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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The fallacy of our nuclear policy

Last evening my daughter received a copy of The Wings of Fire by APJ as prize for creative writing at school. I've read the book before and was not impressed. So I don't own a copy because I never wanted to own one. I tried reading it again and found it boring and overrated. I simply can't stand these Chicken Soups, Management mantras or Inspirational crap. Also, I think the man himself is overrated, revered and venerated as he may. I realise the dangers of such sweeping statements as I have made. However, two things strike me. In the aftermath of a news item I read about Marshall Islands. a) What really are his achievements? What is really patriotism? Do we misconstrue reactionary and emotionally-spiked nationalism for a false sense of Patriotism? If he is the nuclear man of India, then by the same token why should we hate the nuclear men of other nations? Are we implicitly arm twisted by our netas to buy nuclear warfare and thus be made unwitting perpetrators of genocide, in the same way the world paints every German of Nazism? Another important inference is the implicit acceptance of the superiority of science over arts and humanities in Indian society. b) The gullibility of captive hero-worshipping audience and reading public. 

We have the tendency of ostriches when it comes to bringing the faults of a hero under the microscope and shoot the messenger instead of verifying the message. We look at morals conveniently from the point of people than issues. From mythologies to modern narratives, the discourses are dominated by figures than facts... our collective consciousness is warped in a sense of points of views of those who speak than what is spoken. Every acceptance of a figure as figure-head is a statement of acceptance that a truth has been buried. Any amount of justification that nuclear use is in the interests of national need cannot negate the stockpile alarm which is in the non-interest of global danger.

Civilian needs have non-nuclear alternatives we defer to look at. Thus, the title of the book is not some fancy and proverbial chicken soup for souls needing inspiration, but an innuendo to the nuclear arms race via rocket science. Are we a peace-loving nation? Makes me think. I'm going to be thinking this out a long time!

Before, we wind this up, let me give a bit of info about Marshall Islands that I linked at above. Marshall Islands, officially referred to as the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) is a group of small islands (more a grouping of nearby and sporadic atolls) located halfway point between Hawaii islands and Australia, if we travelled East from Equator.With an estimated population of approx. 70,000 inhabitants in 2014, this group of islands is also home to 800 species of fish and 160 corals. It is not to difficult to see that this like a lot of islands that include more popular ones like Maldives is sinking slowly due to rising water levels, thanks largely to global warming. I do not think I would go to the extent of assuming my readers are daft enough that I need to expound on how global warming is caused, one of which is definitely nuclear arms race. So, there is the context. There is the content. There is the man. There is the hypothesis, inference and conclusion.

Meanwhile, check this latest on Marshall Islands: 

Drought in the Marshall Islands

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Need to develop Critical Thinking in our School Educational system

I often wonder...

Our system is so wonderful in producing the best of rank holders and learners until their secondary education. After that, what happens to the magic? Does the pixie dust of learning wear off? Where do our students fail when they go out on to the graduated wide big bad world of reality and employment? Why do they fail in GDs inspite of subject knowledge? Is there a gap in their subject knowledge constructs? This is when I stumbled upon two terms:
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Desirable Difficulties
Now what are these? They sound too complicated for an untrained mind or a simple passenger in the train of education - be it student, parent, teacher or just people!

Wikipedia describes Cognitive Psychology thus:

'Cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes such as "attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking." Much of the work derived from cognitive psychology has been integrated into various other modern disciplines of psychological study, including educational psychology, social psychology, personality psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology and economics.'

As for Desirable Difficulties, it is nothing actually new to our culture of education. We always had it. The pre-90s or pre-80s learners had a benchmark for the level of difficulty at which their learning took place. This challenged them, rather than forced them, to push their thresholds of learning. Even during the pre-dominantly State Board regulated curricula, without CCE etc, our boundaries and frontiers of learning were challenged and we strove, gamely. This toughened us. May be it was a swim, survive or sink situation. However, it toughened the guts in us. This has changed today. We are on a soft system that as one of the Neil Simon characters says in one of his plays, "Even baby powder hurts!"

