Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter

Upon the yellow sands
   by the lake of Galilee
Sat the Saviour
               playing with pebbles.

           Schools of fish swarmed
   beneath the ripples
And cried unto the Saviour:
   Give us our daily bread.

I give you life’s water,
   muttered the Saviour.
Off they went calmly
   into life’s depths.

 And upon the trembling ripples
   lay the Saviour’s image
Dying in silence
   nailed to a cross.

Wish everyone a HAPPY EASTER if that makes any sense to anyone. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Condom Mechanics

Short Story

The condom failed them.  Aisha became pregnant.

“Oh, fuck!” was Anand’s spontaneous reaction.  He didn’t mean it to be vulgar, Aisha knew.  Boys and girls in the college used the word with a vast array of meanings and meaninglessness.  It was the most popular word on the campus as it encapsulated a kaleidoscopic range of meanings and feelings.  The word also referred to the most popular pastime on the campus.  Aisha wondered whether it was after a visit to their campus that Bill and Melinda Gates decided to offer a $1 million-funding to anyone who can produce the “next generation condom” which would make the popular pastime as pleasurable as if there were no condom.  And foolproof too, hoped Aisha.  Not like the one that had ditched her.  

“No tension,” said Anand with such a bindaas attitude that for a moment Aisha thought he was an ambassador of Manappuram gold loan.  “There are gynaecologists who will fuck any pregnancy just like that for a few gandhis.”  He snapped his fingers.

‘Gandhi’ was the campus slang for a five hundred-rupee note.

“I’m afraid,” Aisha heard herself muttering.  Will it be painful?  That’s what she was primarily afraid of.  Pain is not something she was familiar with.  There was no luxury in the world that her father, Hameed, could not buy her without touching the black money he had stashed away in some Swiss banks.  Hameed would not allow pain to come anywhere in her neighbourhood.

Hameed had come to the city as a young man possessing nothing more than an extra pair of clothes and high school education.  He started as a daily wage labourer in a construction company.  Today his own construction company is worth a few hundred crores of rupees.  A few cases of cheating were filed against him by some people who were his clients.  But such cases mean nothing in this country when you’ve acquired a certain stature – economically or politically.

“There’s nothing to fear,” said Anand rather contemptuously.  As a Rajput he was very proud of the bravery that his ancestors had bequeathed him.  He boasted quite often that the history of his family could be traced back to Paramara who restored the stolen kamadhenu to its owner, Vashisht maharshi.  It’s funny, mused Aisha, that the cow was stolen by another maharshi, Vishvamitra.  We do have a very motivating heritage.  No wonder Anand’s father is a successful politician of a national party that takes much pride in the nation’s cultural heritage which is presumed by his party to be under constant threat from Islamic Pakistan.  Mr Karan Parmar, Anand’s father, would never accept a Muslim girl for a daughter-in-law.  His Rajput ancestry would condemn it as  treason to have his son marry a Muslim girl.  A Khap Panchayat would be summoned and the greyest-haired or baldest-headed khap leader would pronounce the verdict, his breath reeking of hate: “Death to the offenders.”  Mr Parmar’s black money that has not made its way to a Swiss bank yet will buy the life of his son from the khap warriors.  Justice is a blindfolded lady. 

But who wants to marry Anand, now?  Aisha chuckled.  She had never imagined herself as Anand’s wife.  Whatever happened between them was a natural part of the mechanics of enjoyment that prevailed on the campus.  Bill Gates, the Imam of Generation Next, had understood it and hence sought to replace quantum mechanics with condom mechanics on the campus.  May Allah bless him!

But Allah’s ways are not easy to understand.   Otherwise how would Hameed, the lord of construction mafias, come to know about her pregnancy so soon?  He fretted and fumed while his wife stood with a marmoreal demeanour.  Having concealed her face behind the religious veil for years, Aisha’s mother had lost her emotions or had come to think it was no use revealing them since nobody would see through the veil anyway.

“Go and play this on your laptop,” said father flinging a CD at her.  “This is selling like hot biryani in Palika Bazar.”

Her heart stopped beating when her laptop brought the CD alive.  What she saw was one of her pastime scenes with Anand, though Anand’s face was never seen in the video.

