An Arrant Illusion (Reflections: Part-IV)

Adapting to the utter rationality and fast-pace of the west is one thing. Imbibing a foreign culture in its truest terms is a second thing, may be even supplementary to the first. Respecting and carrying forward the refined tastes of one’s own culture is altogether a different aspect.

Let’s not mix up !

A simple “Hello” or a sincere “Good- Morning /Afternoon /Evening /Night” are customary ways of greeting in most of the western countries. While doing so, they neither exaggerate on emotions nor suppress it below minimum display. Its cordial.

But today in India, we are in a complete illusion somewhere ! It is very common nowadays to hear a “Hi” but it is usually deprived of sincerity; sometimes the person does not even look at you while greeting thus. Then there are instances of addresses like “Hi Aunty” or “Bye Uncle” in a tone of disrespect; kids here now speak to their friends or even to their seniors in unhesitating terms as “What’s up, dude ?” or “Hey baby !” or “Hang on, man !!” or “Ohh shit !!!”, etc. Labelled slang or not, I find all these extremely impolite, particularly while relating to any typical Indian culture.

I strongly believe that my thoughts here have nothing to do around adaptability or acceptance of our changing times. That is what I clearly noted right at the beginning of this article. Otherwise, the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” would have never existed. For it generally means that when you go as a visitor to a different place, you advantageously adapt its ways or politely abide by the customs of that society. It does not say that being a Roman and in Rome, you change your Roman ways, whatsoever be the reason- that’s not adaptability !! That would be either a political compulsion or a social blunder !!!

On similar grounds, I shall also not appreciate such greetings when as an Indian and on social occasions, I meet a fellow countryman or an NRI, whether in India or in a foreign country. Rather, I would yearn to see the original chords of cultural ties reverberate, wherever.

Issues as these sometimes awfully bother me; many a times, I experience some sort of disconnection with my own ‘modern’ society.

It therefore makes me wonder if we could possibly together go back to our customary ways ! For example, revert to greetings as Namaskar /Sasriyakar /Vanakkam /As-Salamu Alaykum /Adaab and the like. Are these not things to be valued ?… Let’s admire with due respect that many foreigners visiting India read and learn a lot about our customs and culture even before they actually land here; and as expected of them, almost everyone observes the rules maximally though they may opine otherwise. But what eludes us, the desi folks ?

The other trend is that many parents here communicate with children to such an extent in English (at home, on the playground, public places) that they forget to teach them the wonderful values of their own culture and sometimes, even their native language- call it mother-tongue or whatever. They are superficially proud of that seemingly big ‘English achievement’ (a mis-conceptualized ‘high status’ or ‘elite society’ by many desi folks), and absolutely indifferent about not been able to teach their kids about their own cultural aspects, let alone any sense of loss at it !!!

Unfortunately, the polished outlook, mannerisms and etiquette of a gora saheb (usually meaning an English gentleman) are rarely observed !! I much agree to the concerned views expressed by Jug Suraiya in his blog titled Mimic Man.

A very few parents /guardians observe and inculcate the young with Indianness in the real sense, even though they have rightly adapted the western philosophy (mostly as a wonderful means) on certain justifiable grounds. That is a good balance which must be well-recognized and highly appreciated.

Well… It is definitely good to learn different languages and cultures. Because apart from seeking answers to the scientific quests on man’s evolution, such respectful learning also shows our liberal spirits and progressive minds. But it should never be at the cost of one’s own cultural values !! How can someone be not excited about the timeless, good aspects of one’s culture or custom ?… Without due regard to it, I am afraid, that way certain cultures and languages of the world shall become obsolete down the line; our own scripts and lawful practices or customs would appear strange to us !!! That would be the dead-end of this arrant illusion which most of us now continue to ignore with vanity.

