Sunday, August 26, 2007

Taking a break

Friends,
I am taking a break of about 20 days from the blogworld.My daughter is visiting along with her daughter and husband and I need to spare every minute available for them. I'll be inundating my site with news about them later. Till then 'Sayo Nara'!i'll read your posts as and when i find time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Teen troubles-2

Mothers of teenage boys beware!! Do not be carried away by those innocent eyes and try to defend them unless you are absolutely sure. Oh yes, I agree. He is your son and right from the days of Lord Krishna mothers tend to believe that their sons are okay and it is these ‘others’ that are trouble makers and lay the blame on your poor innocent child. Isn’t it aptly described in the famous ‘Main Nahin makhan khayo’ song. Poor Krishna, the gopikas would smear his lips with butter and blame him of stealing it from their homes! I learnt my lesson when my son was in his XII standard. And remember I was a teacher myself.

I was getting ready for college when my son said that his computer Science teacher wanted to meet me.

“Me?” I asked, Why?”

“She is refusing to accept my record work and is threatening to give me a zero in my practical exams.”

Now my son has or rather had the habit of dropping bombshells at the most inappropriate moments. Like when I am giving finishing touches to my cooking or the exact moment I put on my slippers to leave home or any time when I hop from the kitchen to the bedroom and am frantically looking for my keys. Those are the precise moments when my mind is kind of confused and I pay minimum attention. My conversation is conveniently restricted to monosyllables or ‘oh’s and ‘I see’s. We talk of understanding child psychology and these brats are experts in analyzing parent psychology.

“Listen son” I said “I’ll talk to you in the evening. When does she want to meet me?”

He was also getting ready for school.

“Today” was his reply.

And you tell me now?” I was beginning to lose my temper.

“I forgot” he said. “ I remembered only when I was arranging my bag.”

“Why is she refusing to accept your record?”

“”I had to submit it on Friday. Father Principal sent me along with M… on Friday to invite the Principals of different schools for our annual day. I was late in coming back. There was a traffic jam in the Adityapur bridge. You can ask M….’s mom if you want to.”

M…..’s mother was my colleague so the facts could be verified.

“Did you explain this to your teacher?”

“I did, ,but she refuses to see reason.”

“What about M…?”

“He is in the Commerce section. I wish I had taken Commerce. It would have been so much better. Those guys have such fun.”

I agreed to come to his school in the afternoon and sped off to college. I took out time to find out from M…’s mother whether the boys had indeed gone around distributing invitation cards and she confirmed my son’s version including the traffic jam. My heart filled with pride at the thought of my son being entrusted with responsibility and that too by the Principal himself. How could his teacher be so insensitive, I wondered? After all my son was given a job by the Principal. I then thought that perhaps the teacher did not know that it was the Principal who had sent him. Rahul ought to have explained. She’d have surely understood if he had excused himself before leaving school.

It was with a biased mind that I went to meet the teacher. She sent word for my son who came looking like a lamb being led to the slaughter house.

“ Ma’am,” I began “I hear that you refused to accept his record work……’

She interrupted me mid sentence.

“He had to submit it on Friday., did he tell you that?”

“Oh yes ma’am” I was certain that I was on firm ground. “But he was sent to distribute cards by the Principal. On his way back there was a traffic jam in Adityapur and they were late on account of that. The bridge is narrow and a jam in the area takes hours to clear. I agree that he should have excused himself before leaving….”

I was again interrupted by the teacher. This time her question was directed to my son.

“Did you tell Father Principal that you had a practical class in the afternoon?”

“No, ma’am”

Turning to me she said, “Mrs. R………. let me complete the story for you. He went along with M……. because he wanted to have some fun. The school was providing them with a van and in his place I too would have liked to go about distributing invitation cards instead of attending my practical class. More so if my assignment was incomplete. Yes I strongly suspect that he hadn’t completed his assignment and offered his services the moment Father Principal started looking for someone to take the responsibility. Had he told him that he had a practical class, the Principal would have sent someone else. There were many others who could have done the job. If his assignment had been complete he could have guiven hit to someone to submit it on his behalf.”

I did not know where to hide my face. I was myself very particular about my students finishing their record work on time and I was stupid enough to get carried away by my son. I don’t even remember what I mumbled as response to the teacher’s claim. I remember asking my son to apologize and hurrying off from the place resolving never to take his side before hearing the other side of the story.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Independence Day

Today is the Shashtiabdapoorty of our Independence. When a man turns 60 years old it is the custom among several Indian communities to celebrate the occasion with a get together which includes a prayer ceremony followed by a feast. This is generally hosted by his children and if the man has no issue his younger brothers and sisters do him the honor. This is in fact a way of acknowledging the role of parents in shaping their lives and of telling them that since they’ve done their bit it is time for them to relax and for the next generation to take charge. Is it not appropriate that we pay our tribute as children of this great nation in the most befitting manner?

