Education scenes

Not too distant in the past, I noted three news items concerning the respectable field of education that came into the limelight from different geographical areas of India.

First story is from a Madhya Pradesh town of Ujjain, dated March 2012. In this scene on the right of the frame is a very agitated, but not very young looking man using his index finger to make a strong point to an older person on the left of the frame. The dialogues were being delivered only by this, not so young person, supposedly a student of Ujjain College. The background is that the student union body elections are being postponed and the professor seems to have taken this decision. The student leaders do not like it. After all it may be a stepping stone for their entry into the world of real politics. They would not allow anyone to mess with or delay their political careers. We can hear the student threatening the professor in a chilling tone, ‘We will tell you what does Gundagargi mean?’, ‘Be ware of the consequences’, ‘We all know what you people are doing in the name of education’. Many beeps had to be inserted in his long dialogue sequence to self-censor the sound bytes. It was a very lengthy single shot in which the so called student leader delivered his lines without any hesitation or fumble. Third important person in this scene was standing in the middle of the two main characters and was wearing a police uniform. For some vague reasons he was also wearing a metal ‘riot helmet’. I guess they over-dressed him. His uniform was ill fitting, as it was hanging loose on his body. This guy in the middle did not deliver any dialogue and no visible action was assigned to him too; quite like a C-class ‘junior artistes’ in Hindi films. He only adjusted his pant once by pulling it up. All he did was to shift his look left and right between the professor and the student leader according to the punch in the lines. The scene ended with the leader exiting from the right of the frame, followed by the so called cop.
Next day the perhaps camera could not pickup the thrilling action sequence in time. But promises (read threats) made in the previous unrecorded scene seemed to have come true, behind the camera. 3 professors were beaten up by would be Indian leaders. Camera picked up action when the professor was already unconscious and was being lifted into an ambulance. He was declared dead after that. The professor who was a part of ‘scene one’ placed on left of the camera is now confined to wheel chair due to severe real beatings.

In the reversal of the roles, the setting moves to a very small school in small village in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir. Some very young children with pink cheeks and runny noses are happily running around in the school compound. Walls of the school have been raised higher to keep the terrorist’s bullets away. But no one can predict a known teacher to do the unexpected. A teacher comes calmly out of the laboratory with a bottle in his hand and started spraying some liquid on the young ones. It may have taken a few moments for the kids to realize that the liquid had actually started burning them. Only then they all decided to pick up their bags and run! In the beginning a 6 year old boy got the liquid on his face, while others got their backs and clothes burnt. A girl of 9th standard, carried a boy for 7 km on her back to reach him home! The teacher had been missing from the scene.

DAV Girl’s College, New Delhi. A cell phone rings in the classroom; a student picks it up. A teacher feels very let down. The girl student gets a tight slap for using a cell phone in the class. The college goes on strike. The girls go on flash strike and protest by clapping and singing slogans. A girl jumps the high gate to enter in principal’s home, another one is trying to break the gate by banging it with a stone.

Do these 3 episodes educate us in any way? It can be hazardous guessing game for me. But generally I would imagine that however irresponsible and disrespectful students may get, the teacher is a teacher. He or she still holds the responsibility of retaining their mental balance and composure.

Very idealistic sure, and should be so too, but what about the teacher spraying acid on his little students! What about that teacher?
Any ideas, anyone?

