Sunday, May 29, 2011

Class system

I have decided that I want to be a tutor. A tutor and not a teacher mind you. What is the difference you ask? Just a life style! Teaching has always been touted as the most noble of professions. and yet teachers everywhere are the least paid professionals. Not so, the tutor! The tutor is revered and sought after. Ask anyone who has a child in class X or class XII.. They may not worry so much about the school the child is going to, but getting into the right tutorial class is of great importance. There are entrance exams to get into classes to clear entrance exams. The child may not pay much attention to the class X syllabus, but he studies for the entrance. There are exams, interviews and sleepless nights. The celebration for getting into the right class rivals the celebration for getting into the right course/ college.

Then there are the super speciality coaching classes/ tutorials. For all those who may be unaware of this, there are parents flocking to a western state of India which is famous for its IIT entrance coaching. Kota in Rajasthan is the Mecca of IIT coaching classes. The whole of Kota is geared to this and there are rooms and homes available on rent, so one can set up camp there. Anxious mothers leave ambitious fathers and encouraging families in other parts of the country and set up temporary homes in Kota with their IIT aspiring children. The aspirants eat, drink and sleep the IIT mantra for atleast two years. They are like horses that have blinders put on their faces so they see nothing else but their goal of getting into IIT. Never mind that our minister Jairam Ramesh has slammed the teaching in these institutes. Remember, even he has said nothing about the tutors!!

Burdened with academics and expectations, these kids lose themselves ( and two years of their lives) in the morass of multiple choice / multiple answer/ negative marking ... Some do emerge victorious which only means more join the race the next year. The XII grade results mattering less and less each year, it is the classes that do better then the schools. The classes compete with each other in making claims that will draw more and more into this vortex.

Teachers are doing better if they become tutors . They find it easier to get students to listen/ obey/ follow their instructions. The parents hang on their every word and give them more than the respect they deserve. Colleges seem to have become just meeting places for youngsters, that too if they so choose. Parents appear absolutely fine with getting their children into colleges that are openly lax about minor details like class attendance. In exchange, colleges have been relieved of the task of imparting an education. Maybe our ministers and the powers that be need to think of this before they even think of revamping the system.

Who needs an education when coaching does the trick?!

Connecting the dots...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

To love and lose or never to love at all.. ..

It could be the story of Romeo and Juliet, or our very own home grown 'Heer Ranjha' and 'Sohni - Mahiwal'. The setting is just out of a bollywood movie. No, no not the lush beautiful rich Yash Chopra type..more of  Vishal Bharadwaj- a la "Kaminey".

You might think that a slum of Pune is probably not the most conducive environment for love to bloom. But then love can happen anywhere and like it happens in the movies, the boy is a twenty something,  out of work, 2nd grade drop out, while the girl is a comely sixteen year old brought up on the wholesome diet of TV serials and masala movies. So love blossomed while there was nothing else to do. The boy, lets call him Shahnawaz, swore undying devotion and was ready to pledge all his worldly ( and other -worldly) goods to her , while she , Mohini , promised to follow him to the ends of the earth ( It is a different issue that he has  never left home even to go to work). All that was left to happen was the fairy tale ending when they rode the white steed off into the beautiful sunset. ( well, the horizon was choc-bloc with high-rises and sunsets were hard to catch, but you get the drift)

If you're holding your breath, you can exhale or take a deeper one, after all, if there is a  hero and a heroine, the situation demands a villain , right?  This is where the  the 'zaalim zamana' fits in. The parents on both side were distraught. After all, 'no pyaar, we are Indian' is the first tenet of parenting. and horror of horrors, that too across communities and even religions? Why, that was blasphemy!! So he was beaten senseless as they tried to knock some sense into him. ( oh well, it has been known to work) but to no avail. He swears that it is either her or none, while she promises to set herself afire if parted from him. As of now, the flaming controversy continues.

I know that love is blind ( and sometimes deaf and dumb )  and mundane concerns like where the next meal is coming  from, escape those blissfully in love. Love and fresh air seem ample. Having had my own set of infatuations and crushes , I know that the world seems to be one's oyster when one is young. No problem seems insurmountable, no mountain too high to climb, no star too out of reach to pluck and strew at the feet of the beloved. Yet I know of love fading when life's little realities drown out the sound of the Cupid's wings. Then the same love song begins to pall. Does love really give you the ability to brush aside reality?  Love is a powerful force, capable of changing the course of history. Remember the British Monarch  King Edward, who abdicated the throne so he could marry an American , Mrs. Simpson? Or Helen of Troy? Even the gods were not spared by cupid   and even Shiva was wounded by kaamdev's arrow, never mind he paid with his life for that little service as he was burnt to ashes by the irate god.

