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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Mahabharata

                      (manuscript illustration of the battle of Kurukshetra)

“It strengthens the soul and drives home, as nothing else does, the vanity of ambition and the evil and futility … learnt at the mother’s knee with reverence and love, it has inspired great men to heroic deeds as well as enabled the humble to face their trials with fortitude and faith … the Mahabharata discloses a rich civilization and a highly evolved society, which though of an older world, strangely resembles the India of our own time, with the same values and ideals… the advent of the kali age is marked by many breaches of these conventions in the Kurukshetra battle, on account of the bitterness of conflict, frustration and bereavements. Some of the most impressive passages in the epic centre around these breaches of dharma.” (Chakravarti Rajagopalachari)

I had promised myself to re-read our greatest epic thoroughly sometime in middle age, and I have just done it.

I was told the core story (the civil war among the Kuru-Pandava cousins of Hastinapur) very ably by my elders in childhood, and had thereafter read it avidly first in comic book form (Amar Chitra Katha), then in a school Bengali textbook, then went on to read Rajshekhar Basu’s very erudite and competent summary before I went to college. Later I also read Kashiram Das’ famed Bengali version, Kaliprasanna Sinha’s magnum opus, as well as more than one English translation, including parts of the multi-volume ‘transcreation’ by Professor P. Lal. Besides, I have sampled several versions of the Bhagavad Gita in Bangla, Hindi, and English (picking up a bit of Sanskrit, too, along the way). I watched B.R. Chopra’s highly successful serialization on TV in 1988-90, too. So the book has been with me all through. But it is more than 20 years since I went through the whole epic at one go. Meanwhile I have lived out the larger part of my life, and I think I should make my own judgment of its worth in the light of whatever little experience of life I have personally gained so far.

1.      It is certainly, by virtue of its age, length and complexity (Amartya Sen has noted that it is many times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined), one of the most important and interesting books ever written.
2.      It has influenced – and continues to influence – Indians both great and small through the ages, from the names we give to our children to the festivals we celebrate to the customs (even the crude and silly ones) or lokachaar we (at least all of us who are nominally Hindu) follow to this day, in more ways than we are conscious of.
3.      It deserves to be familiar to a far wider audience than it currently is (so Prince Dara Shukoh thought, and therefore had it translated into Persian), and it is a very great pity that most ‘educated’ Indians currently below 30 probably cannot tell the story coherently even in outline. That is indeed a very major and sinister break in our cultural continuity. I am convinced no one can be truly ‘Indian’ without knowing about it, and even to criticize many things that it says one must know it with some degree of thoroughness.
4.      Its historical origins are lost in antique myth. Though ascribed wholly to Vyasa, it was certainly composed in many parts by many different writers over a period of many centuries, taking a more or less ‘final’ form only in the early Gupta era (4th century CE), although it refers to many historical (if grossly exaggerated-) incidents that probably took place 1000-1500 years ago, at least.
5.      I have read it essentially as a great work of literature (in the grandest sense of the word, of course) rather than as a ‘holy’ book whose every word is sacred and unchallengeable. All my comments must be understood to have been made from that standpoint – without assuming that I am being glibly and ignorantly cynical in an effort to be fashionably modern.
6.      If historically the Ramayana is about the great clash of the Aryans (bearers of sanatan dharma) with the indigenous non-Aryans (‘rakshashas/dasyus’) and the total defeat of the latter, the Mahabharata is about how, after they had spread all over India, these Aryans (by now having reluctantly but deeply intermingled with the non-Aryans), fought fiercely among themselves to establish the right to empire – long before the first historically-confirmed empire (the Mauryan) came into being.

