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The Art of Essay Writing

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When I was first introduced to the concept of essay writing in 1st grade, I had taken it as some exercise for memorizing and then reproducing a certain amount of text. Technically, this was not different from other “academic” things at that time — literally everything that we were “taught” in those days was meant to be “learn[t] by heart” and then reproduced in the examination without missing a single comma or a full stop. The only thing that changed as we moved to higher classes was the length of the essay, which in 1st grade used to be 5 to 10 lines, and by the time we reached 4th grade, two and a half pages of a foolscap sheet used to indicate a highly articulate (or as we then used to think, 8/10) essay. Of course, we never dared to improvise on our own except that one time in 2nd grade when I thought to impress my teacher while writing an essay on “My Country”, and added “Karachi is the biggest country of Pakistan” before ending the essay with “I love my country very much.”

It was in 3rd grade when our teachers slowly but steadily started to challenge our writing abilities by leaving gaps in their dictated essays and letting us fill those gaps on our own. As a result, new realizations started dawning upon us. For example, I discovered that the hobby I was extremely passionate about was stamp-collection. I also discovered that my favorite sport was not cricket, since everybody in my class had declared that they would write on cricket. Always trying (and failing) to be different from others, I thus chose to write on field hockey. And since our teacher had asked us to mention also our favorite sportsman from our favorite sport, I suddenly found that I loved the way how Shahbaz Ahmad Sr. dribbled the ball, and thus crowned him with the honor of being my favorite field hockey player.

In 6th grade, we were blessed with a strict disciplinarian of an English teacher, and it was after I left that school that I realized what a tremendous teacher she was. She would just sit there in her chair and ask us to come forward with topics on which an essay could be written. After the whole class would agree on one topic, she would give us a brief overview about it, and that’s that. No dictations, no spoon-feeding. We would finish our essays over the weekend and then recite them one by one so that the whole class could listen, and she would point out the strengths and weaknesses of our masterpieces. Of course, at that time, the thought of reciting our essays to the strictest teacher of the school used to scare the hell out of us, but the process did make us learn.

I should probably mention at this point that my intention today was not to give out tips on essay writing, as some might conclude so from the title of this post. In fact, for a graduate student, my essays are still very childish, and giving out pointers on writing good essays will be a very neem-hakeem‘ish thing for me to do. The real purpose of writing all the stuff above was to provide you with a preamble for the actual content of this post, which you can see by clicking on the images below.

What I would like to see in my aged parents/grandparents

Looking outside my window

These masterpieces were forwarded to me by a friend a long time ago, and I came across them today while browsing through the contents of my machine’s hard disk. I just wish I had the spontaneity of that child, whoever he is, who has written these essays. His teacher might think that he needed to focus on the title (and, let’s be honest, his teacher is right), but I am willing to bet that even my strict English teacher wouldn’t have denied that that child has got style.

Of course, she would also have crossed his essays with her trademark slash of red ink. She was, after all, a strict disciplinarian.



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Jan 23, 2008 at 12:58 am

Thank you so much for sharing the marvelous pieces of essays. Seriously, the child has style and can turn out to be the next Oscar Wilde. Okay, I didn’t say this. You can’t take the liberty of quoting me on this. This cleared, the post, however, is one of the best I’ve come across today.

You sure did increase your teacher’s General Knowledge by telling her a little more about Karachi. :)

All the new discoveries we make about our interests are okay, but what would you say about the essays titled “My favourite Teacher”? Especially when you get to write on the same topic in two different subjects (English and Urdu)? :P

No One

Jan 23, 2008 at 8:36 am

hahaha…omg…the best line is “Boy is a boy. Girl is a girl. I am not a girl” ahahha…man…Saadat…I have to give it to you…and whats with that 3 parents thing you got going on there…haha…but man…I gotta give it to paki teachers…I mean…who puts crosses on an english paper!!…its not like they are marking maths!!…anyhow…I think she was being way generous giving you a C+…I would have failed you…but man…thanx for sharing :) had a good laugh…tahhh


Jan 23, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Hina: Now where’s the fun if you forbid me to quote you? But thanks for liking the essays. I have a feeling that somewhere in this world, that child is making himself proud. And yes, I was known for adding to my teachers’ general knowledge (oh, how I’ve changed!)

As for “My Favorite Teacher”, it’s easy: invent a fictional teacher! :P And then tell your teachers that that favorite teacher of yours was in your previous school. Or if you don’t have any previous school, then that teacher can be your private tutor. Or even better, declare your father as your favorite teacher. :D

No One: I am glad you had a good laugh, but wait a second. You are not thinking that I wrote those essays, are you? Because if you are, then that means that you didn’t read the post :P The child who wrote those essays probably studied in a British (or Canadian) grade school, so maybe it’s not just Pakistani teachers who put crosses on an English paper. (Except my English teacher that I talked about; she would cross the whole page with a single, diagonal line.)

