Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A call from a reporter working with a leading news channel yesterday evening got me thinking in more ways than one. He was asking for my comments on the 3 errors which had crept into the CAT 2006 question papers. Now that's an alright thing to do but his further prodding made me sit up and realize that this seemingly harmless line of questioning may actually not be so. My first reaction had been spontaneous and honest, almost so much so that it got me worried that he would put me on record for saying what i had. But i would only soon realize that i had nothing really to worry about because the answer i gave was exactly the opposite of what he wanted, and it fortunately, had no chance of making it to the airwaves. This became quite clear when he put his next question which was actually the same question again, but the language had undergone a complete transformation. When i would still not react in the way he wanted me to, out came question number 3, which was actually question # 1 again but now it came with the answer already prefixed with it. All he was seeking was a certain reply which had not been forthcoming, so words were being put into my mouth now. Luckily, i had realized the trap well in time and didn't fall for it.

"When there is no news, it's often created by the newsmen", once said Vir Sanghvi. Yesterday's experience coupled with a few news pieces i read in the newspapers and saw on the news channels today and i understood what the ace journalist was trying to say that day. I was at my Barakhamba Road office on the CAT afternoon and had met dozens of students who had just written the most important examination of their lives. Each one of them was well aware of the 3 errors but not one was making a hullabaloo about it. The general opinion was that it was not expected from the IIMs and that was it. No one thought the mistakes could have impacted their future lives. After all there were 75 questions and even the best had attempted only 50 odd questions. You had plenty of questions to not attempt, so a complication here n there and they had all proceeded to the next question without much ado. But this is lean season for newsmakers, and they scented blood here. All that was needed were a few comments from the various stake holders – students, parents and training institutes like mine. That’s how the phone-call fitted into the scheme. Thank you Mr. Sanghvi, for the forewarning.

The C.A.T is not news, it happens every year but mistakes in the CAT questions had potential. Almost 2 lakh people wrote the CAT this year, up by almost 40% from last year so the CAT is definitely getting popular. Now there are less than 2000 seats in the six IIMs put together which means most students can't make it to the top. Could their frustrations be tapped into? After all we are talking about almost 2 lakh families now which translates into a million people. A million people is a lot of people, enough to take the TRPs up by a decimal point or two. In the cut-throat world of news channels, that’s reason enough to sit up, take notice and make news!

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