Now these are the things that I found truly remarkable about the Mahabharata in the course of my latest reading:

1.      It is rife with miracles. People got back their lost youth, lived for thousands of years, could change their material forms at will, a woman could get back her virginity after delivering a baby, children could be produced in all sorts of containers, even earthen pitchers, so you didn’t really need a human uterus, the divinely-graced could travel at will between different worlds, many people changed their sex as it suited their convenience (or when they were cursed), even gods could be defeated and humiliated by sufficiently powerful men, and the greatest warriors wielded weapons which have never been remotely equalled in historical time before the 20th century CE (hydrogen bombs, neutron bombs, poison gas, machine guns, bomber aircraft, long-distance missiles). Which indicates that the people of ancient times were possessed of the most vaulting imaginations or very, very advanced technology (remember Arthur Clarke declaring that any sufficiently advanced technology seems at first like magic)! Being familiar with both the science and the science fiction of the 20th century, I incline to think that the truth was an admixture of both: at least, the ancients had much more sophisticated technology at their disposal than most of us moderns, enslaved by a linear view of history, are willing to give them credit for (remember Stonehenge? The Easter Island statues? The Ashokan stainless steel pillar now in Mehrauli, Delhi? The Egyptian mummies? The drainage system of the Indus-valley cities?...)
2.      It is an inexhaustible treasure trove of fantastic stories, often only very tenuously connected to the main plot, but adding immeasurably to the richness of the text. Great authors/actors/playwrights down the ages have mined it for material on which to base their own creative works, from Kalidasa (Abhighnyan Shakuntalam) to Tagore (Gandharir aabedon, Karna-Kunti Shambad) to Samaresh Basu (Shamba) and Shaoli Mitra and Peter Brooke. It is good to see that the tradition continues, in the form of currently popular formats like animated cartoons on TV, but I think much more needs to be done, so that, even if children want to watch only fantasy, they do not have to grow up on a diet of Superman and Spiderman alone. Even something like the Harry Potter series will be far more deeply enjoyed and appreciated by someone who has read this book. Indians don’t know how much India has to offer! And there’s no need for our producers and directors to be hesitant because the Mahabharata is likely to appeal only to Hindus: that is like imagining that Aesop’s fables are interesting only to Europeans, and the Arabian Nights only to Muslims.
3.      There are certain things that it is absolutely obsessed with – worship and aggrandizement of brahmins, sexuality (even the gods and holy men are sex-crazed, and cannot think of any other kind of intercourse with the females of the species), preservation of what they called ‘dharma’, terror of mixed marriages (varnasankara), the ‘need’ for a son which could even justify getting your wife impregnated by another man, the glory of the cow – these motifs occur again and again all through the vast work. Obviously the ‘rules’ were observed mostly in the breach: otherwise the wise men of the era would not have insisted upon them so frantically! I am a male and technically a brahmin myself, and certainly not a celibate, yet at times these obsessions made me faintly sick… much that is warped or weird about Indian society even today can certainly be explained by the way these obsessions have been driven deeply into all our minds (all ‘good’ women simply must ‘belong’ to some man or other like chattel, for example. Even a ‘smart, educated’ girl who imagines herself to be ‘free’ to make her own choices must ultimately only marry and raise children and dress up and gossip and brag about her children’s achievements. If I am a ‘bad’ man among a lot of women because I dared to suggest that they might learn to think differently, I can blame the Mahabharata for it. Attitudes have changed little: witness the double standards vividly portrayed as recently as in Dev D!)
