As one grows up, one discovers the discovery power of the question mark, then the exciting power of the exclamation mark. Then…the slower power of the comma…the sedate power of the semi-colon…and finally, the restful power of the full stop.
Posts Tagged ‘musing’
Six men were trapped by happenstance,
in the bleak and bitter cold.
Each one held a log of wood,
or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of wood,
the first man held his back.
For of the faces round the flames,
he noticed one was black.
The second man sat back and looked,
but saw none of his church.
He could not bring himself to give
the fire his stick of birch.
The thrid man sat in tattered rags,
as he gave his coat a hitch.
He simply would not use his log,
to warm the idle rich.
The rich man sat and thought of all
the wealth he had in store.
And how to keep what he had earned
from the lazy, shiftless, poor.
The black man’s eyes bespoke revenge
as the fire died from sight.
All he saw within his wood
was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group,
did nothing except for gain.
Giving only to those who’d give
was the way he played the game.
The fire died, the men grew cold,
Icicles formed on their chin.
They would not die from the cold outside,
They would die from the cold within.
is where I got the poem.
When the ground is covered with snow,
Where do the birds go?
When the earth is soaked with rain,
Where do the birds go for grain?
When the sun bakes the fields with its heat,
When the cracked earth burns our feet..
When the very air is hot and dry,
Where do the birds go…and why?
When the dusk deepens into twilight,
When the darkness rules the night…
When no chink of light can show,
Where do the birds go?
We treat many people like the birds:
When they’re with us, we have kind words.
But when with us, they are not,
We do not give them a thought.
Where do the people go?
Where do the birds go?
The mainstream Indian educational system is, to my mind, utterly stultified. We follow an ancient tradition, but not ancient enough…we follow the old British school system, not our own Vedic (or any other equally old) kind of education. We place extreme stress on rote learning, and make only token concession to modern methods. In fact, it seems to be nothing but memorizing facts, and repeating it in the all-important examinations. Shakespeare and Euclid are not studied for knowledge, but to get a few more marks in the exam…and they are studied with “key books”.
A friend of mine,
was mentioning on a nature mailing list that we belong to, that schools like
stress living in harmony with nature, and so “green” their campuses (both the Valley at Bangalore and Rishi Valley in Anantapur have done this.) This led me to muse on the “alternate” methods of school curricula available today, in urban India.
KFI in Chennai was elitist enough that after getting admission for our daughter at the beginning of her school years, I decided on Rosary Matriculation School instead. I thought that since she had to join the rat race, with parents in the middle-class bracket, she had better join a “regular” school.
She did go to an “alternate” school for a year, when she joined “Vikaasa”, run by Madura Coats (then) in Madurai. She was happy there, but when we returned to Bangalore and we put her in Sacred Hearts, she was extremely unhappy for 6 months, until she took her guitar to school one day and quite suddenly settled down…and started loving the school. (Sacred Hearts was at the end of Convent Road, where we lived, and it was a major plus that she walked to school and back, and came home for lunch every day.)
The learning was certainly very rote-memory oriented, and extremely strait-jacketed. Individual thinking was (and is, even more so now) actively frowned. The phrase “in your own words” had no meaning in this system. A lot of obsolete, unnecessary, and boring information was thrust down the children’s throats. I remember teaching her a Hindi lesson called “Cycle ki sawaari” before an exam, and her realizing, for the first time, that it was a very humorous piece! She also had NO Hindi poetry in school…imagine learning a language without its poetry!
However, in the larger scale of things (and especially in the matter of thinking for herself) I don’t think she missed out on anything by our choices…she also chose to go to Frank Anthony’s and not to Valley School or Aditi for her +2. She loved it there, too…and she regularly attends gatherings of alums of both schools…in fact, I am close friends with several of her FAPS classmates (it’s great fun when the children turn into adults, it’s like getting new people to meet!) It was she who decided that she would go to the US for a liberal arts degree in the US…and that certainly broadened her horizons, and her thinking, further.
However, in those days, the class strength at SH was about 30…today, one has to pay through the nose to get a school which gives a class of only 30 students. Even there, the pressure for academic performance is inordinately high.
Today’s alternate schools also seem to bow, inevitably, to the “marks” pressure in the higher classes, and parents routinely cancel music, games or other classes so that the children can “prepare for the Boards”, which is like a severe illness that the child, the parents and the extended family go through. It is very impersonal, and unfair examination, and it’s the luck of the draw as much as the child’s rote memory which decides what the academic performance will be….and whether the child will obtain those all-important “marks” to enable admission into the next round of our “education”. We do not even teach our students how to access information, which I think should be the main thrust of education today. There is no liberal thinking at all. Even initiatives in this regard are quickly reduced to token gestures, which sink into the general morass of “get more marks”.
Another problem with many “alternate” schools is the elitism associated with them. They easily charge about ten times what a mainstream school would charge, and very often,produce children who are very snobbish indeed, caught in their own bubbles of wealth and privilege, paying lip service to the “hip” concepts going around, but totally out of touch with realities.
