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Thursday, November 08, 2012

New minister, old hat

Sunday’s newspapers gave wide coverage to the expensive religious fanfare with which the new Union minister, M.M. Pallam Raju, entered office very recently. Not only was absolutely everything rearranged on the advice of ‘vaastu experts’ but everything from the priest to the laddoos was specially flown in from Tirupati, so as to ensure that the Lord Himself would look benignly upon the new incumbent and give him a long and trouble-free tenure in the high profile Ministry for Human Resource Development (which looks after everything educational, from the anganwadi schools to the IITs and IIMs, among other things). Just as a matter of fact, Mr. Raju is a very young man by conventional standards in politics – a mere fifty – and he is both an electronics engineer and holder of a ‘phoren’ MBA to boot.

My observations:

So far as outlook on life is concerned, if you call this superstition, an engineer cum MBA these days obviously comes from the same cultural level as any coal thief in Ranigunj who quit school after failing class 8 twice on smelling the money. You have got to judge a man by things other than the degrees he has, the office he holds and the car he drives – a point I have underscored again and again. Which of these differentiated Tagore from any lala in Burra Bazaar – or any ‘successful’ pickpocket for that matter?

I can only wonder what kind of educational future India has under the stewardship of men like these. Are we going to produce Satyajit Rays and Subhas Boses and  C.V. Ramans by the thousands now, or an endless stream of cybercoolies, shopping mall supervisors, credit card salesmen calling themselves ‘business executives’, factory foremen, low grade journos and hotel receptionists who get very angry whenever they are told that if they consider themselves ‘successful’, they must by the same token admit that that apocryphal coal mafia don is fifty times more so?

It is a pity, too, that there were intellectual giants like Humayun Kabir and Triguna Sen in the same position in the early days of the republic, working under the guidance of no less a mind than Jawaharlal Nehru, a man who was in close intellectual touch with literally the finest minds in the world, from Einstein to Tagore, from Joan Robinson to Vikram Sarabhai (everything from the IITs to the Lalit Kala Akademi was set up in those halcyon years). How far we have ‘progressed’ in the last sixty years, indeed.

Finally, in defence of the likes of Pallam Raju (and his one-time predecessor Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, a physicist who wanted to introduce regular courses on astrology in all leading universities), maybe it is better on the whole to believe in things like God than in Lady Gaga, iPad apps, credit cards, massage parlours and shopping malls, after all! (see my post titled ‘Post modern enlightenment’, alongwith with Suvro Sarkar’s witty comment on it). At least thinking of God tries to lift you up from the muck, while these trappings of contemporary ‘civilization’ only push you down deeper into it…until every moron with a third-rate college degree, a Rs. 30,000-a-month job, endless time to waste and a ‘smart’ phone with an internet connection thinks he can ‘debate’ with people immeasurably his intellectual and moral superiors simply by spouting a few words of abuse, drunken rickshawwallah style!

3 comments:

Sayan Datta said...

Dear Suvro Sir,

Thanks a lot for this post. It reminded me of Satyajit Ray's classic 'Ganashatru'. Education, in its contemporary form will continue to produce superstitious idiots of the highest degree - there is no escaping this fact. Decades ago Ray himself rued the fact that people were getting 'diminished in stature'; decades later the truth in those words seems only glaringly, horrifyingly evident and certainly much more amplified.

Your second paragraph itself hits the point home and the truth of your words are manifestly and all too conspicuously evident in men burdened by age, at a time in their lives when they are forced to look at their selves stripped of their posts, their statures and their degrees become useless...you have obviously seen how poorly so many of them deal with getting old. None of them have or had any real identity or respect for their selves save their posts and degrees and cars and the number of foreign trips. A time comes when one has to take a real look at oneself and ask what one has done with the life that was gifted to him, whether he has done anything substantial with it or has just walked through life blind-folded and so many fail miserably to deal with the fact that they have wasted the opportunity.

Education has lost its meaning and people have forgotten the value of thought and reason. Take the case of my students, fed on a regular diet of ‘smart classes’ and powerpoint presentations and whatnot, creatures who can solve all kinds of numerical problems, yet have the least scientifically kindled brains. In fact science education is the biggest hypocrisy, the biggest superstition among the middle class of our country. Aakash da has written a wonderful comment on your latest post in your other blog...I don’t think I can say any more.

Rajdeep said...

Thanks for this post and the humorous one too on your other blog which I read a while ago. Sad ...

Well, we care so much about changing names of our cities. But, we are so proud when foreigners nickname our cities, "Silicon Valley of India," "Detroit of India," blah blah!

As your favorite (mine too) Economist John Kenneth Galbraith said, "One must always have in mind one simple fact — there is no literate population in the world that is poor, and there is no illiterate population that is anything but poor." That is the difference.

Vivekananda, who has written extensively about problems in Indian society is much in demand these days for speech quotations!

Watching Satyajit Ray is not cool, perhaps because they aren't 3D and lack the 3rd dimension (that of stupidity and crassness)!

Here is P Sainath's speech on Globalizing Inequality (another author I have come to admire after you introduced ages ago).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U42zOfxzICs

We cannot say for sure that things will not get any worse. Let us hope that they get better even if slightly...

Gaurab Mandal said...

Dear sir,
This post really touched me.
Being a 3rd year student, and being a part of the "situation", I truly feel what you have put up here.
Among many things which I regret, one of them is that I find very few people talking about ideas.
Most people either reply saying it not being in the syllabus or that its not necessary.
The only thing that interests them is marks. According to them marks are their lifelines to as you mentioned - a Rs. 30,000 job or a glowing certificate.
The moment I "dream" about writing a new story or perhaps even think about a new business idea or maybe about reading things apart from the syllabus the only response I get is "What's the point ?"
Truth to be told that induces fear.
In plain bengali, this is what I get - "age nijer payer dara tarpor ja korar korish"
I don't even get the idea about where that comes from.
I always wanted to learn rather than study and I do think a lot.
But sometimes it strikes me as whether it really matters ?
This fear never lets me move ahead ! Its like being controlled by the people around you.
I sometimes ask the question you used to ask "How many nobel laureates does India produce ?"
The answers I get are various but none of them are appropriate.
Maybe that makes many people like me move with the herd.
At the same time I do feel too that someday I would stand out.

You mentioned - "You have got to judge a man by things other than the degrees he has, the office he holds and the car he drives"
My question is - "Who is going to be the judge?"
Somehow justice is not served(with respect to the present scenario).

P.S - I had sent you a mail a few days ago.