4.      Ordinary folks – always the vast majority of the populace – have no place in the story: it is all about gods, brahmins, sages and kings. Commoners are mentioned only as drudges and slaves or poor artisans, pastoralists and farmers, to be praised or punished according to how well they serve their masters. Female servants, if young and pretty, are merely given away as gifts by the hundreds or thousands to whoever earns their masters’ pleasure.The king regards them patronizingly in good times, and as mere cannon fodder and sources of tax revenue in practice. To think that free India’s founding fathers dared to establish democracy with universal adult franchise in a country like this takes my breath away; that the gigantic ongoing experiment is fraught with flaws does not make me wonder at all!
5.      The ‘good’, defined as those who are supposed follow the dharma meticulously, are frequently shown to be weak, corruptible, devious, dishonest and downright cruel. Yayati cursing his sons for refusing to exchange their youth with his old age, Dushmanta’s wanton abuse of Shakuntala in public long after he had used her to satisfy his lust and got her in the family way, Shantanu’s exploitation of his son’s devotion in order to get the woman he wanted, Drona’s horrible ill-treatment of Ekalavya (essentially because the latter was a beyond-the-pale tribal and had moreover not paid due fees to his ‘guru’), Kunti disowning her eldest son Karna and keeping it a secret right till after his death, which caused him to be undeservingly humiliated lifelong, the Pandavas luring an innocent nishaad (tribal) family to their death in the fire at Varanavat so that people might think they themselves had been killed, the way Indra cheated Karna out of his invulnerable armour, the way the newly-married Draupadi was ‘shared’ among the Pandavas without so much as a by your leave (and later briefly sent to hell for the ‘sin’ of having loved Arjuna – who had actually won her at the swayamvar – a little more than the rest!), Yudhishtir’s utter stupidity in playing the dice and the unspeakable vulgarity of betting away everything, even his wife (only Bhima really protested against the madness of the ‘Dharmaraja’), the inhuman abuse of Draupadi which all the wise old great men including Bhishma and Drona mutely witnessed (because they were in the king’s pay – is it any wonder that in India naukri has always justified any amount of self-abasement and turning a blind eye to every kind of wrong?), and the way Abhimanyu was killed (not the worst horrors of the 20th century world wars can top that one): anyone can make out a longer list, but I think I have made my point. The best of our ancestors were not really good, leave alone great human beings, no matter what awesome technical/military/scholarly/polemical skills they might have posssessed! That is India’s legacy.
6.      Although the brahmin is extolled ad nauseam as the best of men, and although it is true that there are a few examples of brahmins who lived simple, self-controlled lives devoted to learning and prayer, it is also said over and over again that such ideals were never held in wide esteem; on the other hand, there are also examples galore of brahmins who were insatiably greedy and given to sensual vices/weaknesses of every sort, and no less a sage than Vyasa himself says (right after the Ashvamedha yagna) that  brahmins desire nothing more than wealth, and the king cannot acquire greater merit than by giving away wealth to brahmins! That’s our vaunted other-worldliness for you.
7.      The book is full of other self-contradictions. Who is the greater god: Vishnu or Shiva? Is woman on the whole deserving of worship or the vilest contempt? Which is the greater sin: killing your mother or disobeying your father? What is the ‘right’ age for marriage? Does the author sincerely believe that ahimsa is the highest religion? Does one become a brahmin by birth or by virtue of his work and character? Is it good or bad to eat meat and drink liquor? What is stronger, fate (daiva) or character (purushakar)? If the gods and brahmins commit all kinds of heinous and base crimes, why are they said to be better than the rest? – My guess is that the contradictions have crept in because a) different things were written by authors with very different views at different times, b) the authors found the world itself so confusing that they couldn’t feel confident about laying down definitive laws and standards, and c) many different social interest groups fought in the minds of the authors to have their say recorded in the great history of the people. The end result, therefore, is bound to be fraught with contradictions, and only the narrow-minded fanatic will choose to quote bits and pieces from here and there (in favour or in opposition to child marriage, for instance) and