The day I screwed up


(Before deciding to write about what arguably is the most depressing moment of my life, I really thought a lot about how foolish this will make me look. I felt I had a reputation to keep up. However, the upside to sharing this story seemed much more than concealing it for keeping my personal reputation intact. )

The time was 7:30 in the evening today. Usual day at office. I had checked in at 8 am and after a busy day at work, decided to retire for the day and leave home at 5 pm. However, for some strange reason , I decided to put in some more time to plan my next few days at work. In order to avoid distractions, I put my phone on silent mode and tucked it away in my bag. Two productive hours of work interspersed with a small brainstorming session with colleagues was enough to make me feel good about having had a good day at work.

Just before leaving , I put my phone back on to find seven missed calls from my mother , brother and father registered on my phone. Never ever had this happened before. Slightly worried , I called my mother back. One ring, two rings, and so on. Every new ring made me even more anxious. Finally, after thirteen really long beeps, someone picked the phone up.

What followed was a tirade of abuses from my brother. @#ck&* , Idiot , &&@)! and other such unmentionable and  creative abuses . My father took over and continued the ritual, although in a more civilized manner. Finally , my mother took over and said , ” Ashwin! You idiot. The Lok Sabha polling for our constituency was held today and ended 2 hours back. You led us to believe that the election was a week away. We believed you and today because of you none of us voted.”

I could hardly come to terms with what just happened. It took me a while to realize that I just missed voting during what is probably the defining General Election in this country just because I, an “educated” citizen ( and I feel ashamed as I say this), was misinformed about the polling dates of my constituency. Damn! Worse still, I had discussed about the ” April 24 elections ”  for the past 5 weeks at home leading everyone in my family to believe that the election was on April 24, instead of today. The comedy of errors continued when my parents discussed the ” April 24 elections”  with neighbors who also got misled and in turn misled others. A chain reaction of massive proportions.

I was so depressed that I could not think about anything else. All I could see about was fingernails. I spent an entire 40 minutes in an otherwise boring train journey , just trying to scan people’s fingernails to figure out whether they had voted. I was too ashamed to take the easier route of asking them. While in the train , I also hypothesized some conspiracy theories. The most prominent one was that  the corrupt leaders in my constituency deliberately kept poll dates a low-key affair to dissuade the ” educated” youth like me from voting. I also tried to rationalize the act by calling up my mom and dad and asking them which party they would have voted for. The fact that my mother and father would have voted for Party A and I and my brother would have voted for party B , slightly quelled my distress, since it did not really affect the vote difference. Sort of like what a draw does to goal difference in football. Then , I mentally slapped myself for giving such a stupid rationalization. The truth, however hard to digest, was that I majorly screwed up.

I have always voted ever since I turned 18. I had just shifted to a house which fell under a new Lok Sabha constituency and one of the first things I did was get my name transferred to the electoral rolls of my new area. The elections of this year seemed very exciting and I was eagerly looking forward to D-day when I could vote and flaunt my finger. I had even attended a policy discussion meeting of a political party. However, it was not to be. A head hung with shame was all I was left with.

Imagine a bride who has been preparing all these days for her dream wedding with the man of her dreams, only to realize on the morning of the wedding that the groom eloped overnight with another girl.If that sounds too tragic, imagine the guy who prepared for an exam overnight , only to fall asleep on the day of the exam. Or the guy who just practiced for a marathon for 6 long months only to  arrive at the venue 2 hours after the race ended because well, he didn’t know the start time. These are the exact emotions that have been running through my head since the past 3 hours.

Kis muh se Modi ko crony capialist kahoonga? Kis muh se Kejriwal ko dramebaaz kahoonga? Kis muh se Sonia ko firang fraud kahoonga?

After all I didn’t even vote.

As I boarded the bus back from the station back home, all I wanted to see was still just fingernails. And I am yet to see a single  fingernail with indelible ink on it. I spoke to a few people, but sadly none of them shared the trauma I was going through.

