Saturday, 10 November 2012

My School

 School guides us. It lays down a path that becomes the basis of all that we learn further in life. There is always a tendency to look back at what we were taught and relate them to situations that we witness today. To quote the obvious, the next step would be questioning the authenticity and validity of all that we wrote in our examinations towards the end of every academic term. My questioning though is quite radical; while basic values remain more or less constant, were those taught in school accurate?
Let me tell you what my school taught me. My school taught me to respect the word of elders* (that also included taking shit from teachers, never asking doubts, never offering suggestions, never correcting them in case their statements are incorrect and so on). I was told to respect people around me* (that included staying 10 feet away from boys, never chattering away with them, using separate staircases to walk in and out of class, never as much accidentally touching them forget hugging or even shaking hands, never dance on filmy especially romantic numbers with them etc). There were many other clauses to follow, including ones that said drench your head in oil* (never look pretty), tie your hair up* (don’t lure anyone by exposing a segment of your beauteous locks), wear pinafores of a decent length* (that extended way below your knees, almost midway towards the ankle), never question the duties of the staff* (even if it meant cancelling picnics or repeating the venue over and over again, assigning ‘secret monitors’, technically spies to check on student behaviour during recess hours, calling parents at unruly hours to scold them regarding the values that they passed on to their children and so on) and many more. Through the many undercurrents that I witnessed then, I also picked up few other hidden lessons: It is futile to engage in staff politics to try and stir up a revolution; it won’t work. Your questioning of the operations of the staff will only make you the black sheep of the family. If you are an average or a below average student, forget the fact that the teacher will ever help you understand the concepts better and improve in academics. If the class is being segregated in terms of rankings (grade discrimination), do not be shocked. If you pay 900 bucks for computer lessons that mostly deviate to watching Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Ramayan, consider that as your syllabus. Music means droning through outdated and repeatedly sung devotional numbers; PT is a theory subject. If you want a huge ground to loosen up, you walk up the stretch that takes you to the degree college* (only during sports week, meant to be dominated by top rankers). English language is meant for the privileged few who try to be grammatically correct, never for vernaculars or students weak in the language. Top rankers occupy the middle row and stick amongst themselves; average and below average students are arranged around the periphery according to their percentages (70 and above to the right, 60 and above to the left, the weaker ones at the extremities). Textbooks are the absolute word; there is no world beyond it and there is no room for creativity. Only top rankers can draw and paint; rest of the class is filled with no brainers. Those into performing arts merely sing and/or dance; they have no academic talent whatsoever. In intra-school music competitions, those having an upper hand with the teachers bound to win hands down. Scout/Guide camp obviously means a night at Suman Nagar. Answers are to be learned word by word; never make up stuff in your paper. Maintain good relations with the staff by having your parents greet them, enquire about them and invite them to social functions etc. Never support your fellow mates when they go against the teacher for a cause; the image of an obedient student works in your favour. Lastly, never remove your blazer at the farewell; while it lasts a sinful impression on everybody, it also implies winding up for the rest of the evening!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

                                             Personal becomes political?
Today I am convinced that nobody wants to be responsible- for actions and reactions not their own (may I add that it is the responsibility of one’s own actions that we first choose to ignore). Our excuses to get away with responsibilities become ‘rational’, ‘righteous’, ‘politically correct’ in other words, anything that spells out ‘safe’ in bold letters. I may have already spelled out the purpose of this outburst (which u can easily spot if you closely have a look at the title of this write up); when something similar is experienced at a personal level, you would be astonished to find that how evidently it affects the social and political framework of the society.
Before we jump to the legal system of the society (any society, none in particular; pardon my generalization and deliberate ignorance of differences etc), it is important that we question the notion of a system itself. How do we define the purpose of a system? We come somewhere close to explaining the same by stating that a system invariably chooses to be responsible for a certain set of actions for instance, the social and the political. We can then chalk out the primary function of the legal system as having to carry out certain duties and responsibilities to safeguard the social, political and if necessary, the economic well being of the citizens. Now where does the personal fit into this arena? It only takes an incident/a string of incidents to link it with the larger milieu. Let us consider for instance, a very basic incident where two young adults of the opposite sex are shunned from the premises of a police station while they are only engaged in a conversation! The reason for this is pretty obvious, more so when it comes from the horse’s mouth! ‘Kuch hua toh hume doshi mat thehrana!’
This puts a couple of things under the radar, not just the basic fact that the interaction between members of the opposite sex (forget the freedom to manifest one’s sexuality) is limiting because of a set of social, political and legal causes. This incident also puts to question the positioning of marginalized forms of sexuality, which paradoxically holds an advantageous one in this situation. Who would question or limit the interaction of gays, lesbians or even sexually sterile individuals? The rising awareness of alternate forms of sexuality has evidently not reached to the extent that such factors are also taken into consideration.
Finally, it is the fear of sexuality itself that is reflected in such issues; playing the devil’s advocate I would also defend the system by considering the importance of filtration for the sake of the younger generation (children etc). Censorship however, does not mean concealing and thereby substituting facts with euphemistic notions (playing safe, anyone?). It means I remind, to take responsibility for actions of the society that are natural, accepting them (which is so far the toughest task in the current scenario) and proper education by disclosing delicate and crucial knowledge at the right time. This could possibly lead to a society that is sensible in its functions, a world that is a better place to live!