Thursday, May 15, 2003

East and West

West is a diadem
And the east is east

God made the world a beautiful little place and touched it fine, so the books say. Men segregated its lands and marked them east and west. The collective colours of one part of the world remained distinct from the other, ever since. Ergo, if they ooze jingoism in the America's in volumes, our family ties mean the world for us Indian's and if the English are mannered, many in the east would swear by their culture. Of all the distinctions our blue little planet has withstood over the millennia, perhaps the most imperious has been the gulf that exists betwixt east and the west.

As a child, my first Universal truth, I got to learn at the school went on like 'The sun rises in the east and sets in the west'. It is only now after 22 summers of my being, I realize that albeit the hot ball of gases shines at the orient in the first instance each day, it is really the occident that glitters in its yellow in the yonder. Tis true! Both the worlds have remained an object of surprise and fascination for each other, the west for the east for its uncanny assortment of power, pelf and privilege; and the east for the west for its share of mysticism and its timeless splendour.

Still the Occident stands pampered than its distant cousin, surely because of a host of things. We in the east long for the originality that the west exudes in lots. Not for nothing, our bowels yearn for thing with a blurred tag, vouchsafing its western origin. There is a certain genuineness for life, of them, that makes them an effervescent horde; a veracity of thought what makes us emulate them, to the knuckles.

Spiritual east, so rightly titled, still a thug will blow the smoke of his cigarette onto your kisser over here and if I am a gentleman and want to remain one, I shall not complain, even a tad. Why every third soul in the Orient reveries to live over the other side of the Atlantic, no big brownies for this one! There is a sheenity of etiquettes about them, which makes us gaze at their ways and of course unlike us, a sheer commitment for time and tide, a paltry entity for us, that makes us...the Orientalists, both love and envy them.

Influences apart, remember our highest lawmakers overawed and nearly stampeding to touch an alien president, more fabled for his flirtations. Don't we preen, Indian's don't blindly follow the west...yet we jilted and dumped, so profoundly and willingly our good old paranthas for pizzas, that tingling chat for chowmein and those mithaie's of ours for Macdonald's.. Maa is passe and Mom is a la mode. We got our bhindi swapped for the schizophrenic tattoos. We still do not imitate. How we lie to our own selves. Poor us!

The monies, they say, rest in the west. Accoutrements and advancements too. No wonder the Nobels jump their way like red carrots, and we look at them with awe, not again for nothing. I don't condone any of west's immoralities, however I shall be compelled to say the least. The worst aspect about them, so the critiques gush, is their licentiousness. We seem to have a terrible problem with them kissing in the public, don't we shit in the open so often. They tend to be obscene, how deprave we ourselves are. Pompous them and debauch us. The paradox of our times in history is that they have taller buildings and we have shorter tempers; wider free ways over there and narrower view points over here, as someone rightly put it. They have split the atom; we have not been able to do it with our prejudice. We wriggle at them for their freakishness, at their guys and gals flaunting their curves, how easily we show-off our arrogance and egos. Gosh! Where does the twine go and what holds good, all of us, probably know.

However, in the vista, the mystic Orient proffers something inscrutable that continues to baffle the occident, interminably. Where else but for the east would people idolize a film star and worship her in a temple. Communism, finding its way out in much of the history text the world over, holds well as democracy over here. Esoteric east...a place where elder's feet are touched and venerated by their young, a mass where in people will shot a smile at you, if you splash colour onto their faces. West... Are you listening?

Champions of Democracy, are you and we remain the mankind's largest one! This is a peculiar glade of earth where dictator's coup in two odd states, their own and their neighbours, of its media in the latter and still smile tall. Horizons, where in an intransigent and an intrepid array of warriors dare stare in the eyes of the only super power in the world. A veritable landscape where a frail soul, challenged the might of a great empire, on which the sun never set and drove them all bonkers.

West indeed boasts of more experts but don't we have more solutions. They have added years to life and we have learnt to add life to years. They have been all the way to moon and back, but unlike us, have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We aren't a damned lot, after all. Are we not! All Holinesses... Christ, Muhammad, Moses, Abraham were born and all lie reposing here in the east! Where holiest of the holy abodes stand and kiss the skies. Here faith and relations still mean something, unlike the west.

