Sunday, August 14, 2011

Teaching – The Noble Profession

Last night I watched Prakash Jha’s latest venture, Aarakshan. Interestingly, a few weeks back I posted an article with the same title on my blog, so it was kind of déjà vu for me.

Mr Jha raised a few very interesting points in the film which I already mentioned on my blog post like, improving the standard of education at grass root level and the system of unbiased education. Another very interesting observation made in the film was elevating the standard of the profession without which we would be nobody – Teaching.

Teaching since eons has been a backup profession for the Indian society. We all start with big dreams of becoming Doctor, Engineer, IAS, IPS and more, and always have the backup plan of entering the teaching profession if everything else fails.

Why is teaching always Plan-B? Why doesn’t the cream of the student fraternity see a career in this profession? The answer is simple, “Because there isn’t one.” We see a career in medicine, engineering, entrepreneurship, civil services or even in being a bank clerk but not in the profession which made us who we are.

As far as women are concerned, teaching is more of a convenience than career or fulfilment for most of them. When I say most, I mean around 99% of them. I have several friends and distant relations who have opted for the profession of teaching because they couldn’t qualify for a better position and who find the idea of making sufficient “pocket money” and coming home by 2 pm good enough.

We attend classes of our favourite teachers but always come out of the class with only one idea haunting us - “Had they been good enough in what they are teaching us, they would have been at a better place. They wouldn’t have been here teaching us.” This is the kind of opinion we have of our teachers, which is not totally incorrect either. If you are close enough to ask your teachers about their dreams then would learn that most of them wanted to do something else in their lives than teach.

My father, wanted to do his PhD and become a professor in IIT, but he too like many others didn’t see a bright future in it. I wanted to teach, but I still can’t see a career in teaching. And let me tell you, there is nothing that I thoroughly enjoy than teaching. It fills me with positive energy and contentment. For several years we had this discussion over the dining table, of having better system for selection of teachers, lecturers and professors.

I was amazed that when I heard the same opinion being voiced in the film. It feels good to know that the intellectual society, too, can see the lapses in the profession of teaching. The idea of Indian Teaching Services was given in the film and I vote in favour of that idea. May the noble profession of teaching become a career option in coming time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thy Nature is Human

As simple as it may sound, it is after all human nature. We crib about something and call it human nature, we forget something and call it human nature, we even make mistakes that have huge consequences, and have the audacity to call it ‘human nature’.

We waste hours of our personal life cribbing about a crazy colleague, that’s human nature. We expect one treatment for ourselves but refuse to extend it to people around us, that’s human nature. We expect better salary, luxury car and bigger house for ourselves but refuse to pay the domestic help better, that’s human nature.

We want the world to keep earth clean but litter around ourselves, that’s human nature. We want our neighbours to potty-train their pets but fail to train our own pets, that’s human nature. We curse people who spit on the road but do it ourselves, that’s human nature.

We expect our children to be well behaved but swear oaths ourselves, that’s human nature. We tell them that smoking kills while blowing smoke on their face, that’s human nature. We expect our partner to be a teetotaller while we drink, smoke and dope, that’s human nature. We expect a virgin for a spouse while we sleep around, that’s human nature.

We don’t mind a single act of our parents but when it comes to ‘in-laws’ everything becomes different, that’s human nature. We call our friends on their birthday and forget to wish them just because we desperately want to crib about a colleague, that’s human nature.

Me writing this whole piece mocking human nature; THAT is Human Nature.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Challenged. Are they?

I've been searching myself for a while now. I don't even remember when I had a grab on myself last, but I discovered that only a few months back. Credit goes to my former colleague Madhusudan Srinivas, his son Abhmanyu and gang, and of course Kanika – who came up with the idea of Playtime Delhi.

Why wrote this is because I felt like and again the credit goes to Madhu. I used to write in school and in college, and then I stopped. I stopped because I wouldn’t feel like writing, I wouldn't feel like writing because I think I stopped feeling altogether. The only time I wrote was for work because I was paid to do so. Even on this blog I was never active because I lost touch with my inner self. But when I wrote this piece I really wondered that how I could live without doing something, the only thing I did best, writing!

It was a learning experience to be around these kids, Abhimanyu, Vivan, Vishu. I'm sure there are many more like them in this city, country and the planet, and I only wish that one day I'll get a chance to be around them all.

Clinically, these kids might be called Autistic but personally I think they are at par with any of us and at times, better. Madhu mentioned that they'd have a chance to learn and better themselves in our presence, but I think that we would learn more from them.

Stumbling, getting up again, trying again, cheering for themselves, no ill feeling against anyone, no completion, nothing to regret about, no money driven goals.... They are so much better people than the so called "Normal" human beings.

Even today there are people ignorant enough to call children with special needs – Retards. But I think such people are retards. These kids are smart I tell you. At times smarter than anyone of us. They just need the right kind of presence around them and they can be their own boss.

It has been quite a while since I hung out with them due various reasons but I look forward to spending more quality time with them and rediscovering myself.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fairness Madness

It all started with "Fair and Lovely" over two decades back and today there is a whole plethora of fairness products for men and women alike. More and more brands are emerging with their range of fairness creams, face washes, scrubs and what not. Each day we see fair an models, Indian and foreigners, complaining about their complexion and then picking one of these products to get fairer and thus successful.