All the drama aside, this incident offered me a lot of lessons. I realized that awareness and civic responsibility is still a far cry in urban areas. I could have voted, even if 1 person  had not taken my words at face value . I could have voted even if one guy in my apartment had tried to be proactive about the polls and tried to make an effort to get people to vote. I could have voted, if  1 guy on the train decided to speak about the election, instead of playing Temple Run. I could have voted if that 1  guy was actually me.

For all those folks who have managed to read my story  till this line, I earnestly appeal to you : vote, and make people vote. Get people out of their houses. Trip their cable connections ( and restore it later:) ) or  knock furiously at their door. Put posters on their door. Ring their doorbell till they wear those god damn shoes , go out and vote. I hope no one ever gets the chance to feel as miserable as I do now.

And if someone still misses out on voting, I wish they end up feeling as miserable as me. In the words of a professor whose name I don’t recall , ” May a thousand crows shit on your head when you walk out of your house “.  Because, NOT VOTING IS JUST NOT DONE.

Till then, I have 5 long years to wait.

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Key Performance Indicators for ‘ 14 – A New Year Resolution


(1) Quit putting statuses on Facebook, switch to blogging regularly instead.

(2) Write at least 52 blog posts. Shamelessly publicize to get at least 10000 views.

(3) Increase body mass by 15 %

(4) Re-evaluate the feasibility and rationality of a relationship

(5) 20 % increase in sleep time , regulate sleep regime to 12 am – 6 am

(6) Write an autobiography of life so far

(7) Increase punctuality rate to 90% from the current abysmal level

(8) Reduce incidents of being scolded by parents for indiscipline by 20%

(9) Do 1 trek every month.

(10) Attain basic proficiency in two new languages

(11) Train self to become ambidextrous

(12) Qualify for the finals of at least 1 open quiz. Score > 50 in Mahaquizzer.

(13) Convert at least 1 Manchester United fan to an Arsenal Fan

(14) Wear formal clothes at least 20% of the time

(15)  Learn one new thing which I never thought I would do.

(16) Figure out ways to spend some money.

(17) Figure out life goals.

(18) Get a better display picture.

(19) Get a life.

Time-Bound Schooling – Is it really necessary?


Every week, I sift through many articles lamenting the state of education in the country. One of the raging debates concerns the issue of testing students regularly to find out their progress and level. In this article , Wendy Kopp , founder of Teach for America, argues about the need for testing students to figure out where they really lie on the “ladder of education”. As a person who believes that numbers always make life simpler and give students ( and the teacher) a definite direction to proceed and a definite goal to meet, I really welcome the thoughts that Wendy puts forward.

However, two questions emerge and I am yet to find a satisfactory answer to either of them despite going through dozens of scholarly research articles in education journals. I list them forward with the hope that someone would enlighten me.

  • Who decides what these levels are ?
  • On what basis have these levels been mapped to a person’s age?

These questions must be answered because the effectiveness of many education systems in the world is measured under the assumption that the age-skill mapping is an accurate one. If the child has the skills he is “supposed to know”, the system is deemed to have succeeded and if not, the system is deemed to have failed and becomes a subject of criticism ( as is the case in India ).

What if the measuring chart itself was wrong ?

What if the basis did not arise out of supply of grey cells and thinking ability and instead was derived based on what the demands of the society were ?

I can assert for a fact that the age-skill scale does not have a statistical basis like the Intelligence Quotient scale, more popularly called the IQ scale does. If that were indeed the case, given that so many people in the world struggle in Class 5 Math ( as PISA assessments reveal)  , doing long division should not have been a grade 5 standard. ( I chose this particular concept as I have had a harrowing experience trying to teach it in 3 days , and it has been one of the hardest things to teach students conceptually. It, incidentally is a part of the PISA assessment).

The Common Core Standards Initiative , which is referenced earlier in Wendy’s article states its mission as :

To provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy

The idea is simple. The common cores are probably prepared not keeping in mind what the brain is capable of  doing at that age, but rather what is needed at that age so that the student is on track to ensure that his / her communities are best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.  To put it simply, some self appointed representatives of the community decided that by age 21 , every kid should be part of the workforce. If they need to be at the workforce by 21, they should have finished their education between ages 5 – 21 ( thank heavens they spared us from ages 1-5). 15 years seems to be a reasonable time-frame, doesn’t it?

