Stories From The East – Rote Learning Posted on February 23, 2018

By Rameshon

Note: Stories From The East – Stories that facinated me during my intensive running days.


Picture 1 – Rote learning

There was once in India where the Indian Army decided to recruit many people into its defence force. Hence, they selected as many people as they can. Those selected were sent to different units for training. At times, these units were inspected annually by the top brass people in the army. It was very rare that a person by the rank of General to inspect the camp.

In one of the unit of the army camp, there was once a sudden order from the top Commander that this particular company would be inspected. In the army, a company means a smaller division of the unit. The company was called Jaguar company.

As soon as the officers heard that the General by the name of Anand Raj is coming, they were under immense stress. They were thinking about what to do with the predicament of this General visiting the camp. They started to brainstorm and decided that all men should be confident of themselves in answering the General’s usual questions, especially to the private soldiers. It so happened that the Jaguar company had a person by the name of Somu who was slow to react to simple questions. The higher echelon people, the sergeant and the corporals were terribly worried as to how deal with the problem. During the theory and practical sessions, Somu had fumbled and failed most of the tests. He had also made a mess of many situations. Somu was also 21 years of age and was inexperienced in many things related to the Army. As Somu was not clever enough to answer, an officer by the name of Muthu, instructed sergeant Raman to teach him to answer properly if Somu was asked some questions by General Anand Raj.

Just before the day of the General’s visit, it took the sergeant the whole day to teach private Somu to answer the usual questions that General Anand Raj used to ask always. He told him that the first question that the General will ask on is a person’s name. The third question will be on how long a person has been in the army. The second question would be on what is the age of the person. Finally, he was known for asking the soldier whether they know Tamil and English. To this the sergeant told him to answer as, ”Both, sir”.

The hours of preparing Somu to answer to the usual questions came to an end. Eventually, Somu seemed to get the answers right. The day came when the General came and inspected everything of the Jaguar Company. He was very happy with everything until he met Somu. When the General came very close to Somu, the latter was very scared and nervous. He began to fumble. Somu was muttering, “Why me?” He could not know what he is going to answer. He told himself to answer in sequence as taught by the sergeant.

The conversation went like this:

Gen Anand Raj : What is your name?
Somu : Somu
Gen Anand Raj : How long have you been in the Army?
Somu : 21 years, Sir. (To this the General seemed puzzled)
Gen Anand Raj : Mmm….Strange…What is your age right now?
Somu : Three, Sir (Somu started to show confidence by smiling)
Gen Anand Raj: What! Preposterous! Either you are mad or I am mad?
Somu : (Somu was wondering why the General Anand Raj was behaving
like that and then answered)……. Both, Sir.

The moral of the story is to not do rote learning. One such rote learning is doing well in academic studies and use that intelligence to rationalise your training program. Hence, we must be aware that we attached to the intellect. If you want to come up with a program, it is good to read some books on running first. At least one should read 10 books on running before coming up with a simple program. Another advice is to talk to people who like to run and also to have contacts with coaches. One should be humble enough and learn from mistake and over time gain valuable experience. By doing rote learning, one can get injury and also progress at a slower rate. Sports Science knowledge like psysiology and psychology are very important topics to learn before coming up with a training program. If these doesn’t help, the help of an experienced runner could come in handy.

Last year, around August, I met a friendly German runner by the name of Thomas Ganzhorn. He was asking me to assist him in running. He told me that he follows a book written by a German. I wanted to see the book. He showed me the program to do a marathon timing of sub 3hrs. The program seemed very good. However, just imagine if 100 people are following that program. It is advisable to take note of the training one has been doing in the formative years. It is good to know whether one has been recently training and also about the injury that took place recently etc. Adapting the training program would help. Individualising the program would be the best solution. Thomas was able to tell me the things he did in the past. Hence, I came out with a revised program. He was very appreciative of that.

Thomas used to e-mail some questions and over time he was able to do two personal best timing of 53min 30sec for 15km time-trial and 2hr 55min for Standard Chartered Marathon 2010. On the day of the race, after finishing the marathon race, he wanted me to meet his parents. We were not able to meet due to some circumstances and he had to fly back to Germany. Now, he is able to draw out his own program independently and let me show his program for his progress through the e-mail. He has done a personal best of 16min 47sec for the 5km race, recently. Not bad for a person who just started running seriously.

Edited By Tan Mariviv