I think I'll write about an interest subject today... yes, that's right, an `interest' rather than `interesting' subject. Although I do hope the post may turn out interesting for readers in the end.
But first, I have to go back in time a little bit. It was the winter of 1983 and I was in the final year of my engineering degree. One of the toughest subjects in that degree course is Structural Mechanics, not one of my stronger suits. The professor who taught us that subject is Dr. Neil Taylor, a brilliant and aggressive man who's quite unlike any of the other lecturers in our faculty.
Dr. Taylor is slim and tall, sports long hair to his shoulders and keeps a beard and moustache. He normally wears a white shirt with a narrow tie but with collar unbuttoned. Over this he dons a black leather jacket. In fact, he looks more like a rock star than a university professor. His classes are never boring. He speaks in a loud, clear voice and at great speed. You'll never fall asleep during his lecture... or perhaps you dare not fall asleep. He'll pick a bored face among his students in a second and start shooting questions about the subject at hand, just to make sure we all understand what he's talking about. I was always afraid to be caught by him because, as I said, I'm not terribly good at Structures.
He would start his lecture by first talking at length about a particular topic. After that, he would scribble out his notes, longhand, on the blackboard. His notes are copious and he writes like he speaks... at great speed. When he runs out of writing space on the blackboard, he returns back to the earlier section and starts rubbing them out. Sometimes, those of us slow writers would need to hold out our hand and shout, `Whoa! Sir..', and he pauses for a while to give us time to catch up.
It is during such pauses that Dr. Taylor would usually tell a story or share bits of trivia that has got nothing to do with engineering. It can be something about music, movies, sports or current affairs... practically anything. And such interesting stories too... which sort of put the slow-writing students in a dilemma. Do you stop writing to listen to the stories and risk not copying down the complete notes... or do you continue to scribble furiously before he starts cleaning the blackboard and you miss the story being told?
I liked listening to his stories so I trained myself to be speed-writer.
One day, after filling the blackboard with his sprawling handwriting, he paused for a while to allow us some time to finish copying... and then starts to share another trivia.
`Do you know why most of the big time bankers are Jews?' he asks. None of us answer... so he begins telling the story about Christians being forbidden to be involved in usury and that the Jews may not charge usury among their own kind but can do so to others. He said that money-lending first started out as one of the least respected professions and strangely enough today, it is the money-lenders who control most of the world's economy.
`I bet you didn't know that, did you?' he mocks us. `Heck, does anybody even know what usury means?!'
`Yeah,' I immediately quipped. `Interest...'
`Who said that?' Dr Taylor looks around at his students, his eyes wide in disbelief. I sheepishly put up my hand halfway.
`Right, you are!' he said. And with that, he turned around, erased the blackboard and resumed writing his notes.
When the class was over, Dr. Taylor heads out of the room but when he reaches the door, he turns back and walks to where I was sitting. He bends down to my eye level and nodded to me to say, `Usury... that's good.'
From then on, I could no longer remain low-profile in Dr. Taylor's class. But the good thing was that my grades in Structures improved...