try to impose them rigidly upon society as a whole because ‘the immortal gods have said so’. Every man must make up his own mind after giving these issues serious thought, and be willing to tolerate wide differences of opinion, and thereby allow an open, liberal, secular society to flourish. At the same time, society as a whole must allow for some degree of confusion and contradiction to exist along with strong and definite views on many subjects, because that is much healthier than putting all of us in a stifling moral/cultural straitjacket: that is the essential teaching of the Mahabharata. As long as the weakest are not bulldozed by mainstream opinion – that too, has been said every now and then, and when giving us all his famous ‘talisman’, Gandhi, I think, understood the message of the great epic particularly well, even though it is pitched at a rather low key.
8.      Shanti-parva and Anushasan-parva – where the very old and very wise Bhishma gives his parting advice to Yudhisthir on just about every subject under the sun, can, despite much thought-provoking matter, in the end only be called hilarious (and my advance apologies to anyone who might be scandalized by my choice of words). The warning against astrologers and necromancers has, of course, never been heeded in this country. Some of the rules you must follow in order to live a long and healthy life are, of course, sane and sensible enough (don’t stare at the rising and setting sun – we know now why that is very bad for the eyes), but what can you say when you are warned ‘never bathe in the nude’? And why on earth ‘must’ you obey parents and elder brother even when you know them to be evil, and patently wrong? And why mustn’t you give alms to someone who has contracted tuberculosis, or has been bitten by a dog, for heaven’s sake?!
9.      The end is rather sad. ‘Not with a bang but with a whimper’ – that’s the way it happens. The Pandavas grow weary and gradually lose their powers (so does the ‘divine’ Krishna, by the way, and dies in a rather pathetic fashion); world-weariness ultimately persuades them to set off heavenwards (was this the pleasure and glory for whose sake they had fought the greatest war known to mankind?). All but Yudhisthir drop off along the way for one sin or the other, he alone reaches heaven’s gate. Then he has to pass two more ‘tests’ of moral strength and integrity, following which he is joyously reunited with all his loved ones in heaven. It is strange that he alone emerges as the ‘perfect’ character; the same man who had been reviled as weak and vacillating and even a liar by those who loved him most in his lifetime, while far stronger characters are vanquished by their weaknesses! In any case, I think the final moral of the story is a) it is not good to live too long, even with all sorts of miraculous attributes, and b) all things pall, and all things eventually pass, so it is unwise to aspire to live too grandly, especially if that involves hurting the environment and one’s fellow men too much – let all dictators and tycoons take heed!
10.  As for Krishna, all I shall say here (too much has been said by too many already!) is that, despite the almost maniacal emphasis on his divinity throughout (some scholars are of the opinion that the whole work is meant to gradually convince the reader about the divinity of Krishna) is that he does not impress me too highly. In the Mahabharata itself some people accuse him of not really having tried hard enough to prevent the war, because he had already made up his own mind. Besides, he comes across as much less godly than a very shrewd politician using everybody to further his own (often inscrutable-) ends. It is undeniable that he often took recourse to cruel subterfuge and deception to get rid of those he disliked and help his favourites, explaining it all away whenever questioned with the catch-all ‘it was so ordained by fate’. And I simply cannot overlook the fact that he never could convince Arjuna about his duty and the ‘right’ course of action by worldly example and reason alone: he silenced all doubt by miraculous revelation (the vishwarupa). It was largely because of this unresolved doubt in everybody’s mind (except perhaps Bhima’s) that, even after the carnage, no one could be quite sure that the right thing had been done, and so no one could be really happy… if I adore Krishna, it is not the Krishna of the Mahabharata who gets my heart’s devotion, but the loving, naughty, caring, childlike God of the puranas, of Meera and Sri Chaitanya.

