexes, we will discover that intelligence is merely one of the faculties like seeing and smelling: the faculty like your Disc Operating System that coordinates different parts to function in an organized way. It is nothing but sheer ignorance to think that intelligence is the exclusive trait of human beings. A monkey that hangs upside down by its prehensile tail from the branch of a tree, a hawk hovering over its prey, and a German Shepherd that surprises the stranger with a volley of loud barks are all said to posses a certain degree of intelligence, not very different from that of a student mugging up an essay on the 'Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire'. A terrier or a hound that charges at its quarry is more consistent and sure-footed than a XII grader struggling to identify a salt or a botanical specimen. Of course, I don’t mean this as an insult. Far from it.

The point I wish to drive home is that human intelligence is essentially a free and free-wheeling power, at times shaky, inconsistent and fallible, but always keen on doing something different, better and interesting. The boredom that we feel and the mistakes that we commit are too often an indication of a mind tired of repetitive work and craving for novelty. But what is saddening and sickening about the whole business is that our educational system is relentlessly trying to whittle down and trim human intelligence in order to make it perform as efficiently as an unerring mongoose or a falcon.

Intelligence is, then, the drive power, the kinetic energy, but it is not an entity by itself. In fact, it is controlled and steered by another quantity, another factor like the arithmetic sign before a number or the coefficient of an algebraic letter. It is with the study of this quantity that the rest of this letter is concerned. Broadly speaking, this quantity operates at three levels as the determiner of the focus and direction of intelligence. At the first level, it exists in all birds and animals in its primitive form known as instinct. A crocodile devouring its prey is performing an intelligent act of orchestrating its visual, aural and olfactory senses along with its stealthy and cunning moves; but the entire act is directed by the coefficient instinct. The instinctual intelligence of the reptile would not allow it to entertain any other thought than masticating its food until its hunger is gratified.

At its second level, this quantity is far more evolved and we shall, for want of a better word, call it interaction. The student memorizing a lengthy passage on the 'Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire' is very likely to declutch himself from the painfully monotonous task, and indulge in a fantasy of Pompey’s flight to Egypt, Julius Caesar’s assassination in the Roman Senate House or the passionate love affair of Mark Antony with Cleopatra. You see, the human mind has the propensity to interact not only with the living, but also the legendary and historical ones. The ability to disengage oneself from an obsession with the object of attention and to view it from a different perspective is the essence of interactive intelligence. It is this intelligence that is predominantly operative in every sphere of human life as I shall try to illustrate.

Let us take, for instance, the teacher student relationship. A teacher’s status in the society is beyond question as he is supposed to be engaged in what is traditionally hailed as ‘the noblest profession’. Placed unreservedly, more often undeservedly in this lofty position, the teacher is always at his best trying to bring the best out of his wards. His hard labour to deliver the goods is grudgingly admired even by the most uncooperative students. Another example that comes to my mind is the parent-child relationship. Elevated to the status of demi-gods, parents spare no efforts to ensure that their children’s lot is a lot better than their own. The sacrifices they make can become a box office storyline!

Hold on a minute! Not so fast! While the sincerity and the commitment of teachers and parents can never be doubted, we cannot be blind to the limitations of their interactive intelligence. In the first example, suppose a student turns out to be an intellectual rebel, who wants to go beyond the frontiers of curriculum to engage himself in a liberal and untrammeled pursuit of knowledge, how comfortable would the teacher be with him? Some of you might recall the embarrassing moments Albert Einstein’s physics teacher had to go through in the classroom. Most of the teachers are well aware that their pre-set goals and programs are always at odds with the intellectual aspirations of the students. There exists between them a kind of jockey-horse relationship, the former trying to tame and mount and the latter waiting to kick. I am yet to meet a father who would grant his sons and daughters the freedom to explore and understand life on their own terms. When a father’s beliefs and convictions are not implicitly followed and accepted by his children, the result could be disastrous. A blind rage swells and sweeps across, and interactive intelligence degenerates into instinctual intelligence. You can extend the argument underlying these examples to political, moral, religious and social spheres.

