Thursday, 12 January 2012

We don’t need no education!!

Today is a very important day, not only for me, not only for the “me-too” intellectual Bengalis, but for the entire world. Today, 12th January 2012, is the birth day of one of the greatest ambassadors of global peace, humanity and social justice – Swami Vivekananda (aka: Narendranath Dutta, before taking sainthood). On 12th January 1863, this great soul had arrived with an unparalleled vision, knowledge and wisdom and at a very young age of just 39 years, left this mortal world.

I would have gone on to write a lot more about Swamiji, but not today; maybe, some other day. But before I proceed with the context of today’s post, I want my students, friends and every other person, who follow my blog to internalize the following quote by Swamiji: We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.

Today I am ferocious with anger, with disgust, with hatred. Today I feel ashamed and embarrassed to call myself a teacher, a guide, a mentor. Today, I feel that my service to this society is of no use. You may wonder why I write all these. It’s all because I feel that teachers have lost all the respect that they once had, in the eyes of the students. One need not go far in citing examples, although thousands of them can be traced from all across the world – but the last place that one would have found this would have been the intellectual capital of IndiaBengal.

Over the past few months, rather days, there have been back to back incidents of college principals, teachers and other academic staffs in Bengal being ‘gheraoed’, man-handled and even ‘slapped.’ All these, for some petty demands put across by the students, which the management or the authorities have justifiably denied. The Minister of Education, Sri Bratya Basu, supposedly among the new breed of Bengali intellectuals nurtured by the current state Chief Minister, has been quoted in the largest selling Bengali daily as, “These are small little incidents by young kids” – giving away a message to the real young kids, those who attend school in the 10th or 12th standard to go and slap the maths teacher in class, if he feels the teacher has not given him marks as per his expectations or whatever. Kudos, sir!!
If only I could have quoted Mark Antony -
I come to bury a teacher, not praise him;
The evil that students do lives after them,

Honorable Minister of Education
(West Bengal) - Sri Bratya Basu
The good is oft interred with their bones
So let it be with Education... 
The noble Bratya  Hath told you teacher was a puppet in his hands:  
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,  
And grievously hath the teachers answered it ... 
Here, under leave of Bratya and the students,   
(For Bratya is an honourable man;  
So are they all; all honourable men)    
The Left, true to all claims, from the media to the neo-intellectuals, had started the decay in the educational system. There have been unjustified appointments and even complete power was vested in the student unions at the different colleges and institutions, But, one can hardly recall such ‘regular and intensive media coverage’ provided to such horrific issues like man-handling or physical abuse of teachers and principals by students. More importantly, what makes me (and probably many others) sit up and take a note is that, one of the biggest media groups of the country and by far the largest in Bengal, which had played a pivotal role in the success of the present political regime to acquire power and overthrow the left, has not left no stone unturned in condemning the issue. I personally congratulate the newspaper to highlight these news, that would have otherwise been broomed under the sheets, had it not the conviction of what is right and what is wrong.
Principal of Rampurhat College collapses
after being detained by students for
over 2 hours
Another interesting thing worth noticing is that, referring back to the same Bengali daily (dt. 12th Jan 2012), the right hand bottom section of the cover page of this newspaper is an advertisement of the current government’s recent industrial achievements, with a body caption – West Bengal in Top Gear!!! And in the same page at the top reads the headline – “Students threaten aggressively, Principal faints”. Who are the drivers of a country’s future – rather a society’s future? The generations of young minds who are ignited to think and nurtured to act purposefully. And from where do we get these young generations? Of course from the schools, the colleges and other institutions of higher education – that is, they are the students, who are trained to make a better future. And do we believe these students are capable of achieving this? Need I speak more?

Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal
She has her agenda very clear!!!
When Rome was burning, Nero, the Emperor, was busy playing the violin. As Bengal burns under the prejudices of a fast decaying academic system (thanks to moral support provided by the Minister of Education), the Chief Minister is busy creating network to increase her networth. What the Gandhi family achieved in over 4 decades, she needs to achieve within the next 4.5 years… so, forget about rules, regulations, education, healthcare, policing, time is too short and a lot need to be achieved and gained. By garlanding a picture of Rabindranath Tagore or Swami Vivekanada or spending time with a bunch of nincompoops, who pose to be the flagbearers of Bengali intelligentsia, you do not achieve anything finally. Yes, of course at the cost of other things, the family members (brothers and now nephew – Abhishek) would soon have a lot to usurp.