No One

Jan 24, 2008 at 9:57 am

hmm…I am not sure if I misunderstood your post…or if you wrote it quite ambiguously…especially your last two paragraphs…your jump between tenses…anyhow…my bad….I honestly thought you were talking about yourself…in third person…anyways…sorry and I am so embarrassed! haha…tahh


Jan 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm

The best part in the essays was when the prolific writer mentions his dog…he is active but mad…forgot that we live on the 27th floor and jumped out teh window!
What fun!
I’ve taught EWS and I’d give this 15/10 for creativity and rambling…


Jan 27, 2008 at 2:08 am


I was instantly depressed when I arrived here today. I have been away, and I am still away, and I know I have been away; but when one comes to ulta seedha land, and finds not one, not two, but three posts since one’s last visit, one knows one has been away for, perhaps, too long. Having been away for too long is depressing. I was depressed. (Watch how quickly I try to imitate this kid, and watch too how miserably I fail – need I explain my absence anymore?)

That depression has quickly ebbed into oblivion though. Whoever wrote those essays is probably a published writer today – in the conventional sense that is – since this kid was writing excellent thought provoking prose way back in 2001.

Thank you once again for an excellent post – made my day.

Reminded me too of this one time when I had got the date sheet wrong in my 11th standard, and gone in expecting a Chemistry exam, when in fact, we were sitting for Bio.

The question paper was in two parts -twenty True/False questions, and four subjective questions. I got through the True False with alacrity – it took little effort on my part, sine I knew answers to only seven out of the twenty questions. Now there I sat, at a quarter past nine o’clock, waiting for the clock to strike 10:30 am, which was the earliest time at which one could submit his papers. I tried sitting there doing nothing, since the rest of the paper was latin for me, but it was hard to do, since the invigilator happened to my Urdu teacher, who expected me to be a good student, and whose good impression of me I had no intention of tempering with. Then along came a brainwave – one of the subjective questions was about CNS – Central Nervous System. The Brain. And I knew that a brain had three parts. So I wrote that down, and then I explained how even in psychology the brain was to have three parts – this was followed by a detailed description of the conscious, sub-conscious and the unconscious.

I looked at the clock then, and it was still only 9:45 am; so I proceeded to enlighten the prospective reader about the intricate workings of the sub-conscious mind, and how our conscious actions are a reflection of what has been in the subconscious while we remain blissfully unconscious.

There was time enough, and I was able to illustrate the point with a couple of my very recent dreams, the concept of deja vu, and the symbolicism of a blank white sheet.

I flunked – needless to say; scoring all of nine marks out of 100. The professor gave me two marks for the effort, five for courage. Two of the remaining were testimony to my deep understanding of the subject of biology.

Yeah! I got nothing to do.


Feb 4, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Nice. I laughed my heard out. Both scanned essays were hilarious, even funnier than exit interviews :-)

Thanks for sharing!

Beautiful Stranger

Feb 7, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Lol. Now THAT was funny. I teach English as well and I used to post essays on my previous blog. Some are really witty. Don’t have a scanner any more so can’t do that any longer. But these essays are worthy of a Booker in comic writing. BTW, do they give Bookers to comic readings or is it just for the impossible to understand, depressing books only???


Feb 12, 2008 at 1:35 pm

No One: Don’t be embarrassed. My writing style can do that to people. I am not that kid, after all!

AWK: What fun, indeed! And I agree, that kid deserves 15/10, or even more. Maybe his teacher was not in the mood of reading some rambled creativity.

Bhaijan: What can I possibly say in response to such an amazing and equally hilarious comment? :) You also reminded me of one of my FSc days when I knew the answer to not a single question in our Chemistry exam, and the invigilator was another Chemistry teacher who had a good impression of me. So every time he would pass by my seat, I would reverse the answer sheet and start working on some chemical equations — that are still to be acknowledged by the scientific community — giving the impression that I am busy in “rough work”.

And yes, I flunked as well. Our teacher had not bothered to look at the backside of my answer sheet, or I might have gotten negative marks. (Or, perhaps, I might have won the Nobel prize. Who knows.)

Ehtisham: Glad you liked them. :)

Beautiful Stranger: *scratches his head* No idea about Booker prizes. But prizes are always biased like that, look at the Academy Awards — comic roles rarely win. But have you got any of those essays saved somewhere? I’d love to read them.


Apr 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm

eek that C+ is nasty! imagine writing that on a primary school kids work, horrible stuff.


Apr 13, 2008 at 6:50 am

everythingiseventual: Yep! Terribly nasty!


Dec 13, 2008 at 12:54 am

‘boy eat bird.Bird die’

I love the way the child connects the dots so simply and honestly- how he’s determined to establish the fact that he is NOT a boy!And money is money..brilliant!


Dec 13, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Brilliant, indeed. That child must be making some big money somewhere these days.

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