Evaluation is a solemn task and deserves to be treated as such. The father has not been called to use his rating, ranking and evaluation skills for sometime now and when the opportunity presented itself, he took to it like an elephant spraying water on himself on a hot day. His face lit up and his facial features shone with the light of sincerity.
He had a ready quip for all those interested – something about doing a task with complete sincerity or not doing it at all. The occasion was the culinary competition that the mother took part in. The competition was a fund raiser for the Cancer Institute Foundation. Once the judges did their part of the judging, the audience were called upon to weigh in. We were asked to rate the dishes on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest for every entrant. The announcer had barely finished her sentence when the audience made a beeline for the tasting extravaganza. While most people tasted a dish and rated it then and there; the father was studiously writing something on scraps of paper and screwing up his face with intense concentration. I asked him what he was doing and he said something about correcting a brilliant student’s paper first was always a bit of a disappointment (for the student) because one subconsciously compares different answer scripts in their minds and when one had seen a number of average answer scripts before seeing the brilliant one, one tends to award more weightage to the brilliant script, while if the brilliant answer script came up first, we naturally assume that the remaining will be comparable. My head swam a little at this point, it may have been the effect of the dish I was popping in my mouth to taste at the time, or the fact that I had listened to this philosophy once too many times – the effect of growing in a household filled with teachers. I decided to leave him to it, just telling him not to take his own sweet time about it, since they planned to use our feedback for judging by the end of the day.
By the time I had made my way to the end of the line, he was midway through – weighing and pro-ing and con-ing no doubt. This was the mother’s entry for the competition. Reluctant though she was, I went ahead and registered her name and she pulled off an admirable dish.
The father was asked to stay away from the kitchen and further told to keep all jokes regarding the dish and what he thought of the mother’s ability in the kitchen to himself. Therefore, he decided to show solidarity to his wife when it came to the audience judging round and came beaming around to her after he had evaluated every single entrant.
“You know? Objectively speaking it was your dish that I liked the best taste-wise….” he said still looking rather proud of himself. “I ranked you first in the whole lot!”
He received a smile from his bride, and his face became happier still.
“You mean, you gave her a 1?” I asked incredulously.
“Of course….” he said, and cracked another joke about his knowing his wife’s worth in the culinary department always, but competitions such as these served to remind him, and chuckled good humouredly to himself. The poor man, I could not have helped him – it was too late. Thine loving eyes of his bride were piercing him with arrows other than what Cupid would have used.
Being quick on the uptake, he said, “What?”
I then proceeded to illuminate him that what he had been asked to do was rate the dishes on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest and 1 the lowest.
“You mean rate, not rank?” he asked looking worried.
I nodded. Suddenly, it all made sense. The comparative brilliant paper philosophy, the noting down everything and then ranking them 1-10. Since there were more than 10 teams, he even seem to have applied dense ranks.
It was like watching a balloon deflate before your eyes – the smile waned, the look was worried, and the expression sombre. He had the haunted look of a man who had more than dinner at stake. I sympathized with him and patted him gently on the arm. Luckily for him, the mother was selected to go on for the Finals in spite of his ..er.. ‘help’, and he revived a little on hearing this news.
Well…there is always a next time….