Occult orient, the waters, if not clean, are pure enough to atone a guilty's guilt. The airs, if not pure, have an aura of serendipity about them that makes the greatest Beatle a part of it. Nothing here, still an opulence and a grandeur makes us stand in tow with the west, that makes both the worlds feel so close, yet so far.

Gods sit, I muse often...and
They whisper in hissed tunes
A talk so unbeknown!
Amongst their creation
What rules the roost

Notes, exchanges and rattling
Still leaves them drivel

The Gods gasp and think
And bless at last

God bless you all

And the argument continues, there are niceties and oddities on both the sides of the olive. Dribs and drabs here and dunes and ditches there. Lets inundate us with what's good of both the world's, junk with the incorrigible. Lets live in a real world...not in the east or a west.

Sameer Bhat

Monday, May 12, 2003

Knowledge of Learning

As an ancient civilization, India knew sciences & under stood art eons ago. It could boast of some of the earliest universities and education system, unknown to mankind till that time when much of the world lived in bushes. Some of the finest minds and an array of exceptionally gifted litterateurs were distinctly Indians. Alas! Not now. In the race to a more scientific, learned & logical age, India stood still, moving by small steps when the world at large galloped like spotted gazelles, never to look back. India was left behind in something very cardinal ~ Education.

Motley of factors compound to reason this fallacy. Fundamentally, flaws exist in our school education, our higher education & the way we actually impart education. Government & bureaucracy are equally hand - in - glove.

The super-structure of a great nation is laid on its school benches. The state of Government schools in India, where most of the nation is educated, is simply put abysmal. A paltry pass, percent age of 26. Mere 100 teaching days in a year, poorly trained teachers, overcrowded .classes or classes with no benches at all (to lay foundation of a nation on). These are real stats. The dropout rate is quite high. In India, the schooling levels can get alarmingly low. Parents are dissuaded in sending their wards to school because schools go up to a certain grade & are often run-down. Although elementary education is largely free, hidden costs are many. Students abhor schools because there is no demarcation between punishment & discipline. No matter 35 million children in the age-group 6-10 are not in schools.

Apart from keeping the fees stagnant at 50 cents a month for close to fifty year, Govts in near succession have lacked a clear national educational policy. Red tape is too involved (incidentally their own children study in public schools or aboard & often cites poverty as a hurdle to illiteracy. Not with standing the fact that even the poorest of parents are keen to have their children educated. It is another matter that various barriers keep them at bay. The rot lies in the administrative inefficiency & indifference. For a change, why not grant some efficient professionals a space in our education vast lands. A degree of accountability & hard work coupled with greater results is expected of them.

A recent survey revealed that north Indian parents spend an average of little over 318 Rs/year on education expenses such as fees, basic books, slates et al to send a child to a govt. primary school. This is a major financial burden, especially for poor families with several children of ­ school-going age. The government of land would do its inhabitants a great peace of favor by increasing the level of expenditure on education from approximately 3% of GNP to 8% of GNP. More than the PM's annual musings, India needs concrete steps on the all important education front.

Another problem area is language. The constitution of India recognizes, 15 national languages but there are 227 recognized mother tongues plus dialectical variations. Regional and national language apart, the introduction of English as sort of a neutral national language is need of the hour. We can well expect an increased number of students willing to pursue higher education, as they will be well conversant with the language of science & technology. English long ceased to smack of colonialism; it is a global language now. It merits to be taught from class 1 in government schools.

A major obstacle is the allocation of funds that are available. In the past, institutions of higher learning have been supported, at the expense of primary schools, with the intention of developing homegrown talent. In effect, other countries like US, the UK etc siphon off computer software writers & engineers, leaving India to foot the education bills. Meanwhile primary schools are left wanting & those village schools, which exist, are especially handicapped with infrastructure. It never occurs to the establishment to end the subsidies to the universities, privatize higher education & let the Govt schools flourish, let the tiny classrooms have chalks & benches. Let a great nation be raised.

Sameer Bhat