Tag Archives: education

My first long-distance relationship

There are a few things I remember about him. But with each passing year, my memories of him dwindle and I forget that they were ever there. My first long-distance-relationship. My father.
I am told that, as a little girl, I once proclaimed that I wanted to marry a person who would be just like him. A very special person, full of kindness, joy and warmth, he was always my hero when I was growing up.
He was a fairly strict, disciplined in many ways but totally lacked it in other ways. He would make uswake up early even during our summer holidays and go out for a jog or to the park. On most days he would accompany us. But he would come back from that exercise and take a long siesta in the afternoon, this made my mother very angry. She said that there was no point to his morning walk if he slept right after a heavy lunch!
My father made me learn the multiplication table upto 15 x 15, front to back, back to front, just when I was 6 years old. He was of the opinion that intelligent children ought to be strong in mathematics. He was a chartered accountant himself. Unfortunately he din’t do his own personal money maths too well, so he was in a lot of debt. This part about him being bad about his own money is my mother’s opinion. I think that he cared about us so much and loved us so much, that he wanted to leav no stone unturned in giving us a good education. Even if it was difficult for him to pay the school fee each month, or send us to hobby classes such as dancing and tennis, he made sure we never gave it up. He had a passion for life and his motto, of live and let live was something he followed to the T. He lived large and was always kind to everyone. His zest for life is evident in all the things that inspired him and tat he shared with me. In class six, he sent me letter on a yellow page. and attached the letter was the poem that still remains among my most cherished ones. It was called Don’t Quit.
When he came back home from work, I could hear the jingle of his keys one the second floor, even as he entered the building on the ground floor. To me it was the most joyous sound, of my father returning home. My favourite person in the world returning home to spend the rest of the evening with me!

It was quite a shock to me when I stopped hearing it. At that time I think I dealt with it pretty well. Looking back, I think I looked upon it almost as a fancy event. That my father had gone to another land to save us all from hunger and despair was a superhero fantasy. I believed we would go and join him again and be like the family we were, once again.

I just realized that I have even been writing of him in the past tense!

I am not sure when I realized that it was going to happen that way. Some time after my father left, it was my mother, my brother and I.
We learnt to make all decisions independently without having to consult my father, or even eachother sometimes. If my mother din’t feel like cooking, she would independently decide that we were eating out. It was just the 3 of us for so long and for the greater part of my memory. (It has almost entirely been just the 3 of us in my brother’s memory. I wonder how he feels about this all.) This is why a lot of things I know instinctively are for 3 people. I know the measurements of rice, dal, vegetables that need to be cooked for 3 people. I know the cost of living for 3 people. I know water quantities used and number of luggage bags and life lived by 3 people.

I have forgotten what it is like to have appa around, often forgetting him altogether. I think of him a bit later than one would think of their father, when I want to share a good or bad news. I have few things to say to him and now, as I have grown up, all the fights that come from generation gaps have manifested themselves. This has made communication even more strained and difficult, for two people who already spoke less. Two people who are so intensely bound together by blood and truth and love, but have forgotten to love.

But perhaps its only me who has forgotten to love. I wonder how he feels about this. I know that he thought about us all the time in the beginning. But I am wondering about now. I wonder if he is moved by love or if he thinks of us forlornly in an alien manner.

I suppose he wants only the best for us and wants us to be happy. as I do wish for him.

But this is only in the times that I think of him. I am sorry and I sad about this, but it its true that these times are few.

My father was my first long-distance relationship.
and it has taught me things about myself, it has determined how I interact with people, my desire for intense privacy, my desire to trust few, my desire to seek for people and then run away on finding a hand to clasp. Perhaps it will change one day, but for now, I know that it certainly has moulded how I feel about relationships, and deal with people who I am distanced from.
Out of sight, out of mind. Not necessarily “out of mind”, but certainly cast aside. With friends and relatives, I pick up from where we left off and am absolutely fine with it.
But perhaps there are relations that are not meant to be cast aside. This is where it begins to hurt and I fear to let another person close to me, believing he would leave to go far away.
Leave a gaping hole.
An empty seat in a table meant for four.

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A question of atrocities

Ashis Nandy’s recent allegedly anti-Dalit remark during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which led to legal procedures against him, has begun an array of exchanges in his support as well as against him, in the media, academic and political circles. It is this attention given to this social psychologist writer’s remark due to his ‘eminent’ position in certain spheres that has escalated this incident to a controversy. To understand the various commentaries and to be able to take a stance on the issue, it is necessary to understand the order of events and excavate the meaning of all that has been said.