[Here are some links that the interested reader can explore:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Letter from an old boy

Below is an email I received from an old boy who had been in my class nearly a decade and a half ago. With his permission, I am reproducing it here just as he wrote it, with only his name withheld. I love to get letters like this, if only because they tell me that I did leave strong memories behind on thoughtful and sensitive minds. The contrast with a lot of people who gushed when they were in my class and have now fallen entirely out of touch could not be starker.

Dear Mr. Chatterjee,

I stumbled upon the story of the monk carrying a wet beauty across the river, in your blog some time ago, and it brought back a dash of memories. Yes, I do follow your blog closely, albeit anonymously (I can almost hear the lusty ‘boo’ that you just sounded out in your head), enjoy doing so as it makes for excellent reading, have often considered writing to you apropos the same, and then shelved the idea. Not least because I feared it might get lost as just one more hosanna sung by yet another awestruck ex-student from your Tendulkaresque fan following. J
But the sudden flashback made me realize that this letter might just turn out differently, given that I was neither one of your favourites nor one of the sycophantic hangers-on (Please do excuse my somewhat uncharitable choice of words. It’s not a blanket verdict.), who were always glued to your table in the Xavier’s library for reasons other than a love for books, and because not all of my memories associated with you drip of milk and honey.
So here goes, dear Sir, the story of a superbly charismatic teacher and his ‘uncommunicative’ student, the way I lived it.

My first memory of you goes back to my early impressionable years in St. Xavier’s (I must have been about 9 or 10 at the time) when the school souvenir was published. It carried an article of yours which ended with a prayer; that the school  be forever spared from ‘Father Time’s ruthless scythe……’; the words have stayed with me for almost 18 years now, and I remember wishing, as a young boy who loved the English language with a rare passion, that one day I grow up to be able to write the way you do. Well, grown up I have, write like you, I can’t, but it has been a worthwhile pursuit all this while and will continue to be so.
I do remember running into you a few times in the library during 5th, 6th and 7th grades, ever so briefly. I loved reading books but the solemnly heavy, disciplined air of the library was a tad overwhelming, not to mention the possibility of ending up on the wrong side of the librarian’s legendary temper. So my visits to the library would be few and far between, more like short, fast reconnaissance missions, probing the place to see if it held a reward commensurate with the risk. I remember the strong smell of cigarettes, the sweet scent of old books, and the fact that while you were in charge, you loved the place with a fierce sense on ownership, as only a true aficionado could. Nevertheless, it was a fortress of sorts and I kept my distance.
And then one day our Physics teacher called in sick and you stepped in to fill the void.  It was brilliant. Because suddenly, paying attention was not painful any more. I sat there, riveted, to words that came out eloquently in a perfectly neutralized accent, without a stutter, woven effortlessly into strands that made all the sense in the world. Physics had never been a bad boy, but that day, it was a walk in the clouds, it was fun, and felt like an old friend. And to think that throughout those 40 minutes, you never felt the need for a piece of chalk or paper. I also realized with some satisfaction that I am not a habitually bad listener, just happen to have choosy ears.
I do not remember if that class had anything to do with it, but I started frequenting the library a bit more after that. And one day, ran into a wall of bullets. I went to return a book a day too late, and while explaining the same to you, ended up saying ‘tomorrow’ instead of ‘yesterday’ without realizing it of course, only to have you snap back with “TOMORROW has not come yet. What are you trying to say?” Sensing trouble, I repeated myself but this time, correctly. Fell flat. “Then why did you say ‘TOMORROW’? Did you or did you not? ” Unsettled, I barely squeaked a reply in the negative when the heavens burst asunder. “Are you trying to say that I am a LIAR? First you come to return a book late and then you have the cheek to call me a LIAR?” Words were flying past my ears now like gunshots and I, quaking in my boots, thought through a haze of shock, surprise and fear, “Is the man out of his mind? I am half his size, am just a pupil with my heart in my mouth here while he is a teacher with all the power in the world to make the rest of my tenure here absolutely miserable. Why on earth would I ever dare to say or suggest anything like that?” Struggling to retain composure, I quickly apologized. That visibly calmed you down, and the onslaught ended with a parting “That should have come in the first place. Keep the book back in its place.”
Once outside, I promised myself, never ever again. Borrowing books was just too dangerous.  It was the most unfortunate experience I had ever had with a teacher other than the time when the Late Rev. Albert Wautier whipped my backside blue (he had caught me and a friend boxing during the recess) and a most forgettable episode involving a trigger-happy, brutal oaf whose name I will not disclose here.
So when the first day of Class X came around and I found myself in 10A, I lost no time in muscling my way to the last bench and promised myself that over the next year I would maintain a kind of discreteness a Mossad agent would be proud of, would never open my mouth unless it was absolutely necessary, would not wear a wrist-watch in class, kill myself before I yawned, keep my nose to the grind and of course, listen like I had never listened before.