Except that it isn’t. If you do some simple math,  counting the time needed to finish an Indian high school science textbook,  devoting at least 30 classroom minutes to teach each concept, you would realize that it would take at least 2 years to finish the contents of the book. This is clearly unreasonable. However, our teachers are forced to “finish the syllabus”  and hence, opt the easy way out. They teach to the test and assign all other stuff as homework. I won’t really blame them for doing this.

For every person who scores an A in class, there are probably ten equally smart classmates , who score Bs and Cs. People may argue that it was because they did not work hard. I believe that they worked hard, but the unrealistic burden placed on them led them to lose motivation. Lack of hard work was not inherent, but was rather forced due to a system which gave little incentives for working hard. Recently there have been developments towards helping students  learn at their own pace, albeit for a short period of time. The idea is to “integrate” these “slow learners” back into the “mainstream majority”. What people fail to realize is that the so called “slow learners” are actually now  the “mainstream majority” and we are either consciously ignoring this or are still blatantly unaware of this trend.

I do not reject the hypothesis that lack of good teachers is one of the major challenges education systems throughout the world face. All I suggest is that  it is equally likely that  the standards which we use to assess our students’ level are unrealistic ones. In the current system, such cases are treated as failures / underachievers. The more politically correct among us choose to call them lower performing / lower order students but words matter little here. The writing on the wall currently says they are stupid, by using a wrong scale to measure their performance. Maybe the average human brain does not need to so much by class 5. There are going to be exceptions, but these are a very small fraction of the student populace.  Those students will anyway figure out their path in life.

Increasing the time a student has to study may be a solution. I doubt our society would incur a massive loss , if students finish high school by age 20 instead of age 16.  Critics may again say that these students fundamentally would not have wanted school to be such a big fraction of their life. I differ. May be if they were given the time that their minds needed to learn at a steady pace, they wouldn’t have hated schools so much. Maybe the high achiever who spent his time with books as this was his only way towards a better life, would have relaxed and tried to have a life.  To me, this seems a win-win.

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Ek dum first-class


Every morning is a struggle for me. Not because I have to work. But because I have to travel to work. More precisely , travel in the Mumbai local train to work. With the aim of adding a bit of comfort,  I shelled out a few extra bucks to get a first class season pass , which turned out less than half the fare of any means of road transport in rush hour. In fact , I am beginning to believe that in Mumbai , possessing a personal vehicle is the most useless thing you can do in life . You are anyway not going to reach on time , your butt is literally going to be taken on the ride of a lifetime on our crater ridden roads. In contrast , trains , although equally bad in terms of physical discomfort , are bang on when it comes to efficiency .  You are at least spared the obnoxious smell of armpits , and instead soothed with varying scents of cologne.

Before I deviate to further levels of grossness, let me come back to my point. I initially loved the decor of the first class compartment because never in the 23 years of my existence had I traveled in one before. The cushioned seats  and the well dressed people presented a sharp contrast to the chaos I had experienced in the normal compartments all these years. The beautiful, fair-complexioned faces on the other side the grilled partition , were an added attraction.

However, I soon began to see the other side of life in a first class coach. People in general do not care about what is happening around them , for they are too busy playing Temple Run in their smartphones. The luxury of the “fourth seat”  is most visibly absent in the first class compartment. Our big old seths believe that since they have paid so much for the ticket, they deserve to sit comfortably with their legs spread out in an obscenely inviting way. Of course they forget that everyone else in the compartment also has paid the same amount for getting in.

These are still quirks I can live with. But what irritates me the most is the way people are treated ad judged. Any man with a not-so-polished appearance is looked down upon by almost everyone around.  The sheer sense of superiority which the  dudes in their neatly pressed shirts and well polished shoes seem to possess when they summarily deduce that if a man is not formally dressed , he definitely is not first class compartment material, is appalling. The chutzpah with which  the words “Ye first class hai, tumhare liye nahiin hai ”  are uttered based just on visual judgement is shocking to say the least.