Here are just a few things that we can do to be worthy of the freedom that we got due to the patience and perseverance of our great leaders.

1) Let us say NO to the customs and preferences that work against concept of peaceful co existence and disturb the natural balance of society. You’ve got me right. I mean the custom of offering and accepting dowry in whatever form. Please do no offer your sons for a price; they are too precious for that. And if by chance you do accept a price for him isn’t it proper that you hand him over to the bidder? I mean the highest bidder. You cannot accept a price and retain him as your property along with his wife as incentive bonus. No Sir/ Ma’am. You cannot hope to have the cake and eat it too.

2) Parents of girls please don’t treat your daughter’s marriage as an auction by offering a higher price for a boy being considered by your neighbor for his daughter. For all you know someone else may outbid you. If only a good number of you say NO to the atrocious demands made by parents of eligible boys the menace would automatically be thwarted.

3) Parents of young children are actually dealing with the nurture of national treasures. Please remember that there is no short cut to success. There never was and there never will be. Corruption in any form – whether you practice it or encourage it - would send a wrong signal to your children. They may never respect you or consider you worthy. Remember that you have a future with them. Do not make them heartless and unfeeling. You may be financially independent but never emotionally. Teach them values and you will reap rich rewards. And by your responsible behaviour it is the nation that will ultimately benefit.

4) They say charity begins at home and so it does. A country like ours is full of needy people. Let not your children grow up taking everything for granted. It will help them appreciate the facilities that are made available to them.

5) The media plays a great role in reporting various incidents that happen around us. Was it not for the visual media we may never learn about so many things happening in a distant place. Stories of rape and murder, wives being harassed for not producing a male heir and mothers throwing away new born infants, sometimes after brutally injuring them and daughters/sons speaking out against fathers are all reported. Channels compete with each other and claim that the story was an exclusive report. Does not responsible journalism call for an appropriate follow up of the news and a discussion with experts on possible solutions? The next sensational news takes over and the previous one is conveniently forgotten. I personally feel that this kind of reporting is not only cheap but it serves the singular purpose of putting ideas into the minds of adolescents. Correct me if I am wrong.

6) With the IT boom taking over, scientific research has taken a back seat. The quality if research being done is mediocre or plagiarized. The Ranchi University conducted tests to judge the candidates’ aptitude before allowing them to pursue research. Not a single candidate qualified in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. One of the reasons quoted was that the good ones have either left the state to pursue their studies elsewhere or have taken up IT jobs. The same may be the case with Arts subjects. I remember talking to a friend about how delightful I found Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra and how much we had enjoyed our English classes as undergrads. The lady, an MA in English Literature and an English teacher in a reputed English school in our town surprised me by saying that she had never read Shakespeare in the original. And this was some 15 years back. She had passed out from the school she taught in and it was affiliated to the ICSE board. In these days of ticks and crosses and answer being restricted to one word options, the joy of reading good literature has vanished. And yet with their superficial knowledge of subjects students easily get 95%. My days are almost over. I have only 3 years left of my career unless the retirement age is extended. But I still wonder if something can be done to change our approach towards education and make it less mark oriented.

7) Finally let us say a big NO to religious fanaticism. No religion supports bloodshed and killing of innocent people. Let us not return to the stone age after having culturally evolved.

This post is getting too long and I am afraid a little pessimistic. Ours is a country with innumerable resources that need to be channelized. Let us put our heads together and think how it may be done. Happy Independence Day to all of you.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tagged!!

Whatsinamane has tagged me and wants me to give a list if things I am fetish about. As of now I feel that I am not really obsessed about anything if that’s what fetish means. Let me find out.

1) As a child I would collect holy pictures. Mainly Baby Jesus and Holy Mother. I had collected a good number of them when a friend- not really a friend more an acquaintance - came home and on seeing my collection and asked for a few of them. Not knowing how to say no, I gave away the whole bunch and stopped collecting them. Why I gave away all of them is something I did not understand then and do not understand now. However, I remember feeling bad about it for days together.

2) There was a time when I was crazy about story books and while in middle school I’d read any book I could lay my hands on. I remember borrowing books from a lending library at the rate of an anna per day which was rather expensive for a school girl whose weekly pocket money was only 4 annas. My father later made me a member of a nearby library and I read a good many Hindi books depicting the lives of various groups like Dogras and Brajvasis in the form of Lok Kathas. My entry into boarding school changed all that and life became organized. We were not allowed to read story books during study hours and lights were put out at 10 pm. So my reading habit had to be curtailed. I am rather selective these days and do not read everything available. I read more by recommendation.