Interactive intelligence is ubiquitous. It is an invasive, intrusive and insidious force; it dictates, it dominates, it drives the people to act in obedience to a doctrine, more often a mistaken doctrine; nay, an evil one. The scientist who spends his time and energy inventing weapons of mass destruction has sold his soul to the devil of a dictator. The shields and certificates conferred upon a student are but war memorials erected upon the grave of his slaughtered intellectual curiosity. The festival freebies and generous gifts are but a bribe to drug young minds into accepting superstitions and follies. There is something of a false note, something hollow, something hypocritical and something selfish. That is why the world, for all its shine and sheen of intelligence, is a horrid place where people are in shackles and bondage. Interactive intelligence is a kind of emotional and intellectual vampirism. It is the intelligence of Dracula who charms his victims first and goes for jugular vein at last.

We have now before us the third coefficient called empathy. The Oxford dictionary gives the meaning of this word as the 'power of projecting oneself into a work of art or other object of contemplation.' It follows as a rider, that empathy is one's capacity to lose one's identity in another entity in order to fully understand it. Precisely, it is this ability that forms the basis of a meaningful relationship between two individuals. To understand is to accept; accept someone with all his plus and minus, accept him for what he is and not for what you expect him to be.

The white American boy who saw a black slave being scourged must have vicariously suffered the whiplash. The boy grew to become the president of the country and fought the Civil War for the freedom and dignity of the Negroes. Eventually he paid for his ideals with his life. This is empathising intelligence that lifts you far above others. It registers your name in the hearts into which you have walked. It makes you walk out with your consciousness widened and your understanding deepened. You no longer live in fear or anxiety, for the world around you is your domain, your hometown, your own home. It sets you free from the self-consuming passions and obsessions in which others are condemned to live. You begin to feel that you can form a wonderful relationship with anyone, as Eva did with Uncle Tom. You begin to see the world as a beautiful place with beautiful people and beautiful things.

Empathy is the highest form of intelligence and the hardware required to operate this intelligence is sensitivity of very high order. Education should, as its primary goal set out sensitising young minds socially, aesthetically and intellectually. Universities should start thinking seriously of redefining its priorities and revamping its curriculum. We can no longer afford to continue with this kind of shallow and skill-oriented education that produces only qualified craftsmen, of course decked with diplomas, degrees and doctorates.

In 1961, the most respected philosopher and mathematician of our times Bertrand Russell wrote a book entitled "Has Man A Future?” Four decades later we are convinced that the chances for mankind to survive have dwindled, even as man's capacity to lead the world to annihilation have exponentially increased. Empathy is the need of the hour. Someone ought to give a wake up call. Is any one out there?

With Love,

Your English Sir

Original Post: Dated Saturday, the 23rd of September 2006

PS: I thoroughly enjoyed reading your responses to my first viewsletter. I am glad that it has appealed to you. Some of you spoke to me over the phone to say a few nice words about it. I would like to thank every one of you for your genuine appreciation particularly some of the seniors like Venkat, Siva and Kanaks for making text related comments, by culling out passages which they have found quite stimulating. My special thanks to Harish for neatly editing the text to suit Orkut format and Nivedan for advertising and publicity.


Nivedhan said...

I am at a serious loss of words
Every word struck like a bullet, every rule he said was how i always felt i should live by but haven't. the words were sort of reflecting on what i think in my inner mind but which i have ignored thinking i am supposed to be a interactive intelligent person and not empathetic (at last i found the words for what i feel) i was mistaken. this passage is one true treasure to me its even better than the previous post if that is possible i would like to quote on his words but there isn't enough space. it is times like this that i want to be in a class with him, truly inspirational. y can't a fortnight come sooner!

Commented on 23/09/2006

Harish said...


wel what shud i say abt this post...... pheww............ really awesome............ like JESUS NEVER FAILS

Commented on 23/09/2006

Venkat said...

Awesome is an understatement!
Again the only thing that I felt could have been better in this post was that I just wish it could have been longer. But it was such a fine piece of article and my mind took a trip back the memory lane and I was able to immediately relate to this article.