She pressed Anand’s mobile phone number.  “Dhoom machale,” said the dial tone before it was cut off.  “The person you are trying to contact is out of range or not available now,” said a mechanical voice. 

She dialled the number again.  The phone was now switched off.

When she reached college the next day she learnt that Anand had gone to join an MBA course in the land of Bill Gates, the Lord of Generation Next.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

God’s Love Song

I willed my being into an extension
And the cosmos was born in a Bang:
Every birth is a terror and a joy,
Every creation an extension of a core.
I live, move, and have my being
In all that is, and that shall be,
Much as in the core that sits here.

Hypothesis is what the creation was
When I let myself go in a bang:
An overflow of love infinite.
Experiment is what the creation is
When I add patterns in the mosaic:
A sporting game of love unremitting.
Abel was I, much as Cain was.

I am the turbulence of the rolling waters,
The rage of blasting bombs and fleeting bullets,
The hunger in the eyes of widows and babies,
The roar of the clouds, and the grace of the rainbow.
And the nailed wail on the crucifix.
Evolution is what the creation is, of
The hell and the heaven that I am.


I wrote the above poem about 15 years ago.  It was a time when I wrote many poems of this type: apparently religious.  Psychologically I had hit the bottom and was looking for something to cling to, “a crutch” as the person who played certain Machiavellian games in my life called it.  I even had a few dalliances with an organised religion and its magical rituals (“crutches”) hoping to find some meaning, some way out of the mess that my life had become.  It didn’t take me much time to realise that meaning in life is something that each one of us has to create even as God would have created his world.

I went through those old ‘religious’ poems of mine once again as Good Friday and Easter (magical rituals) are approaching.  I put this up here now with a smile, the smile of someone who did make an arduous journey through certain sterile paths created partly by himself and mostly by a society that is ever eager to volunteer with such assistance.
The poem is not an exposition of any philosophy or theology.  It is an expression of emotions (as are most poems), and alo an attempt to transcend certain painful emotions.  In another two days' time the Christian world will be dramatising the "nailed wail on the crucifix" in the form of certain rituals.  This blog post is my way of commemorating the same nailed wail...


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jesus Crucified

Christians all over the world are entering the Holy Week, a week dedicated to the commemoration of the last days of Jesus which led to his crucifixion and the putative resurrection.  Though I lost my religious faith three decades ago my interest in Jesus has refused to make a clean exit from my consciousness.  Probably my debilitatingly conservative Catholic upbringing has nailed Jesus too fast to my consciousness.
Who was Jesus in reality?  This is a question that has fascinated me much.  I don’t believe he was the son of God.  I don’t believe there is any God up there or anywhere else begetting sons or daughters or any other miserable creatures.  I find it quite interesting that we, the human beings, who have explored the minute world of the subatomic particles and the stars billions of kilometres away, have not been able to discover much about a person who lived merely 2000 years ago. 

Did he exist at all?  I remember a book which was quite a craze among a few of my classmates in school, a Malayalam book with a provocative title Christ and Krishna did not Exist (by Joseph Edamaruku if I’m not mistaken).  In those days my faith in Jesus the son of God was as absolute as it was blind and could not be shaken by any book.  

It took me many years to search history for evidence of Jesus’ existence.  There’s very little that history can give us.  There are a handful of sources in history that mention Jesus and that too very briefly and even obliquely: Josephus, Roman-Jewish historian; Tacitus, Roman historian; and the Babylonian Talmud are the noteworthy ones.

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) discovered in 1947 created more controversy than foolproof evidences about Jesus.  Nevertheless, I think a short journey through the DSS will be infinitely more worthwhile than all the Ways of the Cross that the devout Christians will be pursuing in the Holy Week. 

A lot of research has gone into the DSS.  Some researchers like Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh have even alleged (in their book, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception) that the Catholic Church manipulated the research in order to hide certain unpleasant truths about Jesus. 
Before we speak about the DSS it is necessary to know that there were many groups or communities among the Jews in the days of Jesus such as the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes.  While Pharisees and Sadducees are mentioned in many places in the Bible, the Essenes find ample mention in more historical sources such as Pliny, Philo and Josephus.  Pliny in his Natural History depicts the Essenes as “celibate hermits, residing, with ‘only palm-trees for company’, in an area that might be construed as Qumran” (Baigent & Leigh).  Josephus, who is echoed by Philo, mentions that there are two kinds of Essenes: celibates and non-celibates.  The Essenes despise pleasure and wealth.  They hold all possessions in common.  They might have been living in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea.
The DSS must have been written by the Essenes or at least preserved by them.