3) I was very particular about regularity in submission of practical work till about 5 years ago and my students were well aware of this. They’d approach me a day or two before the actual date of submission and ask for permission to submit it at a later date if they had valid reasons. I don’t remember an instance when I had to ask to be excused as a student. I am a little relaxed now mainly because I realize that a B. Sc. Degree alone cannot help them land a job and many are attending coaching classes, computer classes and preparing for competitive exams. My old students would be surprised at my change of heart. Sorry children, I’ve given you a tough time but it was for your good.

4) I am particular about family members rinsing their plates with water after a meal. I feel this not only makes it easier for he servant who washes them but also looks neat. This rule applies to my husband as well who washes his plate when I am around and leaves it unwashed when I am not. Bad of him I must say.

5) I love dhobi washed clothes, well starched and ironed. I even get my synthetic stuff lightly starched and ironed. I feel I am wearing a new sari/suit when they are laundered by the dhobi.

6) I have a fetish for clearing my wardrobe every now and then. I give away clothes when they are in a reasonably good condition so that the person I give it to can use them for a decent period of time. I give away other items too that may be put to good use by others and are simply occupying space in my cupboard. I cannot however part with worn out cotton stuff. I need them for hot summer afternoons and dusting purposes.

I see that I too have a number of obsessions that I was hardly aware of. There may be more and I may actually end up doing a sequel. let me tag artnavy,sunitha and itching to write if they haven't done it already.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Teaching Experience-1

There have been some amusing moments in my career as a teacher that added spice to an otherwise sagging career for reasons mentioned in an earlier post. Those were days when I was planning to improve my qualification and had applied for a post graduate course and were awaiting the announcement of selected candidates. The examiners who’d come for practical exams were supportive and would encourage me in all possible ways. Thus a rapport had been established between me and professors from the PG department and without sounding conceited I must add that they had no doubt about my sincerity as a teacher. I was very lucky to have a nice department and we never went canvassing for marks or recommending roll numbers for better marks. The credit solely goes to my HOD who treated all of us as equals and placed absolute trust in our capabilities. We have only grown closer over the years and efforts to break the group have failed. More about it in a later post.

On one occasion I had to stay behind owing to family responsibilities while my husband took the children to his sister’s place in Orissa for the summer vacation. A gentleman who introduced himself as my husband’s colleague came home and gave me his daughter’s roll number saying that she had been studying in our college for the past 4 years but was too scared to introduce herself to me. Her practical exams were to be held soon and there was no point hesitating now. So he took it on himself to let me know that his daughter was one of the examinees.

“Why is your daughter scared of me?” I asked.

“She says that you are very strict and refuse to sign late assignments.”

“Anything wrong with that?” I asked, then added “wouldn’t it have been better if you had introduced her to me earlier? I could have helped her with her practicals and explained the experiments to her. What am I supposed to do now? In the examination room all students are equal to me. I cannot do much. She will have to show work.”

“Madam, she is like a daughter to you. She gets very nervous during exams. Please help her as much as you can.” The gentleman left. I was fuming against a husband who was conveniently out of sight and hearing.

The girl was anything but nervous. Now that her father had approached me she thought that it was her right to ask me the name of each of the specimen provided. She wanted to be told not only the name, but the description of the given material and expected me to dictate the answers to her. I was shocked at her audacity and wondered what her father had told her. Within minutes I turned to the examiner and said,

“Sir, this girl seems to have a lot of doubts. Do I have your permission to clarify them?”

The examiner was amused.

“Come here child” he called her. The girl came forward.

“You have been given 5 specimens. You are supposed to identify them and prepare slides. You need to draw labeled diagrams and describe them as well. That is a lot of work and you have only 3 hours to finish your work. If you have a problem with any of the given material I’ll get it exchanged. Tell me which portion you’ve studied well. I’ll ask your teacher to replace them. Once you get a material of your choice I expect you to get on with your work without disturbing others.”

The girl remained silent not uttering a word. The examiner continued-

“If I give you the names will that help? Why only you I’ll announce the names for all to hear.”

The girl did not know how to respond. I was watching the whole thing with interest. The examiner sent her back to her seat. Turning to me he said with a twinkle in his eye –

“She will not trouble you ‘cos she knows that I am here to help her. How many can have the privilege?”

I later told him of way I was approached by the girl’s father. He laughed the matter off saying that I should not get worked up if I was approached by anyone to influence the examiner. “A student who has studied need not be helped. One who hasn’t cannot be helped. Either way you have no role to play. I have been getting roll numbers since last week. I take it from them and throw them away. You can do the same. When we sit to evaluate papers as teachers, it is impossible to ignore merit. I haven’t yet checked the papers. On the basis of the class record and viva-voce I can tell you who happens to be the best among your students.” He then mentioned a roll number and when I checked she was indeed our best student.