May be the 90s and new millennium parents have complicated the lives of the 90s and new millennium learners by simplifying it in the name of reduction of workload, bagload, bookload etc. Basically, they have pampered their kids. So when the school or the teachers grumble in response to claims and accusations of corporal punishment by students or their parents even for the perceived casual contact of fingertips on a student, they usually claim: "Didn't we go through harsher predicament when we were in school? Our teachers beat us with scales, did we grumble to our parents? How many days have we been made to kneel in shorts or skirts, our knees in direct contact with the stone flooring in the hot sun out in the open? Have we ever complained to our parents, making them rush to school to meet the teachers? Have we not been pinched to bleeding for not submitting a homework or coming late to school or talking to our benchmates during a lecture or made to stand up on a bench or stand out of the class in the corridor? Did our parents ever know or even if they knew, had they ever taken cudgels at the PTA?"

Well, all these are fine and dandy. Parents say, "We went through all these or less... or perhaps more, yes! But does that mean our kids should go through these? It is perhaps precisely because we had gone through these horrible punishments, we must ensure a punishment-free, stress-free learning atmosphere for our children!" True, but at what cost? By making everything accessible on a platter, without having to tan their skin, we are only making their lives worse! Too much unnecessary emotional twang at the drop of a hat is shown by modern parents. That shows they are fragile and they are moulding their next gen fragile emotionally. This is where we go back to what the Cognitive Psychologists call as Desirable Difficulties. One area this is gaining tremendous application relevance is educational psychology.

What is Desirable Difficulty? A cognitive psychologist calls it as difficult conceptual learning for an easier long-term recall. What probably in a software engineer's parlance would be difficult encrypting for a better access of programming! Ok... simply put, you increase the level of difficulty during the initial learning process through challenging circumstance, albeit within the reach of the learner, so that the concept is well-entrenched in the mind of the learner; this in turn leads to better recall and better application. This means learning for life-time. 

What this does is to force the learner to think, query, question, interpret, infer, deduce conclusions of their own. This necessitates an active engagement in the teaching-learning process. Herein comes the problem. Are most of our teachers ready for this? In my limited experience of a decade-long association with the school educational system, the teaching community (well, the majority of them!) start with a lot of energy and infectious enthusiasm and ideals. Somewhere down the line they become indifferent. I am not going into a microscopic analysis of this issue. I am not even going into any sort of analysis, for that digresses us from the current issue! Instead, we need to look at what are its fall-outs.

The teacher becomes indifferent. Doesn't anymore prepare for classes. Takes the syllabus, the lessons and the process of teaching for granted. In the worst case, when a teacher who doesn't deserve to teach a higher class simply because they have not taught and haven't consciously prepared themselves for this eventuality (but nevertheless have always been dreaming of moving from intern to temp to PRT to TGT to PGT!) end up going into a higher class, they think it is humility to accept to the students "I do not know". Honesty and integrity is all fine; but it doesn't save anyone's backside or self-esteem in the eyes of the student community if they do not go back to their drawing table, learn what they humbly confessed as lack of knowledge and get back and show they are a teacher worth taking seriously. And so the penny drops. Many an indifferent teacher become mass murderers of students' impetus and excitement to learn. Thus bad teachers breed indifferent students breed cynical and stoical citizens of the morrow! The solution lies in the hands of the teacher. To actively pursue teaching in a challenging manner. If they do not want to, then they better quit the profession; because, you are killing the future of the nation and you do not care about it. This kind of teacher is worse than a genocidal maniac.

Having been introduced to Critical Thinking, I took to it like fish to water even though I do not know the first thing about swimming or have gills! It is purely my self-respect. I consider myself a vertebrate and am proud of it. It helps me to gauge my students, prepare to provoke them into thinking on their own, on the feet, in the class, even if the lesson is an old one I have been teaching for a decade thanks to no change of syllabus from the board. What I always think is this: the syllabus is the same, the lesson is the same, but the batch of student is not! This makes me seek that student who carries searching questions or doubts (however silly it may be to us!) in their eyes, encourage them to express it, so I learn something new.

