Sunday, July 5, 2015

English children being taught English

I just learnt that my younger sister - the history prof settled in the UK - takes free remedial classes for British high-school graduates who cannot write three lines of their mother tongue sensibly and grammatically. Reminded me of the fact that so many of my daughter's pen-pals from English-speaking countries have complimented her for writing far better English than they do! This is ulto-puraan with a vengeance. It all comes from forty years of 'experimental/progressive' ideas about how education should be 'comprehensive and enabling and enjoyable', combined with language acquired trhough social networking via computer. Even two decades ago they were saying in 'Yes Minister' that teenagers could be sent compulsorily into the military, so that they might receive a 'comprehensive education' that could make up for their 'comprehensive education'! Now the results are there for all to see.

The tragedy is that, as with so many other things, we have been blindly copying the west in this too, trying to make education continuously easier and more 'fun'. God help us. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Indians sporting 'great' names

I had known for a long time that there was a political leader down south called Stalin. It appears that one Hitler Chowdhury is a rising politician in north Bengal now.

I wonder about the ancestors who chose the names...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Yes, men are frequently better

I had gone to a diagnostic centre this morning for a routine check-up. All three attendants and technicians were women in the 25-35 age bracket, and only the doctor was a (grandfatherly sort of) man. Something the girls said while doing me over made my day. They were murmuring among themselves as they worked, and one said, 'The last three were males, now it's going to be a female'. Another replied 'female gulo niyei joto jwalaton. dhong o korbe dosh goon beshi, bojhateo shomoy lagbe onek' (It's these females who bug me. They will fuss much more and take much longer to follow instructions: I have used her exact words in Bengali). The other two, far from protesting, merely sniggered.

These are real working women, you see, and they can call a spade a spade from long and irritating experience: no generalized anti-male nonsense with them. God bless, and may their tribe increase!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

'time-pass' and true love

Just watched a 2014 Walt Disney animation movie called Maleficent. Bad title. In any case, though it's not what I'd call a great movie, I liked it, not only because it is an interesting re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty legend, but because it underscores pretty strongly something I have believed and said for a long time: that 'romantic' love is for kids. They say in the movie that nothing like true love exists, and then show that it does, but it is far more likely to come from parents - or, even more likely, parent figures, biological parents often being no more than brutes and bores - than the boy or girl in class you had a crush on. Good to think that it was my daughter who told me to watch the movie.

There are, of course, lots of people who cannot recognize or value true love when it is served to them on a platter - but why waste time on them? They cannot do anything more worthwhile than 'time-pass'...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Facebook 'discovery'

A 'scientific study' recently conducted in the US has 'discovered' that people who are insecure in their relationships are more actively engaged on Facebook - frequently posting on walls, commenting, updating their status or 'liking' something - in hopes of getting attention. (The Hindu, Kolkata edition, Feb. 16, p.5)

They could have simply asked me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dawn of the golden age in Delhi!

Ha ha ha... a certain fruit-people party has swept the polls in our capital city. So, within six months, for sure, there will be free water round the clock from every tap, no government babu will think twice about clearing files in a twinkling without asking for a palm-greaser, no student will cheat in an examination, the streets and garbage vats will always be spanking clean, traffic accidents will dwindle to zero, young drunken studs will prostrate themselves at midnight before near-naked girls having fun and call them 'mother', every daddy will report for work at 8:50 a.m., every mummy will be lecturing her friends about the importance of honesty and integrity...

Our squeaky-clean, Gandhi-worshipping middle class, long oppressed by dirty politicians and sleazy clerks and wicked wheeler-dealers (who are not people like us, don't be silly), has at last found its true spokesman and saviour.

Let the fun begin.

P.S., Feb. 11: This morning, Anna Hazare has set the ball rolling by announcing 'Arvind knows how to run a government. He is a graduate of IIT Kharagpur' (The Hindu, Kolkata edition, Feb. 11, p. 9). 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Full circle

Two years ago, at admission time, when I am literally swamped with frantic parents and work like a machine, hardly looking up from my papers as I go through the formalities, one woman, who had sat down in front of me with her daughter beside her said, ‘Suvroda, whom are you calling apni (vous in French)? Look up – it’s me, X, from the 1992 batch!’ The wheel had turned, and an old girl had brought her daughter in her turn to me. Isn’t this what is called the fullness of time?

Indeed, so many old boys and girls, now raising families but living far away, tell me their one big regret is that their children are missing the Suvroda experience that they still savour nostalgically, over and over in their minds. And I often say it is my great sorrow that Durgapur has never provided jobs to reasonably educated and ambitious young people, so 95 per cent of them go away – else my classes would have been full of the children of older pupils by now.

This morning an old boy from the 1990 batch came over with wife in tow. She told me that she has heard so much about me and so often that she sometimes feels she has attended my classes in person, and both husband and wife were absolutely determined their son just had to have a taste of the same. I am not often at a loss for words, but the kind of pleasure that this sort of thing fills me with – especially when juxtaposed with all the inhumanity and injustice that I have also suffered at the hands of so many old boys and girls who once averred that I mattered to them – that it is beyond my power to express. Thank you, whoever up there decides that this man sometimes deserves a bit of happiness too, and a reaffirmation that he has not worked in vain all his life after all. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Un-fair sex

'The idea that women are innately gentle is a fantasy, and a historically recent one. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, is depicted as wreathed in human skulls; the cruel entertainments of the Romans drew audiences as female as they were male; Boudicca led her British troops bloodily into battle.' - that's Naomi Wolf, the author, quoted in this month's Reader's Digest (Points to Ponder).

