Trial and error

Published April 4, 2010

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“Why is it that people underestimate and downplay everything that is done on a trial and error basis?” To begin the day, Babboo came up with one of his weird questions. It is easy for him to do that. “I don't understand,” I said.

“This is always a problem. Your intelligence too works on a trial and error basis.”

“Don't be funny.”

“I am only trying to point out that human progress has always been based on trial and error. No invention was perfect in the beginning and there was always room for improvement.” He said.


“So, why should do you look down upon someone who does a job clumsily before finally succeeding in doing it right?” Asked Babboo.

“Who are you referring to? Has this anything to do with the present people's government?”
“I am making a general statement.”

“You said 'someone who did his job clumsily'... but only an novice would work in this manner. People who are properly trained and experienced would do it perfectly on the very first attempt. Actually, when the problem is diagnosed and understood correctly, you are likely to deal with it successfully — without wasting your own as well as other people's time.” I said.

“For instance?”

“I'll give you an example — and though it is a bit peevish, I'd be honest. I went to a friend, a former editor of a newspaper, and lamented before him that I had a diverticulum in the duodenum, spondylosis in the neck, arthritis in the index finger, plus a number of other miscellaneous problems. Do you know what he said? He said, 'You have nothing, you are in perfect health!”

“He did?”

“Yes, and he also said that, in fact, he was the one who had monopolised all ailments worth talking about. His judgement was correct on both counts in the very first attempt!”

“But why did you have to go to an editor for your medical problems?” asked Babboo.
“Because I thought, being my friend he would give me sympathetic advice.”
“You didn't need sympathy, you fool. You needed medical attention.”

“I know, but come to think of it, he saved me from the doctors! What do you think the doctors would have done? Not only would they have not sympathised with me, they would have discharged me a fat fee for not diagnosing my ailments in the first go and, instead, would have sent me to the laboratory for all sorts of tests — as if I was a guinea-pig. Contrary to my friend's diagnosis and rather than correctly judging the problem the very first time, the doctor would have started working on me with a trial and error basis.” I thought I had succeeded in confusing Babboo adequately, and he even looked at me quizzically, which made me feel good. However, after a few moments he said, “I still feel it is in the nature of man to do everything wrong the first time, that is, on a trial and error basis. This keeps him productively busy and in a good spirit. If all the problems were settled immediately, there would be no fun left in life. Imagine for an instant God Almighty giving the ability to our rulers to solve all the problems faced by the masses ... what will happen to Pakistan? And to them?”

“What will happen?” I asked eagerly.
“They wouldn't be there, would they?”
“Who? Where?”

“They! There, where they are — sitting cosy in their palaces, happily shaping our destiny and nonchalantly taking wrong decisions ...”

“Yes, take the latest one the increase in public transport fares in Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” I said.

“There you are! That's what I am saying. Wasn't this a trial and error decision? They wanted to see public reaction. I told you, this is how things work.”

“Not everywhere, for heaven's sake. Things work differently in other countries,” I pointed out.

“Why must you always compare this country with other countries? If it was inevitable that you were going to live here, then you'd better relax and enjoy!”

“Enjoy? You mean I should enjoy inflation and uninterrupted load shedding in this summer heat?” I protested.

“It is only a state of mind. If one had the will to enjoy life one would even enjoy load shedding, but if one was in the habit of crying about every little discomfort without any patience, without relying on the sincerity of your leaders, then they have had it. The leaders are already grappling with so many problems faced by the nation ...”

“... on trial and error basis!” I completed the sentence.

“Yes, because that's the only way. Finally, one day, all the problems will be solved and life will become quite dull ... in any case, no problem remains unsolved for ever ...” Babboo rattled on. “I think you have gone insane. Living with inflation and continuous load shedding — and still hoping that the government will solve these problems one day — please leave me alone ... I want to remain sane ...”



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