Sheer Hope

I've recently had encounters with sheer hope. And then a friend's gtalk status message from Shawshank Redemption "Hope is a good thing - maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies" got me to think about it and ultimately to write this.

Everyone feels hope is exclusively a positive thing. But can there be a negative side to it as well? Something like too much hope, or blind hope? Lets see..

Personally, I think I am more of a realist than an optimist. I assess a situation and only if a particular outcome is realistic do I then become hopeful about it.

Now back to my encounter with sheer hope as I call it. It is the phenomenon behind the really terrific situation, unique to India, of massive numbers of people writing competitive exams for a paltry number of seats. Yes, the IIT-JEE, AIEEE, Medical entrances, CAT and dozens of similar state-level exams. What is common to all these are that lakhs of students write these exams, and far too many on sheer hope rather than preparation.

I'll give the example of the IIT-JEE because of it being an exam that has spawned a mammoth coaching industry, and given rise to a unique subculture. The prestige, the returns, the exclusivity and not least of all, the confidence that is acquired on clearing this exam makes it a hot favorite among many bright teens. To be fair, because the exam rigorously tests the knowledge, aptitude, intelligence and skill (call these KAIS) of the test takers, it intimidates many of the 'sheer hopefuls', who know they would need more of luck than KAIS to get in. Then there is the CAT on the other hand, which in my opinion has a disproportionate amount of pure luck as a significant factor.

And thats how I began to wonder about hope. In all the CAT mock-tests, there are of course people who score less than 50 percentile, and many of them do this consistently. Barring the few (or are they many?) who by virtue of certain politically motivated policies (read reservations) can still reasonably expect to get a seat at a premier institute with such a score, what happens to the rest? They keep writing the mock-tests, getting poor scores but still carry on on perhaps nothing more than hope. I am definitely not here to judge anyone, but I personally would find it impossible to motivate myself to work for something that far beyond my abilities. As an example, I wouldn't dream of trying to become a singer, because I'm acutely aware of my extremely limited ability in that skill. Power to all those who do find the strength to persist against odds and hopefully I can learn how to do it myself.

Perhaps it is a good thing that people don't set out goals based on a realistic estimation of the probability of success. If they did, no one would win any lotteries!

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