While I try to educate them, I try to forge levels of difficulty in approaching the answers. Not impossible, but certainly requires effort from the student. In the process the student makes the problem and the learning their own! This is the secret behind Desirable Difficulty. It works. It is beautiful. If you are a teacher, you must try it. Good for you, good for student community, good for your ego, good to feel years later when they acknowledge you on social media as their TEACHER!

A very touching and relevant article on Teachers and their professional needs

The following is the opening few paras of the article found in the link below:

Vijaya teaches in a school that has one other teacher and 65 students. Every one of her days is a whirl. When you have so many children around, uncontrollable spirits take over. In the classroom and outside, you lurch from minor to major crisis and flow from small to big joys, while trying to keep it going. She loves all this, she loves her job. But she feels isolated.
The other teacher is cordial with her. While they run the school together well, they never really converse. In the school they have no time, every minute taken up by the demanding tempo. And with an hour’s commute back home, they are both in a hurry to leave as the school ends.
Her educational background is in the humanities. Even now, after 15 years of teaching, she struggles in teaching math, which she has to, in the primary classes. When she became a teacher as a 23-year-old, everything was a struggle. She remembers being intimidated. Her school’s head-teacher was an aloof man, the school had two other teachers. Each of them was caught in the whirl of the school. She knew she needed help from an experienced teacher, but there was no opportunity. The two other teachers would try, but it would all be in the passing. She survived by her tenacity, and learning on her own. Many others survive this phase by becoming indifferent forever...
To read further, log in here at Live Mint: Teaching in Isolation

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Marathon Musings

I've been following this sudden spurt in Fitness culture among Indians, more specifically at close range in Chennai and Coimbatore, where am currently on a sojourn!

For a while, the Marathon culture is steadily spreading among the urbanites. It is a good thing. Some run for fitness, some run for a sense of achievement, some run to prove to themselves that they can in little doses push the boundaries of their endurance, some run for records, some run for medals, some for the cause behind these Marathons... and there are also a few wannabes, like in every other vista of life. They just don't wannabe missed out in the next day's or next week's thambola hob-nobs, or miss out on FB status updates or more simply miss out on an opportunity for a selfie!

I happened to accompany my daughter who took part in the morning's annual Coimbatore Marathon organised for creating consciousness to fight cancer. It was so gratifying to see a sea of people, all up and geared since 4 a.m. The organisers must be really commended and lauded for their unsparing efforts to make the event as smoothest as it can be. It was, too. The experience must have been so fulfilling for all involved - organisers, volunteers, runners. I was a watcher-by for all these events. Well, every event needs an outsider perspective, right! So, there I was.

They had a novice class - a 5 K.M run/walk, a 10 K.M run and a 21 K.M mini-marathon. There were close to 12000 people participating from what info that could be gathered. Of course, the selfie culture and ego aggrandisement that has inevitably crept into our westernisation process was self-evident. Some even just landed for the sake of it... one of those random events of early-out-of-bed experiences where they communed with their friends they had parted from only 5 or 6 hours since. It was obvious from the way they continued or picked up conversation half-way from where they had left earlier, without as much of a starter pack! Some had just landed, registered, but did not hit the starting line... traipsed or trudged or ambled or lolled the other way and walked through a short cut to the finish area. They couldn't care to collect their medals: well, they knew they won't get one or deserved to get one, didn't they? Honest Souls, lol! Some... but again... were loaded with precautions to the hilt even though they were doing the novice class. And resolved, even before the race began, inspired by the refreshing and rejuvenating electricity of the atmosphere, that they would attempt to get up this early each succeeding mornings of their post-marathon life.  Some... it was routine. They were there, been there, done that and were doing it... and would do it... by default.

What was it that inspired this tribe, I wondered, that made them commit to these marathons! They sure were no Ethiopians or Kenyans, though one could notice the inevitable African presence at marathons, here too. Yes, there were non-locals and non-Indians too. There was a bunch - rather a few unrelated bunch of people from Kerala. These are Marathoners who travelled from Marathon to Marathon by habit. Fitness freaks? No, I would say. What it is... I can't say. Inspiring it was, I can say.

Cold War Resurrected. Thanks for being the shit, Mr. Obama!

The US-Russia points of divergence continually keep surfacing to an odious extent and to the point of silliness that it is beyond people to react. People are really getting comfortably numb at this noisome vapidity and fulsome platitude of political muscle flexing.

