If you’re reading this, you’re likely Indian. And if you’re Indian, you’re likely wasting an extremely underrated advantage.
Let’s start with how I got there.
I started reading at a very young age. But it was not because I was a prodigiously talented kid (despite what my mother, like every other mother, wanted to believe).
My grandmother (Ammi) used to read stories out to me. Stories of all kinds – tales from the Panchatantra to the shenanigans of rakkhosh-khokkhosh. The 5-year-old Surya used to listen in wonder, his mouth wide open. Soon enough, he ran into an issue. His grandmother was reading too slow! He wanted to know how the mechho-petni managed to find fish, and he wanted to find it out NOW. His grandmother’s pace of reading sadly could not keep up.
“Ammi teach me how to read,” I begged. And quite similar to a programmer excited about automating their daily job, Ammi started teaching me how to read, with full gusto.
Soon enough, I was devouring book after book. I picked up reading in Bangla first, starting with illustrated storybooks for kids, progressing quickly to detective stories – Feluda, Kakababu, Mitin Mashi, even Arjun! No sleuth was spared. Needless to say, Bangla became a language I became extremely comfortable with – reading, writing, and of course, speaking. I was reading English books too – Enid Blyton, J K Rowling, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain. Even read some Sidney Sheldon (when my dad wasn’t looking, of course). But Bangla became my comfort language.
All was going well. Little did I know everything was going to change.
Eleventh grade crept upon me. My parents, who had for so long always encouraged my reading of story-books, finally put their foot down, “Okay Shurjo you really cannot make a habit out of failing Chemistry class”. Which meant, I had to give up my reading habits. Between coaching classes and school, there was little time to read. Chekhov was replaced by Chugh, RK Narayanan by RD Sharma.
Time flew by… And two years later, I found myself in engineering college. I was studying computer science in VIT.
Now our college has an ingenious system in place: if you’re a nine-pointer (aka, a topper), you don’t have any attendance requirements. Which means you really only need to show up in college for exams and assignment submissions. This seemed fun.
Except there was one necessary problem: it meant I’d have to do well in all my exams. And I was not ready to sacrifice the guilty pleasures of college – going to college fests, binge-watching shows all night, extended gaming sessions, and all the other things that I cannot write about. I still had to do well in exams.
You know how every other blog tells you: “Don’t study hard, study smart”?
I discovered my favourite study hack almost by serendipity. It was a CS101 class, and the professor was teaching about a specific algorithm. He said, “X leads to Y, therefore Z happens.” I repeated it to myself, but in Bangla, almost to ensure I’ve understood. “X theke Y hoy, shekhan theke Z hoy.” I wrote it down in my notebook – but in Bangla.
I did not think much of it then. However, the night before the exam while I sat up cramming, and I came across the scribbled “X theke Y hoy, shekhan theke Z hoy”, I smiled, and remembered every bit of that lecture.
I discovered that the Bangla note had made all the difference.
Taking notes in Bangla is an excellent way of retaining information. It does not need to be grammatical. Heck, it does not need to have the right spellings everywhere (Bangla writing is difficult because it has three ways of writing the consonant S, and they are all pronounced the same). It just needs to be enough for you to understand when you later read it. It worked like a charm!
The night before my exam, when I opened my notebook and read my notes in Bangla, I felt at home. And I’ve been doing that ever since, even at the risk of having bewildered colleagues looking on.
A lecture on ML I am having difficulty grasping?
- I take notes in Bangla.
Figuring out a piece of code at work?
- Notes in Bangla.
Reminders to self about the changes I want to make in my code?
- You guessed it…
The best part? You don’t even have to write it in the Bangla script. You can simply write it with the English script exactly the same way we text our friends!
Nothing gives me the boost of confidence like knowing that I had understood this lecture before, which is how I could describe it my own way. Plus, research says that you take better notes on your notebook than you do on your laptop. When you use your laptop, you’re mostly copying verbatim what the lecturer is saying.
But when you start taking notes in your own language, it forces you to understand what you’re copying down first.
And that’s what makes all the difference 🙂
Thanks to Shinjini Saha for the sketch, and to you for reading this long piece. I hope it was a fun read!