Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Is it worth it ?

When I came to this place almost seven months back, I knew it is going to be tough, but I never thought that it would be such a big battle for survival. But now when I look at my result and celebrate about having ‘survived’ the system (as on today, as I know not what lies few months down the line !), though not in a great health, I often think of those who haven’t.

Here, the system is quite strict and also at one level though it is flexible, when it comes to discipline and academic standards it is as hard as a rock. In the relative grading system F is the lowest and D is the next. If in a year you accumulate 2 Fs, or 5 Ds or 1 F and 3 Ds; you have to repeat a year.

And few Profs love to give a few Ds and Fs. There have been quite a few deserving candidates who are in the “red zone”, but there are many who don’t deserve to be there. This may be my personal opinion but this is reiterated by probably the entire batch. Passing marks is 35, yet many end up getting 33 or 34 and miss the marks by a whisker.

I don’t know why they do so. Maybe it is their ego. Or maybe they want to prove that the system is ruthless. But what it ultimately ends up doing is scare the hell out of the supposedly ‘mature’ students, and create discontent against the system. An often we dare not to mess with things if they are going wrong. Also the examinations, though often test concepts often go a step further to validate certain model of economics as if we are writing a research paper, and often doing well depends a lot upon how much you can cram.

Also contrasting Indian system with the western, we may be highly intelligent, brilliant and creative but yet our education system still focuses a lot on rote memory and following the norms, while in western world it is often more about freedom and entrepreneurship, where disagreement is not only accepted but often encouraged. Many Indians are leaving a mark globally, but a lot of them at one time or the other were a part of western system – be it Azim Premji, Manmohan singh, P Chidambaram, Indra Nooyi, Laxmi Mittal (all educated/ worked outside India). Though there are many like Mr. Narayan Murthy who does not fill this bill. Maybe it is a time for introspection though things are changing, or at least seem to be changing.

Still they claim to churn out the best ‘managers’. Maybe true, because of the kind of talent they get, types of facilities they have, but all in all we are mostly taught to be managers and not leaders. We get the opportunities, we get facilities, we get an excellent training, but we are taught mostly to conform, and often these ‘very’ best students become victims of the ruthlessness of the system. I accept that life is also not fair, but extending this to education… I don’t think it is worth it.

This all in one of the premier management institutes in India. Sorry, but I am very DISAPPOINTED.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Parallel worlds

It was few minutes to the year 2007. I was all alone at my seat waiting for the train packed with all kinds of people to move. Meanwhile I was all set to welcome the New Year with a copy of business world and a packet of Lays. Then from somewhere came this small kid of hardly 5 -6 years asking for something to eat. Usually indifferent to them, I gave him few pieces of the chips which otherwise would have had been converted to fats shortly. The train moved, and I continued to read about the who‘s who of the corporate world. But the picture of the kid begging couldn’t leave me. It kept crossing my mind again and again. How different is their world from that of ours. In fact we cannot probably stretch our imagination to exactly know what their world is like.

What may seem too trivial to us might be something of tremendous joy to these people. For us a piece of bread may be just another thing, but for them it might be life for one more day. We may, at times take survival for granted, but for them it is a constant battle. And how many of them might be here? Over a quarter of India’s population is believed to be below poverty line. How many of them would be actually begging for their livelihood and how many of them would actually have been accounted in the official statistics? And their life and lifestyle will definitely be poles apart from that of ours. Recently I read somewhere “Every fourth person around me is officially poor - and I don't know any of them. In contrast, every twenty-fifth Indian around me uses the Web. I know plenty of those Indians. Why am I so detached from an entire one-fourth of my country?” I am sure; this ‘detached’ population would be much higher than one fourth.