The next eight months were just fantastic. I remember waiting eagerly for the English lessons at the start of each day, and even more so for those priceless moments when you would digress slightly and wade into a delightful little anecdote or tell us about the lives of great dictators, painters, scientists, engineers, of warriors, poets and warrior -poets, stories of wealth, tyranny and conquest, about Cortes and Pizarro, Churchill and Himmler, and so on. It helped that you were easily the most charismatic teacher around, had the kind of diction like you do and blissfully for me, during those forty blessed minutes every day, acing exams was put firmly in its place and life was good. My initial apprehensions too faded away over time although I kept my guard up, being the burnt, wary child I was. I did badly want to talk to you after class on many an occasion and get to know you a little better but then there was always that impenetrable crowd of your fans to be dealt with. And I have never been very good at working my way past crowds. Please do not be offended. Some of those who flocked around you were indeed smart, gifted young people who always knew what they were doing. It was the presence of the sycophantic rabble of yes-men that put me off and kept me away. I did realize that I was the one missing out but then it ensured that I became an absolute sponge in class.
Things were no different when the time came for us to collect autographs and say our goodbyes. There was hardly any breathing space around your table and from the back I could hear you complain, “Ami aar parchi naa. Ekta baani-generator hole bhalo hoto. Ghuriye jetaam aar shundor shundor kotha beriye ashto.” I feared that when my turn would eventually arrive you would be at a loss. But then the expected never happens, does it? You almost snatched the diary right out of my hands and your pen sprinted across the page without pausing for so much as a moment.
My schoolbag and with it that diary were stolen that very day but I do remember some of the words that you wrote for me:
“….You were so uncommunicative that I could never really know whether you liked being in my class or not. But I enjoyed having you there and hope you felt the same way…..”
Those words prompted me to go right back and tell you why I had behaved the way I had and more importantly to let you know that the months spent under your tutelage had been nothing short of an absolute delight, a beacon of knowledge and sense amidst a mad scramble for marks and one-upmanship. Understandably, you found it incredible that I had carried all that baggage around for such a long time and as a parting cure, told me the story about the Buddhist Monk who scandalized the wits out of his pupil by carrying the beautiful damsel in distress across the river on his shoulders.

I hope to remain, 
Sincerely yours,

PS: If any portion of this mail, especially where I have used uncharitable language to describe some of my schoolmates, has offended or hurt you in any way, or if the sheer length of it has by now got on your nerves, it's not what I intended and I proffer my sincerest apologies. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Those were the days

I read the following in Amartya Sen’s autobiography at this website: “…much of my childhood was, in fact, spent in Dhaka, and I began my formal education there, at St. Gregory's School. However, I soon moved to Santiniketan, and it was mainly in Tagore's school that my educational attitudes were formed. This was a co-educational school, with many progressive features. The emphasis was on fostering curiosity rather than competitive excellence, and any kind of interest in examination performance and grades was severely discouraged. ("She is quite a serious thinker," I remember one of my teachers telling me about a fellow student, "even though her grades are very good.") Since I was, I have to confess, a reasonably good student, I had to do my best to efface that stigma.”

As the recollection notes, there used to be a time when students who did well in examinations but were basically intellectual duds and mere bookworms were thoroughly despised by teachers (morons could not, obviously, become teachers in those days). To be considered talented, one had not only to have a questioning mind and sharp intelligence, but wide knowledge of lots of things ‘outside the syllabus’.