It was on 26th January, during a panel discussion at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013, titled ‘Republic of Ideas’ where five men from various fields were exchanging ideas about India, its present and future. The conversation soon turned towards the topic of corruption when Ashis Nandy pitched the idea of nepotism also being a form of corruption, but not being recognized as such. This allowed the powerful and rich to hide their corruption, while incriminating the poor who indulge in corruption. He also said that corruption made our society more humane. In response to this, Tarun Tejpal, the editor of Tehelka and one of the panellists, deemed corruption to be an equaliser since it is a means for the underprivileged to subvert the structure of society and improve their condition. At this point, with a prior warning that he was about to utter something “vulgar” and “undignified”, Ashis Nandy said, “It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and the scheduled castes and now increasingly scheduled tribes and as long as this is the case, Indian republic will survive”. Nandy followed up these words citing West Bengal as an example where nobody from the SC/ST or OBC community has reached any position of power in the last 100 years. At the same time, it is also one of the least corrupt states in the country. By this he implied that since they don’t indulge in monetary corruption, people from these backward communities have not arrived at powerful positions although nepotism among the privileged allowed them to continue holding zenithal statuses.

Ashis Nandy making a point

Despite his seemingly pro-Dalit example about West Bengal, Nandy’s previous and now oft-quoted words had already sparked the ire of his co-panellist Ashutosh Srivastava, Managing Editor of IBN7. He protested saying that this was the most bizarre statement he had heard and that this was the typical perception about Dalits held by the elite. Ashutosh’s objection was met by some supportive applause from the audience after which there was a question-answer round before the session ended and the audience dispersed. In a few hours, a group of people led by Rajpal Meena, Chairperson of the SC/ST Rajasthan Manch, began a protest outside the venue demanding Nandy’s arrest for slurring the Dalit community. Soon, TV channels were displaying a clip only of him making the particular statement that the protestors claimed was proof of his anti-Dalit attitude, in a loop and out of context. This escalated the issue and soon a police complaint under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) Section 3 (x) was filed against Ashis Nandy. Although such a complaint demands immediate arrest, Nandy left the Jaipur Literature Festival premises from a back route and drove to Delhi. While no arrest was made despite four FIRs being filed against him in different parts of the country, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the arrest of the accused writer on 1st February 2013.

In the meantime, Ashis Nandy produced a statement clarifying what he meant by his statement at the festival and that it was, infact, not anti-Dalit. This was reiterated by a still-growing number of his supporters from the media, academic and intellectual circles, via articles, petitions and even an Ashis Nandy solidarity blog. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Karan Thapar and many others raised the argument of the freedom of speech and expression being a constitutional right for all Indians and that we have become an intolerant people to not respect this right and listen to someone’s opinion. Many others like Lawrence Liang and Ritu Bhatia felt that ‘Ashis da’ deserved better and that all his past writing is proof that his heart is in the right place and that he has infact always been a supporter of Dalit upliftment. Others like Ali Khan Mahmudabad attributed this anti-Nandy protest to be a result of manipulation by politicians who have twisted the meaning of his words for identity based vote-bank politics. Many also agreed that Ashis Nandy’s words and manner of phrasing his thoughts was too obtuse and thus, easily misunderstood his idea of associating corruption with caste in India, which haven’t been linked before. These are largely true and strong arguments brought up by his supporters, however, I find reason in the arguments put forward by those disapproving of his action. In an open letter to Ashis Nandy, Kancha Ilaiah, Director for the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, pointed out that labelling SC/ST/OBCs as corrupt to equalise them with the upper castes is not justified because the latter indulge in corruption as well as exploitation. Another argument pitched by S. Anand of Navayana Publications is that Nandy has dismissed the agency of Dalits by implying that even in corruption they are ‘emulating’ the Upper caste people. Urvashi Butalia, who was chairing the panel discussion where the controversial incident occurred, ends her article supporting Nandy, by posing a question. She asks if something derogatory against women is spoken by anyone in public, will anyone protest about it? She speaks too soon when she says there will only be a few feminists protesting, while still abstaining from judicial procedure. In my opinion, if there were adequate laws, the long-oppressed women would have raised their voices in protest and invoked the law.  Dr.K. Satyanarayana also pointed out that all this hype about the issue and the raising of the ‘freedom of speech’ argument is making the Dalits appear as if they are an intolerant community and foreclosing any discussion on their corruption levels by simply stating that they are the more corrupt.