With a totally different context consider the top corporate honchos, which are often ensconced in heir ivory towers. What for them is trivial might be very important to us. Similarly we all have heard of some underworld elements, but what we actually hear or read may just be the tip of the iceberg. Maybe they might be much more, and again with their worlds diametrically opposite. So may be the whole parallel worlds of likes of prostitution ‘business’, or a small time drug peddler, or a sadhu whose life maybe limited to a small village in the Himalayas, or a low level servant in some remote corner of country, where he may not be begging for a living but he still doesn’t find enough means to get 2 square meals a day. For him, the outside world is often totally irrelevant. To a lesser extent it can be also true for the caste system, which is so prevalent in our country, but what one set of people know about other set might be just a very minuscule part. And to lesser extent we have the student world, the banias, executives, movie superstars, a daily wage earner etc. who all have different worlds, though similarities may still exist. An investment baker moving around in his Rolls Royce might be totally unaware of the life of a beggar in tattered clothes, living a life ... no ... merely existing in some non-descript corner of a small town in Bihar, who in turn might be unawre of the life of a 'terrorist' and what goes within his brains, who in turn might be totally unaware of a lower caste farm labourer in a village in Orissa; and it goes on and on.

The point I am trying to make through incoherent ramblings above is that there are so many different types of people in this world, that their worlds are totally different. The overlaps between these worlds though present, may be quite minuscule, and what we know about that different world altogether may just be tip of the iceberg. Maybe, the expanse and depth of ‘their’ world is much bigger than what we can imagine. The glass through which they look at the world is often gifferent from that of ours. Maybe following quote by Rudyard Kipling can capture this difference better.

“East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Greatness challenged

/*Maybe some fans of Indian culture wouldn’t like it*/

Since childhood we have been fed upon a steady diet of greatness of Indian culture, values, beliefs, sanskars etc. Some of them are good, but is it all that great, or even somewhere as close as what is taught to us?

For example we worship Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth and are taught to believe that we must respect wealth. We even celebrate Laxmi Puja which is the biggest festival among Hindus. Yet, people continue to avoid taxes and show utter disregard for the rules and obviously with a belief that “sab chalta hai”

People over here are so obsessed with marriage that if at a certain age and that point of time you don’t want to fall for it, you are frowned upon and looked down upon. And most of the time it is the elders in the family who take such decision, and the approval of the one actually getting married is merely a token or somewhat sort of a puppet. And if at a certain age you are not married or not planning to get married, and then be prepared for a millions of questions and another million words of advice (euphemism for an attempt to brainwash!)

Parents dote upon children and claim to do anything for them. Often they claim no discrimination. Yet in most of the parts of India we see foeticide being rampant an the dwindling sex ratio, which all ultimately boils down to economics and some concepts like budhaape ka sahara and many such discriminatory phrases, often from the ones who claim to be sort of torchbearers of equality. The same child who is doted upon (often!) is often seen as burden to get married off quickly.

People often crib about restrictions imposed in every walk of life by family and/or religion and/or society, and yet they follow them ‘cribbingly’ and expect others to. And the vicious cycle continues. More often than not, they are based upon some obscure fundas which the followers don’t understand and yet blindly followed. If someone tries to challenge any custom or restiction, he is again brainwashed/ enlightened about sanskars/ emotionally blackmailed/ threatened so that he falls in the line.

They often go for pilgrimage or an occasional visit to religious places, usually where Gods have supposed to have accomplished some great deeds and indulge themselves in all forms of sycophancy to get some due/undue favors from Gods. Yet, immediately outside it they can be seen heaving a sigh of relief and words like “karna padta hai”, or abusing someone or doing things which they wouldn’t have inside the temple premises or close to it in front the eyes of the lord. And in the end people love to boast about their devotion.

Despite our so-called-greatness we still practice caste system and are often so finicky about it. Often people are alien to concept like talking with or getting along with a person of other caste. Often we hear cases of lower caste members not being allowed in the temple or such stories. Maybe, things like inter caste marriage might be unthinkable to many.

Few years ago I went to visit a distant relative. One of my good friends lived in that city and once he came to visit me. The first question asked after his name was his caste. Though it may not have been a big deal, but I was still somewhat embarrassed!

These don’t represent all of us, but still in a large part of the country, many of these are still followed. Few maybe out of volition, but usually most are out of compulsion. Yet we claim to be the superior to most of the cultures and hardly wish to challenge the status quo. And ultimately most of us fall in the trap of “typical ness of life