Like every other day , yesterday , a man in his mid fifties boarded the train. A semi dark complexion , ill-fitting trousers poorly tucked into a shirt full of creases, chappals stained with mud – as disorganized and filthy as one can get. As soon as he boarded, a young guy, standing at the door told him , with the air of owning the compartment :

Ye first class hai , agle station pe utar ke second class mein chad jaana.”

The old man paid little heed to his words. As the next station arrived, the young guy repeated his words. This time , the old man reached to his pocket, took out a torn wallet , and showed him his ticket which read “FIRST CLASS SEASON TICKET”. He replied quite politely yet strongly , ” Mind your own business and learn your place in this world “.  The expression on both the old man’s and the young guy’s face was priceless and one that I will remember for times to come. A lesson had been taught, in a manner fitting the behavior that drew the response.

First class , my foot.

 

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The lost art of writing


This man really set the alarm bells ringing when I read this about him in the newspaper

Sanjay has forgotten how to write and is completely dependent on fellow inmates even to write simple names of items that are to be procured from the jail canteen.

According to the sources, Sanjay Dutt has not written anything for the last 30 years. His servants used to write for him. He seems to have lost the practice to write as he has only signed for a long time.

Although I tried to convince myself that this could never happen to me, a quick reflection was enough to tell me that this was definitely something that could happen to me.

I used to write a lot when I was young. I still remember my sheer frustration during holidays  when I was done with playing : My fingers felt the burning desire to catch hold of a pen and write something. Although things that I wrote were unlikely to land me anywhere close to the league of even the lowliest of authors, writing certainly gave me a sense of achievement and satisfaction. The act of penning down paragraphs, admiring my handwriting and the beautiful curves associated with it brought with it a delight which very few things can bring today.

Although I started this off as a hobby and a way to kill time, little did I know that this would give me a very valuable skill for the days to come. I aced almost every school exam because all you have to do in an Indian examination is write. The meaning never matters. The strict south Indian upbringing that emphasized good handwriting and the fact that I also understood a bit of what I wrote  aided my cause .While my friends left no stone unturned in cursing the subjects Hindi and Social Science, I actually loved writing the exams for those subjects. Consequently, I fared quite well till my tenth grade and my love for putting pen to paper and writing something was at its zenith.

Post tenth grade , however, things changed. I had to answer for an objective examination where I had to just circle bubbles with a pencil. In the eleventh grade, we got a computer at home and things were never the same. Typing became the in-thing and the keyboard replaced the pen. My interest in writing dwindled and by the time I was in college , most assignments were submitted online and exams hardly involved writing continuous paragraphs. I hardly ever wrote a paragraph or more out of my interest.

Then came Facebook, to worsen matters further. Today, even on the odd day when I feel like writing, I cannot think of more than a line or two. Whenever I have an interesting thought, instead of “how about writing a few paragraphs on this” my reaction is “how about putting an interesting status message about this”.  Even writing this blog post has been a stretch of my mind to its fullest limits and still all I could do was come up with around 2-3 ill-constructed paragraphs.

Perhaps it is really high time that I buy that diary that I have always wanted and fill it with creases of ink from the fountain pen that I always loved writing with and continue writing my thoughts down rather than typing them first. The pen may not be mightier but is definitely smoother than a keyboard.

 

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A Shift in Power ?


Quizzing has always been the sport ( if I may dare refer to it as such) of the chosen few. While quizzers would argue otherwise, the fact that most of its followers fit very standard stereotypes usually assigned to nerds has few counterarguments.To the outsider,  these are usually men who get together and discuss weird stuff, while making obscene comments and questions , amused at their pun making abilities. However, to the quizzer, he ( she being deliberately omitted)  is indulging in a serious social activity involving an important exchange of information and display of grey matter coupled with an amazing sense of humor. Nerds love this activity  because here your masculinity is measured by the question cracks and the wisecracks you make and not the size of your biceps or the number of push ups you can do.