Most researchers of the Scrolls agree on a few points.  They are:

1.      The scrolls are all written by Jews.

2.      The scrolls date prior to 68 or 69 CE, when the Qumran settlement where the scrolls were discovered, was probably destroyed by Romans during the Jewish revolt.

3.      The oldest scroll dates back to 3rd century BCE, about a century before the Qumran community was established.

4.      The Qumran community was established in the middle of the 2nd century BCE by a group of priests expelled from Jerusalem Temple, led by the one who is referred to in the DSS as The Teacher of Righteousness.

5.      The ruling high priest of the Temple was the archenemy of the community.  Probably the names “Wicked Priest” and “Liar” used in the DSS refers to the high priest.

6.      The Qumran community believed that the Holy Spirit had left the Temple and now dwelt with the community.

Baigent & Leigh are of the view that The Teacher of Righteousness is not Jesus but his brother James.  The Wicked Priest is Ananias, the high priest of the Sadducees, and the Liar is Paul.  Reading Baigent & Leigh is like reading a suspense thriller.  After the crucifixion of Jesus, his brother James became the leader of the Christian community which was not at all pleased with the teachings of Paul who infused Jesus’ messages with Greek philosophy.  Baigent & Leigh bring a lot of evidences from both the Scrolls and the Bible (especially the Acts and Paul’s letters) to show that Paul was an outsider to the early Christian community led by James.  No wonder why Paul became “the Apostle of the Gentiles”. 

Barbara Thiering, historian and Biblical exegete of University of Sydney, studied the DSS in detail before producing in 1990 a TV documentary titled ‘The Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls’.  According to her, Jesus was born and raised in Qumran.  He was the son of an Essene.  He became one of the leaders of the Qumran community along with John the Baptist.  In 29 CE Jesus turned against the community, rejected their legalism as well as the ritual of baptism.  He did not advocate the asceticism of the community either.

Thiering argues that Jesus came to be viewed as the Wicked Priest and Liar by the Qumran community.  John the Baptist is The Teacher of Righteousness, according to this interpretation.  Thiering also argues that Jesus did not perform miracles.  Lazarus whom Jesus is portrayed as resurrecting from death in the Bible was only a spiritually dead person whom Jesus ‘resurrects’ psychologically or spiritually.  Thiering’s view on Jesus’ crucifixion may scandalise the devout.  She says that Jesus did not die on the cross but only fainted and was brought back to health by his followers and he lived in a monastery. 

In short, even the Dead Sea Scrolls have not thrown enough light on the life of Jesus.  My interest in him continues.  No ritual of any Holy Week will be able to quench the thirst of the Jesus that my parents along with the priests and nuns of the Catholic church have nailed to my consciousness.


The sources of my information:

1.      The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, Arrow Books, 2006

3.      The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament by Mark M. Mattinson

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CBSE’s Paradoxes

“Formative Assessment is a tool used by the teacher to continuously monitor student progress in a non threatening, supportive environment,” says CBSE’s manual on CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation – which is understood by many students as ‘Continuous and Carefree Entertainment). 

“Non-threatening and supportive” – that’s what the assessment is supposed to be when a teacher does it in the class.  What about the assessment carried out by the Board at the end of the session?

See the remark written by one of the CBSE students on the Board’s complaint board after yesterday’s math exam of class 12:

CBSE IS HARDCORE i should have tried some thing else,, wasted 2 years of my high schools in CBSE :(

It is written by a student who calls him-/herself maha dewayz.

There are quite a few other students too who have complained against the math paper though not in maha dewayz’s ‘CCE’ phraseology.  It seems the math paper in the Chennai region did not follow the normal CBSE pattern. 

The usual CBSE pattern is “non-threatening and supportive” to students.  In fact, one won’t find anywhere in the world a Board of Exams that’s more student-friendly than CBSE.  So what happened this time with the math paper in Chennai region?