It is sad to see how success in India is mainly considered on the amount of marks you get or how well you have settled in life. The society sees success in the amount of salary a person draws and unfortunately it gets to the minds of most of the parents. They are afraid of their child’s failure. They don’t want the society to think less of their child and they accept the idea of nudging their children to take a safe route to success rather then allow him to be him of her. Most of them nowadays (the parents) feel success means seeing their child take science group in school (no insult intended for the science group), seeing their child take up engineering or becoming a doctor. If a child wants to pursue a commerce related field, most of them force the child to take science even if he or she does not like the field (again no insult intended for the science student, but most would agree with me). The society thinks commerce field as a failure, a group which should only be considered if your 10th marks are low. How silly I used to wonder.
All my life I was asked the same question, "Why did u take commerce group, was your marks low?” People just can’t accept a fact that some people want to do something different in life and these people just don’t like abnormalities or just that they don’t want to take that risk.

Commented on 24/09/2006

Venkat said...

I read in the post where Professor spoke about parent’s attitude. I would just quote his lines here “I am yet to meet a father who would grant his sons and daughters the freedom to explore and understand life on their own terms. When a father’s beliefs and convictions are not implicitly followed and accepted by his children, the result could be disastrous. A blind rage swells and sweeps across, and interactive intelligence degenerate into instinctual intelligence.”
That is just because most of them don’t want to risk and don’t want to get branded by the society as an ‘Irresponsible parent’ as they have allowed their child’s life to be led the way they want. But if sir had met my parents once, I am sure the above line would never have come in this post. I was always given a free reign, was given complete freedom to do what I want in life. I can talk about anything in this world with my parents. Sky was the limit. There have been times my parents have been branded irresponsible and have been insulted for giving me a free reign. “Why has your son taken commerce group? Why did u not ask him to take Science?” They used to reply that it was his decision and it is his life and we don’t want to force our ideas into his mind. We want him to do what he likes to do. I used to feel that my parents just gave me too much freedom and now I have to see them getting insulted like this. It made me a more determined person to prove this society wrong. My parents were always supportive of whatever I did. In my last 22 years I have never seen my parents questioning even one of my actions in a serious way. I have been mischievous, I was irresponsible. But they always gave e the confidence to reach for what I want to be and supported me in each and every move of mine. But all this was possible because my parents taught me that with the will to do what you want also come with a rider Responsibility. Whatever I am today is mainly because my parents did not force their ideas into my mind. I was allowed to live life my way.

Commented on 24/09/2006

Venkat said...

Are the teachers trying to sometimes curb the enthusiasm or the parallel thinking of a student? Is it because they are afraid? Is it because they don’t want to take a risk of encouraging his or her pupil to try out something new since failure in the part of student would mean failure of the teacher too?

There is a particular event which happened to me that left a scar in my mind forever. It made me question the educational system in India. Last year (2005) in July I was doing part of my MBA in India. Economics was one of the subjects and the whole class had to give a presentation on a topic. There was only one topic and the professor said he would give each of us 3 minutes and each of us(65 of us) would have to come and just give the meaning, a small explanation, an example and draw the graph on board. I personally felt all this does not need 3 minutes and wanted to do something different from others. My roll call was 62 and I just did not buy the fact that we just have to do this. I wanted to be different, I wanted to make it more interesting, since I felt 61 people before me would have talked the same thing and the class would be really sleeping. So when my chance came, I went there and tried to make it as lively as possible and I could see the class was getting a liking to this. But my professor was clearly displeased. He did not like me playing with words and make it look fancy. He interrupted me thrice during my whole presentation and saying “these things are not required. You just do what I asked you to do”. But I defied him and continued the way I intended to present it and when the 3 minutes got over I certainly did what he asked for and also did what I wished for. But instead of getting an appreciation for my effort, I was ripped apart by the professor in front of the class and was insulted saying “ I was arrogant, I have no respect and I have no knowledge on what to do and what not to do”. I was awarded the lowest mark in class and my grades went for a huge toss. Since I got low marks, does that mean I dont have the intelligence!! I know I had knowledge about the subject, but the society would see it the other way, because my marks would say another story and that would be the story the society is ready to buy - Unfortunately

Commented on 24/09/2006

Venkat said...

