I have been nursing this crazy idea of learning Mandarin for a few years now. Idea because, doing business with China is becoming an increasingly important factor in wealth amassment. Crazy because, I have this theory that knowing the common language is an important factor in doing business or for that matter, doing anything better.
So, breakthrough happened a couple of years back when good friend K also evinced interest in learning Mandarin, and we enrolled for a basic spoken Mandarin course with the most famous institute in Mumbai. It was a 2 hour session every Sunday for 12 weeks.
My fighter alter ego kicked in, and I am proud to report that I attended all but one class (which I missed because of a holiday I had planned much before enrolling for classes). I am also proud to report that I did my homework every week before the class, which meant that Saturday nights were spent practising mā, má, mǎ, mà and ma (having five different meanings ranging from mother to horse). Surely, that's not how V would have liked to spend Saturday nights, but, hey, variety is everything.
Overall, those were a great three months, and reminded me of how I have always enjoyed being a student, learning something new and wanting to show off what I have learnt. More importantly, the class was composed of a motley group of people across age groups and professions (starting from 18 years all the way upto 60) which was refreshing, for I have been in classrooms and offices interacting with mirror images of myself for over 25 years now.
The age group is of note here. The 18 year olds were obviously the biggest fighters in the class, and the fighting tapered down with the increasing age. I was definitely behind the real students on the fight meter, but much ahead of the rest of the class. Eventually, Judgment Day arrived and emotions ranged from "Please, let me pass" to "I am going to top this one" as we answered our test papers. Since this was Mandarin 101 and our teacher was a native speaker from Guangzhou, we just had to hang around for 10-15 mins while she corrected our answer sheets and distributed the same. I liked the number I saw on my sheet, kept it down and looked around to sighs of relief from my friends (yes, made a few out there) who had also become eligible to get their certificates that evening. Meanwhile, you remember that friend I had enrolled with? - He came over grinning saying he had got some 85 and what did I get? (We are friends from B-school so exchanging marks is a die-hard habit). I told him and I heard a 'hush' from behind - It was one of the 18 year olds. She had got 88, had already seen her fellow 18 year old's paper which had a 92, and now she was in for a shock - she wasn't second in class but third, because I had got a 94.
At that point, I really felt sorry for having disappointed this kid. But, hey, come on! You cannot always underestimate someone because they are older and more prone to memory loss and Alzheimer's, can you?
Q for Qing because it is realllllly hard to find a word starting with Q, and Mandarin is a unique language where q is pronounced ch (qing is pronounced ching that is). Also, qing means 'please' in Mandarin, for the benefit of the knowledge-thirsty ones.
P. S. This post is the seventeenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.