Day 122: Journeys

Driving with the OldMan

The short vacation ended sooner than I anticipated and it was time to be back in the TrafficCity. Even before the blues of having to go back set in, the OldMan proposed his plan of coming along to attend some of colleague’s grand event. So, I had a driver.

I thought of a strange conversation I had many many years back, where I told Dodo that he was only my third favorite driver, after my dad, and Michael Schumacher. Driving back, I didn’t feel all that confident anymore? He drove at 140 and was of course completely in control. He braked on time and overtook like a pro. And yet, I wasn’t confident. After a while, I fake slept so that I wouldn’t have to imagine my death at every turn.

Was I relating his drinking habit to his waning driving skills? He himself did mention a reduction in reflexes. Was his age really catching up? Were my biases catching up with me?

As I sat opposite the OldMan at Nagarjuna, quietly observing him lost in thought while eating, I felt an eerie feeling of pity take over me. For the last few years, I have been slowing inching away from him, for reasons I’ve ranted out before. As my principles and ideologies solidified, I realized how opposite they were to his; that automatically made us on opposite camps. But sitting there at lunch, I felt a deep connect to his troubles.

I felt like the weakling in the family, always trying to compete and prove my worth. I felt like the failure son that could never be enough for a stickler father, and now the conservative brothers . I felt like the outcast that fell in love and wanted to marry before an older brother had. I felt the pain of the sole bread winner, lugging three women around, and fending for their every need. I felt the pressure of an underpaid job that kept me on the road for 20 days a month, and still did not give enough. I felt the pinch of the rising prices and the growing needs of the daughters. It hurt me when the teenage daughter rebelled and talked back. It stung when the adolescent called me the worst dad yet. I remembered how my inability to give them a more comfortable life caught on and was discussed much later. It pained me to think that my wife was more comfortable speaking about my troubles to someone else in the family, than to me. It hurt me to think that all three could lead a life on their own now, and didn’t really need me.

I felt the pain. Something inside me stirred a little too deep.

SilverGhoster’s birthday and beyond

SilverGhoster turned a year older and a dinner was due. It felt like a Boondock kinda evening, reveling in the classics of an era gone by. As I look back at the night, and the conversations from the dinner, there is an odd familiarity about it all. It felt like we had been this way for years, and this was just another dinner. We talked about cars, mothers, shitty curriculum, dowry system, growing up, growing old, friends, foes, food and whatnot. I realized that with Switch, H, and Dodo all gone, I missed this the most – the random musings under the sun. In fact, I lost Dodo on that front a long time back. I feel the conversations touch on some mundane topics these days, topics that don’t resonate beyond a basic courtesy level. This night, it felt right.

A little part of me wondered if this could lead to something more than just conversations. A major part of me smacked itself in the head, reminiscent of the heart breaks of the past, and the societal anguishes and the battles that lay ahead. Between us, we had the paradoxes, too alike and yet absolutely different from each other. He was the conformist while I had a rebel blood oozing out of every vein. He was the calculated, capitalist businessman, while I was the dreamer who wanted to move to an island and learn to swim. He wanted the machines and the money, and I’d give it all up for the peace of mind. We were poles apart.

Yet, the other Gemini twin smirked and reminded me of the poles that intertwined within me. If the opposites can co-exist within, why could they not thrive in two bodies outside? The rebel wanted to reach out and see if the connect existed, but the loner drew the shutters down and mourned.

Had my heart aged beyond repair so much that it did not want any more battles? Wouldn’t that leave me alone for the rest of my life; any relationship comes with its heart breaks? Was I ready to be my own support system when all was dark and bleak? Was I just imagining the demons in the shadows when at the end of the day the universe had it all sorted out? It always does sort things out on its own. Was the cosmos smiling animatedly as I shook his hand briefly, got out of the car and ran home, lest I do something stupid?

You don’t really have to be alone, S. What is life without a warm shoulder to lean on during the cold and dull nights? 

Fine, that’s your leg, I know. But you get the point, right?” Scotch 

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Day 115: And yet we never support our girls

Any trouble in married-land and we are already ready with our guns pointed at the girl. H and her married life has proved to me that marriage is invariably a union of two dysfunctional families, one that makes your own weirdeties seem like the better of the lot. It’s also a union where one party invariably makes more sacrifices than the other and they spend the rest of their lives either making up for it or being morose about it.

What is critical for them to realize is that sacrifices are expected, and are justified as long as they are balanced out. I’d like to see the man live in Bangalore for a month, working from here, while building his social circle here. He would understand exactly what H is going through after moving to KL to start her life with him.