But, is this really fair? Discrimination against the not so fair beings of the human race, dusky models being shown using fairness products on-screen or a fair girl aspiring to get fairer to win the man of her dreams, is it really fair?

I watched plenty of "Fair and Lovely" advertisements during my growing years and was always under the impression that the target audience of these products is the not so well educated class which considers fairness as the only parameter of judging beauty.

It’s an eye-opener to see that the ad-break slots of television channels today are flooded with advertisements of fairness products. These products have caught hold of the psychology of us Indians. It is the inferiority complex of the Indian masses which draws them to buy these fairness products. Why else would such racist products sell like hot cakes in this country?

Why can’t a dusky or dark complexioned girl get a man of her dreams? Why can’t a dusky guy become and actor or model? It is your capability, hard-work and confidence guys, which leads you to success. No fairness product can help you achieve those.

All that these products are achieving is a whole generation of boys and girls who are more conscious about their appearance (read fairness) than their report-cards or mark-sheets. And the best part, the consumers of fairness products are already fair, they just don’t think it’s enough.

You can look good irrespective of your complexion, brand of clothes or shoes and other items that are considered the parameter of good appearance if you are neat and confident about your capabilities. 30 minutes of yoga or meditation would do you better than wasting infinite amount of resources to get fairer.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Education overrated

Past one month has scared the crap out of me. No, I’m not scared for myself but for the coming generation. 100% cut off for college admissions! It’s like living in a different planet altogether. Although I have nothing to do with college admissions now but I strongly feel that the whole cut off system has gone way overboard.

I also hear that there are certain amendments lined up which would make the aggregate percentage a criteria for appearance in the entrance exams. Let me be very honest here, I wouldn’t have had a bachelor’s degree in my hands today had it not been for the entrance exam that I appeared in. I passed that exam with a remarkable rank and landed in a college of repute.

On a personal level, I believe that performance in examinations can’t be the best judge of a child’s aptitude, especially board exams. I hear that the format of question papers has changed already and is about to change further yet I feel that the percentage acquired in the board exams cannot be a parameter for appearance in competition.

Here is an idea though, why not have a common entrance examination at stage I, containing questions based on reasoning, aptitude, general awareness and English for candidates from all streams. Performance of this test as well as the subject stream of the candidate should be the basis for stage II, which should be more specific. There should be different stage II objective type tests for different courses like engineering, medicine, psychology and so on and so forth.

Then should there be a stage III involving subjective type tests; followed by personal interview and/or group discussion. All these tests should be held online at verified centers reducing any and every possibility of corruption.

India has been known for its education system since the times to Aryabhatt but we’ve already oversold it at the cost of our own children and their future. We need to realize that learning is only possible if it is fun and 100% cut off does not make it fun. We got to take it easy before we start losing our children to nervous breakdowns, depression or even worse - suicides.

The idea suggested above is just quite vague may be worth considering, maybe not. The need of the hour is a centralized common test that would eliminate the pressure, the harassment of filling different forms and appearing for different tests, and wasting a lot of money plus which would lead to better determination of the right candidate for the right course.

Aarakshan...

I have been hearing this hue and cry about special quota for the reserved category ever since I was a too young to understand the meaning itself, leave alone the implications. Through school, entrance exams, college and even office there was “Category?” always there.

Today as a grown up citizen of the state of India with all due respect I would like to ask the men in white, “Why do you not trust the doctors from quota with your life? Why is it that the doctors for you guys are always imported from the countries which have a completely merit based education system?”

The answer to me is simple, “You yourself are aware that the quality of a student reflects in the merit. It is not something you can gift a person on a platter.”

I may have sounded like a total anti-reservation mascot which I’m not. I have lived in this country long enough to understand the repercussions of the ancient caste system on the present society. There are a lot of malpractices done in the name of castes and the only way to put all that to an end in through education.

But this education has to be a part of life of each and every individual in the society. And this wouldn’t come when 60% of the country’s population still lives below poverty line and has no guarantee of the two square meals in a day.

The unemployment allowance is one solution to the problem. Many would argue that this would lead to people lying about their employment status or even worse, loss of interest in work. But believe me this shall pass and even if it doesn’t this would lead to a decline in crimes like theft, domestic violence etc. Most people commit a crime to feed themselves and their families or because they are out of options.

Another way of initiating a change in this situation is Reservation, but at a lower level. I’m not even talking about 10%, 15% or even 30% reservation, I vote for a 50% quota but between 0 to 9th grade. 10th grade onwards the system should be completely irrevocably merit based wherein a person who qualifies the exam gets admission and who does not, drops out. Again this 50% lot shall be admissible only after the basic background checks like education of parents, their work and income. As on a personal level I have come across a number of people who’ve gotten through college admissions using a fake certificate certifying them to be of the reserved category.

These steps would not turn around the situation prevalent at the moment but they will certainly initiate the change. And the change is what we need, Desperately.

TRUMPing Rage

I’m aware that I’m kind of late, almost at snail pace in coming up with this piece. But All these days, I was trying to process the events...