Wish a healthy balance is maintained…

‘Blind Men and An Elephant’ vis-a-vis Current Indian Education System

About ten days ago, we had been to the school where our Domestic Help’s daughter sought admission for the very first time. Located in a by-lane, it is not only devoid of a playground, it is also very cramped even for little ones. For most part of the school time, children are seeing playing on the adjacent lanes and no one bothers, probably because that’s how space is managed and/or the administration is indifferent. Some children aged 10-14 years do not follow the classroom decorum !… And a few are admitted into lower classes, long past their suitable ages though they are not that ‘dumb’; reason- apparently commercial, that is, the school intends to make profits from the extra (unnecessary) years a ‘dumb’ student is made to go through !!… Notwithstanding, most parents put their children on the rolls in such schools because it is convenient to drop-and-pick them on their way to work and these schools also happen to be on a reasonable price-list according to their ‘limited’ affordability.

This by-lane school, without a playground and basic necessities, charges 6200 INR for an L.K.G. kid. More than the knowledge likely to be gained in such an environment, parents should be apprehensive of the hygiene, discipline and basic attitudinal orientations a child is going to learn here to imbibe or desert !! But unfortunately there are many such mushrooming schools in cities, towns and villages, and there seems to be no one to advise these parents who are honest and hard-working but owing to various reasons, not educated (not of formal degrees) to make out certain key differences regarding formal upbringing of children !

The family struggles and aspires- the parents are diligent, eagerly bear all financial hardships and dream to one day, see their children well-placed in the society; and the children spending their days in such schools, unknowingly waste most of their formative years that are never to be recovered. This is one of the most vital factors for a society to be good or bad, for children ultimately form the long future of a nation !!!

Our Cook’s eldest son, aged about 15 years, had to change two schools over the last two years; each admission costing 65000 INR on an average; then there are other expenses too ! But however hard his parents and teachers-at-new-schools now try to discipline him, the required changes are just not coming through !! Probably, his very basic formative years were lost in the unknown by-lanes when he ought to have been sitting under the light of knowledge and beside his Guide (Teacher).

It is indeed very difficult to lead or help a budding youth emerge from such troubled waters. To make matters worse, their parents start fearing a fading dream and non-refundable or non- reimbursable schooling expenses met from hard-earned savings !

We also gathered information regarding management and curriculum of ‘established’ schools of our nephew (city-1), our niece (village) and our friends’ kids (town-1 and town-2); we spoke to a few other parents and guardians too; and additionally, we took a brief look at various initiatives by some NGOs, Government schemes, etc.

Considering the entire Education System to be a giant elephant, my husband is right in analysing its overall present scenario in India-


Someone gets hold of the ear of the elephant and says ‘education is like a big jute dust-pan’; someone hangs by the tail and says ‘its like a small, smooth rope’; someone leans on the legs and says ‘its like a tall pillar’; someone grazes at the belly and says ‘its like a huge wall’; someone sits atop the back and says ‘where’s the pain, its an easy ride’; etc.

But usually, no one looks at the elephant or tries to even realize its presence, let alone providing any substantial financial or logistical assistance !!

So the consequence is that everyone, especially children and youth, continue to suffer because we do not take a HOLISTIC approach to address the issues in the entire system; we try to resolve merely by fits and starts, and a bit here and a bit there… Sometimes, for mere sake of promotions, sometimes for only political gains and sometimes, even without understanding an iota of it !!!

Some parents and guardians send their kids to schools without verifying necessary facts or keep changing schools without really monitoring their children’s progress and reasons for their inadequate performances. In most of these cases, parents and guardians remain all occupied at work during the week and therefore, prefer to simply unwind over the weekend along with family; they just admit their children on school rolls because they do not want to miss out on this ‘prime duty’ towards their children. But after that, the required follow-up usually does not happen !

However, a very few people and organizations still continue to render their noble services borne by a zeal, a thorough understanding and truly dedicated efforts towards uplift of the Education System ! We need ample of such folks and teams…


Well, we spend thousands of crores of INR in election campaigns, day-to-day advertisements and mere social events; then why don’t we do it for completely redefining the Education System in the country ? Isn’t that the best gift we can give to our children, to our nation and to the world at large ?