Why is that in India people don’t want to take a risk or be open to something new? I am not criticizing all the teachers here but most of them are like this.
I have been in US for say 9 months now and I am kinda of relishing the teaching methods here. The professors are more open to new ideas and suggestions and if I have a problem about something I can take it up in the class and I would never be shunned or looked down and if they make a mistake, they are more than happy to accept it rather than defend.

Another thing I liked about this article was the talk about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which should be considered more than IQ. I recently read in Wall St Journal about the importance of EQ which I would like to quote here "Interpersonal communication and other so-called soft skills are what corporate recruiters crave most but find most elusive in M.B.A. graduates," says the WSJ. "The major business schools produce graduates with analytical horsepower and solid command of the basics -- finance, marketing and strategy. But soft skills such as communication, leadership and a team mentality sometimes receive cursory treatment."

Empathy is a strong feeling. I do not ask how the wounded person feels. I simply become that wounded person. That made me a better person and I am happy to be this way. This is a special quality in a person and role of parents and teachers in developing this in their ward is crucial I feel. I am what I am today because of my parents, my teachers and the society (which was sometimes good and sometimes cynical!!).

Commented on 24/09/2006

Venkat said...

I would end this rather long comment of mine (which might have been boring and for which I apologize) with a suggestion, I recently got a chance to read a book called “Working with Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Coleman. If you get a chance please read it as I felt it was really interesting. In that book it was said "In a study of skills that distinguish star performers in every field from entry-level jobs to executive positions, the single most important factor was not IQ, advanced degrees, or technical experience, it was EQ. Of the competencies required for excellent in performance in the job studies, 67% were emotional competencies."

I once again thank Sir for coming out with such a stimulating and intellectual post. I am really looking forward to the next one. Thanks.

Commented on 24/09/2006

Dhinesh said...

hats off to the man of words
sir u r indeed intelligent

Commented on 24/09/2006

Ramanathan said...

huh ! what do i say now ?... there is nothing left for me to say ... ahh, sir...after a long time of looking at technical and reporting-oriented language ( which is very boooring), i am very glad to see u writing like that... ur words of wisdom ( or should i say "words of INTELLIGENCE" now...)have enlightened us.

we have always considered intelligence theoretically, and unfortunately, have been expected to do so. we look at it as something to achieve, but not as a tool to achieve the real goals of our life. but after reading that post, we realize that we have never looked at intelligence from an emotional angle, the way it has to be looked at. this should be the thinking of every teacher and every parent. this should set every student thinking, and make him get up and get going to do something abt it.

and personally , i would be very glad if a copy of this goes to "the office of the principal, grtmv". actually, a copy of this must reach every school.

and sir, u asked if anyone was there...i am there, we all r there.

and hey everyone, its great here...
nivedhan, send me ur number dude, get get my number from sandy or harish and send me a message man, i too miss ya...

and sir, i am still dumbstruck that u can write like that and u r not known throught the world,...
i can see whats goin to happen in some years, u ll write a book, make millions (i dont mean money, i mean followers and disciples, of wich i ll be the first one), and i ll be a journalist by then and i am goin to be the only journalist allowed to interview u... heheheeh...
jokes apart, i seriously think u must write a book.
wat say guys ?
kudos to the english storm !

Commented on 25/09/2006

Vikas said...

i agree wid dinesh... dat was truly wonderful sir. as they say it goes frm good to better these posts arre goin frm best 2 BESTEST..... there is simply no substitute 4 dis man...

Commented on 26/09/2006

Sridevi said...