Why on earth would Obama admin now try to undermine Russian efforts at countering IS when they also want to achieve the same end? Why is it acceptable to the US Govt only if every other nation who wants to fight terrorism follows their methodology and means? Is that not blatant and hypocritical politicisation? This casts a spectre of doubt on the genuineness of US' attempts to combat global terrorism. This is very analogous to how Congress keeps opposing anything BJP tries - the very same thing they would have resorted to or done. Or vice-versa.

Whom does this political posturing benefit? Is it that important to the suffering millions what underlying political agenda Russia has, when it wants to extend support to Syria in its bid to counter terrorism? When someone tries to waylay these attempts, does that not smack of insecurity? Issues with Iran and Al-Assad must be set aside for achieving a bigger goal, that is to ensure there are no more refugees. The magnitude of problem that Europe is going through, as well as those Syrians who do not want to migrate anywhere, leave alone to Europe or Turkey, is much simpler to handle if these two joined hands and brought all their allies together in one massive global umbrella. That would ensure peace for everyone who matters; no EU countries that cannot handle any more influx of population more than that they can handle, would be unhappy. These smaller countries with their own wobbly economies would not begrudge the refugees and probably welcome the miniscule that have till yet been forced upon them with forthcoming hands of brotherhood, because these small countries - mostly splinters of erstwhile united countries - know the pain of seeking refuge and migration. By joining hands with Russia, only because they started the raids first, the US would do Europe a world of good, and redeem itself as a gracious ally, in this war against militancy. It would be the same case, if US had started and Russia were to adopt the current US stance. That's what grace is, magnanimity of heart is, genuine global cooperation is.

What if the two powers came together on a mission with common goal against a common enemy and then sort out their skirmishes in private? And this coming from Mr. Obama proves that he is no better than his political forbears on either side of the national divide, that he too is a pawn of strong inner-national lobbies. This really is surprising given the notion that he is not going to run for another term, however much he probably wants to or would like to; when you go out into the sunset, why not set an example of having broken new paths, travel roads less travelled, blaze trails for others to follow! That, now, is the kind of example that beacons of wisdom do, to be remembered for eternity on the sands of time. Mr. Obama is not a man for all seasons or reasons. I am disappointed, because 8 years ago, he really looked set to do that, but now he doesn't mind being judged unworthy by history.

The only way, again, for the global powers to make Vlad Putin feel comfortable to give in in his other transgressions and perceived aggression within the vicinity of his immediate borders, ingressing into the splintered nations of erstwhile USSR, would be to show him what a largesse of accommodative political gesture can be, what the power of magnanimity can be, instead of behaving like Scrooge!

As the Bishop tells to Jean Valjean, "Sometimes one has to do much for the devil to do little to god." Amen.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

The Supreme Salary - Teacher's Day Observations

Dear Teacher by choice, default or auto-correct...

While on this Teacher's Day I salute your 'yeoman' service to the society, I have a wish to make. I would rather see you 'a freeman' who makes 'the difference' between the cultural growth of human civilisation and the stolid march of a utilitarian society and stand for the former than the latter. I have a few paeans to sing, not before I have etched my observations.

Teachers should take up employment or profess only out of personal conviction, not due to financial considerations. This is not to say that teachers should not seek prosperity or social status. After all, they are human beings with feelings too. The two can be inclusive - personal conviction and prosperity, I mean; but financial considerations must be subservient to personal conviction.

What is this personal conviction? It is to touch lives, to impart not just language or technical knowledge as Einstein observed, but humaneness and empathy as well. What does this personal conviction stem from? It stems from a deep-rooted need to create human beings who grow to understand the unfettered urge to give more than take. Is this happening today? No.

The majority of today's teaching fraternity is insecure, anxious and scared.

Insecure because they fear the loss of integrity that some of them fail to realise they do not possess since they took up a teaching 'job'. They fear to be questioned because they do not have answers acceptable to the younger generation that seeks honest, simple and lucid answers. This is because the world of the teacher's youth and the world of today's young generation are different. Teachers cannot provide answers and caveat from their time and space to another spatio-temporal reality whose world is wider, more complex and more cluttered. Most teachers realize this, but fail to accept it, unwilling to let go of outdated habits in which they seek comfort zones and refuge.

