Learning is not equal to education…

This is not a review. These are random ramblings induced by the nostalgia of the horror that used to be school. The good memories of my childhood did not involve school, at all. Okay maybe the canteen but that’s it….

Though my parents firmly believed in education, they never believed in forcing education onto me or my sister. I failed in my first ever written exam in standard I and the teacher made it a point to tell my mother that I was a problem child. Mom took it upon herself to fix that, but when year after year, I managed to score and land in the scholarship class, the teachers did not stop labelling me a problem child, Mom decided something was off.  She decided to let me be but told me that I had to endure these subjects I hated just up to the tenth standard, because that’s how it works.

Soon enough, my sister came to school and she went through the same hell as I did. Mom, who was a little wiser let her be, until it came to a point where it started to worry her. We were obviously apprehended every time we scored single digit marks, but we were always encouraged to pursue what we liked. But even so, the lack of marks entailed failure, and that felt horribly wrong. It brought down our spirits and trust me, we did feel miserable. Those who scored 99 on 100 in maths or science were heroes and those like my sister, who might just about scrape maths but write a brilliant essay, were useless. Hell, once a teacher cut my marks in an essay because she did not understand the Dickens reference I made! If you scored well, you were put in august company of other super scorers in the ‘merit’ division. Otherwise, you would have to rot in backward classes with the under performers. So naturally every parent wished and hoped that their kid would make it into the merit class. As soon as I passed out, my sister changed schools to go to a better school. Though there were no merit divisions here, the school was swarming with problem teachers. While my teachers had asked my kundali to be reviewed for my grahadasha to find the problem behind my restlessness, the sister’s teachers said she had no hope of passing maths.

The sister has only scored distinctions in exams since she found a joy in learning which lead to her discovering the subject she loved (she went to 90 percent boss, eat that!) and she is now pursuing a Post Graduate diploma in one of the best advertising schools in the US. But of course, this will hold no value to that teacher who believed that if you are not a doctor or an engineer, your life was a failure. That woman, and many like her are the engineers of failure. She is a system checks that make the following quote, a fact.
‘I was born a genius, education ruined me’

So when Mahesh Manjarekar, in his controversially titled film, ‘Shikshanachya Aicha Gho!’ raises a question, ‘Who are you to decide who’s a failure or who’s a success on the basis of marks?’ I want to applaud him. When he questions the system, and says that it kills the joy of learning, I want to yell out, I agree.

It’s time we looked at education as something that creates, not something that manufactures. Of course, IB schools are around to change that, but these IB schools come at a price tag in the range of lakhs, completely out of the common man’s reach. Isn’t it time we did something about the fact that schools are getting more and more competitive? Or are we going to wait until a couple more 12 year olds commit suicide?

And if education can make a 12 year old feel like death is better, then truly, ‘Ya Shikshanachya Aicha Gho!’

Like A Rolling Stone

Day 6, Thursday, 24th September

Once you know you have a house, half your worries are sorted. We had to move in on Friday. So today was free to just chill. But Nani was bouncing off the walls.

“I’m going to see Katie and then I’m going to see a classmate!” See, if you know Nani, her excitement levels to social commitments aren’t usually this chirpy. So, I was thrilled that she was looking forward to seeing her school’s admissions administrator and to sort out some basic stuff.

Of course, my life revolves around Nanya here and though I can find a zillion things to do around, I hate the idea of doing things alone. I didn’t want her to take me along (hell, it’s sad for an older sister to follow the younger sister around on social commitments)

“You won’t come to see my school! Arre Katie will show us around, come na lazybum! And what you don’t want to come to see my classmate. He is totally cool, we’ll go to Starbucks, chal na!” Now she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so off we went.

Nani’s school = awesome!

It’s colourful, it’s funky and it’s inspiring. Red, pink, bright orange and yellow, fresh green govern the interiors. The floors are made of the aluminium boards, you know the kind you find on BEST buses ka floor, only way posher! Full on industrial design!

Katie, Nani’s point of contact at the school, is someone I had heard about night and day. So, I couldn’t wait to see her either. She was this pleasant lady who seemed thrilled to see Nani too. She told us what documents we needed, printed those out, gave us a few directions and then took us on a school tour.

On our way around we bumped into many people Nani would be interacting with. I took a mental picture of each one of them (not quite as cheesily as Phoebe’s Parker did ref: friends!) but hey, when she talks about them, I’d like to put a face to their names!

Everyone seemed so chirpy and happy. That’s one thing I have noticed, people in Miami are chirpy and fun. Reminds me of something the Pole once told me: ‘People’s attitudes often vary according to the weather they live in,” Of course, he said it to demonstrate why his people, the Polish, are grumpy and serious.

Anyhoo, back to Nani’s school! They have virtual classrooms, video editing rooms and a hang out zone and a café and two units of XBOX in the hangout area. It was like THE place for Nani. The course she’s doing is hatke, the school is hatke and Nani toh is full on hatke. Haah!

