Long rant alert
Attended a national conference on Service Learning today and got a chance to present a paper on my project experience as well. These sessions are always wonderful to attend as they bring in a varied perspective to your purview, something that the four walls of a classroom cannot. I ended the day with lot of learnings, content-based and otherwise, and had some wonderful conversations.
I added a few pointers to my personal set of life lessons. Let’s see:
- When you’re presenting to a group, it’s extremely important to know your audience. When experts in rocket science sit for your presentation, please skip the part where you define a rocket and then go on to define science. I think they get it!
- Pay attention when someone else presents. If you’re the third on stage, and you’ve seen the first two presenters define rocket and define science already, move on. I think the audience gets it too!
- Fake accents do not win you extra brownie points. If the degree of your fake accent increases as the size of your audience increases, then you have a problem. The audience might appreciate if you stick to the fake accent from one region. But when you switch between American, British and Australian in one sentence, we see through your Chennai convent education.
- Respect every individual. You are a teacher, not the almighty. The day started with a professor pulling out a girl from the crowd, for some transgression, and yelling at her in front of a packed auditorium. He snatched her ID card, almost manhandled her out of her seat, and asked her to get out auditorium. The regressive, repressionistic form of discipline he used is from generations past and clearly points to the authoritative role that teachers held in the decades gone by, where their position as a teacher automatically let them rule over young minds. It is the kind of discipline we are moving away from in schools these days and here is a ‘progressive’ university practicing such a ridiculous practice. No mistake on the child’s part, no offense by a person, warrants public humiliation. She deserves her dignity and definitely needs her voice to explain her position. If not, why don’t we all raise our hands up and “Hail Hitler!” as the guillotine is lowered?
- I was shocked by my own non-intervention in the scene. I am sure if this were an event in a public setting I would have jumped in immediately. Then what stopped me today? Does the environment of an educational institution automatically dull our principles and values? Are we conditioned to not question teachers to such an extent that we no longer speak up against the wrong-doers?
- There is value in the minor details. Service and service learning are not the same. While I’m not undermining volunteerism or any form of service, I am particular about the difference between those and service learning. It hurts me when professors slide critical attributes like reflection and community need-based solutioning under the carpet and charade their internship and volunteer ventures as service learning. It hurts me more when experts designated to correct the course of these professors ignore these details, with the sole aim of not offending the hosts.
As insightful as the conference was, the return drive was the highlight. Sid and I spoke about a number of topics that mastered to both of us, ranging from the aristocracy of teachers to the flawed institution of marriage and the growing superficial nature of modern life. But what struck a strange chord was our conversation about adoption.
India does not have a dirth of orphaned children looking to find homes. And yet, a majority of the society still looks at adoption with a disapproving mindset. It’s either considered the last option for couples that are biologically challenged to procreate, or a fancy of the rich and famous in the country. I am reminded of the conversation with a prospective dude, who told me his reasons against adoption. He believed that lineage and genetics were very important and he’d want his family genes to be passed along. Anyway, it’s not like he was ‘incapable’ Huh! Each reason to raise the population of the country, and not adopt, is more absurd than the next.
There is definitely a serious case of lack of awareness. But there is the other aspect of ease of access as well. The more I read about adoption and its proceedings, I realize how complicated the process is deemed to be. Singles are automatically bumped low in the list of prospective adopters. Single men are worse of, placed right at the bottom, next to maybe a golden retriever that wants to adopt a baby. A number of orphanages and adoption agencies are run by Christian missionaries and they bring in their religious pre-dispositions into the whole process. And at the end of the day, the legal system is so complicated that the entire process can last anyway between 3 to 5 years. We move paper work through desks while a child rots away without a family to its own.
Some taboos are so deep rooted that it may take more than a few generations to change.
Speaking of generations and lineage, I finally exited my extended family’s group on Whatsapp. While the group has a consistent flood of annoying posts, ranging from immature Good Morning images to an overload of cat memes, what tipped me off the breaking point today was their plea to sign a petition to ‘Stop the hatred against brahmins’. While dalit women are raped in public and tribal children are forced to take arms instead of books, here’s a progressive community worried about not getting their share of attention.
The country, why even the entire world, is fueled by this race frenzy right now. Supremacists reign high and low and everybody wants the outsider to stay outside. Why not be the progressive caste that can see past these trivial, man-made differences? Oh! But there’s reservation for the Muslims and the Christians and the tribes and other castes, but not us? Valid point. But aren’t you the ‘superior race’? Haven’t you been endowed with enough prowess to earn your IIT-IIM degrees, to migrate to the US and to vacation in a new country every year? Let’s be the one race that is not petty now, shall we? While you sit on your holy ass, and earn top-dollars for the American company that funds your next vacation, there are people fighting for their basic rights, their right to life, against a racist society. There are girls fighting against patriarchy to attend school and women fighting against ancient customs to end abusive marriage. So, please!
“Oh S! You seemed to have gotten too riled up now. Why not go the labby way? Find a comfortable spot in the sofa, and curl up?” Scotch