Day 116: Let’s take it slow and you tell us what you want

One more exam to go and I took the day off to visit Valley school right after breakfast. The drive over was interesting, a comfortable NICE road, SilverGhoster to keep company over the phone, and a beautiful weather. I had lunch with Shankar aunty and helped Sandhya aunty struggle with their failing electricity to grind some dosa dough and realized the simple life that they’ve chosen to live. They battle with the infusion of modern wants and needs every day, but have, as an institution, taken a conscious decision to live simplistic. And I’m told that’s their strategy in reaching kids as well.

I met with Ms. Elsie, who will be my sounding board every evening after the observations. I also met Ms. Suneeta, coordinator for the junior school, and Ms. Indira, coordinator for the middle school. I’ll be working with these two ladies starting 23rd and I was stunned by their openness in sharing about their respective jobs. As we sipped hot tea and ate freshly fried bajjis, they quizzed me on my interest for the school and my plan for the upcoming weeks, months and years.

What caught me off guard, and warmed me the most, is the practicality of their approach to my research. They did not want me to come with a predefined questionnaire, structured interview questions, or a project plan for the week I’d spend with them. They wanted me to walk in with an open mind, and a willingness to question and understand. Everybody I met was willing to share, warm in their welcome as they opened their doors for me. I do not yet know if it’s the philosophy of J Krishnamurthy or their individual ideologies, but I sensed a comfort in their interactions that I have sensed in few other schools.

“I hear they have leopards and monkeys at the Valley School. Thank you very much, but I’ll stay out of that campus.” Scotch

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Day 112: Arguing with a fool makes it two 

To share or not to share

SilverGhoster and his classmates are weird. Period. For students getting an. MBA degree, especially in Educational Leadership, they seem to be a little immature in certain aspects. I remember having a similar conversation with GardenMan and his Senior, but these were u degrade kids in their second year. Not experienced professionals pursuing a professional degree, and heading off to lead institutions.

The bone of contention? Class notes, should one share them or not. I have always related to the concept of Open Source over proprietary software even when working. I believe that knowledge should be out in the open, available for those capable to make the most of it. And by reading the notes that you took in a class, if another is able to score more marks than you, what does it truly say about your preparation?

I take my notes online, on a OneNote, and the notebooks are shared with my classmates; well, both of them. At the end of the first semester, they themselves realized that using another’s to study us only so effective, and it’s more beneficial to take your own notes. Even now A uses my notes online but as a guide for last minute preparation.

It reinforces my thought, that when you put all your cards out there, people realize that their own limitations would stop them from making the most out of what you shared. And you eventually come out being the smarter one. Because we all know that when you argue with a fool, that automatically makes it two.

It is also well known that the one that doesn’t share his bread with the doggo is the fool. So, can you? Now please?” Scotch 

Day 107: Explain Unity and Diversity in India

As expected, the Sociology exam was a bummer. 1/5th of the paper was simply about Unity and Diversity in India. Reminded me of writing similar essays in school; Social Studies, we called it back then. And at least then, all this was new knowledge and there was hope.

Now that I’ve spent 33 years in this world, I see how language divides us more than it unites. Ask every child who’s ostracized for not speaking English. I know that there is as much division between the North and the South of India, as there is between India and Pakistan. We are so hung up on our food preferences, that we’ll go hunting for an idli-vada place in New Delhi, and then complain about the poor food taste.

Our culture, our language, our eating choices, our dressing choices, our sexual preferences, our movie picks, our living spaces, the car we drive, the tourist spots we go to and the money we earn or spend; all make us more and more divided from each other than united.

As I wrote about the beauty of a Durga puja pandal in Bangalore and a Muslim community hosting Ganesha celebrations, I felt hypocritical. I felt like I was using stray incidents of color, to obscure how dull and grey this world really is. As I highlighted the cosmopolitan nature of every Indian city, I felt like I was hiding the fact that every city is one Kaveri verdict away from a curfew and localities burning.

Have I just been wearing my dark shades for too long?

I have never

The much-awaited MAED-MBAELM party happened; in the middle of the day, with the lure of free booze. Well, technically it was four out of the 12. But, it was the most likely crowd, I would say. The usual, shots, beer, pizza and I-have-never.

The dark black shades were on through the day, and I wondered if I was just becoming too cynical in life. As A guffawed at every silly joke, and touched and petted DubaiCasanova at every feasible opportunity, I reminded myself what a make-believe world this was. ‘I have made out with more than 50 men’ and ‘I have hooked up with a teacher in the Uni’ were worn like awards of honor. Such is the pitious state of today’s youth.

And through it all, what surprised me was the overly comfortable Gemini twin in me. An outsider would have found me at the center of it all, reeling in the fun, not feeling an inch out of place. I laud and condemn this strange ability that I seem to possess.

You know it’s a myth that dogs see only in black and white, right?  We actually have a reduced color spectrum, but definitely not the Grey scale. Maybe that’s the filter you need to look at the world. 