Yet,  does love need to be all about fire and self immolation (a la Mohini)?  Does love that not get consummated into a formal relationship end? Do you have to swear undying love in blood to prove its existence? Can it not be the magic that you hug to yourself or the lucky  charm that raises up your spirits when you are down?  It can be the serene knowledge that someone loves you unconditionally, unselfishly in this ' business as usual' world!   'It is better to love and lose, than never to love' goes the saying, but from where I stand,  loving  does not seem to be about losing or winning. I am told possession is nine-tenths of the law of real estate.  Is it the whole of romance too? Does one have to possess the loved one?  Maybe. ..... but the business of living is tough enough without trying to get perfect fairytale endings for love. That is probably the reason most stories end with the wedding scene and not ten years and two kids  later. King Edward's abdication may sound divine, but why did Mrs. Simpson not make the sacrifice and insist he keeps the throne and work for the greater good. What if he felt that he'd made the biggest mistake a few years later and could not say anything about it? Is Mira's love any less intense Laila's ?

 I do not know how  the 'Sohni-Mahiwal' errrr,  'Mohini- Shahnawaz' story will end, but I doubt it will be a regular fairy tale with knights on chargers  and damsels in distress. But then again, who is to say that all fairy tales should be the same?!!

The land that time warped....

I had posted on this subject sometime ago only to discover that blogger had taken some posts off due to some technical problems. I probably can retrieve it, but it is so much easier( not necessarily better though) to write instead of delving into technology to fix things.The story of young Moin Khan, a little child of ten, who moved from Bihar to Delhi so he could earn a living. What he earned instead was death at the hands of his uncle. That you should have to earn a living at just ten years old is terrible in itself, and working in a beedi factory for a pitiful one rupee an hour is worse than pathetic. Beaten and tortured on a regular basis for not being productive enough. With no avenue of escape and no hope of seeing any kindness. On 21st April, he was beaten so violently that his frail body just gave up against the onslaught. I can not even imagine the hellish nightmares he must have gone through before he died. The parents could not even come and collect the body as they did not have the funds. Such abject poverty in the land where scams run into millions of rupees and the corrupt seem to have more money than they can ever manage to spend. Such brutishness in a land that was known for its 'culture'. 'jahan daal daal par soneki chidiya karti hai basera' The sone ki chidiya is an elusive creature that seems to prefer to the gilded cages only the rich and powreful can provide.

In contrast to the story, was another that claims  India as the land where the concept of animal rights emerged from. Asoka the great, in the aftermath  (and remorse ) of the Kalinga war,  was the first one to realize the need  and pass laws that upheld animal rights. I believe that animal rights are on par with human rights. Yet when one human can treat another of his own species in this depraved manner, it is beyond depressing. The story was covered for a couple of days before another spectacular death took over the media. Osama bin Laden was dead and the world and its uncle could only talk of that. Moin is a forgotten  'story'. I do not know what/ how terrorists come to be, but maybe getting tortured to death for a rupee is less attractive than believing that one is dying for a worthy cause, however misguided the belief maybe!

 Then there was Dhanashree who suffered a similar if not worse fate in  gods own country and the land of 100% literacy. She was starved, physically and even sexually abused by a couple and no one among their neighbours or friends even noticed it happening. The popular song played on national holidays continues 'Jahan satya, ahimsa, aur dharam ka pag pag lagta deraa'. If this is the truth, non violence and dharam we are supposed to be proud of, count me out!  I am sure for every Moin and Dhanshree there are countless who go unnoticed.What Ahimsa are we talking about?

In a land that gave the world paper ( now they say it was us and not China) I wish we could devote some column centimetres of it to covering such issues to their logical conclusion. Making sure the guilty are punished and creating enough public opinion to get tough laws and enforce them put a stop to such torture. If Asoka, the monarch of all he surveyed, could change his way of life and legislation, should not his democratic descendants be able to do something to ensure all children and the future of this country is safe??  How can we talk of India's glorious past and brilliant future when we cannot take care of the innocent,  the less able, the defenceless?

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