Friday 29 August 2014

The Curious Case of 'CAN DO BETTER'.....

I have always been a ‘Can do better’ person. It is a person who innocently and implicitly makes fruitful promises but delivers only 80% or severely less. Right from my inception, I was looked upon as a promising entity that would grow up only to bring laurels to the family and possibly find the cure for cancer.  I was the answer or so they thought. But as is universally applicable to all expectations, this too was only a premeditated resentment and I proved it so by scoring an 88.71% in my kindergarten. The reward was a report card that screamed ‘Very Good.Can do better.’ and that marked my tryst with this mighty phrase.

It is funny how parents vouch on the genius of the fruits of their loins. The belief that their child contains this distinct quality, this miraculous caliber that can surpass every hint of brilliance available till date. Maybe it is just infinite affection but the fact is, it irritates the hell out of me.

I was always an average student. More outside than inside the classroom, I never posed a threat to the crème de la crème of my class. I was the student who forged her father’s signature on her chemistry term paper because she scored a 9/20 and I was the one who faked a blackout because the maths pre-board exam was a little too out of syllabus for my interest. Basically, I was the kid who spent a night with Onions stuck under her armpits because some enlightened idiot told her that doing so would bring up a fever which would be the perfect escape from the physics viva scheduled to be held the next day. The fever never happened. The viva voce did.  But through all my misdemeanors, I was always believed in, both by my family and my teachers. They would shake their heads in disappointment, look straight into my eyes and say ‘You can do better’. Their comical beliefs amused me but all I did was nod in affirmation.

Then I cleared an all India exam and entered one of the National Law Schools. To be frank, I was shocked and I still believe that the electronic device that checked the OMR sheet was infected by a bug. May be I was just plain lucky. Either way, it gave a positive reaffirmation to my family. It made them believe that I actually could do better. I continued my stint as an average student, was the opposite of Gandhi while writing papers but still the professors persistently told me how I could do better. It got so bad that I once just asked my dad as to why he believed so much in me. His answer was ‘Lord Hanuman forgot about his divine abilities because of a curse and had to be reminded of it. Once he realised his true potential, there was no looking back.’ My dad has a terrible sense of humour. 

So I decided to actually do better. I joined a law firm and attempted to genuinely do the best I could. I tried hitting deadlines, drafted the sexiest writ petitions in the history of High Courts and researched on the most mundane subjects entrusted upon me. The highlight is the fact that I did do better. For the past one week I was neck deep in this case of a thermal power plant giant and drafted the finest petition that my dying grey cells could come up with and I was sure that there was no room for improvement. I was at my very best and this is exactly why I was confident that my boss would love my work. So as I sat before him carrying around myself an aura of expectation, he said “This is good. Very good. But, you can do better.” I felt like a punctured puffer fish.

It is then that I realized that ‘CAN DO BETTER’ is a phrase that is one step ahead of me. Pleasing someone with my infinite potential should never be my forte. I should be pleased with myself and right now, I am.

I wonder how Hanuman would have felt if after realizing his true potential, he went to Lanka, allowed the Asuras to light his tail and then burnt the entire empire with the fire on his back, only to come back to a Sri Ram who would mouth out the words ‘CAN DO BETTER’.

May be I should ask my dad. 

P.S- September is my birthday month. Just saying. :D


  1. Oh yes, as long as you are happy and satisfied with what you do, turn a deaf ear towards what others say. And wishing you a fabulous birthday in advance :)

  2. I have forged my dads signature in way too many answer scripts!!:D
    I have with me the report cards which say "Can Do Better". When I was in Primary school I genuinely thought that my teacher believed so much in me and thought I could really do better.. but to my disappointment i saw the "can do better" tag attached to almost every single kids report card!!
    :( :( from then on whenever i see or hear a "can do better" I just say "meh, I am satisfied with this" :D :) :)

  3. lol :-D well i can understand ur irritation.. i hav never heard my dad saying very good till date! All he says is 'you could have done better' !!!!!