What do you think?” Scotch

Day 106: It’s a popular symbol of feminism

I’ve been nose deep in literature to prepare for the upcoming end semester exam. I start off with the subject that brought out the true expertise of the teachers in the department – Sociological foundations of Education. After the high-charged discussions on social justice and socially relevant issues of education over the summer, at Bhor, I was excited when I found out that I had this subject this semester.

And boy! What a disappointment it has been!

A few things I remember being said in class, by the respected sharer of information.

  • I wouldn’t allow my son to find himself a girl friend. It’s against my culture and culture is our God.
  • All these live-in relationships and all must make your parents so sad and disappointed in you.
  • The sole aim or purpose of a family is to give birth to young children.
  • Social stratification is natural and it’s these strata that bring a sense of calm in the society. If we were all in one big societal class, we’d kill each other and die.
  • I don’t know why the syllabus has Economic studies as a part of Sociology. Let’s skip that part.
  • All women in certain families in North India have to wear a ghunghat. They are not allowed to enter the living spaces with men without wearing the ghunghat down to their chests. It’s a popular symbol of feminism.

And a bonus one.

  • Myanmar is the capital of Burma.

I feel cheated at the end of this semester. A Master’s program should not be spending 60 hrs dishing out definitions and meaning of ideas like culture, social classes and Inequality. These should be pre-reading for the students to come prepared to class with. And the discussion should be around matters of social relevance. Nobody will ask you for the definition of gender bias in real-life. It will stare you down your face when a father chooses to pick his teenage girl out of school. And you will be unprepared to handle that situation.

All this studying and you seem to be in pain. Do you need a hug?” Scotch 

Day 102: If she does not want to take class, you accept it and move on

I showed up at Uni today, after sucking it up in traffic for one and a half hour, and I find out that the class teacher, the teacher for hour 1 is absent. I understand everybody has emergencies, and every teacher needs her time off. But I what I do not understand is how your professionalism as a teacher lets you not show up to class, and not make alternate arrangements for your class.

When A spoke to the HOD (wink wink, the model citizen), he bombarded her with comments about how if teachers did not want to come to college, then students just had to suck it out and take a free hour off. Students didn’t have a right to attendance, he made it sound like. He did not let her respond to any of his comments, and just bombarded her with his outdated theories.

We spoke to JK later on, and she reminded us about her M. Ed days in Bangalore University, and how students had no right to question for attendance. Even if the teacher was in the office, but did not feel like taking the class, we could do nothing, she said. She asked us to suck it up, and ask teachers that we knew to see if they could adjust their classes with us. And if they couldn’t, to suck it up and have a break.

Unfortunately, I do not approve of or agree with their logic at all. Every student makes an effort to make it to class every day, mental, physical and emotional effort. I drive 20 kms every day to get to Uni, and another 20 kms to get back home. I take all that pain to learn something new from esteemed professors who have the knowledge and the expertise. If I had to stay at home and learn on my own, I could have taken up a correspondence course and not a full-time one. And if I am not ‘getting taught’ after my 20 kms long struggle, the least that I should get is attendance for the hour that I showed up. That is the least that anyone can do to respect my time, and everybody needs respect.

Don’t get me wrong. If there was a process that I could change, I would start by taking off the one which requires 85% attendance in the first place. But, if that is set in stone, and this very same teacher had the nerve to send me an email that read ‘strict disciplinary action will be taken if you miss classes unnecessarily‘ after I sent an OOO email for being sick, then the teachers should take enough care to make sure they aren’t faulting from their end.

“You spent 1.5 hours in traffic and you didn’t take me along. Saadd!! You know how much I love the driving? But, yeah, standing in traffic is not a lot of fun, and I hate that too.”      ~ Scotch

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Day 99: Any job that pays me enough to get off the student loans

Newbie at IIMB

Gardenman, his senior and I were off to IIM early up, to present our final proposal for the case study on rural electrification in Arunachal Pradesh. First timer at IIMB; so, I had the newbie looks, and Gardenman was anyway impressed with the greenery on campus. So, we ambled to registration, taking detours through their beautiful gardens, the open air theatre, the tall stonewalled corridors.

Registrations done, and we were the environment-saving rebels that returned our welcome packet – a notepad and a gel pen from Classmate, casually inserted into a paper-cloth envelope, all things that we’d never use again. It was funny and inspiring to listen to Senior talk of how she had never looked at these everyday products from such a long-term perspective. If I had made an influence by making one person think of their impact to the Earth, it was all worth it.

Vidheyak

The event itself was in one of the classrooms, and Mr. Dinesh Arora, the impressive IAS officer that led the Rural Electrification Commission, was a break from the stereotypes that go with Government agencies and officials. He was crisply dressed in his suit, brought two of his associates along, and walked the aisles between the seats as he listened to our presentation.