Sen was in school more than sixty years ago, and I, more than thirty. Sadly, I can identify much more closely with this ‘dinosaur’ than with my own contemporaries, leave alone those who are in school now – barring rare exceptions, the ‘best’ ones among the latter can only be called pathetic: their ignorance, their dullness as well as their complete lack of interest in things cerebral takes my breath away. Forget what they don’t have in the syllabi: most cannot even recall what they ‘learnt’ two years ago, be it history or literature, geography or biology, as I have checked in my own classes a thousand times over (their parents and teachers – and, strangely, future employers – are happy enough with that, as long as they ‘did well’ in their exams by cramming the night before and throwing up on the answerscripts!). I have a friend my father’s age, a civil engineer, who can still quote from both Tagore and Shakespeare – most of today’s newly-minted engineers will think that’s a fairy tale (and most of them can’t even do arithmetic quickly inside their heads, leave alone write sensible essays on any subject under the sun without copy-pasting things downloaded from the net). Yet never before in India’s history have parents and teachers gushed more about how ‘brilliant’ their wards are… Aryabhatta was brilliant, and Satyen Bose was brilliant, and every cretin who gets into Infosys or TCS deserves the same badge too.

What can you do in an age when gizmos and juvenile thrills and eating and dressing up are valued more than knowledge, and marketing is everything?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Writing an essay

The Educational Testing Service under Princeton University (which conducts college- and university level entrance tests like SAT and GRE worldwide) has long believed that asking candidates to write an essay is one of the best ways of judging overall mental ability (vocabulary, grasp of idiom, GK, logical thinking, structured expression, power of persuasion… so many things can be assessed simultaneously). So does the Union Public Service Commission in India (which conducts the entrance tests for the civil services, including the IAS). And so schools still give pupils practice in essay writing, and so do I.
            Over a long tenure of teaching, one thing I have noticed is a very sharp drop in the quality of essays that schoolgoers write. I have documentary proof of this, because I have kept some of the best and worst essays written by boys in one of the best-known ‘English-medium’ schools in my town since the 1970s.

Below is a sample of the worst kind. It was written as homework by a boy in class ten a few years ago.


What does the word ‘raging’ means. Its a practical joke played upon somebody. It means micking and jocking. The word ‘ragging’ is a word of panic to every fresher in medical and enginnering colleges. The custom of ragging is much old but the custom of hurting, injuring someone is a new one.
            Ragging is mainly done by seniors on juniors. Its like showing powers of a senior over juniors. When these torchered juniors become seniors they take the same policy. Most of the ragings do not hurt. But as sometimes risky ragging are also done. It some times affects the body of the person who is torchered, sometimes it causes injuring, even sometimes death. These types of happening are growing day by day. These types of happenings occurs due to personal grudge on somebody.
            To students the word ragging is controvertial. Accroding to seniors ragging is a good practice and according to juniors ragging is a evil practice. One boy in enginnering college had to walk on railing, one had to smoke continuously for two hours. These some times affects the body and causes death too.
            Government have taken initiatives to stop ragging in large scale. Much of it is stopped but some still remain which we come to know from the daily. To me Ragging should stay to such a limit that there exists a brother hood relation among seniors and juniors. There should not exist an evil practice.


The prescribed length of the essay was 350 to 400 words, to be written in 35 minutes. The boy wrote only 239 words, and took nearly an hour to do it. As any literate adult reader can notice, not only is the grasp of language pathetic, but the work is too short, shot through with repetition, self-contradiction and confusion, and basically lacking in content: he knew virtually nothing about the subject, and could hardly think of anything to say.

I keep copies of such work, and read them out to successive classes to correct, comment and mark (because I have found that it is educational: people are far more keen when they are asked to find fault with others’ work than to notice their own). They laugh heartily at first, but it dies down to uneasy titters when I first tell them that most of them write no better than this after eleven years of high-class schooling, and then inform them that this boy, too, has grown up to be an engineer and MBA…