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Monday, February 29, 2016

Admission trauma - make believe?

I have been in Kolkata this week, and was witness to the heaviest February thundershower in a century. For those who weren’t here, it was a deluge, I can tell you.  The temperature dropped sharply, which was a mercy. What I found pleasantly surprising was how little normal life was disrupted, and how quickly the city dried up.

I have also done something that I never gave myself the chance to do for donkey’s years: eating around the city. There is a far greater number and variety of restaurants to choose from than in our time, something to suit almost every pocket. Four nights out in a week, trying all sorts of things from shrimp to squid to lamb and varieties of pork: that’s a whole normal year’s quota for me! It’s such fun to have a grown-up and enthusiastic daughter around, and sometimes a few ex-students…

This news item in today’s paper caught my attention: well-heeled parents in the city are breaking their heads over getting their children admitted into the handful of  ‘elite’ schools (didn’t know that Modern High, where my daughter went, had a much lower vacancy to applicant ratio than La Martiniere!). In some ways God has been truly good to me – from prep school to college, her admissions were always a breeze. At two and a half she was invited by a friend of mine in the next street to join her Montessori classes. At the next step, when it was time to go to a regular school, my wife went to enquire with just two schools, and both agreed to admit my daughter without a fuss of any kind (no question of connections and donations and that kind of rubbish); we simply admitted her to the one whose admission date came first. The so-called interview was a joke, no more than the way we had been determined to treat it (I still vividly recall, though, the anxiety writ large on the stony faces of most of the parents around me, as if their daughters were about to be subjected to major and dicey surgery!) Twelve years later (and I know how snooty this sounds, but I can’t help it – these are the cold facts) I didn’t even go to Kolkata for her class 11 admission. Pupu and her mother went by themselves, applied to just one school, and got through without a fuss again, though the interview was much more substantial this time round. Leave alone strangers, even some members of my own extended family made it obvious that they weren’t believing me when I assured them I had pulled no strings, and paid not a rupee above the standard fees stipulated for every student.  Two years after that, Pupu again did mighty little worrying and even less running around, just getting admission to Scottish Church (being my daughter, she had been advised not to touch a certain college with a bargepole) for safety’s sake until the JU admission clicked (despite all the candidates on the first general category list having scored above 90% in their last board exams), and then she didn’t even bother to go sit for the entrance test at Presidency. As for the next step, she has known for several years now that whatever Master’s course she does, wherever, she must do everything by herself, because she would be old and smart enough by then: daddy will do nothing more than signing some forms if required, and paying whatever he thinks he can afford. So there you are – I am a living example of an ordinary parent in today’s India who has managed to ensure whatever carries the tag of a ‘first-class education’ in this country for his child without ever having to lose any sleep over it. Maybe it’s largely due to the fact that unlike the herd, and very like my own parents, I have all through refused to believe that this ought to be a really very serious issue in an adult’s life. If my daughter has good genes and is taught a few good habits (like studying daily by a routine and reading a lot outside the syllabus), she will get as good an education as she is destined for, period. If I have spent tens of thousands of hours moping, consulting and running around, and sackfuls of cash on a thing like that, it’s simply because I never had anything better to do, and my child is an idiot. But imagine, then, what a terrific number of parents don’t have anything to do, and have idiots for children! And apparently this is not a purely Indian disease, either: Pupu herself told me recently that affluent young American parents these days are ready to kill as well to get their toddlers into elite prep schools, as she saw in some TV serial show recently.

I notice the number of pageviews has crossed the 400,000 mark. I obviously have a large regular readership now, and it’s not too optimistic to think that I’ll still be around and writing when the counter tops half a million. I have become a serious blogger in these last ten years, then. Discounting celebrities, I don’t see many bloggers who have crossed even the 50,000 mark. If only my readers were also frequent, articulate and thought-provoking comment writers, this could have become quite a forum! – in any case, I am urging my faithful- (and curious new) readers to browse through some of the older posts again, not just the ones on the home page (use a tab, or better still, a regular computer – a mobile phone is close to useless for serious reading). Also, tell me what you would like me to write about next. This request is especially pertinent to those who have become ex students in the last three or four years and want to stay in touch.

P.S.: The number of dinners outdoors became five on the last evening, at Oudh 1590. Ambience wise, this was the best - they give you a feel of Nawabi dining, Lucknow style, complete with brass service, waiters in embroidered sherwani  and thumri on the music system...


Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

It is nice to know that you got a chance to enjoy various delicacies and good weather simultaneously.

Talking about admissions, I recently watched 'Ramdhanu', a Bengali movie that highlights much of what you wrote. Here is the link (hope it is still working)- http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2fs2le.

And I wish you all the best for a less-exhausting and hassle-free session of admissions to your classes this year.

For your next post, I wish to read some of your stories (especially in Bengali) or any prose or article that you might have written in Bengali.

With regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you for the comment, Saikat. And for the good wishes.

As for my stories and suchlike, I'd rather not post them here. I can send you some of them directly by email if you like.

Take care, and best wishes.