Amazing as usual!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Am at a loss of words!only u can think like this and explore new passages in human life sir!tis just mind blowing. of course tat is expected of u sir.The comparision of student-teacher nd Parent-child relation ship was excellent.Rightly said about the true meaning of the word ihtelligence sir!HATS OFF TO OUR BEST TEACHER WHO NOT ONLY TAUGHT US ENGLISH BUT ALSO MADE US TO LIVE TAT LANGUAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Commented on 26/09/2006

Aparnaa Rajasekar said...

hmmm...... it was d year 2000 i started wonderin how some one can have different dimensions for every single thing in life... d person s none other than mohan sir,dat was d year he joined grt took class for us,2000 first 10th std batch(hope u remember sir) and im stil wonderin........!!! dis article .. wat to say.. is simply superb.. feels so good to see his style of writin and thinkin after a long gap(almost 5 years up)..

Some people regard themselves intelligent just because they happen to be different in certain ways and habits from others. But to the multitude, intelligence primarily consists in the yellowing, dog-eared certificates, gilded medals, laminated degrees and faded photographs of forgotten performances.If we rid ourselves of these vanities and complexes, we will discover that intelligence is merely one of the faculties like seeing and smelling; the faculty like your Disc Operating System that coordinates different parts to function in an organized way. It is nothing but sheer ignorance to think that intelligence is the exclusive trait of human beings

this s absolutely true... in todays world.. intelligence s jus measured as ur ability to get great marks or d company u get placed or d number of questions u can solve in a CAT paper!!! i totally agree wit u sir, intelligence s jus another faculty lik seein or smellin.. even an illliterate can be d most intelligent... its jus d way u do things, and ur appraoch to life and how good u carry urself in doin things that measures intelligence...its more about how u do a work than wat work u do!!

and finally,,,,,, d article was great.. lookin forward for d next one...have a great day sir

yours truly
aparnaa rajasekar

Commented on 27/09/2006

Kanakadhara said...

Once again....a more than awesome post....
I couldnt disagree with even a single point abt wat sir said...its very true....Infact...The teachers in my department(college) can make an apt example on how to dodge the students frm raising questions beyond the scope...i think they hav mastered tat art...

There is one english teacher who has never worked out even a single problem frm the "self workout exercises"..she cant even explain an illustration properly... n she holds a MCom degree....tats the saddest part....

They even measure the Student's IQ only on the basis of marks...i think in my college they feel .... writin more tests wil improve the students knowledge...but as far as i knw.... our interest on the subjects r decreasin on an increasing rate....

As abt wat sir told abt the parent-child relationship "I am yet to meet a father who would grant his sons and daughters the freedom to explore and understand life on their own terms. When a father’s beliefs and convictions are not implicitly followed and accepted by his children, the result could be disastrous. A blind rage swells and sweeps across, and interactive intelligence degenerate into instinctual intelligence.”

It is half true in my case... but i see many parents around 9 out 10 are very much like wat sir said...especially if its a girl child...they do give us freedom to roam n hangout with friendz.... but they insidiously hav a major influence on us in decidin upon our career n life henceforth.... my father had a lot of freedom...or rather he was on his own n independent whn he was my age...but am juz 20% of wat he was then...

Money talks in all spheres these days... even sports for that matter...things hav to b refined soon...our education system is bad at present...

the article is very informative.... am lookin forward for the next one...

Commented on 28/09/2006

Anand said...

i am just unlucky and i say that cos i might be the only person who though in chennai will not be able to read sirs post frequently.wat can i say sir is the best and i think he will countinue to enlighten us with his intellect

Commented on 01/10/2006

Siva Sivaaa said...

Have you guys wondered why our elders or teachers most often brand the kids who score good marks as "He/She is an intelligent student"?

Sadly, this corrupted "intelligence" is what most in the teaching fraternity possess.

The shields and certificates conferred upon a student are but war memorials erected upon the grave of his slaughtered intellectual curiosity.

Does this ring a bell with you guys? Can somebody drive this point to the School?

According to me, the Teacher is a person who has:

-- to capture the attention of the students, direct and mould it towards the understanding of the subject he/she teaches and its importance.

-- to teach and encourage all students to seek a higher purpose of the acquired knowledge and achieve their true potential.

-- to celebrate intelligence, promote better education, and ignite imaginations!

Aren't we lucky to have a teacher like our Sir? We indeed are!

P.S->I never intended my comment to be long. My apologies. :)

Commented on 02/10/2006