A very close relative of mine who is a math teacher in a CBSE school in Kerala rang me up after the math exam was over to ask me whether the Delhi students too found it as tough as their Chennai counterparts did.  I asked the math teacher of my school who said it was quite “non-threatening and supportive” except for the value-based question whose phraseology was very misleading.  Of course, students like maha dewayz are likely to find value-based phraseology beyond their vocab. 

I wonder why CBSE did not follow with the math paper what they are asking their teachers to do with the assessments: be “non-threatening and supportive”?  My relative-teacher says that the umpteen private engineering colleges in the South might have bribed CBSE to renege on their exhortation to teachers about threats and supports so that the students won’t qualify for the engineering entrance tests which in turn would ensure a good rush to the private colleges.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true though I wouldn’t dare to make such an allegation.  But I think that values exist only as a 5-mark question in the exams in the academic world of CCE.

That’s one of the many paradoxes that peep out of the CCE edifice cocking a snook at people who still (shamelessly) possess sensibilities that may be too delicate for the world in which only one value really exists except in the value-based questions of CBSE.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Red Poppies

Book Review
Title:    Red Poppies: An epic saga of old Tibet          Author:  Alai
Translated from Chinese by Howard Goldblatt & Sylvia Li-chun Lin
Publisher: Penguin, 2002
Pages: 416

“Yes, all I wanted was to be a chieftain; I’d never given any serious thought to what I wanted to do.  So I tried hard to imagine what I’d get by becoming a chieftain.  Silver?  Women?  Vast territory?  Numerous servants?  I had all those without even trying.  Power?  Yes, power.  But it wasn’t as if I didn’t have any now.  Besides, power could get me only more silver, more women, vaster territory, and more servants.  Which was to say, being chieftain didn’t mean much to me.  But strangely, I still wanted it.”

One of the biggest paradoxes of human life is that a lot of effort is expended on a lot of enterprises which really don’t make our life any better.  We endure so many struggles and overcome so many hurdles, pull down apparent rivals and prop up convenient collaborators, sustain dreams and aspirations, nurture greed, jealousy and other normal human vices... only to be mocked by the grave in the end?

Alai’s novel, Red Poppies, makes us look at the apparent absurdity of human activities through the eyes of the narrator who is an “idiot” and the second son of Chieftain Maichi.  It is the prerogative of the first son to become the chieftain.  But the idiot who speaks the lines quoted above is a normal human being as far as aspirations are concerned. 

The idiot versus smart people

Smart people, observes the idiot-narrator, are “like marmots up on the mountain, always watchful, always jittery.”  The novel tells the story of some such smart people who lived in Tibet, especially the eastern Tibet bordering China, during the period of 1930-1950.  The story revolves round Chieftain Maichi, his family and his subjects.

The hierarchy followed in this part of Tibet is given by the narrator thus:
            Beneath the chieftain are the headmen.
            The headmen control the serfs.
            Then come the Kabas.... At the bottom are the family slaves.  In addition, there is a class of people who can change their status any time they want.  They are the monks, the artisans, the shamans, and the performers.  The chieftain is more lenient with them...; all they need to avoid is making the chieftain feel that he doesn’t know what to do with them.”

Chieftain Maichi and his sons together conquer more and more wealth, people and land, especially with the help of the money got from the sale of opium.  They also manipulate the entire economy of the region including the neighbourhood chieftains’ because opium has made them filthy rich. 

The major difference between the idiot and the smart people is that the former is aware of the futility of their pursuits while the latter are not.  Another difference is that when the idiot does something smart, the smart people wonder whether he is really an idiot, and when the idiot does something idiotic they merely grin at his idiocy.

Greed and lust

Human vices tend to imitate disasters and come in hordes.  The chieftain and his sons are already renowned for their libido.  They can have any number of women in their bed at any time.  The male offspring are allowed to have a private maid even before they attain sexual maturity.  The maid will initiate them into the sensual delights.   The novel reeks of sperm and wine except when the stench is substituted for a change with the smell of blood shed for ascertaining the hegemony of the chieftain.   Their libido will import syphilis which will be followed by a greater disaster, a political one.

Religion has no place here except for helping the chieftain to ascertain his hegemony.  The monk who comes to teach a higher form of Buddhism has his tongue cut off – not once but twice: once for displeasing the chieftain and the next time for displeasing the chieftain’s son, the future chieftain.  The tongueless chieftain is appointed the historian whose job now is to fabricate a history that will flatter the chieftain and his family.  