Today's reality just cannot be wished away by yesterday's practices. This status quo is best exemplified by two stereotypical day-to-day realpolitik of family structure: young teens or adolescents who see the redundancy in certain beliefs and practices of their parents and swear in youth not to become like their parents, but to be an understanding adult to their children when they eventually grow up. They seldom succeed, rarely retain their vow. Time does it to them. The reality of everyday world bites hard. The next analogy is not dissimilar, but somewhat different: that of the caterpillar-daughter-in-law's transformation into the stereotype of an ugly butterfly-mother-in-law she swore not to become.

The teachers - those who chose to become, that is -  end up falling into the trap they saw some of their anxious forbears in, which they swore not to fall into, if at all they became teachers. Where does this anxiety arise from?

The anxiety, as I see it, is a result of their aspirations to provide a provocative and energising transfer of knowledge (at the beginning of their careers) in conflict with the system's need to complete "set" objectives. This "said" objective can be to produce 'the best results' or 'the need to be competitive in enrollment' in a dog-house system or simply 'the compulsion' to complete syllabi.  It all has become number crunching war. Whatever the latter is, it is a compromise. The system may be at fault, but what of the teachers themselves? Such people must not take up teaching, or if they have, must pronto give up, and had rather served in a brick kiln even as Howard Roark did. It is not idealism that I am professing, but a salvo against those who want to marry financial success with ideological achievement. It just does not work out both ways.

The life of a teacher is fraught with more challenges, adventures, risks and dangers than that of Odysseus on his travails. The teachers knew this as they took it up. This might sound idealistic, but such an uncompromising stance is the only way forward for the teaching fraternity, to resist the subversive investment culture in education these days. This, though fraught with personal perils, is the only option left to revert an educational system that is entrapped in the fangs of a bunch of fascist monkeys also known as the tribe of educationists, most of whom have 'invested' their finances in the pursuit of creating their respective visions of 'glasshouse' intelligence that is filled with 'snowflake world'! You shake it, it is all flaky and silvery, in an exciting flux, romantic to look at from outside. Once the confetti inside settle down, the spectacle is vapid, inane, banal, mundane and as spiritually devoid as Eliot's wasteland. These investment educationists (like investment bankers) are the Eliotean hollowmen who gnaw at our social fabric today like the rats in the attic. Teachers worth their salt need to and must, out of self-belief and spinal self-respect, shake off this anxiety of 'the objective of the system.' They have to be bold as warriors and choose their battles carefully to fight.

Now, what are they scared of?  Loss of job?  Loss of financial security - an essential motivation to lead life? Loss of self-esteem? Financial security and job are no doubt interrelated and understandable; but more important are the erosion of pedagogic faith and learner-centric values.  If jobs are lost, so long as one retains their self-esteem, earning is still possible. Tucked somewhere in this struggle is also 'the circle of societal expectations' we have created around ourselves. It is not a suraksha chakkar, but a cage we build around ourselves. Why does one really, even if we are social animals that cannot exist in isolation, have to be bound by others' expectations of how we must live?  There is greater dignity in so-called cheap labour, if integrity in oneself as a human being worthy of higher mental notion is retained.  At that level of existence, there is no dignity of labour as the class-conscious society sees it... but only the pride of dignity that one is still capable of earning without sacrificing one's soul.

Here, let us talk about 'loss of self-esteem.'  This is something not without, but within.  One has a soul that is 'not for sale.'  It should never be sold.  Or even temporarily pledged or pawned.  The only difference between the other vertebrates and human beings is this soul-awareness. This is more so true of artists. By artists, I choose to include the teachers as well.  Are they not performers on a daily class-room stage?  A boring performance is often the difference between a monotonous class and stimulating atmosphere.  It is this stimulating atmosphere that leads to learning.  Otherwise, we will end up with a classroom full of students who have teachers chasing them in circles (not exactly the kind of cultural revolution we desire in education!), pleading the students to return their boardmarkers.  So, this soul-awareness!

