This is about that one time of my life when I taught "Decision Support Systems" to a class of MBA students at one of the top 20 (So the brochure said) B-schools in India. Management education is serious stuff, where the young wear confident faces, striped shirts and grey trousers to get trained in the business of lucre. The young go through a significant grind to get through to the colleges, pay a lordly sum to be educated there, and being a post-graduate program, none of the first-year-college type levity is expected from them.
My class was of about 50 students, all of them with above 90 percentile of CAT (The vigorously competitive admission tests for management courses in India, for the uninitiated of the Indian education and its competitiveness). All of them came from good schools, presumably english medium schools, and had gone through the 12 or more years of instruction in english. Most of them wore tolerably intelligent expressions, and sometimes appeared to me interested in what I was espousing the intricacies of how business decisions are made, or thought to be made.
The course was graded based to class tests, exercises and cases. Exercises were normally conducted in the class and the students were expected to submit them to me on-line, using wi-fi, after they were done completing them.
One pleasant saturday morning, I was sitting in the class, patiently staring at my laptop, as students laboriously sat in front of me on their laptops, completing the class exercise I had given in the class, while I answered some of my other e-mail. As they would submit and I would receive the submission, I would call out the name of the student whose submission it was, verify that the document reached me safely – as computer viruses could sometimes confound these on-line exchanges, and mark the assignment done. The students could then walk out, or stay depending on their preference.
So, as I sat there on my laptop, watching the exercises fly in as e-mails, listening to the gentle “Ping” sound it made as it dropped into my mail box. Suddenly, one more ping, and I see a lewd e-mail from a student.
“Here is my ass” – it said.
Taken aback, I stared at the screen. I looked up to see if any of the students was grinning lewdly. But no, the class was humming along as usual, with students bent upon their work, or peeping into others.
This is probably one of those corny e-mails which supposedly come from people known to you, but sent by porno drug companies – which promise to make the girls scream all night, and make one the star of the parties if using their drug, I thought, as I checked again, hovering the mouse on the senders name to check the e-mail id. No, the e-mail id was legit, it belonged to a student alright - this came from no drug peddler.
"Here is my ass” the message header screamed at me, as I looked at it again.
Oh Lord, I thought. I don’t think I can deal with a love sick student, not when I getting over all this lust-shust business, my brain hummed. A tiny tingle of anticipation did run through though, and I wondered who the student was. Yes, the name was familiar, but I did not know this student.
But wait, wait, wait - the right side of my brain sang out, “Why is someone offering you his ass? What would you do with an ass? You are not a man!”
Quite right. I skidded to a halt inwardly. No, this is perhaps somebody trying to proposition someone else in the class, and maybe my email id got wrongly used. I sighed, mildly disappointed - cheated out of some cheap thrill, and then glanced around curiously. Just where was this bunch of young lovers?
But no, there were no coy looks, no longing glances, no tears flowing anywhere. What are the young coming to, I wondered. Sending lustful messages, and not even looking at each other? My, technology has really changed things, I rued to myself.
Ping! Ping!! Ping!!! my laptop intoned again! Heck, the same fellow, and similar messages. Looks like the lover is getting desperate…
“Here is my ass 1” – screamed the newly arrived message!
“Here is my ass 2” – screamed the second one!
“Here is my ass 3” – screamed the third one!
Zonked, I watched the screen. Ass 1, Ass 2 and now Ass 3? Hey, hey, hey, how many asses does a human being have? What is this going on, some kind of an orgy?
Then, it began to dawn on me! Aw s*it, I was the one with lewd thoughts - this was just a student submitting his assignments, shortened as “ass”! The previous non-submitted exercises, which were being sent from his machine to mine – and as the young nowadays do, shortened, without realizing what it could read as.
I stuffed the laugh which was threatening to break out of me, and stood up, a solemn look on my face, and asked the class in a loud voice, “Just who is offering me his ass?”
The class could not believe their ears. Some jaws dropped, some eyes glazed, and some nodded their heads side to side, trying to get the bee out of their ears. The silence was complete.
I spoke again, “Just who is offering me his ass?” The class, now sure that they heard me right, began to twitter, not knowing how to react. I turned my laptop around, hooked it to the overhead projector, and let the class see the messages, for themselves.
And then, I sat down on the chair, and laughed with the class till the poor hapless student who had sent me that “ass” offer, ran out of the class, embarrassed like never before! As I walked out – I could not stand in front of the class, and guffaw like a silly fool – I continued to hear the whoops of the laughter till I reached the professors block, and then, I surrendered to the silliness!
That poor student did not attend any of my classes for the rest of the semester. And I bet none of the students ever used abbreviations unthinkingly for the rest of their lives!