The Key to ….

There was a time in India, when school teachers habitually encouraged their students to use a kunji (literally, “Key”) for each subject that they taught.  These were slim Tutorial pamphlets in the form of Frequently Asked Questions on key aspects of a subject/topic.  For instance, there were kunjis on vyakaran (grammar), prose and verse by Western / Indian authors / poets, Chemistry, Physics and even Mathematics etc.  While not known for their accuracy or veracity, these idiomatic publications nevertheless helped some students feel confident about taking exams using this “crash-course” process of rote-learning and regurgitation.  Their teachers would even point out the frequency and types of questions that had been included in previous years’ Questions Papers and using some misplaced statistical methodology, encourage them to “memorize” the answers to those posers that were “most likely” to be asked in the forthcoming examinations.

In fact, there was a legendary story that had forever been doing the rounds when we were at school. It went something like this.  There was a young kunji-user, who laboriously crammed an essay on “A House on Fire” as he was told this topic was very likely to be included in the English Language test, since it had been overlooked over the past two or three years. The next morning, seated in the examination hall with fellow students, he was shocked to scan the Question Paper which required them to write an essay on “A Morning Walk”!  Not to be outdone, the young scholar promptly wrote out his answer thus, “I woke up early to go for a morning walk.  As soon as I stepped out my house, I saw a House on Fire ….” and thereafter produced all that he had learned on this topic from the kunji!

It is not unusual for us to continue to rely on variant kunjis much after we have stepped out of our “learning institutions”.  We rely on readymade templates of “Keys” provided by religious texts, political views, culture, social norms, tradition, history and familial pressures etc., to help frame our responses to situations as they arise.  It is so easy, in our own mind, to view a “Morning Walk” as a “House on Fire” or the other way around, and defend our responsive actions.  Today, a “Playbook” might serve as a kunji.  Playbook responses allow us to accept, without blinking an eye, gun-wielding security guards in places of worship and schools, political leaders who lie and cheat, wars being launched to maintain peace, societies claiming to be secular while disallowing freedom of religious expression or dress … it is a growing list.

There are many other types of kunjis that are overlooked except when we quote from them, for our “feel good” WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter messages through the World Wide Web.

I too, stand guilty as charged for sharing the following KEY messages by John Wooden, perhaps one of the finest Basketball coaches in America:


  1. Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights
  2. It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit
  3. Listen if you want to be heard
  4. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are
  5. The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching
  6. Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there
  7. Five years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read
  8. Promise yourself to make all your friends know there is something in them that is special and that you value
  9. Promise to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own
  10. Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind
  11. Promise yourself that you will talk health, happiness and prosperity as often as possible
  12. Promise to give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others


Now onwards with your own Resolutions for 2020 and best of luck!

4 Replies to “The Key to ….”

  1. Beautiful as always, Kunji is going to be my Kunji forever. Those 12 quotes are going to be added to my collection. Happy New Year, Pankaj Je.


  2. I absolutely love this Pankaj! Such a great reminder to start the new year with.

    Hope you have a happy 2020 filled with all the good you wish for.

    I’m off to India tomorrow for six weeks for my annual music yatra😉

    Hope to see you in early March!

    Warm regards




  3. Thanks a lot, Mohamed. Live the good life – music is the food of love (for you, so) play on! Come back with a slate of great performers for Raag-Mala’s next Season.

    Best wishes and safe travels. Looking forward to catching up upon your return.


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