There is indeed no empirical data about the levels of corruption related to castes and communities. In a space like a popular literature festival, Ashis Nandy ought to have weighed his language and articulated his idea in a responsible manner. Throughout this controversy, one can recognize the problem of using words and interpreting their meanings. Ever since Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement, the vehement abhorrence for this vice has increased and by accusing a people of being corrupt, Ashis Nandy has stepped on fragile nerves. One also needs to examine the Prevention of Atrocities Act that has been filed against him. The word ‘Atrocity’ is quite a harsh word and one needs to question if by saying something that can be potentially misunderstood and can hurt a Dalit, infront of a large public gathering, he has committed an atrocity. It is apparent in the context of the conversation that the sociologist was not making an anti-Dalit statement, and needn’t hurt or offend anyone, except those on whom he is blowing the whistle. However, I believe that in terms of the law, and in the light of the way that single sentence was used, Ashis Nandy has committed what could be an atrocity towards their life in this country. Someone, who doesn’t understand his meaning and buys into the sentiment that that statement proliferates, could be biased against Dalits which could possibly cost a member of this community job opportunities, food and a humane life. I think the court trial ought to go ahead and the fact that his was not a casteist statement can be proved and established via the judiciary and constitution, thereby maintaining the faith of the people in an Act and a law that has been a tool for their redemption.

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Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

Last week in our Surveying Western Art class we learnt about the artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), a contemporary of Vincent van Gogh. Though this Gauguin fellow is highly problematic, politically incorrect, racist and quite a male chauvinist, I love his work and style. His use of colours, ways of seeings and plain cheekiness intrigues me and I guess that is what makes me appreciate him.

Anyway, one painting of his that we saw was titled Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? . Painted in 1897, the painting is an artistic representation of the conflicts and questions that plague Gauguin at that time. As the 19th century was being engulfed by the promise and threat of new discoveries and challenges to beliefs.

Here is the painting –

Paul Gauguin, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

And here is a commentary and small catalogue on the painting taken from http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=10412 that gives a great insight into the painting.

Irrespective of whether one grasps what Gauguin is trying to show in this painting or not,  I am really struck by the fact that its has been 115 years now since he asked this question and painted this masterpiece. Yet, after more than a century, in 2012, we are still asking the same existential questions. If anything, we are all the more perplexed by the whirl and enmeshed nature of reality and life around us.

Indeed I ask, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

 

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exams-the brain-the number-your life.

Exams finally got over yesterday and my Second year BA is officially oh-ver! That is assuming I am passing in all subjects(definitely happening) , not with flying colours though.. but whatever.

I must admit that although we make such a big deal about exams,  arts is definitely not as difficult as an engineering , medical or CA course.Atleast its so until the Second year. I remember ranting to my friend Bing* about how I had to study 110 pages of a pathetic text book for my Foundation Course exam the next day.And in response I got to hear quite a lot of grumbling as he 110 pages in very small font was the size of one chapter in his engineering text book.But again , Foundation Course is not even a real subject.

So yes, arts definitely has made me quite laid back.Photo-copying notes a few days before the exam, not buying the text book at all,  and watching the movie version of a novel one day before the exam(yes , quite a fiasco that one) are all part of my course.

Lately I have been finding my course to be quite irritating.i don’t regret the subjects I chose- economics, english literature and statistics.Infact, I love them.But often I feel strangulated by the fact that I can’t choose my course content, drop and pick subjects as per my wish and do a more wide variety of subjects. For instance, if I could choose subjects from across different streams I would even have selected physics and geology and dance as my subjects. But it is not to be. 😦

Actually, I am even against the idea of exams and One conversation with a very frustrated John Y made me even more critical of the examination system. Leaving out entrance exams, most exams till our college level only test the left side of our brain.I’ll elaborate.The leftt side of the brain is responsible for the analytical, methodical,quantitative and memory skills. While the right side pf the brain performs the functions of feeling, imagining and perceiving.So while some people are adept with their left brain others use their right more.These exams test only the left side of our brain ,leaving the poor right brain users in a sorry state.And the result of the examination is a number which is stamped onto us ,that runs the risk of deciding the trajectory of our entire life.

Instead, we could just have a system in which students could choose their subjects across streams,  drop a subject they dint like and not lose a year, select the course content, lecture timings, choose their own projects and manner of assessment.All this is happening in universities abroad.And although a handful of colleges have made some progress towards creating such student friendly systems, majority of the students are unfortunate.

But the good news is that my generations growing up and hopefully we will bring the change.

By the way, Kapil Sibal , the Indian union HRD Minister seems to be taking a lot of positive steps towards creating this healthy environment for education.So cheers to that!

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