I miss the evenings…Roj shaam atee hai per waisee nahin…

Since childhood evenings have been my favourite part of the day. Always waited eagerly for the clock to strike 5 pm so that one could step out into the carefree world of games played in the open fields (not on computer screens). The parks/ grounds used to be full of people of all ages, playing, walking, or just sitting and talking. Fathers/ husbands used to be back at home well before the dark those days. ‘Woh bhi kya din they’, The good times, when moms believed that playing in the fields was good for growth of the child; boosted his immunity. No one was worried about germs and viruses catching on. Women folk used to use the evening time to exchange ideas/ recipes. Love flourished, relationships developed in parks, by the lake sides or under a tree. Later part of the evening was always free for socialising.

mulaakatein

As one grew up and joined the working class, the culture changed. The MNCs came to the country and the tutorial classes too came into fashion. The middle aged spent more and more time behind the workstations in the office. Fathers/ husbands hardly came back home from office before night fall. Stress could be smelt and felt in the air. I still did not give up on my love of evenings and went for long walks, but the environment had changed. The parks had the presence of only elders and toddlers (some accompanied by their moms). The grownup kids started spending evenings in the AC environment of the coaching classes. The lovers were nowhere to be seen in the parks or by lake sides. The phones and the internet became the media for socialising and playing games. The love now took the help of social media and phones to develop and flourish. Deceit joined in with fake IDs being used at times. TV serials and News channels took over the socialising time. An era of NEWS and fake news started. We could not decide whether internet connected or separated people.

Then came 2020 and the by accompanied by infamous Ms Corona and turned the world upside down. Everyone got locked down inside homes, Grand parents and kids forgot the parks. Husbands/ fathers who barely reached homes by midnight started working from home. Social media not only emerged as the sole saviour of lovers, students but also became the only means for housewives to exchange ideas and recipes. The evening comes daily at the appointed time but hardly anyone has time for it. The fear of Corona coming in contact outside has more or less, stalled all movements outside. The NEWS channels are not leaving any stone unturned to add fuel to fire and paint Corona scarier than actually it is. I am sure, like me, many others have stopped tuning into the News channels.

I am fortunate, since I reside in a large campus having open spaces, I still get to go for my evening walks, but the roads are empty and the parks vacant, no smiles on the faces of rare people who walk past (all faces covered under masks). Yes, I miss the long drives and the coffee dates (with my wife off course) which we often went for. The air is cleaners now but loaded with stress and fear.

“Ab to chup chaap shaam atee hai….

Pehle chidyon ke shor hote they” Mohd Alvi

(The evenings which used to be so lively have suddenly gone quiet) In the time of this COVID pandemic when negative is what everyone is wanting to be, I wish to remain positive and I am hopeful…..

“Woh shaam phir laut ker ayegee,

Khusbu phir hawaaon mein chaayege,

Phir chehron per Muskaan wapas ayegee,

Mohabbat phir jheel kinaare dera lagayegee”

(The evenings will be back soon)

What’s in a cup of tea???

Tea is an essential part of our lives, part of all our rituals, functions, office conferences and whatever one can think of . All the major decisions, national, international or at home are taken over a cup of tea. From ‘Mummy ne Teri mujhe Chai per bulaya hai to come let’s have tea to Chai per charcha( tete-a-tete over tea), tea is there for all occasions (though there may be ‘Many a slip between the cup and the lip’). From early morning till one hits the bed at night, tea is there playing the ‘filler, rejuvenator’ role in it’s different flavours. Some can’t leave the bed in the morning without a cup of tea, while for others it is the instant medication for headache or works as a stress buster, providing the just needed break from the work station. It serves as a stimulant, when everything else seems to be failing, igniting the mind when required the most, during decision making. Tea is not bound by region, season or religion. “It is loved in all regions of the world and consumed in all seasons and weather conditions. It will not be wrong to say that Tea is one common factor which unites the world. Many a friendships, relationships have flourished over a cup of tea. Meeting over a cup of tea still remains the best way to ‘break the ice’.Unlike wine or beer, it can be indulged in anywhere, anytime.

tea-new

There are so many flavours and styles of brewing ; what one likes may not be someone else’s cup of tea. Everyone has their own favourite type (black, green, with milk, peppermint, spicy and so on) and like it brewed their own way. A cup of tea is what the mind and body crave for and if not brewed to perfection can just mar the mood and spoil the day. The aroma released as hot water is poured over tea leaves is just awesome and refreshes the mood and sets the mind on fire.