Every person has a price, no doubt. Some are priceless, others priced less. Which one, I ask the teaching fraternity - every single one of you who may stumble on this rant - do you want to be remembered as? Even if the Don Corleones of investment education ask you to name the price, make it unaffordable. Good teachers are a rare breed and should not sell themselves cheaply (I do not mean financially alone here!) to organised exploitation of knowledge transfer. Good teachers do not hesitate to work and go the extra country mile to help students beyond the confines of structures. A good teacher is spinal to the creation of a good citizen. So, anyone worth harbouring aspirations of themselves as good teachers must retain their self-respect and take pride in saying that 'I do not take the easy way out at work.' I do not use previous years' notes, I do not rely on existing material to regurgitate in front of x no. of students... There are Mephistos everywhere. Do you want to be Dr. Faustus? And cringe and grovel on the day of reckoning? Or do you?  Wouldn't you rather be that teacher who inspired a generation of fearless individuals who stand up on top of their tables, quoting Whitman?

Throw the dead teacher in you, focus only on imparting provocative knowledge, help discover the seeker, not typecast functional automatons who only build or design or drive or cook or stitch or 'teach.' There are many ways to skin a cat, but you can't escape the pain. The society will wince, cry, caterwaul, even claw back painfully at times; but without pain, no real gain.  The Pain is the teachers', but the gain ultimately is the society's. They will recognise and remember. In most cases post-career or even posthumously. At times, miraculously within the service period and automatically financial rewards would take care of themselves. That financial reward is sweetest that comes unexpected. However, yes, they will recognise and remember. Ultimately that is the Supreme Salary!

a Learner.

Monday, July 20, 2015

From Now On...

From Now on... any posts I would try and publish on the blog space that would deal with my opinions or views or critique or analyes on novels, fiction, stories, non-fiction... writings in general can be accessed here.

See you around, until next post.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Reflections upon watching a re-run of Kireedam

Watching it on TV. Not the first time. One thing it highlights loud and clear. Again, not the first movie to do so. How much ever we call ourselves advanced in civilisation, civility is still questionable. How ever much we call ourselves against evil, WE ARE ALL collectively evil because we brand individuals and do not give them benefit of doubt when they are stuck in dubious circumstances. Our corrupt collective psyche is so halitosed we do not want to give an individual due to circumstances or alleged due to circumstantial evidence a chance to rehab. And we thus pass this malaise on from generation to generation. The flaw however with such movies in Indian context is that instead of using the medium to help change this mindset the makers use it to 1) project the protagonist as an underdog and cast a strong material to optimise the bathos factor and register tinkles at box office, 2) build a cottage industry around such stars, 3) fabricate and glamorize violence and justify it saying it exists THUS in society and in the process show the marginalized another option to be violent, and 4) finally screw the potency of the medium. Thus we remain gloriously collectively flawed and keep slipstreaming into dehumanization. Victimisation has become a way of life and we do not impart any values anymore. We want Angels and Demons, we want Heroes and created Villains to justify our need for heroes because we are incapable of being humans. Let's let others just be.
See More
watching Kireedam.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

'MODI'-cum of importance!

Why on earth is the issue of Lalit Modi so important to the press and opposition? What happened to other, more relevant and pressing social and economic issues?

It is the same as why on earth was Rahul Gandhi's incognito holiday so important? Don't we have enough social and economic issues, developmental and environmental issues? Defence and Security issues?

Suddenly the sallies into Myanmar are forgotten, Pakistan is forgotten, farmer suicides are forgotten, land acquisition bill is forgotten and so on!

The Press is the bitch here. Not just Arnab, but Burkha, Rajdeep... every son and daughter of jackassess who go by the name of The Fourth 'my foot' Estate. Without them dictating the agenda, the freaking Congress does not have any legitimacy to exist. I mean, why don't we get some work done?


Oh Captain, My Captain!