  4. //It is funny how parents vouch on the genius of the fruits of their loins// ROFL oh god you really know how to "sweet talk" hahahaha
    "Can do better" reminds me of my appraisal :P it's the patent dialogue of managers :P

  5. Happy Birthday!

    The one line that I will remember, maybe for the rest of my life, is 'It is funny how parents vouch on the genius of the fruits of their loins.' Also, from now on, whenever my parents tell me they feel proud of me, I will try not think of red handed.

  6. They think they are encouraging you by saying that, but they really are NOT!

    My parents never said anything like that... I think I turned out fine and always felt very proud of my achievements. That kind of feels like they had no expectations from me :D

  7. Someday , someone will fall off a chair or something , because of laughing too hard at your posts, and then would say, she is God damn funny, but can do better! See I am still alive !!

    This attitude has to be stereotypically Indian because we are an inherently dissatisfied country who could have done better in everything. If you think about it, this attitude is a trickle down effect of our collective underachievement. It's in our subconscious. Most of the people who are teachers, tried their hand at something else, before getting into "shaping" young minds and future! And so on! Unless this attitude stems from an insatiable appetite to be successful, it's all just a sham.

    I love the fact how your personal experiences and humor can make us think. That's why I absolutely loved this post!

    And no, you couldn't have done better at this :)

  8. Wow. Two things- I'm a law aspirant and September is my birthday month too xD

    Your sense of humour is impeccable, you've done so much better than your chemistry term paper scores :D I used to.

    And well I had to listen a million "she's got more potential" in my school days too. Till date, I've always been the runner up, the second topper or something, hence still the victim of "Can do better". Is it fate or is it just me? *sighs*

    P.S. You got yourself a new stalker :D

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  10. Its true and fits perfectly..loved it . Somewhere along the line each one of us has been told "you can do better"
    those words may be sound irritating and repetitive but the truth is that they motivate us to perform better. These are the words that keep us grounded and hungry to do better ...To achieve more than we already have.

    Isnt it?

  11. Did I read my story?
    I was an average student too in school. Suddenly, I started clearing all the levels of Chartered Accountants exams... And I was branded "brilliant" and "above average"... But after joining job, I have realised, I am still average and I enjoy when I please myself and not others!

    Good one! :)

  12. I remember back in school I always used to get second rank and I was always happy with how I performed but then my teachers and my mom always expected more from me....and then I lost interest in performing anymore :P

    And advanced birthday wishes.. Just saying ;)

  13. That 'Can Do Better' phrase has definitely been my best companion over the years :D

  14. You know what, I envy average students. At least people are not jealous of average people or hate them for scoring good marks in exams. In my case, people mostly hated me for scoring more marks in an exam or for being good at something that most people were not good at.

  15. I happily ensured that I got slotted into the "Cannot do worse" category, even though my birth month is September too :)

  16. Nice post. But you can do better :P :P :P

    The forging dad's signature and 'operation onions' parts made me cringe.

    True, at the end of the day if you're satisfied with what you've done, you've done well.


  17. aiyoo...this "can be better" bug never gets out your system, trust me....throughout life people will keep expecting us to do better! the boss with the sales figure, the husband,with what you cooked, the MIL -with everything basically, and the kids too...!

    by the way, happy birthday month!

  18. That was a great post and leavesno room for betterment!!!
    Happy Birthday!!Why not tell the date?

  19. This 'Can do better' phrase is part and parcel of growing up. But the good thing is that you are satisfied with your performance and that should matter the most.
    So proud of you. :*

    Tell us the birthday date!!!

  20. What, wait. You're describing me there!
    There was a time when I almost drowned in guilt, thinking myself good but for nothing. I'm still waist deep in that guilt pool actually. Everytime I write something for my sir, without failing he will point out something, unnecessarily at times. I hope someone just comes and tells me I've a good job with that plaint or that rejoinder or a stupid memo and pulls me out of this pool!

  21. No matter who you are, there is always "Can do better" ahead of you.. You cannot please everyone on this damn planet! As long as you are happy with what you do, it's perfect..! :)

  22. 9/20 is my story too. But in mathematics and not chemistry.
    You've done great for yourself girl. But you can do better. ;)

  23. Did anyone ever get a can't-do-better remark, I wonder. I did ;) Ironically, from my English teacher who said it was a spelling mistake ( mum charged school the next day ) :D

    But I guess a guy couod have worse. Pants down...