I have been a fan of tea since a very young age and have had the good fortune of travelling through best of the tea gardens located in the North East and southern regions of the country. The variety available is mind boggling, white, black, green and what not . After trying different flavours and types, I finally decided that simple plain black, brewed my way, was my cup of tea.

After a long period of hit and trial I found my perfect way of brewing the tea . Hot water (not boiling, just short of it) poured over tea leaves (tea bag) and let it brew for two minutes. I do not like too tea too hot or cold ; just about hot tastes the best for me, so I let it rest in the cup for about five minutes before taking a sip. The crockery used too plays a major role in adding the right flavour and the taste. Porcelain is the best for me, preferring a colourful cup in the morning to an elegant white bone china (maybe gold rimmed) in the office. Some prefer it in the “Desi Kulhad” (Baked clay cup) which adds it’s own aroma to tea and now there are Tea joints serving baked tea too.

tandoori chai

My day starts and ends with a cup of black tea. A hot cup of tea works as a stimulant in the morning and when taken before hitting the bed helps in releasing all the stress accumulated over the day; certainly works for me.

“Friends, to enjoy tea, brew it your own way, do not leave it to others (whenever you can help it)”

Separated by Corona…. United by Love (Helped by Internet)

Corona has forced the biggest lockdown ever on the normal activities the world over. The lockdown has brought families together and helping people to re-discover the ‘spark’ in the relationships which had gone missing kind courtesy the ever so busy life most of us had so got used to leading.

Quarrel

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Educating through COVID – 19

COVID – 19 has been spreading like wildfire since it was declared a pandemic by WHO on 30 Jan 20. The virus has equally affected the rich or the poor, developed & underdeveloped countries. The education sector too has been badly affected with all educational institutes / schools remaining closed since last two months, exams have been cancelled and uncertainty prevails about the start of new session.

Though the pandemic has directly affected the conduct of classrooms teaching but it has thrown open doors of opportunity in a change resistant sector, which education has generally been. The situation is forcing an introspection in the sector and adoption of technology as a major aid. Though the schools are adopting various available platforms to impart online education to students, various issues exist, especially in rural/ remote areas, which require deliberations and workable solutions to make digital learning/ teaching more effective.

COVID-19 …. Setting the ‘New Normal’ …..

COVID – 19 has affected the world like nothing else ever had in our lifetime. It is setting ‘New Normal’ in our daily life. Caution has become integral to every action we do. It is like word Corona has been added to the ‘Drop down menu’ of the mind and whenever we set out to do anything the menu drops down and a question is asked “Is what I intend to do going to expose me to ‘Corona virus’ in anyway”? There is a detailed in-house deliberation in the mind and if and only if the answer is ‘No’ then only we go ahead to execute what we intend doing. Such a fear had never affected the human minds before. Mask & sanitiser have become the permanent content of every briefcase and the handbag. Now more than’ Khana Khaaya?’ (‘Had food’) the mothers are heard asking the kids ‘Haath dhoya?’ (Have you washed hands?).

Precaution

My profession gives me the privilege of moving out and interact with people, exercising due precautions, so I admit that I may not be able to fully empathise with people who are experiencing the ‘locked down’ in real sense. My article is based less on my personal experiences and more on experiences of my close family members and friends.

My small family of four is normally split between four places due to our professional and educational commitments/ requirements. Kind courtesy the lockdown, my wife and son are staying alone at Delhi and Chennai respectively. I was a bit lucky as the daughter had come visiting just before the lockdown was announced and is with me as the college remains closed.