He then added with a knowing smile on his face-

“Now don’t you pester your husband for giving your reference. Nor do you have to explain anything to anyone. Just forget the whole episode. These parents do not understand that by their action they are hampering their ward’s progress instead of helping them. As for this girl I assure you that her father will never have the courage to come to you again.”

I smiled at him with renewed respect. Teachers in Jharkhand and Bihar are the same as elsewhere and so are the students. The fault lies elsewhere.

Friday, August 03, 2007

My Bihari Bretheren

In the many years that I have spent in Jamshedpur I have found the natives of Bihar to be very accommodating and kind. Though I have not had the experience of residing in North Bihar we’ve had many acquaintances from North and Central Bihar. Known for their simplicity of nature these people sometimes come out with startling facts that their counterparts in other parts of India dare not reveal. A neighbor once confided that her brother who was a sub inspector in New Delhi was doing very well for himself. As a matter of fact she added that he was making a lot of extra money, may be not as much as he would have made had he been posted in Bihar but good enough for a decent living. If I had not known otherwise I’d have taken her words to mean that he was taking up additional part time assignments. We had another lady who announced to any one who was interested that her son in law to be was earning a decent amount as ‘oopar ki kamayi’ and was not dependent on his salary alone for a living.

My daughter must have been about 8 or 9 years old when she asked an auto driver to drop her home along with two of her friends one of whom was running a high temperature. The girl in question was living near our house and they normally came back by the town bus. On reaching home my daughter in her naivety gave him a rupee as the auto fare because that was the amount the girls would give as bus fare. The auto driver simply laughed saying-

“you give me a rupee for dropping you at your doorstep? It is alright. Ask your friend to take some medicine and go to sleep. She should be okay by tomorrow.”

Another person in his place would’ve asked her to fetch money from her mother but this man understood that the child was not deliberately cheating him and laughed it off in good humor.

We also have the example of an honest head examiner at a tabulation centre responsible for the tabulation of Intermediate results. It was the last day and the examiner arrived early when a villager from North Bihar accosted him saying that he wanted to get his son passed but the head examiner was asking for too much money to pass him. He had already paid him a thousand rupees but the man wanted another 1000 rupees and he did not have that much. He was willing to pay him another five hundred and would he intervene on his behalf and get the head examiner to agree? The examiner was shocked. When did he ever ask for money? And if this poor villager had indeed paid the amount who had pocketed it?

"Did you give him the money yourself?" he asked.

“No sir”, he said "one of the peons negotiated and brought down the amount. I paid the fellow fifty rupees for his services. After all he was taking so much risk on my behalf. He is a family man and should he get caught he’d lose his job. I gave the amount to him. Now he says that the examiner wants more money. I don’t mind paying, after all it is my child’s future that is at stake. The problem is that I don’t have that much.”

“What is your son’s roll number?” the examiner asked.

The man rattled off a 6 digit number. It sounded familiar. A peon had approached him from time to time enquiring about the status of the particular candidate. And he remembered telling him that the candidate had passed in all subjects and was likely to get a first division or at least a high second division. The fellow had swindled a poor man of his hard earned money and was asking for more.

The head examiner simply said “your son has passed and there is no need to pay any one more money. Remember that he has passed on his own merit. Leave him alone. He’ll do well in life. Take the next available transport and leave this place immediately.”

Saying so the examiner entered the tabulation centre. When he turned around he saw the man being cornered by the peon who might have pocketed another 50 rupees as ‘Mithai ka paisa’ and the man would have willingly paid him the amount instead of asking for the money already paid.

My heart goes out to these simple folk, a community where a vegetable vendor may give one 100 grams of extra vegetable for a kind word from you and a bus conductor would never charge the old fisherwoman who called him ‘beta’. On the contrary he’d help out with her basket load and stop the bus at a location best suited for her to get down. He’d then turn to other passengers saying “What could I do. She calls me beta and I know for a fact that she has no money.

Please don’t think that I am supporting corruption or ticket less travel. I’d be the first person to raise my voice against such things. The driver and conductor are paid a part of their daily collection as incentive in Jamshedpur and by letting a poor woman travel free they stand to lose. Similarly we have examples of fathers selling property to grease the palms of cunning politicians so that their wards may secure a government job. They are led to believe that this is the only way. It is the way these simple people are misled that upsets me. They are a nice lot, maybe a little indolent but certainly not mean. I have had some reliable Bihari friends and though I have disagreed with their views on several issues be it dowry demand or preference for a male issue, I can see through the fa├žade of a rough exterior and understand the real person within.