Monthly Archives: September 2015

A Colourful World

This is a complex world. Multicoloured. To present it only in the shades of black and white is wrong. If you do, you are bound to miss many different shades. And it would be a great loss. Indeed.

Everyday we see, hear, read about people getting rude and abusive to others. At the same time, there are thousands of others who pass on a friendly smile to strangers, let the other vehicle pass, give a lift to young students, move a little aside so that another passenger could be accommodated, help somebody place his luggage on the upper berth. These people are never counted, not recognised, you would not find any report on them in any newspaper. Yet they exist.

A national daily reported a very kind and noble gesture by the residents of a colony. Every day one of the residents on turn would give the traffic policeman on the nearby crossing a bottle of cold drink. Now did you know about this?
 

In a lecture Prof. Rajmohan Gandhi said in the context of the partition of India that — ‘It is well known that many people were killed, many people were looted, many people lost their homes. However, what is not well known, and is not reported, is that there were a far greater number of people who saved lives, who extended help and relief, who provided shelter’.
 

Good and bad both exist in the world. Had the positive forces not been there, the world would have already collapsed a long time ago. It is the power and strength of the good that has helped to maintain the equilibrium, and kept the balance from shifting in favour of the bad. Then why is it not visible, why can’t we see it more often? Perhaps because the good is always modest. It does not shout. It works silently and makes no claim. It is up to you to recognise it whenever you meet it next. And don’t forget to say thanks.

photo credit: 777ps_01768.jpg via photopin (license)

Lessons (short story)

 

A short story in two parts.

PART I

A class is in progress, the teacher is scribbling on the blackboard, and the students concentrating on her writings and trying to absorb the matter.

— So, if we draw a triangle like this, and denote the base by ‘b’ and perpendicular by ‘p’, and this angle by ‘theta’, then the ratio of ‘p’ to ‘b’ would be equal to tangent of theta, and denoted by tan(theta) –
— Excuse me, madam! – one student raised his hand and called out.
— Yes, Rahul. You want to ask something?
— Madam, what are we doing here?
— What is this? Trigonometry, of course! What happened, have you been sleeping or what? Yesterday we learnt about sine and cosine, and today we are reading about tangent. You should be attentive in the class. – the teacher was visibly annoyed.
— No madam, not that. I want to ask why are we studying all this? What is the use of learning all these ratios and all?
— Now, can anyone of you please explain the application and use of trigonometry to this dumb-head? -The teacher addressed the class while on the verge of losing her patience.
A ‘good’ boy, who was perhaps the topper in the class, at least in the subject, raised his hand.
— Yes, Vivek, go ahead.
— Madam, these relationships can be used if someone wants to measure the height of very tall objects and structures like a building or a tree. These are also helpful in measuring otherwise inaccessible geographical features like mountains. – the good boy explained in a confident voice and with a straight face.
— Very good. Sit down. And you, understood? – she turned to Rahul and asked sternly.
— Yes madam, I know that. But I am asking why would anyone want to do that? I mean, the mountain or the tree is there. Why would a person need to measure its height? – asked Rahul, still not convinced.
— Shut up, and sit down!

PART II

— You must not give up so easily. The whole family is dependent on you. If you break down, who would support them?
— But why? Why had it to happen to us?
— One never knows, my friend. Such things happen all of a sudden, we are never prepared.
— He took such an extreme step! Not for a moment thought of us, his sister, his mother whom he loved so much, of me?
— It only shows how great his sorrow must have been. Must be unbearable. Even his love for you all could not stop him.
— But why didn’t he call us up? At least he could have let us know.
— He must have. Could be that he hesitated a bit, thought that you would understand his trouble from his voice. Or may be he waited for you to ask. Maybe you could not understand or sense it. I do not blame you. But it could be that. Signs of such troubles are seldom visible on the surface.
— Maybe. Maybe I have been rude to him or perhaps indifferent. Maybe he felt barrier between us. But he has friends, and his sister with whom he used to gossip all day and night, his cousins who are all grown up and could have helped. Then his old teachers, and new present ones too. He could have approached anyone. If not me, fine. But anybody –
— That is the saddest part. In spite of all this crowd, he could not find a single person he could relate to. Just imagine. He is afterall just a child.
— Even then, some other alternative. Anything other than this horrible thing to do. He could have explored, thought of some other way out, anything other than just going ahead and ending everything like this.
— Now, now, you are thinking and speaking like a 50 years old man; do not forget that he is…was…just 21. He was still a child for us, just a child. He could not have thought like you. Yes, you are right. There must have been several other better alternatives than this terrible solution. But how could he know? He didn’t even know how to think. Or what to think. And where to look for solutions. He did not know, he was never taught…

FINIS

Footnote: Part-I of this narrative is based on a scene from a Doordarshan serial; however, their focus was different from this work. I do not remember the name of that serial or the title of the episode; only that it concerned itself with the country’s education policy and needed reforms. Ms. Himani Shivpuri acted in it. Part-II is fictional; nevertheless, the readers could relate it to any incident they might have read, heard, or witnessed.

photo credit: Madagascar, young children via photopin (license)

What do you say Sir?