Teachers are a rare breed of people. Sounds cliche? Well... never mind! They are. If anyone has embraced the idea - leave the tag 'profession' - of themselves as a teacher, then they should go all out like a one-person T20 army: Should give a rousing start, sustain the interest in the middle, be willing to rotate strike for another, dedicated - even if yet not in a state on a given day (because people can have off days!) - colleague, slog it out towards the end, come back, bowl tight both at the power plays, in the middle overs (when the field of students begin to relax), and at the death, as well as keep wickets ! Preparation before class, energy and provocative transactions (provocative not in a noisy sense, but intellectual stimulation) through class, post-transaction inputs till the exam-day! For this to happen, they must constantly evolve, keep themselves in the learning loop by reading from far and wide, be able to connect their learning to their teaching, be open to accept knowledge. They must not whine to work citing mundane reasons or just be content to complete syllabus, have the authority to challenge wrong notions or ideas or understanding of another colleague aggressively, proactively, even if at times it hurts the other ONLY BECAUSE the other is a sloth to learn or egoistic to accept truths, and be humble to make corrections when another superior mind corrects them. BUT... only from another superior mind. How do we identify that? Well, intuitively a teacher would, even if dishonest enough to accept, identify another, superior mind. Unfortunately, we do not have such quality people. You see, why I call them a rare breed of people. They do not and must not necessarily come to work because that money is needed at home. For that, there are other more honourable, virtuous professions! They should not sulk to work. They should not project their minimal attempts at syllabus completion as work done. You are expected to do that. Going beyond that is your job. If one can't live up to these requirements, they must get out of the profession and let more willing minds to enter the arena. If one can't constantly be willing to challenge one's intellectual complacency, they must not become teachers. All other things do not matter. Unfortunately, today's education environment is full of incompetent people who are not willing to accept they do not know and do not want to learn and are happy to pose as teachers. Today's teaching profession to a major extent is only posturing. How can it stay divine? No wonder, students attend tuition. It is an absolute matter of shame to find out that one's students attend extra tuition. It means there is a fault line in our work. We are not going that extra length! I've been lucky to not have students of mine (not necessarily my school, but of those I have taught) go for outside tuitions. Thank you, God!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

#India'sDaughter...? But Seriously, you gotta be kidding!

A lot of debate and shouting war is currently going on about Leslee Udlee's India's Daughter. I have watched it and I beg to differ in my own way. I do not care to explain.

Anyway, a lot of hashtags are trending all over the social media. Everybody who is anybody and think they're anointed to have an opinion is spewing forth their two naya paisa (why always cents?!) worth of thoughts on a BBC filmmaker's interview with a rapist.

While on this subject... let me digress a bit. There's a play called DOWN THE ROAD. We did a little teaser of this about three-four year's back at the Allaince Francaise, Chennai. It deals with similar subject. At that time it was just a teaser as part of three little teasers we put up on World Theater Day celebs. This year too, the next line of Masquerade is coming up with it, except with a different intent. Now this play can seriously connect with the issue of India's Daughters and Rapists (!). Keep watching these pages for info on the What Time and Where of the show. It's on 27 March, World Theater Day, in Chennai.

Let's get back on track:

Is it worth the public's precious life's time? (Sounds like bad syntax? Not really. Question of nuance.) Anyway. Why is the government so paranoid about our nation's image, which we lost the moment the rape in question happened? Why in the first place have we, in the name of 'free and fair trail' and a 'criminal justice system' that strives to uphold the concept of the true spirit of democracy, even harbour and put up the rapists in jail? (I really loved what the mob did in Dimapur, just for a moment, though I do not really advocate wild justice) Why do we even need to play up in front of the watching eyes of the world that pretends to protest, but turns a blind eye to Israel, Iran, Syria and the US of A for all the injustices they commit on a daily or even hourly basis, and do not even bat an eyelid to the cribbings of the UN and umpteen amnesties and human rights ngos? Why should we care about what the world really thinks? I sometimes think we do not ever need watchdogs from outside, we have enough mongrels and curs inside, who go by the name of political outfits (should I say misfits?), who all callously work with the single-minded devotion of appealing to the vote banks! And we are at this rate going to have to allocate a national annual budget for maintenance of deathrow convicts and life-sentence rapists under trail. We wasted enough on Afzal Guru, we wasted enough on Kasab, we wasted enough and keep wasting enough on a lot of idiots.