That’s growth

When the economic reforms started in India, everyone was very skeptic. After a few years down, it seemed that the benefits were not reaching its people at the grass root level – to the poor or in the villages. But India stuck to its reform-guns (like Bofors?), inspite of the government at the center changing hands for a full 5-year term from Congress to the BJP. Now that the power is back with Congress, the ‘reform train’ has covered a lot many areas of Indian economy. Even during BJP’s tenure there was no let up in this process.
Since I live in Mumbai, the largest metropolis of this country, I am not able to notice the changes in people’s life style in the rural areas. But what I can talk about are the scenes that I watch from my own window. Presently ‘hero’ of all the scenes is the ubiquitous ‘cell phone’ – basically meant for the higher to rich class. When cell phone was launched it costed Rs.16/- per minute to make or receive a call.
Let me warn you that some of these scenes may be strange, weird or even exciting. But they will amply prove that the lowest wrung of society is now beginning to get the benefits of things which even our middle class could not afford.
Scene:1: I am in my bedroom balcony watching the activities on the road. There is lot of traffic here. Gone are the days when it was a peaceful dead-end. Right in front across the road, Rakesh, our garbage collector (Kachrawalla) is sorting out the plastic and other useful items from the garbage collected from our and nearby buildings. He has the company of dogs, crows and a few cats. Rakesh is very young. We have seen him growing up. Earlier his mother used to do this work; now he does.
Well, Rakesh was hidden behind a few large red and blue plastic buckets full of garbage. Suddenly he lifted his head and slowly stood up. What do I notice? He is looking round while talking on a cell phone! He kept gesturing, which perhaps meant that he was trying to find someone. But that’s not the point. He is just about 20, he is a Kachrawalla and he has got cell phone!
Scene:2: This scene is also from the same film. In this case the actor is different. This time it is Rakesh’s young wife who is sweeping the compound. Her one hand has the broom, other hand is behind supporting her back, as Jamadars do. But her head is completely bent towards her left shoulder nearly touching her ear. You want to know why this awkward pose? Well if she does not do it, her cell phone will fall off. This was the most elating surprise for me to see a Jamadarni sweeping and chatting away on a cell phone clutched between her shoulder and ear.
Scene:3: I am on my way to work in an auto-Rickshaw. A phone rings, while I fiddle into my bag, the Rickshaw driver pulls up to side of the road and whips out his cell. After he is done he says sorry to me and we moved off as my lower jaw fell.
Scene:4: Walking through a lane in Lokhandwala, I notice a vegetable vendor from UP, with a large basket on his head. He is very strong and well fed. After all he has to carry nearly 20 Kg of vegetables, selling from flat to flat. I hear a ring tone of ‘Om Jai Jagdish’. He puts the basket down and rescues a cell phone from under the ‘Tarazu’ and speaks,”arre, hum najike pahunch gaye hain. Bus 5 minute main aate hain….. haan haan Karela leke aaye hain. Jaban diya tha na apko.”
Well in our land of Gods, ‘Bhagwan Ke Ghar Der Hai Andher Nahin’, even for economic reforms. Take care.

When the economic reforms started in India, everyone was very skeptic. After a few years down, it seemed that the benefits were not reaching its people at the grass root level – to the poor or in the villages. But India stuck to its reform-guns (like Bofors?), inspite of the government at the center changing hands for a full 5-year term from Congress to the BJP. Now that the power is back with Congress, the ‘reform train’ has covered a lot many areas of Indian economy. Even during BJP’s tenure there was no let up in this process.
Since I live in Mumbai, the largest metropolis of this country, I am not able to notice the changes in people’s life style in the rural areas. But what I can talk about are the scenes that I watch from my own window. Presently ‘hero’ of all the scenes is the ubiquitous ‘cell phone’ – basically meant for the higher to rich class. When cell phone was launched it costed Rs.16/- per minute to make or receive a call.
Let me warn you that some of these scenes may be strange, weird or even exciting. But they will amply prove that the lowest wrung of society is now beginning to get the benefits of things which even our middle class could not afford.
Scene:1: I am in my bedroom balcony watching the activities on the road. There is lot of traffic here. Gone are the days when it was a peaceful dead-end. Right in front across the road, Rakesh, our garbage collector (Kachrawalla) is sorting out the plastic and other useful items from the garbage collected from our and nearby buildings. He has the company of dogs, crows and a few cats. Rakesh is very young. We have seen him growing up. Earlier his mother used to do this work; now he does.
Well, Rakesh was hidden behind a few large red and blue plastic buckets full of garbage. Suddenly he lifted his head and slowly stood up. What do I notice? He is looking round while talking on a cell phone! He kept gesturing, which perhaps meant that he was trying to find someone. But that’s not the point. He is just about 20, he is a Kachrawalla and he has got cell phone!
Scene:2: This scene is also from the same film. In this case the actor is different. This time it is Rakesh’s young wife who is sweeping the compound. Her one hand has the broom, other hand is behind supporting her back, as Jamadars do. But her head is completely bent towards her left shoulder nearly touching her ear. You want to know why this awkward pose? Well if she does not do it, her cell phone will fall off. This was the most elating surprise for me to see a Jamadarni sweeping and chatting away on a cell phone clutched between her shoulder and ear.
Scene:3: I am on my way to work in an auto-Rickshaw. A phone rings, while I fiddle into my bag, the Rickshaw driver pulls up to side of the road and whips out his cell. After he is done he says sorry to me and we moved off as my lower jaw fell.
Scene:4: Walking through a lane in Lokhandwala, I notice a vegetable vendor from UP, with a large basket on his head. He is very strong and well fed. After all he has to carry nearly 20 Kg of vegetables, selling from flat to flat. I hear a ‘ring tone’ of ‘Om Jai Jagdish’. He puts the basket down and rescues a cell phone from under the ‘Tarazu’ and speaks, “arre, hum najikai pahunch gaye hain. Bus 5 minute main aavat hain….. haan haan Karela leke aaye hain. Jaban diya tha na apko.”
Well in our land of Gods, ‘Bhagwan Ke Ghar Mein Der Hai Andher Nahin’, even for economic reforms. Take care.