A scene from a popular Hindi movie shows a big crowd assembled before a building and looking upwards in the direction of a top floor where some action is presumably taking place. The protagonist arrives at the scene, and asks a bystander what is going on. The man answers simply, “I do not know. Everybody is looking in that direction, so I am also looking that way”.
The primary aim in formulating education policy and bringing about changes in the present education system is purported to help the people of the nation provide for themselves and their family, and live a life of dignity in a healthy way. If some intellectuals grow out of such educated class who provide valuable guidance and leadership to the thought process of the nation, then it is an added bonus. Nevertheless, the basic minimum output that education aims at is to bring out good citizens who are able to judge what is best for them and for the society, and thus participate in the democratic governance of the country. Print and electronic media provide the information and expert opinion on the current affairs at regional, national, and global level, thus aiding the individual in possessing a sound awareness of the events around himself, and assess their implications on his immediate surroundings.

But are these aims fulfilled? Much has been said about the flaws and limitations of education system of the country, and several suggestions have been proposed to improve or change it. However, in spite of these limitations, at least some output in terms of the aims mentioned previously could be expected. Are we able to see it? Is the society taking decisions based on an analysis of the information provided and an educated opinion, or is it just looking in a particular direction only because everybody is looking that way?

I am not alluding to any particular issue or event or person. But look around yourself and you may see it happening all the time. People vote for a particular leader or a political party because everybody says it is going to win, we go to watch blockbusters, we read bestsellers, and we go for hot tourist destinations. We assume that since everybody is going a particular way, there must be something worthwhile on that path. It is definitely not to say that that leader, political party, movie, book, or tourist spot does not deserve the fan following it commands. Also, this does not imply that the individual should always strive to take a position contrary to the majority opinion. Instead, simply that in several cases, a person’s support and admiration is not based on personal opinion and judgement.

“What should we order for you?”
“Whatever. Anything that you people prefer.”

Can you relate to this conversation at any restaurant? The way we lead our personal, professional and social lives is not very different. We tend to bypass decision-making.

There is a fear that if everybody starts thinking and speaking one’s mind out, there would be utter chaos, and very little, if any, fruitful progress would be made in any direction. But isn’t this what democracy is all about? Of course, a synthesis of all the possible opinions is seldom feasible. Several compromises need to be made, and mostly the majority has its way. Perhaps we cannot help it, and can only try our best to accommodate all points of views to the maximum degree possible. The streamline flow is an ideal situation where everybody has the same point of view — something that we see during wars and sports, for example. Otherwise, it remains only an ideal rarely witnessed, but one worth looking forward to. Still, even if we ever do manage to achieve it, we should take care that it is because each individual shares the common opinion, and not because everyone else seems to look in a particular direction.

Here we are talking about a very simple occurrence that takes place several times a day in our lives — something that lasts just a few seconds, and involves taking a very simple decision, provide our opinion, or solicits some action on our part. In simple terms, it requests us to stand up so that people can identify us out of the crowd, and provide our valuable individual contribution. Providing education is a big investment, and involves a lot of effort on part of the government and other societies involved in it, and also the employees working at different levels. Everyone needs to show that all that investment and effort was worth it, and each penny was well-spent. Society moves in a stream; however, every droplet counts.

photo credit: Observing protests near Victory Monument, Bangkok via photopin (license)

On Communication

communication1Communication is very important for fostering peace and resolving conflicts. Just talking things over, not necessarily on the points of conflict or difference, prepares an amicable environment conducive for further friendly relations. The diffusion of air from both sides brings about mixing and a uniformity of thought. Contrary to general perception, it does not rob us of our views, thoughts, culture; instead it makes us more tolerant towards the view of the other side. Continue reading

Environmental Scientists Should Lead By Example

Image source: PhotoPin

A short article by Nimesh Ved appeared in The Hindu. With focus on environment protection, conservation, and waste management, it makes a note of the various practices followed by conservation agencies and individuals, at conferences and outside of them, that are contrary to any type of conservation effort.

Continue reading

The Name is Amit!

29446-8715304693_cf81083d52_nWhen a child is born, the biggest challenge the parents face is to select a beautiful name for the baby. They want it to sound good, must not be prone to be shortened or used for bullying/teasing, and must be unique. Perhaps my parents also explored many names and finally settled for the one that I presently use to identify myself. Continue reading

At the Bank

This happened when I was studying for the B.Sc. One day I was returning from the railway station. On the way I found a bank cheque, which some passer-by had dropped. I looked around — there were very few people on the street and nobody nearby. Not knowing what to do, I decided to go to the nearest bank branch. Maybe they could locate the owner of the cheque or maybe they could do something proper. They were definitely in the best position to decide. So I walked and stepped in the bank which was only a few steps ahead. It was 10:00 am, the bank had just opened and the activities for the day had supposedly not yet started. A small group of people were having an agitated conversation. I looked around and approached the only free gentleman there.

— Sir, where can I find the manager?
— Why? What do you want the manager for?
— Sir, I found this on the road, I do not know who does it belong to.

The gentleman had a look at the cheque, smiled, and walked towards the group of people who were still deeply absorbed in their animated discussion.

— Hello Sir there! Here it is. Your cheque.

— Oh Wow! Thank God it is found. What a relief! Thank you so much, thank you.

— Arey no Sir, you should in fact thank this young boy who found it and brought it to us.

— The cheque was A/C payee, that is why [he brought it].