Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Enticing Evil

There is something about villains that make them more interesting than the straight faced, honest to god heroes.

While watching Ten Commandments recently - and for the first time, I shamefully confess - Rameses, thanks to the actor no doubt, comes out in flying colours. He is confident, fearless and ready to stand by what he believes. His play of emotions keeps you riveted to the plot. And I felt sorry when he is finally defeated - is he to be blamed if from childhood he is denied what he thinks is rightfully his? (Now, don't tell me that his attitude to the Jews was shameful. It was, is and will be - enslaving anyone... More on that later.)

Even in the serials that I do not watch but occasionally catch glimpses of, it is the villains who seem to have all the fun. They dress up richly - not to my taste, but at least to theirs hopefully. The only hero or the heroine who gets my sympathy are those who decide to match wit for wit, believe in eye for an eye. Those who show the other cheek somehow seem to deserve just that - a tight slap.

In real life? Is anyone so bad or good? Can you hate anyone completely? Sadly, even the ones you hate seem to have sympathisers who are not like them at all. And you grudgingly have to agree that there must be something likeable about them.

Well, one man's cake is another man's poison.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Rama called Bhanu. "Hi, how was the movie yesterday?"

"The movie was good," drawled Bhanu, sounding unhappy.

"Then why are you not sounding happy?"

There was a pause. "This is the last time I am going with Sheryl anywhere! She is so embarrassing! She laughs loudly, she is an attention seeker! She is loud! I can't stand it!"

Rama smiled to herself. "Okay," she said soothingly. "She is excitable, I know."

"Excitable! That's a mild word. She is hysterical!"

Rama controlled her laugh and after murmuring soothingly, cut the call.

Her phone rang almost immediately. "What's wrong with Bhanu?" Sheryl barked in the phone. "She is bossy all the time!"

Uh-oh, thought Rama. "What happened?" she asked, as if she couldn't guess.

"Don't laugh, don't stare, don't do this, don't do this... She should have become a teacher!"

Rama said soothingly, "She is soft-spoken and doesn't like attention."

"What do you mean? That I am seeking attention?" Sheryl asked threateningly.

"No, no! But you are gregarious and she is not..."

"She is a neurotic, that's what she is," declared Sheryl. "And this is the last time I am going out with her anywhere."

The line went blank.

Rama sighed in relief. Good she wasn't with them, trying to calm the two extremes. But she wondered how she was going to balance being friends with both.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spotlight On

She turned son against father so she may queen over others.

She turned brother against brother so he may not share the wealth.

She turned daughter against son so she may cow the daughter-in-law down.

She turned son against daughter-in-law so she could tie him to her apron strings.

She turned daughter against son-in-law so he may not speak sense to her.

She turned friend against friend for no one could be friends but with her.

She stood alone, sent from home to home.

She wondered why, when she cultivated them for her own good.

Have you read: Bringing Up

Mixing Classes

DTEA Mandir Marg Entrance

My brothers and I studied in a school in Delhi. It was subsidised by Tamil Nadu government and meant for the labourers who had migrated there. So a typical class of 40 till the 8th would easily have at least 50% "poor". I don't know how many studied beyond because I think education was compulsory till 13 years of age.

I was one of the brighter students, and I wonder if it weren't because of the class composition. For when I moved to Calcutta in 9th and went to one of the "better" schools, I was given provisional pass in 9th. It's a different story that I passed with disctinction in 10th and so probably wasn't so bad.

But back to this Delhi school. Because many of these children from poor families were first generation literates, their standard was very poor and marks normally in single digits. To help them, better students like me - ahem - were encouraged to spend time with these children helping them learn at least the basics. I had Tamil medium till 4th, and from 5th to 8th, Tamil was compulsory. Again, that is an aside.

Did it bring my quality of education down in any way? Many of my classmates who completed their education there are in senior positions in multinationals. My own brothers - from a different branch - did their engineering at IITs and one did MBA from IIM and the other is in the US after having completed his MS/PhD and now a research scientist. When I was in 7th or 8th, 14 students from the 12th that year had got into IIT. One of the seniors got state rank in the boards - I know of only that for it was a target I was not practicing for so had no interest in knowing more. There could have been more then, later and earlier too.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the letter some principals have sent to the parents on RTE. They believe that the standard of education will fall if poor students are allowed to study in their schools and fees will have to be raised - a veiled threat to create public opinion against this?

I know many "good" schools in Chennai retain their image because they have filtered out average performers. I wonder, if the role of schools is only to bring out toppers, or impart education? What if some student is an average performer or less? Doesn't he still have right to access the resources. Maybe the marks are low, but is that the only measure of intelligence and capability?

And if you filter out the average performers, then is it to the school's credit that there are only toppers? Aren't the genes of the better-performing students to be credited more for their performance? What is so great about shining an already shining diamond? Isn't it the duty of the teachers to help the below average and raise the level to the extent possible.

In India, teaching is a thankless, low paying job... But if our focus itself is only fame and money, is it to be wondered at? Who is to blame for this? Parents, who want only the "best" for children and queue up day and night in front of some schools for forms, or schools that ensure that their fees and selection criterion give them an edge in bagging high performers?

A note: My Delhi school - with its 7 or 8 branches - is in poor condition. Needless to say, the government subsidies have been cut. And no marks for guessing that no part of that 200 crore is being diverted to improving it.

You may also like: Bringing Up; A Framework for Children; Getting Used to the Luxury

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hobson's Choice

She picked up the mike and said, "The headlines today is all about it. This is not something we didn't know about. We have been telling the people this for long - this government is corrupt! And now, the entire family seems to have been taking bribes!"

The people clapped, mad with anger and frenzy.

"She was a model woman. She was educated, a poet, capable to inspiring higher thoughts. She had lead a simple life, she could have lead the way to women's empowerment. She was close to the rustic people, she was close to the common man. Her one words could have lifted the veil of darkness covering the minds of man." There was absolute silence at this unexpected eulogy. "But today, she shows she is no better than the common man. That her needs are as insatiable. That she can be as vile as the vilest." People burst out clapping spontaneously. "It embarrasses me to think of her as the "sweet tongue" that will perpetuate the glory of my mother tongue. It shames me to think that she is the face of my motherland to the ignorant north Indians."

"Hear, hear!"

"This is your chance to show that you will not stand for such corruption, to root out evil and to stand by truth."

The applause did not die down even after she sat down. She waved then covered her mouth and turned to her aid. "Find out how she managed it. I will not settle for anything less than 500."

If you like this, you may also like:
Tearing Through the Blue; The Kind Lord

The Right to Dream


What does it feel like to ride a Scooty Pep? A chance to experience it... So what if I can't try it on the road. I can still capture the feeling by sitting astride, as I would when riding it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Dilemma

Which road to take?
One that looks hard
And long?
Or the other,
That looks easy and short?
They both lead to the same place
Destination Unknown.
This mind conjures up a mirage
A desirable end
To an uncertain journey.
It wants no suspense
And wants to jump
Into the road that looks easy.
And then come the potholes
The bumps and the hitches.
Would the other road have been better?
I would have been more prepared,
The hurdles were visible
And there were
Moments of bliss in between.
Was that shorter?
Did I err
in taking this road?
In a journey to
an Unknown Destination,
how can the path
be known?
Accept, trust and plod on
For it is the end that matters
And the end is not the end.
Good or bad
Expected or unexpected
It is just a temporary stop
Before the final end.
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