Traditionally, quizzing has never found a lot of female enthusiasts. Of course, they do exist, but they are much less than the numbers in other literary activities like speaking and debating ( which however, fail to qualify as a sport). This lack of participation and appreciation from the fairer sex has led quizzing to lose its share of the literary pie.The few leftover potential quizzers from the male fraternity, in a bid to befriend their female counterparts , have been strategically( and rightly so )  turning more towards music and dance, which are perceived to be traditional female strongholds.

However, I observed something earlier today morning that provided a ray of hope. A group of 4-5 girls from my school were fighting to team up with a boy who had earlier displayed his intelligence by narrating the capital cities of the world. Mind you, these are girls who otherwise desist sitting near boys, as if they were another race. And in another interesting development, the boy who generally is very soft-spoken, felt infinitely machismo and was gleaming with pride on seeing that he was so much in demand . This new-found attention by the opposite sex, seemed to have kindled an interest so strong in him that he asked me for more books to read and ‘sharpen his mind’. ( I might be reading too much into an otherwise ordinary event, but an observation nonetheless)

When asked what they liked about the event today,they replied that the suspense when the question is read,  the pumped up fists on getting a right answer and the disappointment and embarrassment on not getting an obvious answer makes quizzing extremely exciting . Everytime a team got the right answer , they felt good and every time they saw a high-five being exchanged, it made them feel inspired.Clearly,  modern quizzing provides as much of an adrenaline rush as any other sport does and deserves its name right up there with the soccers and the basketballs. It is a classic showman sport if done the right way and is finally beginning to find takers.

The time has arrived for quizzing to rise and come out of the shadow . It deserves a fair share of takers and it seems that it is only a matter of time till that happens. Perhaps smart , in particular , quiz smart, is the new sexy. The day when trivia libraries would replace the gymnasiums is probably not far away.For the sake of the wonderful sport that quizzing is, I sincerely hope so.

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A Letter to the IUPAC President


Today, we were discussing  the evolution of the Metric System. Mehak was extremely annoyed at the decision of the scientists at IUPAC to fix the  length of 1 metre at its current length. She constantly asked me why they chose that particular length for the metre and not any other. I had no reason that I could explain within the limits of a 5th grade curriculum. The idea of explaining the distance light travels or the idea of cycles of an excited Caesium ion did cross my mind and I was contemplating explaining it  but saner heads prevailed.  In order to temporarily get over with it,  I asked her to write a letter to the IUPAC president if she had any issues with the metre. I thought things would be over and that Mehak would stop pestering me about a trivial issue ( or so I thought) . And as I expected , Mehak did not utter a word after that and was occupied with work throughout the day. When the school bell rang and students left home, Mehak quietly came to me and handed me a piece of paper. She had actually written a letter to the IUPAC President asking him to change the length of a metre. And wonderfully enough, she also gives an interesting suggestion and backs her suggestion with a very cogent line of reasoning.
If the length of the metre annoys her so much, I wonder what would happen if she sees American textbooks filled with archaic units of measurement. Considering she wants to study abroad when she grows up, God save the authors of those textbooks. Be prepared for a barrage of mails from Mehak. ImageImage

Kasabian reality


The recent hanging of  Ajmal Kasab created quite a stir within  a few sections of the society. While those affected by the man’s acts are evidently happy at the ‘swift’ government response to ensure ‘justice’ is done, many not related directly to the incident are quite upset at what treatment has been meted out to him . While even they were angry at the Kasab that looked like this ,

the following version of Kasab somehow melted their hearts.

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Fair enough. Emotions are pretty unpredictable , but logic seldom is.

Critics’ arguments basically revolve around three points:

  • Violation of Constitutional Protocol : This argues that a lot of procedures were skipped just to ensure certain blood thirsty avengers and political game-players were satiated. A detailed account is this.
  • Lost Opportunity: Many rue the fact that Kasab, if reformed could have been a huge advocate for anti-terrorist causes.
  • Humanitarian grounds : A twenty one year old innocent boy who came under the ‘influence’ of an extremist does not hold any fault for his action. As a nation traditionally known to forgive even its enemies , we ought to have fared better.