Depressing.. ?

After a very long time we are renovating our home. It must be a good 7-8 year back when we went through the motions of spending money on painting and other usual wear and tear jobs. I had enough spare money then, for using it on such necessary luxuries…
Somehow the winds changed direction, as they always do; the flow of money got restricted and an unusually dense fog of lull enveloped my professional life. A string of projects that were lined up to roll any day- did not roll at all. In India we like blame the poor distant planets. So, for a true Indian the planets seemed to have turned their favorable face away. All this had started after my main employers downed their shutters under the demonic burden of their bad financial situation. For the next 18 months I was very busy doing some of my most high profile and better paying jobs. I did some serious ‘audio’ work for television in the United States and India. Then I was picked up and appointed as ‘general manager’ in the office of a high profile film maker.
Soon I had another offer from a ‘distance learning’ company. Here I was working in a very high technology area. This job gave me experiences of using VSAT and software used for online education. I enjoyed this job the most, since I have been looking to get away from the glaring lights of media related environment. Perhaps enjoying the work here seemed to have made the company run aground. I said ‘seemed to have’. I am a die-hard optimist. If I have to take cues from twists and turns of my life, then a massive surprise is waiting for me in the wings, about which I have no idea.
Well today I am in a mood of counting the chickens that did not hatch. It’s rather amusing to count that in last five years of my professional life how many high profile and exciting projects surfaced, but never swam ashore. So many films were conceived but never delivered; they remained on the idea and project levels only. The most important one was ‘Singularity’. It was a Hollywood film, being directed Oscar nominated Roland Joffe with Brandon Fraser and our own Aishvarya Rai. I had done documentaries with foreign teams, cinematographers and directors. But I was exited that this time I was going to experience the making of a pure Hollywood cinema, for the first time. I was on cloud nine; but treading cautiously. A very close old friend of mine was involved in the film as an executive. I visited him often, gave him my CV, kept in touch on phone, went to his office and read the script of the film twice over. I had asked to be a part of the direction team at any capacity. If there were going to be 12 assistants I was ready to be the twelfth. Desperately yours, but I was dying to be exposed to the experience of ‘Singularity’. I wanted to see how is it done in Hollywood, how does everyone gets ready, actors are given lines, makeup tested, lighting and sound levels checked, each shot being taken… After all Roland Joffe was going to be in Mumbai next week and he was to meet and interview the direction team. That next week hasn’t arrived for the past 2 years. As per the last update this project has been re-announced for Jan 2007.
Next in line was a friend of mine actor/director Dolly Jena, who was to shoot a film in Goa. It was a period film depicting Portuguese times. I was to be her associate on this project. I read her script too many times over and got involved in production process. Film was to roll in six months, so we were busy getting hotels rates and identifying old houses for shooting. The period of six months has over shot by three years.
Among all these dream productions, three films managed to break through and reach a stage of getting themselves (a) married print. And that’s where they too stopped. I was involved in them in various capacities like script, direction, production design and sound. Presently they all are far from getting a commercial release. Coincidently, my dues from all these films are also awaiting release.
Most interesting part of this long ‘touch and go’ sequence was when an unknown person phoned me to ask, if I would make a children’s film for him. ‘Of course’ was the best answer I could think of. He said he had seen my name on the IDPA festival brochure. That’s it! Soon a contract was signed on his official letterhead and a cheque equivalent to $20, was handed over to me. It thought things have got serious this time. I called up a scriptwriter, organized our meetings and started the work briskly. Producer was in a hurry. I struggled and finally handed over a fairly good version of hand written script to him in two weeks. The Gentleman went back to his hometown to organize adequate funds. After that he never made a call to me or sent any note. No not even to ask for the refund of his money. None of his telephones worked. I wonder why was he in hurry to lose his money on us if he had to do a Harry Houdini.
I was never approached by cheats. There was no fake person among all these. All of them had been well meaning people and serious filmmakers. They just did not have it in them, to finally swing it. Whenever someone has asked, ‘so what are you doing these days?’ I have formatted a humorous answer for this situation, ‘only serious job that I have been doing for years; is looking for it!’
Under these unavoidable circumstances, I decided to take a relaxing stance, instead of usual stance of struggling and worrying. I thought of changing gear as I step into the next stage of age in my life. I started reading and I started writing. I would never have read and written, so much satisfying and meaningful stuff, if I had been busy making small money from the mundane motions of making movies. Of course many do not agree. But I really feel very satisfied with my growth as a writer. I am not bothered if it has not been financially rewarding. This was the right time for me to start using my time doing un-ordinary things, things that gave me a chance of making my immortality a little longer. This would be the best thing to come out from all this nothingness.