Invariably, the woman is expected to make the grand sacrifices, of her economic, emotional and social stability, and is expected to fit in seamlessly into the newfound circles. Any inability or trouble in doing that is automatically deduced as the girl’s disability and poor upbringing. Any leniency or support from the man’s side is seen as him being a pussy or wife-whipped. He himself walks with the superiority of having done a favor, while a relationship is equal work from both ends.

What got me thinking on these lines today was the conversation with dad, when he almost seemed apologetic for his daughter’s temper and the trouble in the marriage. It’s funny how little they had made an effort to see what might be causing the ill mood, the trigger from the other end. I dared him to tell me one instance where the mother of that son would have accepted his flaws openly. To her, he is the unspoilt unpolished diamond from the lines of South Africa. And on the other side, we let our daughter take the stab for everything, even something like marriage that takes a village to run the show right.

The patriarchy was evident when he justified himself by saying, ‘How can I say that the guy is at fault when I’m sitting in his house and eating his food?’ What happened to the part of the meal that his daughter had paid for? I thought the house automatically became ‘their’ house because what is his is hers. No?

That’s why I say the girls should stay home with their mummies all their lives, S. Then you have the comfort of the same bed all along. Aaah those pleasures.” Scotch

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 104: They tend to leech you away from your parents 

Last working day of the semester and I have more glee than sadness. This semester has taken a huge toll on my emotions and my general sanity of mind, questioning my principles and the will to stick around through every bit of the way.  I’m grateful that with the exams, this will be all done. And that will leave me with just one more semester to go.

SilverGhoster

The last month or so has been a fun learning time, with all due thanks to the SilverGhoster. His 4 wheel drive accords him that name; the alternative that he picked for his ride was ‘Doll’. Haha! Anyway, it’s been chitter-chatter about the education scene in the country, some traditional views that run schools, cars and gals, and general love trouble.

Over lunch and tea, we got talking about his big checklist for the prospectives. Can’t blame the man for having one; I’ve been there, striking items off with each passing year. I’d like to mention a few here, not with the intention of outing the man’s super-secretive list, but to remember the discussion that followed each.

  • The girl has to be from Bangalore.
    • Why so? Well, there’s a friend of a family of a friend of the family, who got married to someone from UP. And when the mother of a friend asked about the friend of a family of the friend’s wife, she made a face when he said UP.
  • The girl has to have a younger brother.
    • Why younger? Older brothers tend to be overprotective, you know. And now you have a father and a mother and a brother to worry every time you make a move. And younger brothers can easily be brought in line, no?
    • Why not a sister? Younger or older? Well, a girl will eventually leave the house and the parents will have noone to take care of them anyway. Which means, the in-laws are around a lot, or the wife is gone a lot.
    • Why the whole hassle or siblings? Why not get a single child? Oh! We’ve seen a few of those and their long tentacles. They are too attached to their parents and are always trying to make the man leave his parents and live separately.
  • The girl had to love dogs.
    • Why? Who am I kidding? This one’s a no-brainer.

What caught me off was not just the patriarchy oozing from those demands, but also the naivete of not seeing through the stereotypes. Every time I prodded the discussion, questioning the idea, it all stopped at the societal norms and expectations, and him just being a regular man trying to meet those demands. While a lot of thought had gone into understanding why he needed a girl remotely interested in cars, the others had just gotten added with each societal eyebrow that raised around him.

Well, has he ever thought of how a girl would feel when she heard that her main intention was to ‘leech’ him away from his parents? Umm no. Does he know that research proves that daughters tend to take full custody of their aging parents while sons prefer to resort to hospicecare facilities? Oh, really? Why is it OK to expect a girl to leave her parents, her social circles, and fit right into the husband’s, while the reverse is unimaginable? Hmm valid thought.

I think we need to have more such over-the-coffee conversations with boys in this country. A number of these smart, intelligent, young men are simply looking for a spark to get them thinking. All they are missing is someone to tell them that the other side has a point of view too.

I’m not going to pat myself in the back and claim to have lit a spark. I would consider my karma done if that man at least started thinking on these lines.

While you’re busy lighting sparks, can you also feed me some mummum, please? I know it’s right here and I just have to lick it. But it feels like a lazy day. 

Pretty please?” Scotch 

Day 84: School visits 

Christ State

We started the day by visiting Christ State school to conduct interviews for the radio project. The principal, a father of CMI, was one of the most arrogant leaders I’ve seen in a while, the kinds that is comfortable being in the position he is in. My disdain for the people of religion in education is growing by the day.

We visited students of grade 9, and they were unusually shy. We visited two classes, both in the process of copying notes from the blackboard. The smart boards and the fancy institutional title all seemed to be wasted on the students and the teachers.