Although the first point does seem valid , it fails to consider that a slower process would have been grave injustice to the people who had suffered, to Kasab who would have had to spend that many more days( years, to be honest) in the torturous hell that is a confined prison cell and to the government officials who would have had to channel all their energies , resources( money and time) , towards this cause. Justice is about giving people what they deserve, and the critics’ suggestion does not give it to a number of people. Further , some calls for the hanging of Kasab to be made public make no sense. The only purpose it would have had was to give our irresponsible media an extra day’s worth of news coverage. Knowing Kasab’s death a day before or a day after , hardly matters.   I still agree though that this argument is effective for government bashing.

For those using the second point as a basis of their argument, it really is an irrational bet. First of all, given the enormity of the act at its pure face value, any punishment less than 15-20 odd years would fly directly in the face of the Indian Penal code and to the lives of the people lost in his act. Even if Kasab were released now, I doubt he would be able to inspire people not to join the mujahideen. The youth recruited by the mujahideen come the most impoverished areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the like, areas where people don’t have access to food, education etc. This was evident from Kasab’s own testimonial of how he got influenced. In such a situation , how does one expect Kasab to reach out to these youth and influence them, considering that he can’t even reach out to them. If this problem could have been solved by a terrorist-turned-advocate, I think there are enough sane souls( though dwindling in number) in Indian politics, who would have pushed for this. So, although the second argument suggests a possibly innovative solution , it simply does not attack the root of the problem – economic troubles and inaccessibility.

For those who put forth the third point as an argument , I propose the following deal 15 days back in time :  I say to you that Kasab claims he has transformed and I am ready to set him free, on the condition that one of you come forth and adopt him as a part of your family. Would you be willing to take that risk? Also , I wonder where your humanity vanished when the other 9 assailants were killed the same day for the same act. Just because this man happened to be stupid enough to be caught alive, suddenly seems to have found a soft spot in your heart.

And for the humanitarian grounds part , it seems very clear to me that there is definitely no way he can be released before 15-20 years in a confined prison cell , to come out to a life where there would be no one accepting him back – neither his own country not our country. The only opportunity he would have had was to be an advocate to a cause that had no personal incentive for him , but just to fulfill the selfish safety needs of you and me. Is the 15 years of torture worth it? I reckon an instant death by hanging, as cruel as it sounds , is a much better proposition.

May you rest in peace, Mr.Kasab.

Why this kolaveri on the Tiger?


Of late, I have come to believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion.  I was not like that before. If the works of Carl Jung are to be believed , I am an INTJ (  a rational, with a heavy tone of judgement ). I was convinced by people around me that it is not okay to pass a judgement without having all the facts in front of you, and  it seemed quite a fair point to make.   The recent death of Balasaheb Thackeray,  led to a variety of reactions and opinions , which statements  ranging from the standard “RIP Balasaheb”  from his followers to “I hate Balasaheb” from his haters. One particular reaction captured my attention and I have been fixated with it for the past 2 hours. Here it goes ( for full post click here):

It is a disgrace that Bombay is shut today. It is a disgrace that Thackeray is being wrapped in the national tricolor. It is a disgrace that he is being given state honors in his death. And it is a disgrace that none of our political leaders, celebrities, or media personalities seem to think any of this is a disgrace. And that if they do they are terrified of saying so

I am not a Marathi manoos. In fact I can hardly  speak Marathi.I probably belong to the group that was number two on Balasaheb’s hitlist. I, in fact do not agree with most of his principles. But the above comment stuns me in particular because of the shades of human hypocrisy that it reveals, and amuses me because of the fallacious reasoning employed by the post.

It is a disgrace that Bombay is shut today: Yeah ,there are lots of interesting things to do on a Sunday. An internet user like you did not have food stocked at home. Or wait, you did , but you are suddenly more concerned about  the livelihood means of the  average Maharashtrian, which has been jeopardized by the bandh . Somehow,  he was  never visible to you before. He was never visible to you when you bought that expensive mobile ( 90 percent of whose applications you do not use) or when you spent 300 odd bucks on an Old Monk.