    Loved the post! Adore your wit, if I may say so.

  24. “This is good. Very good. But, you can do better.” :P :P
    Jokes apart seriously you should think about writing columns in newspaper !

    my story has been different till date "The whole elder's fraternity believes i can't do anything good with my life"
    So there won't be any questions about better :D

  25. It is indeed, a curious case. My grandfather had an equally amusing way to point it out for me. He had this pet parable that he would loudly recite every time he saw me not studying. According to him, god has made two kinds of humans - one, that is the average kind that "can-do-better" and has to really grind his/her bum to do that, the other is extremely bright yet, extremely lazy. And this was done to maintain a cosmic balance so that the best of the world will not get hoarded up by the bright (who were, therefore, made to leave their brightness unused in the wake of their indolence) while the average kind will get a clear shot at the better things in the world.

    And I continue to marvel how creative he is. :D

    And the hanuman analogy cracked me up! Maybe, all of us "can-do-better" but somehow, right now, we probably don't need to. :)

  26. I know....some critics once said that Sachin Tendulkar could've done chill, you can actually do better :D

  27. "punctured puffer fish" LOL. Couldn't 've done better! hilarious ur style.

  28. Happy birthday red!!!! I can relate, kinda sorta. I used to get those can do betters, not I get you wasted yourselves after I started failing. But its all fun!

  29. That was hilarious!! Had you worked for an IT company, you would have got much more material for your post :) Managers in IT companies at the time of appraisals are unbeatable for the number of ways in which they can brand even the best of performances as 'can do better'. Their eloquence and hypocrisy is simply unmatched in this subject !!
    Loved this post :) I kept smiling throughout with empathy.

  30. I've been below average student and lol this onion thing I've been told so many times..sometimes doing a good job doesn't get noticed and sometimes it sucks..but, yeah, we should push ourselves and strive to do better, I hate this sentence.

  31. Want to know the date so that I can wish you on your birthday :D
    I can relate to this post. I was never really "interested" in getting into toppers and I had (and still have) immense pressure on my shoulders. Being the eldest my mother used to say "you are the engine of the train. If you go on right track your siblings will follow". This statement is a murder of individual preferences and none of my siblings really followed my foot prints. So much for being a family hero? I was an average student until my mother just hit my ego and I worked day and night to top in my tenth grade. It did made the family proud but it did not ease the pressure on me it just elevated the level of expectations from me even higher and till this date I am doing everything just to meet up everyone's expectation. I have no choice but that. (Long debate but believe me I have no other choice).
    So it is quite a relate-able post and I do wish to become something good just like you and one day realize to be comfortable in my shoes and stop really aiming for the heights that aren't even my aim, just other's dreams I'm fulfilling

  32. Well written, but you know what, you could do better :-)
    As Sept starts tomorrow, wishing you in advance a very happy B'day (just saying)

  33. You look beautiful, you are witty as hell and your blogposts always bring a smile to my face but I think you can do better :p

  34. you are doing best .. I love you already.. September is my favourite month tooo... :)

  35. At least in writing posts you have already done better than the most, Red:) Many happy returns of the day, whenever your birthday is, in this month!

  36. First of all, happy birthday (if today) or (happy birthday in advance) :)

    As usual, great post, witty, humorous and something I could relate to :) This post has my name written all over it, I must say. Being an average student, one has got to go through those dreadful words. Reminds me of that boring commercial of Naseeruddin shah's, where he asks us not be content with good or better but to go for great. point to be noted, my lord :)

    //The fever never happened. The viva voce did. // ROFL!!! This one just cracked me up :D :) I never did anything like this although I did the other forgery you have mentioned :D

  37. Hey hey wait... how is my story written here, it wud be strange if i i say, i too cleared a state-level exam with a rank 9, till now its a mystery for me :P

    After reading this, i am happy that someone too tried this onion thing.. i tried and kept checking my temp..but seriously never was fruitful , and just left with stinky armpits :P

    You are really doing better and i am happy that u r sharing ur work experience here.. i wish you become famous and i will say " hey i know her, i read her blog regularly"

  38. Hahaha I really like this post!! :) Though, you were graded out of 100 :O in NURSERY?! Whoa. Okay. We just had to sing and dance and do silly kid stuff and everyone passed with A+ :P Which incidentally also makes me think, you've already got an A+, and that was your "can do better". What was the highest grade given in your school? A+++ ?

