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 

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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 92: Am I getting all religious now? 

I knew it the minute I got ready for my drive to college that it was going to be a different day. The mind said so. And the difference became evident when I started the car, connected it to YouTube, and started playing Kanda Sashti Kavacham. I mumbled the words, sometimes matching up with Soolamangalam’s pitch, and drove along. I had only one manic outburst, and I don’t even remember who it was right now.

But the rest of the way, there was a certain calmness in my driving today when compared to the usual manic rage. I’ve told a number of people how drivers typically went through the 5 stages of grief when it came to Bangalore traffic and that I was stuck in Anger for almost two years now. I felt that stage wane and I realized that I had directly moved to acceptance. As the black Honda behind me honked his way between lanes and zigzagged around, I knew he wasn’t going far. As I pulled up, calmly, by him at the traffic signal, I gave him the look a mature adult would give a vagrant teenager. Grow up child!

Acceptance

There was a similar acceptance in class towards GDs pettiness as well. As A told me more about her antics, of how she created an attendance sheet just to mark me Absent and how she warned A to grow up or ‘everybody’ would bulldoze her, I smiled internally and reminded myself that I was an adult. And that such pettiness did not affect me.

It had affected me yesterday. Deeply. But today was a brand new Tuesday and I choose to be the adult. Was I becoming religious now? :=)

Richmond

The song reminded me of Sundays in Richmond, VA. I’d visit the shopping mall of a temple, to get some quiet and peace. Well, not really; because the country itself was quiet when compared to India. Maybe I went every week to feel a little hit of home around me. They had printed books with the entire lyrics and they played the exact version of Kanda Sashti Kavacham that I was used to. Strangers, in different corners of the temple, would follow along with the song, and I would join in. I would sit for the 20 odd minutes it ran, and get up almost immediately when it was done and leave. There were very few days when I’d wait for the Aarti afterward.

A weird routine. A regular routine. For two long years. Had I been religious all along?

Religious? You? C’mon, S! I’ve seen you wave at the puja room and run out the door. Amma is religious, what with her flowers and incense and all. You? Ha! 

Anyway, how about some of that omelet for me now? Maybe if I rest my nose on your leg, the force will be strong. ” Scotch 

Day 91: You can’t win here and there 

Winning, one mark at a time

I came back from the 2 weeks of Radio Namaste to feel extremely targeted and marginalized in class, specifically by GD and SrA. An internal assignment, for which I’d asked GD repeatedly for her mode of evaluation and submissions expected, suddenly had a report to be submitted on the school visits. When I told her about the school visits I had to miss because of the project, she said it was only fair for me to lose marks, because “you can’t win here and there”!

She kept repeating about how timely submission would have 1 mark out of the 20, the 20 that would eventually get halved for the final semester marks anyway. She took extra effort to create fake attendance sheets, simply to mark me absent in these. It was almost like she received some sadistic pleasure out of marking me out.

And SrA was the diligent little puppet that followed all these mindless instructions.

Evaluating the right way

I’ve ranted many times before about how poor the current evaluation systems are. Here is a teacher who makes it seem like even half a mark in an internal assignment is something worth fighting for, or worrying yourself about. She flaunts that 1 mark as a prized carrot that students should compete for. And it makes me wonder what the significance of that 1 mark really is. Are we saying that by getting that 1 mark more than me, SrA is more knowledgeable in that area that I am by 1 count?

An interesting perspective about evaluating that I realized through this episode was the excluding environment that it created. Through simple, random numbers assigned to students, we are bucketing them into simple, random strata that make logical sense nowhere but in our own heads. We make one group feel special and extra important, for doing exactly as we wanted them to, and shun the other group because they colored outside the lines.

What surprised me was how much this episode actually mattered to me. It affected me in ways that I did not anticipate, and that caught me off guard.

Support from outside

As I sat, disgusted by the pettiness, Marathoner walked in and almost knew instantly that something was amiss. He knew them all because he had gone through the same rubbish two years back, and was at their mercy for his M. Phil. He made me realize that the learning I had from the two weeks at Radio Namaste were much more than what any of these teachers had provided in the last year. He pointed out how little these marks mattered in the grander scheme of things. Sense!

On the drive back home, the conversation continued with Sarkar. She made me realize the whole world was hypocritical and there’s very little we’d be able to do about it. She told me that the only ones who mattered were your family – mom, dad, husband, wife and children. If you had to waste effort changing their principles and opinions, these were the only few who were worth your energy. All others were mere variables in your life’s equation. Sense indeed!

That is some serious deep stuff, bro! I see the halo of enlightenment around your head. ” Scotch 

Day 23: Of sensitivity and chauvinists

Sensitivity

My journey at the university has been one of utmost learning. I’m either learning new content and enhancing who I am, or I’m learning how not to be. While some teachers are great examples of how I eventually want to be, others are giving me the much needed anti-learning. By just being themselves they are training me on how not to be.

I believe sensitivity to one’s students is a critical attribute for every teacher to possess. Every time my class teacher warns us about disciplinary action when we are absent, and is then absent herself, I know how she differentiates her life from that of the students. Every time she mocks us for having a migraine and then complains to us about her sinus, we see how insensitive she is. Having students carry her bags and laptops, using them as a water mule are all evidences of utter lack of respect for students that have come to her to learn valuable lessons.

Chauvinists

Quite a contrast to her, is Ms GD. The way she carries herself around commands respect from all around. As she tears up listening to a student’s struggle with depression or gives a motherly advice to someone’s sister going through a troubled marriage, we know that she treats them as more than just students. She treats them like individuals, human beings worthy of her respect.

That is why it pains me to see such talent subdued by a chauvinistic leadership. A management that treats its women staff like mere sloggers, with no vision or ambition of its own, draws no respect from me. As GD and the class talks more and more about the role of women in the workforce, we speak about how we are automatically tuned to multi task and plan ahead as women, while the men continue to work in their single tracks, always putting pleasure over work.

Somehow this world is OK to reward men for their sub par performance, while a woman slogs twice as much and continues to battle the patriarchal society.

In my world, us bitches have it easy. We draw the smart ones out, you know.” Scotch