Being Single (With no help available)

My son is now managing his life and work from his one room apartment. He has learnt to divide his time between work, wash, cook, eat and rest. The single room functions as the workstation, bedroom and kitchen. Just goes out once a week, face covered, maintaining physical distance to get his supplies from local grocery. He has not felt the need of the ‘Swiggy’ or the ‘Zomato’ to come to his aid. I understand that like him many other single men and women must be similarly managing their lives but in his case the transformation has been so fast, and he has adopted to the new normal so quickly and easily. The young generation has adopted to the changing situation in no time, they are ready to face any adversity.

My wife also, like many other working women, is managing her office work and home single all by herself without any help at hand. Frankly, it is after ages that she has been caught in such a situation and she is managing it well.

Homes are the Safest & the Best

The homes have become the safest place to be in. The offices have shifted to home. The elders, kids, the pets, and the office have learnt to happily co-exist in a two-bedroom flat. The kids are not persisting with demands to go out and play in the park or go to a restaurant. Everyone seems to have understood the need of the hour – precaution (Except some men who were badly missing ‘The bottle’ and could not control the urge as soon the restriction was lifted).

My salutations to the ladies specially the ‘working mothers’ who are juggling the role of mother, wife, home maker and a professional within the four walls of the home without relief and still managing to smile.

Working mothers

Homes have become the best holiday destination too. It is not just the school/ college going kids in India but also those who had preferred foreign shores for studies/ work have either flown back or are desperate to fly back home.

Re-discovering the Lost Talent

In the absence of the maid, the mothers (in some cases fathers too) are exhibiting the cooking skills and the kids are loving it (hopefully). Many would have realised how much money they unnecessarily wasted in those restaurants when better food could be prepared at home. People are learning to ‘Live with less’. Brilliant recipes are being dished out with ‘Whatever available’. Fear of weight gain has put caution to eating habits too.

Besides cooking many more hidden talents are being re-discovered in each home. ‘Har ghar kuch kehta hai’ or Har insaan mein talent bhara hai’ is being realised. (every home (family) has a story to tell and every man has a hidden talent)

The Malls,Markets,Schools & The Internet

The Malls are closed, Gyms/ parlours shut and the movie halls non- functional; I, for one, am not missing them at all. I do not like too much crowd, do not have much hairs left on the head and was always happy with my ‘Zero Pack’. The E-Commerce is knocking at the door to become the way of life. Netflix and other OTT platforms have replaced the movie halls & TV soap operas with professional ease (Thank God, we have a break from those never-ending soap operas).

Online classes and the webinars have become the style statements of the educational institutes. Internet is connecting the world like it had never done before. The office, education, relationships, and friendships are all dependent on the Internet for survival. Now it should be easier to ‘Date’ two (or more) people in real time, isn’t it?

Survival of the Fittest- Immunity is back in Business

Darwin’s theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’ is coming true. Anyone and everyone who was prepared for ‘A rainy day’ both health and wealth wise has not been affected the way the ones who never bothered to save. Immunity is back in business but, not the type promised by all the packaged food makers who are trying to encash the opportunity provided by the pandemic by labelling every food product as ‘Immunity booster’; It is the ‘Stamina’ fuelled by the savings & good mental/ physical health which will take one through; provide the immunity. Optimal utilisation of available resources and surviving with minimum is the new norm for survival.

Immunity

Moving from ‘Religion to Responsibility’

Heard ‘Sadhguru’ speaking on the subject on one the TV channels. India, like many other, is a country of believers. Each culture, community, religion propagating their own belief. Two places where there was never a dearth of crowd (Should I say ‘Bhakts’?) was a Religious or a Political congregation. What one gained from there is a matter of debate, but people went there. ‘Corona’ has put an end, may be temporary, to all that. People, in general, have started taking the responsibility of their lives. The ‘GOD’ has come back to where HE belonged, The home. People have (hopefully) realised the true worth of the existing leadership, most of them ran out of ideas (Did most have any?) at the word ‘go’ itself. People are learning to live their lives their own way, within their own means. I hope this becomes ‘The way of life… A New Normal’.