History means learning about today and tomorrow from yesterday, tells the tongueless historian.  But the chieftain is not “smart” enough to learn the necessary lesson.  His land and his life itself will soon be claimed by the march of the Red Army from China.

Red Poppies is an eminently readable, brilliant novel, suffused with sparkling wit and humour.  It is not just the tale of the “old” Tibet; it is a metaphor for the rise and fall of any regime or social structure in general.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wanted Teachers

With my students in the Himalayas (2012)

A friend of mine who has opened a new school in Himachal Pradesh asked me to help him get a couple of teachers from Kerala.   I rang up more than half a dozen people (friends and relatives most of whom are teachers) all of whom seemed to mock me for some culpable ignorance.   The last person whom I called the other day is a politician.  I started by mentioning the salary of Rs25000 to Rs30000 thinking that the amount would be quite attractive to a fresh graduate.  “Even if you offer Rs50000,” said my politician-cousin, “you won’t get anyone worth his salt.”

“Why?” I persisted.

“Teaching is not even a career option for today’s generation,” he said.

Teaching as a profession is facing the threat of extinction, I mused.   I had a reason to grin sarcastically.  A few minutes before I called my cousin I had signed a circular sent by my boss.  The circular was to inform the teachers of my school that the hostel supervisors would be keeping a daily record of the hostel duties performed by the teaching staff right from morning 5.30 (waking up students) to the bedtime of the students (10.30 pm). 

It must be mentioned here that mine is an exclusively residential school and the teaching staff are expected to help in the management of the hostels.  Earlier the help meant counselling the students as and when required and helping them with their studies or participation in certain competitions.  For the regular hostel duties there is a full time hostel supervisor in each hostel.  Moreover, teachers cannot spend so much time in the hostel; they are all people with their own families to look after (and not monks and nuns who have renounced the world) and they also have to prepare the lessons of the next day as well as check notebooks and test papers.  Nowadays they also have to fill in pages and pages of details about each student in the name of CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation which may require a teacher to know such details as how many times a student passes urine a day).  Yet why does my school think that teachers must be given more duties?  That’s a mystery I’m still trying to unravel.

What amuses me particularly in this episode is this: the qualification demanded of a teacher is post-graduation with B.Ed. while Senior Secondary education is enough to become a hostel supervisor.  Such a supervisor will sit and make a record of the duties performed by a teacher who has a minimum of six years more of education!  Many teachers of my school have post-graduation in more than one subject and quite a few have doctorate too.  The PhD-wallah’s fate is written by one who has scraped through class 12.

Why would anyone wish to become a teacher in such a world?

But what really amuses me is: why are teachers being condemned to such ignominy?  Is it the revenge of a collective unconscious on a class that dominated the social systems in the days of the gurukulas

Friday, March 15, 2013

Body and Soul

The basic theme of Kazantzakis’s novel, The Last Temptation of Christ, is the conflict between the body and the soul or, in the words of the novelist himself, “the struggle between God and man.”

“A weak soul does not have the endurance to resist the flesh for very long,” says Kazantzakis in the Preface.  “It grows heavy, becomes flesh itself, and the contest ends.  But among responsible men… the conflict between flesh and spirit breaks out mercilessly and may last until death.” (emphasis added)

Kazantzakis explored this theme with slight variations in many novels.  In The Last Temptation, Jesus overcomes the temptations of the flesh by courting death.  In Saint Francis, the eponymous protagonist overcomes his fleshly desires through rigorous mortification.  Zorba, in Zorba the Greek, subscribes to a unique version of the Buddhist middle path by blending the body and the soul in his own pragmatic way.

“God and devil are one and the same thing!” Zorba declares repeatedly.  That knowledge helps Zorba to strike a balance between the good and the evil.  He does not make the mistake of polarising the good and the evil and then pursuing the good alone as Jesus did.  He lives each moment as it comes, accepting the good and fighting the evil in his own way without spiritualising or intellectualising anything.  “You understand, and that’s why you’ll never have any peace.  If you didn’t understand, you’d be happy!” Zorba tells his master who is on a spiritual quest.  Acquiring the kind of wisdom that Zorba possesses requires “a touch of folly”.