    My school reports up until the 6th standard, came with only one remark, "Excellent student, does not participate in class, always quiet." Then 7th onwards they started coming in with "Excellent student, talks too much in class!" I guess I never found a middle ground... :P I did forge signatures, only for other people. It turned out I was pretty good at copying signatures... My family made up their own lies to get me out of school for family outings and weddings and such (where I sat and cried for a bit, because I loved school too much did not like missing it... :P).

  39. My librarian used to constantly remind us three (friends) that we would never ever become anything in life. That was for reading 'Tinkle' hidden inside big storybooks she used to give us to read. Maybe if she had encouraged us by telling 'You can do better' we might have considered reading at least one page of the think novel. But no. She was adamant and we were adamant.

    I think, in your situation, you should feel better as someone is at least trying to encourage you! :P

    Destination Infinity

  40. This reminds me of a joke.

    Father: How old are you, son?
    Son: 8 yrs old.
    Father: You know, when I was your age I was 9yrs old. *Smug face*

    People almost always overestimate our capabilities, or understate our achievements if in academia/jobs. :P The secret is, make them keep their expectations low. Make them think that you're Koko, the gorilla. Let them marvel at each achievement of yours. And as far as this post is concerned, you really have done better, my dear, you really have. *blows out smoke from his pipe* ;-)

    And happy birthmonth, dear Red. :-)

  41. Take a bow molay...take a bleddddy bow. This was an applause worthy one only. We should always do our best and just forget the rest. I think people generally have a mentality of trying to find a fault in almost everything that someone does and expecting a miracle to every problem. I guess it is the basic human nature of "grass is always greener on the other side" which makes us want to stretch someone so much just to find out what could be there beyond what has been done. I am sure you are doing everything to the best of your abilities. So just chill and let the world and its uncle go downhill. *double grin*

    oooooooooooooooooo....thy berdddayyyyyyyy...!!!! tell me the date nooooo..will send an awesomesauce spamworthy mailer on your esspeshalll dayyy :D:D:D anyways...many many many happy returns of the day in advance. hope you have a brilliant year ahead and kick some lawyer ass in the court i say.
    Cheers darlingg !

  42. You are the best you know at such humour but I tell you, you can do better ;-)
    Loved it Red and truth to be told, I doubt anyone could do this one better than you :)

  43. Hahahaha, I loved this post. This is so much relatable. I myself have been 89% throughout my life. I think even my parents have gone bored with the same report card throughout my life. They always tell me you don't put in your best.
    Reading your post I feel the thing I feel is they make us believe that we aren't putting our best and this is just the average of our abilities. Maybe this is our best shot? Or maybe we're not, and we're staying aloof with an easy life.
    I don't know. They tell me I could have been an IITian because I got through the Extended Merit List.They also tell me if I could score a 90 then I could score a 100. They are never satisfied eh?
    Right now I'm neck deep in my Masters papers, thinking that this time I won't just do above average but who can say? Life isn't always 2+2.
    Lovely post.
    P.S hello fellow September born. Happy Birthday in advance. :)
    P.P.S Sorry for not commenting on all your lovely blogs, I've been reading them of and on, but I'm a sham when it comes to commenting. :)

  44. No matter how hard I practiced as a rifle shooter and how well I scored In my father would always come up with the magical words CAN DO BETTER wonder I had to quit it..
    Even if we do our best and are happy with it..somewhere deep down I feel those words demotivate me..