Many hundreds of my ex students, male and female, will hear an echo of me in this, of course: down to the very examples. I am, therefore, a misogynist, and Ms. Wolf a traitor to her sex.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Back!

This video recording showcasing the 'evolution' of Bollywood music caught my eye (and ear). Thanks, Pupu.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hit 'em hard!

According to a news report, a certain elementary school was recently faced with a unique problem.

A number of 12-year old girls had started using lipstick, and put it on in the bathroom.

Which was fine, as long as they used a natural or neutral tone, but after they put on the lipstick they would press their lips against the mirror, leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Every night the maintenance man would remove them, and next morning the girls would put them back.

Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the maintenance man.

She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every night (you can imagine the yawns from the little princesses). To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, the principal asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.

He took a long-handled squeegee, dipped it into the toilet, and wiped the mirror with it.

Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers… and then there are educators!


[This was kindly sent over by Lavona Areghini. She has been a schoolteacher lifelong, and so she knows just what this is all about, and why it matters. Thanks, Lavona!]

Saturday, August 2, 2014

It needed to be said - by a woman.

As my newspaper reports (The Telegraph, July 30, t2, page 2), some creature called Jacqueline Fernandez - I don't know who she is, and don't want to know - has posted this on Instagram:

"Who are we? - Women. What do we want? - We don't know. When do we want it? - NOW!"

My daughter asked, 'Do you think she is aware that she is being ironical?' I said I wouldn't bet on it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One step forward, one step back

Recently I read in the same day's newspaper that on the one hand, Apple and IBM are tying up to develop apps for mobile phones that can handle 'heavy data loads', turning the phones into 'decision making tools' (heaven knows what that means, and it made me wonder how the likes of Churchill and J P Morgan managed to handle world-girdling empires and Tagore wrote all that superlative stuff lifelong without such marvels  at their disposal), and, on the other hand, the German government, worried stiff about snooping over the internet, has decided to have sensitive stuff written on old-fashioned manual typewriters, giving computers the go-by. If people are not silly, tell me what they are.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Latest apps

I found this one in this month's Reader's Digest:

Someone boasts that his smart phone has an 'app' to remind him when it's time to drink water. "I've got one too," retorts his friend. "It's called thirst".

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A woman speaking up for men

This post is essentially meant for men - and those (very few-) women who have genuinely human rather than merely feminine sensibilities: as the writer of this obviously is. My heartfelt thanks to her, though she might never know.

I am in especial sympathy for what has been said in items 8 and 7. Regarding 5 and 4, I am deeply thankful that I have never personally suffered that way, but I know a lot of fathers who have, and I feel awful for them. As I have written before, 'feminists' should have the guts to openly acknowledge that lots of women are very bad parents, and some men very good ones.

Item 1 made me smile and grimace at the same time. In a supposedly 'advanced' and 'liberated' society too, it seems, lots of little girls are being brought up by mothers who tell them to stay away from the boys because 'all boys are icky, mean, and have cooties'. Nice to know.

I am glad that women like Kelly Barkhausen-Rojahn exist, even in this day and age.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Simple pleasures

People talk of the simple pleasures of life. Are there too many things that can beat the pleasure of a cool drink of coconut water or lassi or simply lemon, sugar and salt in cold water when you have come home half blinded by the sun and drenched in sweat? Or – like today – when the rains came down at last, just when it seemed that summer this time round had become too horrible to bear? Or – also like today – when you are told that some people are quoting lines from your book?


Today was a good day. I read in the newspaper that the electric tooth drill is soon going to become part of our barbaric history thanks to a new, minimally invasive form of tooth cavity treatment that is being developed in the UK right now, and is expected to be on the market within three years. I’ll say amen to that, and I am sure millions of sufferers will concur fervently.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A lot of fatsos around!

As this editorial in my newspaper observes, the number of fatties has been rising alarmingly and continuously: as of 2013, there are 2.1 billion overweight-to-obese people in the world. Which means there are far more people around now who are in danger of dying of eating too much than those who are at risk of death from starvation or malnutrition. Says something about the kind of 'progress' we have been making over the last century, doesn't it? God bless science and all its marvels. How much longer before the Wall-E kind of syndrome becomes an everyday reality? 

Likewise, in an age which fanatically worships youth and all its follies as never before in history, the proportion of elderly people is steadily getting bigger. If current trends continue, then by 2050 many countries will have far more people above 60 than below 20. And everything from government to economy to culture is all unprepared to handle such a never-before situation...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

plus c'est la meme chose

It is good to remind oneself that not everyone in India goes gaga when something big like the tsuNaMo happens. The wisest thing that was said in the aftermath of the Mamata Banerjee landslide three years ago in West Bengal came from a rickshaw puller I know: 'It isn't likely to make much of a difference to you and me, Sir'. I think the same thing can be safely said about Narendra Modi's zamaana.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What shall we do without our experts?

The world is so full of 'experts' on every subject that I could choke. My grandfather joked forty years ago that he had met a 'paatko expert' - a specialist in digging and cleaning wells. I just learnt there are people who call themselves 'happiness experts': see this.

Happiness is serious academic business these days, apparently.