It is a disgrace that Thackeray is being wrapped in the national tricolor:  If by disgrace, you mean unlawful , let me bring to your kind notice that the Indian Flag code has no set criteria on who deserve state honors. It is the discretion of the government you elected ( The more likely scenario is that you were probably too cool  to vote , rationalizing  that everyone is corrupt).If you mean he has done nothing to deserve this , I recommend reading this post. It provides more than a compelling case about why he fully deserves it.

The above post probably negates the next two sentences as well and makes them irrelevant.

And it is a disgrace that none of our political leaders, celebrities, or media personalities seem to think any of this is a disgrace.And that if they do they are terrified of saying so:   I certainly am terrified,  but you definitely seem very brave and I can see your bravery through a  post from a remote undisclosed location. Kudos!  If he you accuse him of using fear, you are guilty of  succumbing to that fear despite being an educated citizen ( attempting to show off that great education you received through this post) .

Some people still argue about the killings that he incited, the riots that he spread. I do not justify them at all. The man was definitely not a saint.  But neither are you and me.What baffles and irritates me is that we use different value systems to judge similar situations . We follow a capitalist ideology and thrive on a consumerist culture, the root of all economic discontent/disparity and crimes, but we rationalise those personal acts because those acts lead to personal convenience, something we value the most.Those acts seem insignificant because there is no direct causal link and the cause effect relationship traverses several intermediate links. But we leave no stone unturned in criticizing someone else who did a similar thing for the sole reason that it inconvenienced us. We were happy going behind a certain Anna Hazare when he organized a bandh against a  cause which we felt affected us.  Thackeray did the same thing for a cause that affected over 10 million people in Maharashtra . It is sad that you weren’t a part of that populace but if you read the post above, you shall know what he fought for.The man had his vices, he did commit unpardonable offences which should definitely be highlighted. But he does deserve a better evaluation , rather than being projected as a war criminal. After all,  we live in a nation and a culture where even a Kasab gets a shot at a  fair trial.

 

A genius can come from anywhere


I wanted to write this post a long time back, but I kept on deferring it not because of paucity of time , but because I was never in the mood to give full justice to it. Today happened to be one of those days where I felt like writing, and here I go. This is the first in a series of posts about various students in my class – a Grade 5 classroom in Shivaji Nagar, Govandi, where I teach Math and Science and the limited fundae of life I have to about 50 students.

Amazing Aftab:  When I read his previous teacher’s comments about him , saying he was way above other students in terms of reading levels and grade requisite skills, and that he needed to be in a separate classroom with students of his ‘kind’, I was almost convinced about sending him to another class. But somehow I could relate so much to him that I decided to keep him in my class. He tops class in almost every class  (by a margin that would earn him an AP in IIT ). He scored more than what I did when I was a fourth grader in the State Scholarship Exam. ( I am truly intimidated by this lad)  He never shirks from work, and his handwriting at the top of the answer pile ( He is Roll Number 1, first even in that) , makes the mundane job of checking papers interesting.

My challenge in setting every higher order test is to try to force Aftab make a mistake, especially in Math. But the lad never misses, something that both thrills and annoys me. Just to appeal to his mathematical bent of mind , I taught him factorization once, and now he factorizes cubic polynomials( Grade Level 5). The other day when he  finished work fast, I gave him a combinatorial problem : to find the number of ways to arrange 3 different things. I was pretty confident he would take a lot of time to do this and that I could meanwhile concentrate on teaching to the struggling students in my class . But the boy not only finished for 3 things, he also started hypothesizing how 4 things can be arranged in 4.3.2.1 = 4! ways. Phew!

Finally , I took the easy way.

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I handed him  the famous Russian mathematics book : “Mathematical circles” and have asked him to work on it.He waits everyday after school to master the prerequisites , and after finishing his work, takes out this book and gets on task.  The book has managed to relieve me of some of my “problems” with him , but I am pretty sure he will be back asking for more.

Holding him to high expectations has really brought out the best in him .  If not anything , Aftab has shown me one thing :

Not everyone can be a genius , but a genius can come from anywhere.

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