  45. story of my life..

    dare i say anything more .. you might just turn and reply "BIkram CAN DO BETTER.. in writing a comment" :)

    and hey HAPPY BIRTHDAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY :) have a great month and every month that comes after this month :)


  46. I can't do better than laugh this phrase off. I have been the 'keep it up' kind. Whenever I wouldn't get it, I would be utterly disappointed. Now that I notice, I have got a lot of 'can do betters' as well. :(((( I am not laughing anymore. ;_____;

  47. And yes, happy birthday month.

  48. This was seriously hilarious. Red, I completely love your edgy humor. I think you are already doing better ;-).

  49. This post has to be your best one. (It is sheer will power which makes me not leave this statement on every post of yours). Come to think of it, I have also been haunted by these three words, and going by the comments, it looks like there are a lot of people who have been..
    I love your posts red.. :)

  50. Whole my life I have been hearing the same. Even when I could bring top marks(wonder why I got those only in small classes thou :P), mom's like.. "You could have made it to cent percent." ... Now I am like, I know i can do better, but I don't want to! :D

    Loved your post, as always. :)

  51. Hahaha, the curious case of ''betterment glutton'' :D :D

    Well, people never stop expecting, right. That's how the world goes on. On the wheels of expectation. After a point, we start expecting the 'can do better' from ourselves :D. We all have been through this , at various points of time in life, haven't we ?

    Well, have you ever wondered why Salim Kumar says " Kandal oru look ilya nne ullu, bhayangara budhiya" :D :D

  52. now those who keep saying that to you, tell them to read your blog, and they will know how better you are doing...coz you are already doing great.. :D I don't think there is anything or anyone who could surpass this talent..but you alone..

    oops...did I just mean, you can do better than this? :P

    well... :/

  53. This made me smile. 'You can do even better' Lol Just kidding. A very fine post and I could relate to many portions you have described here. Amazingly hilarious yet very true! Yes one has to be satisfied with what one does. You go one level up and people's expectations jump two levels up! 'A can do better' phrase ensures further progress! You are amazing! Keep it up ;)

  54. Lol... its so good i have to go back and read previous posts.. and then I can say Aha! doing better ... but can do better :D
    Well RH it manifests the idea that - perfection is never attained, one can be always towards it...
    Glad I visited :)

  55. Firstly, Happy Birthday! Secondly, who wants to be perfect? - not I!! I'm a firm believer that success is in the effort.

  56. Perfection is not for us Red! We belong to the class who are perfectly imperfect, people always say can-do-better but then that's the point. They ALWAYS say that even when you think you have done the best. One explanation that my dad gives is if he acknowledges that am the best, then I would stop trying to improve. I am still trying to make sense of it while the society continues to shower their unshakable beliefs on me. :D

  57. Haha since you let out some of your secrets let me also tell you that I faked feeling uneasy and dizzy during one of my entrance exams because I had had enough of exams after 12th :D

    And truly parents somehow believe that their children can do so much better..I wonder why? My father thinks I could have got admission into an IIM if only I had tried..But I know I couldn't..ever!! I've accepted myself for what I am but I guess parents always want to see us one or two steps ahead..

  58. Your report card reminds me of mine that used to say "Keep it up" and I used to promptly keep my report card on top of the fridge. :P

  59. It's a human tendency to not be satisfied with anything and always try to go one step higher. But in the end if you are happy with what you have achieved and your outlook towards life, nothing else should matter :).

  60. Happy B'day, Red :)
    "But through all my misdemeanors, I was always believed in, both by my family and my teachers."
    Whatever it is, girl, you command trust & that is important!
    Keep rocking!
    Stay blessed :)

  61. hahah! I have much experience in this area of 'can do better'! I once created a power point presentation for an important project and I did it with utmost sincerity and after many sleepless nights and you can easily guess what my boss told me when I showed it to him :P

    Happy birthday!!
    (belated or advance)

  62. you are good... you can be better and there is thin line between better and best and one should try to cross it...!! The post was a good read for sure.. keep posting!!

  63. Visiting your blog after a long time..and its going to take me equally long to play catch up... loved your post... resonates very well with me as well :-)


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