Before I end, I would once again reiterate what I started with, the quote by Swamiji - We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.

Why every other Indian housewife can interpret human behaviour more effectively than a seasoned HR specialist?

It was just the other day. I was trying to spend some quality time with my mother-in-law at home, who was incidentally more glued to the television set infront of her than reciprocating to my warm companionship. The 14-inch Onida Candy (one of my earliest possessions since I started earning, over a decade back) in the guest room, was airing a popular Bangla soap – “Binni Dhaner Khoi” on an equally popular Bangla entertainment channel.
The serial, at the fag end of its slot for the day, must have reached a climax! I could gauge that from the sheer tension that was clearly visible on my mother-in-law’s face, ignorant of my persistent efforts to impress her with some ‘lame’ antics. And that’s when she pronounced, “Baas, hoye geche! Ebar ai mahilati oar meyeke shami-strir majhe eney, eder shonar shanshar ta bhenge debe. (Well, its all over now! That woman will wreck their peaceful family by planting her daughter between the husband and wife)” 
Ah! There she goes… I was just about to exclaim with a grunt. But decided to reserve my criticism for some other time. I rather thought of contemplating on the fact how (on earth!) could she so quickly analyse certain behavioural traits of the characters on screen just by sieving through the ensuing exchange of dialogues to predict a future event.  Just about precisely (within the next 2 episodes, it became clear that she has done a fairly decent job of predicting the obvious). Well, isn't that the role of a psychologist or a professional, specialised in mapping human behaviour? Isn't this the kind of work for which these professionals earn a fat pay cheque? Certainly yes. Then how did she see through the human behaviour or the intent of one of the characters to try and ruin the happy family in the serial? Was it just by fluke? I would rather disagree.
With the volume of daily soaps being aired on national and regional cable channels, the option of television viewing has increased multifold from what it was even half a decade ago. This increase in television viewing has opened up an array of television serials (with a greedy intent to cash in on the TRPs) across all the regional languages. A majority of all these serials or daily soaps, being aired across India cater to the family drama genre - essentially painting the mind of the viewer with different hues of emotions, feelings, behaviours and characterisations. 
A distantly remembered vamp (a coinage which became extremely popular thanks to Nadira, Lalita Pawar, Shobha Khote, et al during the 50s till the 80s) from the silver screen has now made her entry straight into our bedrooms through the roles etched by the 'dirty' damsels of the daily soaps. Every minute of their screen presence have made us sit up and take note of their acting. Add to it a pinch of lust, greed, envy, hatred - and we have a heady cocktail of everything evil that rests in the id (reference: id, ego, superego) state of a human mind.
Now, if one person is exposed to a daily dose of at least 4 hours of family drama (and melodrama) for 5 days a week, then the person has already consumed around 1000 hours of television content in a year, which focuses on the extremes of human behaviour and cognitive states. Who else than the stereotypical Indian housewife, who after seeing her kids off to school and husband off for work, takes another 2-3 hour to complete most of the daily chores and finally after settling down on the couch to rest, takes the liberty to frisk through the daily soaps at her leisurely pace. Add to this some 5-7 years of personal experience in a family set up, and we have a seasoned psychologist that even a Freud or a Cattell (Raymond Cattell, a noted behavioural scientist of the 20th century) would dare challenge, forget about the jargon-chanting HR managers. Hence, these housewives are no more to be looked down upon as a poor cousin to the much hyped and educated working wives of the current generation. Be it at home or work, our lives rest on our expertise in dealing with people and situations (that is the introductory statement in any first year management class). To deal with both, we need to understand the people - their nature, their behaviour, how they think or perceive and then analyse how the same person may react in a different environment. Based on this analysis, we also modify our behaviour towards the person. This power of introspection and retrospection may take a lot of time even years for someone to nurture from inside. But if you are exposed to a simulated environment or get to witness live case-studies - 1000 hours of it in a year, well, then one learns and nurtures faster the art of predicting people and future events based on people's behaviour, just as my mother-in-law did that day.
So, the next time I have a vile thought against my mother-in-law, I should take extreme caution. I know for sure, she can read minds. So friends, take my suggestion, have due respect for that otherwise-considered-conservative-ghar-ki-bahu, as she knows what you have in your mind.