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Essay writing

By Nickunj Malik - May 25,2016 - Last updated at May 25,2016

My schoolteachers were simple people who, along with other things, taught us to be honest, truthful, kind, generous, hardworking and enthusiastically participate in all the group activities. They particularly stressed upon the last part, because teamwork was supposed to be beneficial for our comprehensive in-depth growth and development. 

But when it came to giving us essay-writing assignments, they contradicted their own philosophy. Here, all of them urged us to contemplate independently, jot down our notes separately and come up with an original piece that mirrored our distinct individuality. This was an unexpected challenge for our young minds that needed to do some vigorous thinking.

The funny thing was that ironically, all our teachers, more often than not, gave us the same theme to elaborate upon. So, roughly from Grade III, right till Grade X, I was repeatedly asked to write an essay on either “Boating on a moonlight night”, or “The Cow”, for either our monthly semester papers, mid-term tests or the annual, end of the year examinations. The languages varied from English, Hindi, Sanskrit to French, Spanish or German but the topic remained the same. Believe me, it’s true. 

I must have definitely fumbled the first few times, but somewhere along the way I became an absolute expert in these two fields of essay writing. The joke in my family was that even if I were in deep sleep and someone handed me a writing paper and pencil, I would immediately start scribbling on the pleasures of going boating on a moonlit night. Equally emphatically, without any ado, I could ramble innumerable lines in praise of a cow, within a moment’s notice. 

Why were these two subjects so favoured by my teachers? What stopped them from asking us to write about boating on a sunny morning, or a rainy afternoon or even a cool evening? Also, more absurd was the choice of animal that they consistently picked, which was a cow. Why not a tiger, elephant, camel or even a goat? I wish I could tell you, but I don’t have a clue. 

What I can confess, however, is that I toiled very hard to make my essays different from the rest. In primary school I would write the usual memorised bits along the lines of — a cow has four legs, one tail and gives us milk — but in higher classes I started adding interesting shades to my cow musings. One that I clearly remember was called “The Holy Cow” where I crafted an unusual ditty to emphasise a point. 

Unfortunately there was very little poetic licence one could take with a bovine cow. The solemn faced nun, instead of encouraging my creativity by marking my work with a high grade, crossed out the entire page of my answer-sheet because according to her, I had not understood the question. When I burst into tears, she felt sorry for me and asked me to come up with a new composition on “going sailing on a moonlight night”.

Recently I started learning Portuguese. The oral language was easy to grasp and soon I prepared for my written test. The examiner explained that I had to write an essay on the given topic and I must not be nervous. 

“Vaca,” I read out loudly. 

“It’s an animal,” my tutor whispered. 

“Goat?” I tried to guess. 

“It gives milk,” he gave me a hint. 

“Aha cow!” I exclaimed. 

“Boa? Good?” he asked apprehensively. 


“Excelente,” I assured him in fluent Portuguese.

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