Anyway, we did a quick interview of some students, their teacher and some counselors on campus. It was really annoying to see TallSwiss lax around, not contributing to any of the interviews at all. I’ll give him today, for coming back from a hectic weekend; but the slack ends there.

Government school

After lunch, we went to a government school, run by a haughty lady principal. It seems to be the day of meeting bad principals! She couldn’t speak a sentence in English and she told us about how she visited Germany, France and Switzerland a couple of years back for a fortnight long trip. When we told her about our intent to walk around the school and observe a few classes, her onky question was what we had to offer for the school. Bold request from a school that is funded by the government, and supported by various. NGOs including Teach For India.

The students did surprise me, though. We went to a class that had been split into English and Kannada medium, and it was the Kannada medium students that answered, and in pretty decent English. The general opinion that one has about poor soft-skills amongst Government school students is quickly corrected.

While it was a session in Indian schools for the Swiss, it was a great eye-opener for us Indians. If true change needs to be brought about in Indian schools, the haughty principals need to go. Young and dynamic teachers need to come in, who are invested in the education of each child.

While you’re busy visiting schools and complaining about principals, I’m still sleeping away the strain from the weekend, sis. You relax!” Goose 

Day 67: St. Anger round my neck 

Why do you take everything so seriously, S?“, she asked, puzzled.

Because I did not give up a career of ten years and a steady, fat income, to not care, acting like it’s all OK. Ms. JK“, I retorted and an unplanned stream of tears trickled down my cheeks. Breaking point.

For the last year in college, I’ve been working with teachers to point out gaps in the syllabi and identify ways to make it tighter. During that period, I’ve continued to hear all the popular education-specific jargon in class. We’ve studied about everything, from student-centered learning, to individualized teaching, to comprehensive assessments and modern, innovative teaching methods. We’ve heard about all of this in theory.

Because, in reality:

  • We are still forced to study that same outdated syllabus because it seems to be etched in stone and unchangeable. “Your feedback will be incorporated into subsequent years’ syllabi“, I hear
  • That outdated syllabus is so spineless that teachers themselves comment about how the intended hours are not at all required. They’d rather have us sit in class and work on ‘something’ because there are many more classes to use up
  • In a class of three, we are still taught from an ancient PowerPoint presentation that some alumni must have made as a part of their assignments – poorly researched and outdated
  • Until I brought it up as a teaching method, most teachers did not even consider the option for us to research and present or teach some topics. It would have been 100% teacher-driven, if not for that
  • Almost every teacher on roll takes a defensive stance the minute a point of discussion is brought up. Questioning an ideology or stereotype is effectively looked as a questioning of their subject matter experience
  • None of the teachers have an educational specialization. Our sociology professor is a expert in History
  • We learn meaning, definition and all such synonyms of a concept for 4 hours, because apparently we are providing individualized instruction to the weakest in the class. What about the others that are ready to move on?
  • All instruction is limited to the four walls of the classrooms. We’re, after all, not English literature students to take the teaching to the garden
  • Experiences through workshops and seminars are awarded like candy to a diabetic. In measured and restricted doses
  • You’re expected to continue with your research and data collection, while they continue to have theory classes through the day. Data will magically appear if you pray hard enough.

The experience of trying to change the archaic ways used to deal with students, and content, especially of the Masters courses, has been demoralizing and soul sucking. In the last two days, I’ve questioned every single decision in my life that has led me to this point. I moved from an industry where we were pioneering BYOD and digital nomadism, to one where technology equates to PowerPoint presentations and nothing more. I moved from a group discussing through brainmaps and deciding their work-wear based on their day’s meetings, to one where concept maps ‘do not have the continuity of language’ and the dress code is set by a senile lady to not distract the Fathers on campus.

Every career has it’s pitfalls; my past life had enough for me to up and leave. So, maybe I’m just living the phase where everything in hind-sight is 20-20. But it does seem that as an industry, or specialization, the education department is the most resistant to change. We are tasked with equipping the bright minds of tomorrow, for tomorrow, and yet we are the most deep-rooted in the past. The content and the teaching methods are so aged that the student teachers graduating will be left in a state of shock when thrown into a class full of technology addicted 10 year olds.

11 years ago, my Civil Engineering degree did not land me a job in an IT multinational. My reading outside class hours did. Would this degree follow suit and be just another degree? Would all the learning happen outside, in my own time and under my own direction, again? If so, then what is the while point of having taken two years off to attend a full-time course?

“Relax, S. Sometimes it helps to go with the flow, enjoy life, and see what tomorrow has in store for us. 

Now, can you share some of that wonderful egg, please?” Scotch