Wednesday, 22 March 2017

English education

Coincidentally, I got similar messages from multiple sources this week. One was a Whatsapp forward about NASA saying Sanskrit is the best language. NASA says so many great things about India and our sanskriti, I wonder why they don't move their offices to Varanasi or Rishikesh. (also why NASA? why not WHO or world bank or even Oxford university?)
The second was a short TedX talk, and the third was a talk by Shashi Tharoor.
Of course they were not of the same intellectual calibre.
The common thread was the English education.
While I have read some research that says early education must be in the child's mother tongue and I do believe that to be true after my experience teaching some children, we cannot deny that English education has been of great use to us. I notice even the most 'nationalistic' people do not advocate abolition of English as a medium of instruction.
It is maybe a case of the price we pay for this English education being too high.
Even small two room private schools in slums are now 'English medium', but their teachers do not speak fluently in English. The result is the children neither learn English nor their mother tongue with any degree of fluency. No one is familiar with literature of their own culture and the English stories for example, are too alien culturally for our children. (as a kid, I always wondered what anchovy was)
But what are our choices?
Ideally, instructions in the mother tongue till the 5th with English as a strong second language with the medium of instruction for science and a few subjects shifted to English in higher classes would perhaps be one way. But as an example, I schooled in UP, my mother tongue was Tamil and I was woefully poor at Hindi. If Hindi had been the medium of instruction, I may have failed in school......(or maybe I would have become proficient in Hindi). Could we have had a Tamil medium school in the small towns of UP where I studied?
What about a child in Telangana/Maharashtra whose mother tongue is Gondi?
I cannot see any good answers to this problem. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Tat tvam asi

There was a comment on the series broadcast on CNN (I think) on various religions, in which the presenter has chosen the Aghoris as an example of Hinduism. I do agree with the Hindu community in the US that it is a poor choice. But why don't they make a documentary about the principal Upanishads or Adi Sankara or put out the counter point?

Be that as it may, the practice of  religion has also changed. 
It used to be more learnt slokas from your parent/grandparent, you went to the temple to pray, you did your pujas regularly. But primarily, one was also taught that hurting another jeevan was an act of aggression against god because 'tat tvam asi'  no matter who that other is...of another religion, same religion or even an animal..anything that feels pain must not be pained. If you did hurt others, as we all do sometimes, karma will catch up with you if not now, then in the next birth.

But that has changed......It has now become congregational with gatherings for every festival, competitively extravagant pandals, extortion of money, loud speakers, beating up others who dont believe in what you do, in fact that has become a badge of honour.

Maybe even hindus in India need a lesson in hinduism of the "Tat tvam asi" variety.

Monday, 6 March 2017


Recently, I read that we, meaning Indians, devalue physical labour and that it may hark back to our caste system. I disagree in some ways. It was so in the past, and may still be so in terms of social acceptance, but definitely not monetarily.
In our local private schools, a teacher has to work from 8 or 9 am till 4 pm 6 days a week and gets paid Rs 2500 per month.
Also, a household worker, cleaning the house and washing dishes, gets paid Rs 3000 per month for about 2 hours' work per day, about 26 to 27 days a month.
A college lecturer is recruited at 15000 per month starting pay at one of the better private colleges...most others pay less....around  8000-10000 per month.
Municipal sweepers, do a superficial cleaning of our roads  working from 6 am to 2 pm and make Rs 8000 per month starting pay, going to 15000 for the more senior ones.

I call a person to clean my garden. He asked me for Rs 500 for 3 hours work, though the going rate is 500 for the whole day. Even at 500 per day, digging and clearing the garden, which is not heavy manual labour, just light garden work, pays more than teaching in a school.
But the best job is cleaning airconditiones..... about 20 minutes of work consisting of gently brushing off the dust, washing filters and outdoor units, fetches them Rs 500 for each AC

The other side of this coin is heavy manual labour...many women in the construction industry get paid 400 per day of 7 hours. They lift bricks and mix the cement, while the mason (male) sits and applies the cement that she mixes and gives him- for which he gets paid Rs 600.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Status of men

First men were these creatures who are under the control of women because they cannot resist if they see a woman late in the evening. They have to molest her....Not their fault, they are designed that way.
Now they are nuisances.... Telangana residential colleges for women will not admit married women because their husbands will be a source of distraction to them!
Those pesky men!!!
Like one standup comedian said, our governments provide a lot of material for them, they need not put on any effort.

April 17th op-ed in the Hindu has two articles. One  about the HERC and another about research in medical colleges. First the article abo...