Jesus also wonders whether God and the devil aren’t one and the same thing.  Someone appears to Jesus in a dream in The Last Temptation.  Jesus is not sure whether it was God or the devil who appeared.  “Who can tell them apart?”  he asks himself.  “They exchange faces; God sometimes becomes all darkness,  the devil all light, and the mind of man is left in a muddle.”

An old lady advises Jesus in the novel, “... don’t you know that God is found not in monasteries but in the homes of men!  Wherever you find husband and wife, that’s where you find God; wherever children and petty cares and cooking and arguments and reconciliations, that’s where God is too....  The God I’m telling you about, the domestic one, not the monastic: that’s the true God.  He’s the one you should adore.  Leave the other to those lazy, sterile idiots in the desert (the monks)!”

Spirituality cannot be isolated from the actual life which is ineluctably a mixture of good and evil.  Seeking it in the solitude of deserts and mountains, or the isolation of monasteries and communes, would be quite a sterile exercise in the sense that the God found in such pursuits would be a God of straitjackets and not the God of the ordinary life in the ordinary world.

I’d go with Zorba and say that it’s better to strike the right balance between the body and the soul than nail one’s body to a cross.  But I wouldn’t also accept the deification of the body that’s found in the contemporary civilisation.  I don’t have to conceal my grey hairs beneath toxic dyes any more than gorge my intestines with junk food.  Yet I can stand and admire the beauty of the artificial shade on any pretty head just as I relish a drink of whisky at appropriate times.   I’m a follower of Zorba who advocated the passion “to amass pieces of gold and suddenly to conquer one’s passion and throw the treasure to the four winds.”  What is life without that passion?  Without also the renunciation?  What is life without the body?  Without also the soul?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Satanic Verses

“You’re lucky to have invented a god who dances to your tunes.”   The youngest and the most beloved wife of the Prophet ridicules him thus in Salman Rushdie’s most controversial novel, Satanic Verses

“Lies! Lies! Lies!” is the reaction of Jesus on reading Mathew’s gospel in Kazantzakis’s novel, The Last Temptation of Christ.  Matthew tries to justify the lies he has written by saying that an angel dictates what he writes.  It is divine revelation.  How can lies be divine revelation?  Toward the end of Kazantzakis’s novel Matthew tells Jesus, “How masterfully I matched your words and deeds with the prophets!  It was terribly difficult, but I managed.  I used to say to myself that in the synagogues of the future the faithful would open thick tomes bound in gold and say, ‘The lesson for today is from the holy Gospel according to Matthew!’  This thought gave me wings and I wrote.”

We may never know whether that was indeed the real reason why Matthew wrote the gospel.  We may never know for sure how much of what Matthew wrote was what really happened and how much was imagined by the writer.  It is the case with most scriptures.

It is the case with any writing, in fact.  “I say one thing, you write another,” Kazantzakis’s Jesus accuses Matthew, “and those who read you understand still something else! ... Each of you attaches his own suffering, interests and desires to each of these sacred words, and my words disappear, m soul is lost.”

Every writer attaches his own feelings, interests and desires to what he writes, except maybe in purely objective subjects like the sciences.  Rushdie’s Satanic Verses is as much his personal reading into his religion as is Kazantzakis’s Last Temptation.  Both the writers were trying to understand their religion in their own personal way.  They have attached their own feelings, anxieties and desires to their novels and the characters in them.

If every reader reads every text keeping this fundamental fact in mind, the text will be understood more meaningfully.  The meaning is created by the reader.  When such creation takes place, fundamentalism will disappear. 

One cause of religious fundamentalism is the belief that the scriptures contain divine truths dictated or revealed by a god or an angel or any other supernatural entity.  Novelists like Rushdie and Kazantzakis show us quite a different truth.  And the truths of fiction may be truer than the truths of life, and quite definitely are truer than the truths of religions.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

IGNOUBLE University

I was indeed a serious student

When I turned 50, a desire which is not typically quinquagenarian sprouted in me.  I wanted to do Masters in psychology.  Actually I had started reading up a bit of psychology so that I could deal better with my young students in a world whose adolescence was beginning to baffle me increasingly.  As soon as I read in the newspaper that IGNOU was beginning correspondence course in MA-psychology, I joined up.  I thought a university course would give shape and direction to my newfound interest.