The point is: Is it the rapist's mind we are discussing or is it a deep-rooted sense of malaise which we are acknowledging by trying to wish it away under the proverbial carpet? As Rushdie would call it, 'the lucky star is done a bunk,' so let's sweep it under the carpet!

There was this idiotic-to-no-end debate (exorcism, if you want to call it otherwise) on NDTV the night when parallely Arnab Goswami was crooning his best about the unethical nature of some journos (not him ever, boy!). It featured Aparna Sen (for whom I sometimes have the highest regards). People - young and old - were yodelling their throats away about how since Draupadi's time to Nirbhaya's time our mindset has been sicklied o'er; how the machisimo or masculinity has warped the freedom of women and clothing; how whatnots and whatelsenots are the cornerstone of male chauvinistic bastion!

Poor ignorant me is sitting here rhetorically wondering: so what do we want to do about it? Every time someone comes along kicking muck up, we all get excited about theorising, debating, politicising, moralising, hypothetising, a-lot-more-ising, posturing... to kingdom come.  Like the mothership has opened its hatch and all the Red-jacketed Martians are whisking our thoughts away in a nano-second if we don't keep -ising non-stop. OK. The malaise is deep-rooted, yes. Let's accept it, let's face it. OK. We've accepted it. We've outted ourselves off the closet of chauvinism. Now what? Do we take the Truth and Reconciliation path to purge the guilts of the past? to wash away the chauvinistic sins of days bygone? we just ungarland the albotross off our necks? So we can start tomorrow anew and start thinking rapes won't or don't happen? that people won't have postergirls, however demystified of carnal thoughts? or women would stop dreaming of six pack ad-models and filmy heroes? See. There. Is. The. Rub.

See. The rub is in another closet. For too long, the body itself has been looked at as something to be not talked about except in the concept of muscular men (valour) and lovely ladies (glamour) in public context... or as a reproductive User Interface in the private context of marital coitus in darkened rooms. We do not attach the right importance to body. According to western frame of mind. The truth is, we're trying to apply western liberal notions to a different cultural context without being prepared to absolutely uncompromisingly be bodily. How many of these non-machisimo, non-chauvinistic, liberated, bra-burning, equal-opportunity minded men and women have completely, totally, absolutely exorcised their own sexual devils away? Can anyone ever approach bodies in a complete asexual manner? Has anyone ever done that? Between the white and the black, there are sooo many shades of grey that various minds get excited variously from the white end of purity to the black end of perversity. Every every culture in the world has these men. It is only relative. Who is to spell judgement upon whom? We are all subjective and conveniently so! Where do we begin? What do we want? What can we do? How far are we 'all' willing to go? Who is willing to lead this change all the way through? Where exactly will this end or do we want this to end?

We want to show the body. We want to glamourise, glorify, sensualise and eroticise the body - men's and women's - but we want to keep the badness suppressed? Can we? Could we? Are we sure we're not going to drool at Deepika or Hrithik when they flaunt their bodies? Metaphorically speaking. How is this different? Is it ok for someone to do things in their mind (like in 8mm in the court scene)? Oh... but we're not hurting anyone physically! (I hear you. I agree.) But again, the act is in the mind. In the psyche. In the collective consciousness of the world. Not just India or Brazil or Shanty Town or other (in the developed world's eyes) squalid places. The fact is, every single one of us are (for lack of other better word) 'perverse' in our thoughts. If not, why else do so many millions of copies of Fifty Shades of BDSM being sold? We are all perverse in our thoughts at one time or other. In each other's perspective. We only call ourselves civilised, we're still animals, 'social' or not. And in the jungle, there are herbivores, parasites and predators. So is it in society. So, who is going to bell the cat? What is the bell? What is it a metaphor for? Is it like the Emperor's invisible clothes? Is there anyone out there with a workable answer instead of a lot of cackles of protest? Answer, please!


Until then, spare your voices. I am, as Kafka Sr. says in Alan Benett's Kafka's Dick, sick to my scrotum. By the way, why do we constantly keep encouraging these Britishers? We still have a strong colonial hangover, don't we? Why blame them barmies? Slumdogs that we are and Billionaires that they are! Pfffft!!