Conversations

A few days back an old tree in the Jogging Park had fallen due to heavy rains. Luckily it fell outwards, away from the walking track and also it did not stop the traffic on the narrow road on the other side. Mr. Sharma who is regular in that park saw the fallen tree and felt bad. The sky in that area had opened up. During the walk he met Mr. Shah, who is in charge of the maintenance of the garden.

Mr. Sharma: Mr. Shah what do you want to do with this fallen tree? I am sure if lifted up it would survive.
Mr. Shah: Yes it will. I have asked the municipal authorities about it. But they said it is an engineering job, because a large crane will be required to lift it and also it will have to be given adequate supports. It may take some time.
Mr. Sharma: Oh, but that’s fine.

10 days later Mr. Sharma entered the park and found that the tree bark has been chopped off and entire wood has been taken away. Mr. Sharma felt the smooth sawed off cut of the fallen tree. He felt a little surprised that in place of replanting the tree has been disposed off. Just then Mr. Shah arrived.

Mr. Sharma: Sir what happened? This tree was to be replanted!
Mr. Shah: Yes, but in my absence the municipal people came and took it away.
Mr. Sharma: Oh!
Mr. Shah: If they had to do what was promised then they would be spending from their resources to save it; but by taking away the wood it becomes a source of resource for them.
Mr. Sharma: (looks blankly)
Mr. Shah: It was good wood. They must have sold it.
Mr. Sharma: What can we do now!
Mr. Shah: I am finding out from some agriculturists and horticulturists to replant this 3 ft stub now. I will shift it a bit and it will grow back.
Mr. Sharma: I know of a banyan fallen tree in Pune which was 100 ft tall and 90 years old. But some how many right agencies came together, chopped of extra weight of the tree and lifted it back into its large hole of its roots.
Mr. Shah: Oh it was a banyan tree?
Mr. Sharma: Yes. That tree was older than Prabhat Studios of V. Shantaram!
Mr. Shah: I know of three biggest banyan trees in India and have seen them all.
Mr. Sharma: Is one of them at the theosophical society at the Tamil Nadu?
Mr. Shah: Yes that is the biggest one. Many years back in a cyclone many of its parts got uprooted. But the authorities contacted the competent scientists, made the funds available and replanted all of them.
Mr. Sharma: Oh I thought if a banyan tree is allowed to grow more trees from its hanging roots then it is not possible for it to fall.
Mr. Shah: Yes, but perhaps that was a very big cyclone. Any way the second big tree is in Gujarat called Kabir Wad, because it is said that Kabir had visited that area sometime. And the third one is in botanical gardens, Kolkata.
Mr. Sharma: The biggest banyan tree that I have seen is in Khusro Bagh at Allahabad. It was in an area of 500 meter radius. And at that stage too it was not known which one was the original tree.
Mr. Shah: The tree In Tamil Nadu is in more than 10 km area.
Mr. Sharma: Oops that’s huge!
Mr. Shah: Yes it is.
Mr. Sharma: I was quite fond of this tree.
Mr. Shah: Really? Many times I hug the trees. It gives me great satisfaction.
Mr. Sharma: I too do it, but for me that is a spiritual experience. During a spiritual camp, we were given this exercise of hugging a tree and asking the tree ‘how was it feeling?’ It is quite a weird experience.
Mr. Shah: I am sure.
Mr. Sharma: OK Mr. Shah, I will carry on with my walk.
Mr. Shah: Nice talking to you.
Mr. Sharma: Same here sir.