Three years after I joined the course, having completed all the written exams successfully, I remain unable and incapable of getting a certificate from the university.  IGNOU has harassed me so much with the assignments and other such out-of-the-exam-hall works that I have decided to say goodbye to the university without getting trying any further for its certificate.  After all, whatever knowledge I have acquired cannot be taken away by anyone.  And at this stage in my life another certificate won’t make much difference.

As I completed the first year of the course, I wrote in a blog about the unpleasant experiences I had with the assignments and the practical exam.  The professor who had checked my assignments was not even aware of the marking scheme.  

I completed the written exams in the minimum period of two years.  I also submitted my assignments on time.  Unless I had submitted them I wouldn’t have been permitted to sit for the exams in the first place.  More than a year after I had submitted them the university, IGNOU, has not entered those marks in my grade card.  My grade card implies that I have not submitted the assignments though I had already collected them back in due course with the marks and remarks written by the examiner.

I could have solved this problem quite easily by making a few trips to my study centre which is 25km from my residence.  But I’m not going to do it.  Because I won’t be able to submit the project paper, which means my course will remain incomplete technically.  The guide assigned to me by the study centre never got the time to guide me.  I have wasted enough time trying to meet the person and finalising my topic and the details.  I can’t bring myself to wait for hours outside the office of a professor who apparently finds it hard to spare time for students of IGNOU.  “Distance education should not have projects,” she told me once as if I had designed the curriculum.

I had given up the entire matter as hopeless.  I had forgotten it, in fact, until I saw a report in the newspaper yesterday.  “Former acting V-C of IGNOU booked,” says the headline (The Hindu, 8 March 2013).  It was followed up by another report in today’s newspaper, “Former acting V-C of IGNOU dismisses allegations.”  The reports are about certain corrupt practices that have allegedly taken place in the university.  I don’t know whether those allegations are true, but I know that IGNOU is terribly unprofessional in conducting the course which I ventured to undertake. 

I must add that I was one of the students in the very first batch of the psychology course.  Maybe, the university was still learning to conduct the course.  But, alas, I’m not young enough to put up with too many whims and caprices of pompous professors and dilettante clerics.   The degree doesn’t really matter to me.  But I wish the university does become a little more professional  for the sake of those students for whom the degree does matter.

I must add one more thing (though there’s much more that I can add!).  Much of the notes sent by the university are plagiarised material.  I came across entire passages copied from the books by other authors that I had gone through out of personal interest.  Later on I came across too many passages which were lifted verbatim from websites.  The most hilarious example: there’s a topic about professional ethics of a psychological counsellor.  The entire ethical code in the IGNOU notes is copied from the professional ethics of a construction company given in their website!  The code speaks about using the right mix of concrete, etc!  I’m not joking, dear reader.  I’m sure the professors could, at the very leas,t be a little more honest about their work. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tribute to Chavez

Satan stood here yesterday,
The smell of gun powder lingers still…

You dared to utter those words
in the UN General Assembly just a day after
George W Bush had spoken donning the garb
of the world’s moral police commissioner.

Bush’s America, as did his predecessors’
as well as his successors’,
promised prosperity to all.
But you delivered it at least to the people of your country.
            You had a vision
                        Your life was a mission
            The world stands in need of many leaders like you.

You showed how a nation’s resources
can be used for the welfare of all the people
unlike the American vision of amassing it for a select few
leaving the rest to scramble for crumbs...

When cancer ate into your being
you accused America of conspiring to spread cancer
among the socialist leaders in Latin America.
After all, Paraguay’s president Fernanado Lugo,
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff as well as Lula da Silva,
were all diagnosed with cancer.
Fortunately Argentine Kirchner’s cancer turned out to be false diagnosis...
You had reason to suspect American conspiracy.
After all, as you pointed out,
America had infected the people of Guatemala with syphilis
for the sake of medical experimentation!
Why not infect socialists with cancer?

Who knows what America did really?

In you, the world has lost a bright star,
             a red star,
            a revolutionary light.

Pessimism of the gods

There is a romantic at sleep in my heart who likes to believe that people were better in the good old days. The people I saw as a child we...