But a new irony is taking shape these days, in the form of volunteering. Many people (including myself) volunteer at the “less-privileged” schools, and sometimes I find that children from a very disadvantaged socio-economic background are being exposed to concepts and fields that their more allegedly-privileged cousins in the “regular” schools do not get. Most of the mainstream schools do not, for example, suppor nature trails for children, even when a teacher uses her own initiative to take them on such trails, they make it clear that they will have nothing to do with such outings. So it’s the children from schools like Adobe Parikrama or the Ananya Foundation who are exposed to art, music, and Indian culture…how strange!
One of the problems, of course, is our over-population..when demand exceeds supply, such problems are bound to arise, and quality suffers for the sake of quantity. I wish I could find a way of establishing a chain of schools (many of them) which could provide education and knowledge to students across the economic spectrum.
I’ve been recently seeing pictures of several places of worship…all of them very ornate and fancy, indeed. (The latest being a very grand Gurdwara in Dubai..
I thought of something different when I saw all this finery. I find it somewhat problematic that when the seers and the prophets are themselves simple people, we seem to want such opulence in revering them, and the amount of gold and money spent on a place of worship seems so important to us. I’ve often heard the comment in the temple…”Look at that crown of diamonds, it cost X crore rupees!”, “Don’t forget to see the golden kalashas!” and so on…so it’s there in every religion. I often think that if Christ were to come, in his poor carpenter’s garb, or bleeding from the cross, He would not be admitted to any of the grand churches…if Rama came to one of his temples in the apparel of tree-bark that he wore during his exile in the forest, he would be turned away….
To me, Mother Teresa’s home in Calcutta, where she lovingly tended to lepers and the terminally ill…is more of a temple to God.
I expressed the same thoughts, when I visited the Shirdi Sai Baba temple,
I read this interesting article:
to get an interesting slant on how we should (and should not) value our time.
To this, a friend replied:
“The gentleman evidently doesn’t understand economics. I’m not an economist myself, but economic theory states that the rational choice in any situation is the one that provides the most value. That
naturally implies that you should have a clear understanding of the value attached to any action. That value varies from person to person — which is why my Dad would spend an hour extra in Madiwala market to save a few rupees per kg on vegetables than I would. My time is worth more to me than the 30-40 rupees that would be saved.
“Clearly, the author attaches more value to chopping wood than the cost of the firewood thus produced. But he’s wrong in saying we can’t or shouldn’t measure this value using money. Like it or not, money is our civilization’s measure of value. More accurately, whatever we measure value with becomes money. In this case, the author is willing to forgo revenue earning work in order to chop wood. Lets say he’d be able to earn $100 in that time. Therefore, the time spent chopping wood provides him with at least $100.01 worth of satisfaction. As a bonus,he also gets firewood — which just improves the value of the
transaction. In economic terms, it’s an eminently sensible decision.”
I thought about this for a while, and then responded:
“And ne’er the twain shall meet….his point seems to be that we can’t keep attaching only monetary value to the things we do…and here we are, doing just that; the point of your response seems to be that it HAS to be reduced to money value. Why is he wrong, and why do you say you are right? How do you answer the question he poses (Once money, especially in the form of hourly wage, is used as the
fundamental measure of the worth of activities, where do we stop?)>)? If I stop to cook, to sroll around a park, should I then say, I am using up time that I could be earning X rupees?
“However, I agree with you…” whatever we measure, or value with, becomes money.” However, I’d modify that….I’d say, currency, that is valid for that person. (It obviously cannot become a standard for
economic transactions.) For something to become “money”, it would have to be universally applicable.
“I do feel that attaching monetary value to our time could lead to the problem of our not wanting to “waste” time…we tend to shave off the time we have to Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, or to Stand And Stare. These are important parts of the human need, and contribute to our sum total of happiness, and these bits of time cannot be monetised.”
What are YOUR thoughts on this? How should we value our time?
PS. I am wasting MONTHS of my life, looking at the sweet smile of my grandson, spending time with my grand-daughter, and alas, I can’t even place a monetary value on it, as I won’t be earning anything but peanuts in that time!
I actually think that moments such as the author’s wood-chopping time, or my melting-at-my-grandson’s feet time, ARE the important times, for which we work, so that we can earn enough money to support us through such moments…
On the banks of Kunigal Dodda Kere (big lake), I found the age-old temple of Someshwara, and on the gopura, which has stood for centuries, I found this already broken wasps’ nest:
It made me muse on what is permanent,and what is transient…the reality of the matter is that this gopura, the land on which it stands, and the earth on which we are…are all, in their time, as transient as the paper crescents and the honeycomb cells of the wasps’ nest…
My life is short, compared to an ocean’s or a planet’s; long, compared to the termite which flies out at dusk after rain, and dies in a few hours….all creation, I think, is just a drop falling into the infintie sea of the Universe. What, then, IS permanent? I do not now…and as I turn to other matters, my transient thoughts, too, pass away….
The sadness we feel at the fall of heroes is less to do with their frailty, and more to do with our need to set up heroes in the first place. If we deify humans, they are bound to prove to be only human, after all….!