After the tour, we got ourselves back to the room, did some packing and headed out to get Nani’s bank account sorted. In the whole ghotala, we missed a call from the parents. I felt a pang. We hadn’t spoken to them for two days. The time difference was making it tough to find a good time and then we miss their call! Weird, isn’t it? You take your parents for granted, you tell them you can handle it, but something as little as a missed call from them can make you realise just how much you miss them.

Talking to them made me feel better. Assuring them that we weren’t being naughty, assuring them that we found a safe room for Nani and assuring them that we were okay was just a reassurance to myself. They give us girls a lot of freedom and independence. They trust us to make our decisions and for that I rarely thank my parents.

Thanks Mum and Dad, for putting your faith in us. Thanks for letting us walk without support but making sure that the fall wouldn’t hurt us. Thanks for making sure that there was support whenever we needed it and also thanks for telling us that just because there’s support, we don’t have to forget walking on our own…
It’s moving day tomorrow!

Inspired During The Marathon

I ran the dream run last week. I didn’t train much and I hoped to just walk if I couldn’t make it. Yes, I was excited, but I took the run for granted. I was registered by a friend of Dad’s who was going to be there with about 50 kids from his NGO. I shamefully admit that I knew nothing of the NGO.

Of course, when we met up at VT to go and report at the gate, I was introduced to the children and the NGO. The NGO is a shelter for the daughters of prostitutes. The girls are given education, a shelter and a few friends- A reason to smile.

As we made our way through the super crowded gates, I was introduced to a girl, who used this education to not only achieve her dream but also to provide for her mother. Thanks to this girl, her mother could opt out of flesh trade.

She gives the credit to education. How we underestimate education? We, who are sent to nice schools by our doting parents who also provide a cushy future.

This girl didn’t have it easy. She struggled to get the very education we take for granted. She is 20, but she is a super achiever according to me. As we inched to the start line, I couldn’t help but run. I ran because I was proud of this girl. She represented hope, she represented aspiration and to me she represented a better tomorrow.

I salute the spirit of thousands of women who take their destiny in their hands and change it. They break free from flesh trade, harassment, male domination and millions of other problems that plague their kind. They don’t accept what the society, culture or the religion hands them. They make their own path…

Taare Zameen Par

Everyone’s going on and on about the brilliant film that’s TZP, and finally I saw it. Not once, twice. The first time I was consumed by the story and performance. The second time, the story continued to amuse me, but I was a little less involved in the film. So yeah, it was time to observe. The theatre was full of parents who had enthusiastically brought their kids along to watch this film about kids.

It scared me to see these older kids who could understand what was going on but yet did not have the sensibility to distance themselves from the plot. The truth is many may just start believing that they too have a dyslexia, they too may be like Ishaan Awasthi. I saw a risk of over-awareness there.

That risk aside, the awareness the film attempts to create is essential amongst parents and teachers and hence its a must watch. They will not only connect with the demons of their past (the drawing teacher who hit you on the knuckles) but will also realise how they themselves are creating problem children without realising it. My aunt always says, “There are no problem children. There are problem parents and problem teachers.”

This film justifies her statement. How many teachers make an attempt to understand why the child behaves in a certain manner? How many parents try to understand why their child is misbehaving before hitting them or punishing them?

We just see the kids’ behaviour and label them. What the kids need is a bit of understanding. In the entire rat race to get high percentages and admissions into the best colleges, we force these kids to forget the concept of childhood. We force them to grow up early and bury themselves in books.

We stop nurturing the feeling of sportsmanship which helps them deal with failure. I know for a fact that housing colonies that buzzed with the cackle of youngsters every evening less than half a decade ago, are silent now. Kids prefer lonesome computer games to the community based lagoris and pakda pakdis.

Worse still, some kids prefer not to play at all, because they want to finish at least 4 revisions of the portion before the first unit test.

We go on happy with the high marks assuming that every child must walk down that path, irrespective of whether or not the child wants to, until a film like TZP comes along. It opens your eyes and makes you realise that it is not the child who’s going wrong. It’s you, the parent or the teacher.

In fact, from personal experience I could say that one loves subjects that are taught by pleasant and caring teachers. And a strict or a violent teacher puts in a terror that makes you hate a subject.

I am glad my English teacher encouraged me to write more essays, I owe my existence, my identity to her. Even though my essays were mediocre she encouraged me to get better, appreciated my little steps towards getting better. She made me want to try harder.
At the same time, I wish my drawing teacher didn’t believe in humiliating me for drawing human beings that looked like crows (can’t forget the whole class giggling at my sketches that he held up). I wanted to be good at drawing but he made me believe that I never could be. It was not his place to do that to me or to any child.

I wish all schools have a Nikumbh, who splashes a bit of childhood into a mundane life weighed down by heavy bags, never ending homework and ever dreaded exams. I wish….