The competition was all from IIM Delhi, ISB and IIM Bangalore itself. There were two other teams from Christ U as well. So, we were placed in a very weird position. As we waited for our turn to present, we snapped views of charts and graphs with the other teams, and knew that the various teams had approached it from a different angle entirely. The pressure was ON during the presentation, because we were the last team, and so Mr. Dinesh invited all other teams in to listen in and flow into the conclusion section.

Turns out, the solution to the entire case study lay in the politics of the state. Su-kam, the one that we started off with high respect, and dropped through our analysis of the case because of all the text presented, were the pawns in the whole proceedings after all. As was the one Commissioner who kept popping up as the deviant that kept questioning the tendering process.

It was definitely a huge learning experience; made me realize that nothing is evident from the face of it, and those that might come off as the enemy or the traitor might be the victims when looked close enough. The whole process also made me realize the long, corrupt hands of politics into public service and the persistence that one needs to get through to the expected results.

While we didn’t win the 15000 cash prize for winners, we did receive compliments about our presentation itself, and our proposal delivery from the judges as well as other participants. So, with a little content knowledge and expertise, we should be well-equipped for such discussions in the future.

After Party

We were all lost in our own thoughts at the end of the event; I was lost wondering if I really missed this life of business proposals and budgeting that I had left behind. I wondered all the more, if the career that I had picked for myself mid-life was overflowing with the same as well.

We went to Yellow Submarine to hear each others’ thoughts out, and the winners from ISB came along. So, a big after party it was. It was a fun conversation, ranging from climate change, to Antartica’s open waters, to life in the metros. One thing that became evident was that the prized MBA that they were all pursuing was taking them to a similar end as each one of us were at – an insecurity about the future and what lay ahead.

As the 2+1 beers flowed in, they shared their fear of building student loans, and how the MBA, especially at institutes as fancy as the ISBs or the IIMs, was just a glorified placement agency. It was something that Mr. Dinesh Arora recommended for students interested in contributing to public policy as well – get a well-paying job, earn enough to sustain yourself and then come on over!

Life is so hectic at ISB that we barely get to socialize, or research on topics that we care about. And by mid-term, we are already preparing our resumes for placements. Before we know it, we are making career judgments purely based on which company can pay us enough to buy more beer and rid us of the student loans.

Pee OK, Park NO

We came back from the after party, with plans of an after-after-party at my house (not the ISB folks), and found the Red Beast missing. So, earlier in the day, the security at IIMB didn’t let us park on campus, because all their parking spots were full for the event. He assured us that the spot he recommended to us wouldn’t be a problem, and it wouldn’t get towed. It got towed.

We took an auto to the police station, argued a little with the towing fellows, and gave up a full grand to unclamp the car.

That was enough time for our after-after-party to sound like an extremely stupid decision and that plan dropped. I was actually very surprised by how easy the whole process of retrieving my car from the traffic police was. I was anticipating a lot of haggling and arguing, and money-snatching. I hid away a lot of the money that I had in my wallet, just in case it would come to that. But, nope! They took in my details, uploaded a picture of me parked in front of a wall with the “No Parking” dubiously painted, printed out a challan, and off I was on my way.

You seem to have had a busy busy start to the weekend. Meanwhile, in another part of the world, we’ve been relaxing and living our lives.” ~Goose

Day 95: You can’t keep questioning our decisions if you want this now

After all the action yesterday, today seemed like a drab Friday. Also because we had classes for only the first half of the day.

Revamp Syllabus

CD hadn’t prepared for her class, some strange reasons that only she could rationalize. So, she proposed we use the class hour to compare syllabi and propose changes for the next year. You know how I’ve been complaining to every teacher about the poor syllabus? So, this was a great opportunity and the real S within me was actually happy.

And then, I looked around the class and saw only SrA. So, the next 50 minutes would play out as thus – I would propose topics of relevance that students really need to study, CD would shy away from them because her traditional, conventional mind would not be able to think beyond the four squares, and SrA would have effectively used the time to finish up yet another final project, while I still lag behind in it.

True to my thoughts, that’s exactly what I told CD. I added that I could send recommendations to her from home, but I couldn’t afford to spend the class hour doing it.

And, we did our own projects.

Plan for Saturday

A and the rest of us asked HOD about the plan for the technology workshop organized for the Saturday. 830 to 530 talking about digital apps like Google Docs and Drive; things we were using on a daily basis. We wanted to sit out of it.

‘I can allow you to sit out of tomorrow’ , the HOD said, ‘but later, if I don’t automatically allow you, you shouldn’t complain. You can’t keep questioning our decisions, if you want this now’. And that’s how we sold our soul to the devil.

The HOD did not make the decision based on the utility of the event to the class, or the workload of the class, or the democratic opinion. He made his decision as a bargain between today’s leeway and a favor at a later time.

This HOD of yours seems to be a consistent actor in your sorry life, S. Don’t worry too much about the oldies. 

Here, take a hug.” Scotch