I haven’t actually read too much about Darwin or evolution, but my understanding of it is that life on earth is supposed to become increasingly intelligent over generations. My grandmother however believes Darwin got it all wrong.
When I was in fourth grade, there was a quiz of some sort in my school, which was for some reason open to all students in class 6 and below. Because of the disparity in ages, kids in the third grade and below had no hope of winning. Actually, neither did the fourth or fifth graders, but some of these remained optimistic.
By some quirk of fate, I topped that test, despite the age handicap, and got a gold medal for my troubles! My entire family got thoroughly excited about the whole affair and the tag of a genius was unanimously given to me. Although I was too young to truly realize their mistake, I did have my suspicions even then. I tried to point out that the multiple choice format might have made the difference, but all I got was another tag (modesty this time).
I spent a good portion of my early years abroad, and didn’t, at that point, get to see too much of my grandparents. Our annual vacation visit to India was a blur of memories of being pampered by everyone I ran into, so my grandmother was among the crowd that fell for this and a couple of other instances, believing it to point to the incredible potential of her grandson. Running into me only fleetingly over the years probably allowed the impression to linger.
When I got into college, I lived in a hostel only a few hours away from my grandmom’s place, so I began to visit her often. Although my visits were a welcome retreat from hostel, they had the unintended effect of allowing my grandmother to get to know me well. To cut a long story short, over time, she reconciled herself to the fact that a multiple choice format is probably not the litmus test of genius.
Although she still holds out some hope for my future, I suspect one upshot of the whole affair, is that her belief in evolution has been shattered. Favourable comparisons to my ancestors have been replaced by nostalgic memories of their achievements followed by a sad appraisal of mine. I don’t think she’s in any mood to believe I’ve evolved to be any smarter than them.
But even if I didn’t inherit some of my revered ancestors’ more respected qualities, I have some of their optimism in me. Even if some expectations are dashed, I think I can manage a milestone or two yet. At any rate I suppose I’m better off than an old friend of mine, who was a gold medalist (again the deceptive metal!) at the end of his first year B.Sc in physics, but was dragged out of that and thrust into engineering (which in my company he barely managed to clear) because his grandmom ‘wished’ she could have an engineer for a grandson!