Wonder when shall modern India rebuild or transform itself to once again become the marvellous hub of Education that it was in the ancient days…… Let’s not forget that there was a great time when the whole world was eager and humble to visit the unparalleled chambers of wisdom at Nalanda, Taxila (now in Pakistan), Vikramsila, Varanasi, Udaygiri, Ratnagiri, Pusphagiri, Kanchipuram, Manyakheta, etc.

Name the Subject and Seek the Master- ancient India had it all to its glory !

Elephant

Old Habits Die Hard – et in hoc !

Unless one writes short and crisp, nowadays it is quite uncommon that someone will read it- be it on Facebook or a blog or a book.

Always not because people don’t have time !

We have quite lost our Reading culture as a hobby mostly because we have taken to easier and glittery channels of entertainment, whether or not it is constructive. Trapped in various rat-races, we are more than happy to simply please our worldly senses; we rarely brood on the ‘food for thought’, whether it a write-up, music, dance, painting, theatre or any other form of art.

To add further, you too shall observe and agree that nowadays, an article or a post-on-Facebook which has embedded in it an attractive picture or a short video-clip or catchy phrase-liners, has more chances of being read than one without it. The same tactics is commonly followed in routine journalism and children’s books too.

The concerns run similar to this- when you get a ‘Like’ on such an article in your blog-site or a post-in-Facebook, you don’t really know whether the message in it was appreciated or merely the accompanying colourful picture or video-clip or decorative phrase-liners !! 😦 Sometimes, you can make it out from the comments that follow. Your reply in turn may bother some viewers (I shall not address them as readers ! 🙂 ) who attempt to justify their own jerky opinions since they have not read a single line of your write-up, or it shall leave others unmoved or unembarrassed. The latter group of people seem not to care for anything on Earth, not even in saving their own faces !! 🙂

Such negative trends are not only demotivating factors for a write-up to be well-thought and neatly composed but also aches the heart that values literature and art in all its forms, even if it were not to ever pen down a single composition… Thoughts then appear to quite lose their ‘food’ ! 😦

Very briefly going back to our school days, one definitely remembers this- there used to be a ‘picture composition’. Nowadays, we are more a fan of the reverse of it; that is, where the picture says it all ! Not sure what we call it- a ‘composed picture’ ? 🙂

Well, nothing wrong in that- that is also an all-time great expression of art. But a picture or a video-clip can never convey discrete information or detailed analysis pertaining to the core sections of a subject or topic ! More so, if the subject is a debatable one. Therein comes the necessity for one to be at least a good reader, if not an avid one.

All I mean to highlight is that it would do all of us good if we could go back to our old Reading hobby (at least to some extent), mainly based on the significance of the topics or substance or relevancy therein; and not merely based on pictures or video-clips or colourful, bold phrase-liners. Pictographic representation does not help every time and it may even convey the wrong message at times !!!

Irrespective of age, like writing is a great art, having correct information and gathering vast, good knowledge is a great wealth ! It cannot be accumulated overnight; it has to be done bit by bit. Moreover, only a gradual process of accumulation of such immeasurable wealth is gratifying as we learn about the evolution of the human mind and art over thousands of years. Certain texts that we read may not be at all linked with our profession or even our lifestyle. But we must still learn about it in order to understand mankind or the various facets of the society. And writing is undoubtedly one of the best methods to record our emotional space, spirits and times.

And to keep the process of evolving psyche and the arts in good continuation and truly educate our next-generations, we must inculcate in them this Reading habit or hobby, right in their formative years. As obvious- the earlier it is, the better .

On a lighter note… Look, our fore-fathers started written communication with cave-drawings, the very first pictographic script; and that is still followed in some form in few modern languages and quite preserved across many tribes of the world. Perhaps, this very basic psychological inclination is somehow inherent and therefore, one of the reasons why even a modern day write-up accompanied by “an attractive picture or a short video-clip or colourful, bold phrase-liners” becomes a quick hit affair than one totally devoid of these !!!

Hmmmn, guess…… Old habits die hard – et in hoc !?! 😉 🙂

Aamjunta– what do you say?

 

 

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