Hugs & Kisses

The hugs and kisses have been put on hold. Though, I am sure, a new ‘sanitised version’ of the hug will soon hit the market but Kiss (outdoors) specially the French version might have to wait. Amir Khan was finding a simple spectacle to be an obstacle in kissing in the ‘Three Idiots’ here we have two masks in between and the fear of passing on the ‘Corona’. One never knows, the French Kiss may end up becoming the most ‘deadliest murder tool’ (Killing me softly with his love…becoming a reality?).

Conclusion

Change is what we all resist; Change is what the pandemic is persisting to bring; The choice is obvious; Change man change.

Reforming the Indian Education System – A Way Ahead….

Indian education system is in dire need of reforms. Equal opportunities need to be provided, weight from mind & shoulders of students need to be removed, examination policy needs a thorough review, major up-gradation required in government schools especially in rural areas, caste & community based reservation system definitely needs a re-look, the fee structure being charged in private schools needs to be brought under control, dependency on costly tutorial classes to clear the competitive exams has to be systematically removed, all schools including the ones in rural/ remote areas got to go digital. The list is long, and a thorough deliberation is required before action worthy solutions are found. But one thing is

Edn reforms

for sure, the Education system needs urgent attention of people in power and time is running out.

Pragmatic reform process requires a deliberation by unbiased minds without any political considerations with only the future of students and the nation remaining the focus of attention.

What is required to be done?

Syllabus. The syllabus requires a thorough revision. The weight on the shoulders of students (in the form of school bags) and on the minds (in the form of exams & grades) has been constantly on the increase over past few years. The content of the textbooks must be reduced. The methodology of imparting education must undergo a change. The syllabus must be divided into ‘must learn’ & ‘could learn’ in terms of importance and students be taught and tested accordingly. Important subjects should be covered in class while online data / videos be provided of ‘could know’ topics to students to learn in their own time.

Exams. Our examination system is the cause of maximum stress in the minds of students. There should not be any exams upto class IXth and for class XIth while for class Xth and XIIth only internal exams be conducted by schools. Boards exams conducted centrally by State Education boards and CBSE/ ICSE to be done away with. This will bring in tremendous financial saving for boards as also save time and effort. Teachers & Parents will certainly raise objections against implementation of such a proposal, but a careful analysis will easily establish that the laborious process of conducting exams has not brought in much change in the quality of students being produced. Let us stop ‘force educating’ and shift the onus of learning to the students; anybody who wants to learn will learn and anybody who does not want to, will not learn under any pressure. Instead of tutoring and mentoring few ‘Arjunas’ the schools should look at finding, encouraging, and developing more ‘Eklavyas’. Focus must shift from ‘testing and grading’ to ‘educating and igniting’ the mind.

forced education

Quality of Schools. The difference in quality of education being imparted in private and government schools can be easily made out. Given the present circumstances a student of Government school cannot or will find it very difficult to compete with a private school student in any competitive exams, given that both have not had the benefit of Tutorial classes. The governments must give due importance to education and make requisite funds available to government schools. It is not difficult to bring in a qualitative change, only a will to do is required. The quality of the teacher matters more than anything else. ‘Training of the trainer’ is the sole responsibility of the management and all-out effort must be made towards achieving this. Most of Government schools specially in rural areas are deficient of teachers, this should not be acceptable at any cost; especially when you are dealing with the future of the nation.

Primary Education. A vast divide exists between private schools and the government schools specially the ones in rural/remote areas. Primary education is the base on which depends the height which a student will attain later in life. The child has to be conditioned to think big and this cannot happen in dingy seepage affected classrooms under the guidance of some uninterested teacher. This area requires immediate attention and improvement; teacher deficiency and adhoc arrangements must be done away with.

Equal Opportunities. Governments must ensure that equal opportunities are provided to students from any background in the field of education. The ‘visible divide’ existing between the rich and the poor, city and villages must be removed. I know it is not easy to accomplish but know for sure that it is not impossible. Certain actions like implementation of Right to Education Act have already being taken by the government and require a greater push.

Reservations. Reservation, based on caste, creed, race, income in professional institutes has been a bone of contention since years. Reservation which was started in 1951 as a 10 years package for upliftment of certain class of citizens was very much a need then. But instead of seeing an end, it has gone on and now includes many more classes and castes in its fold with total reservation being 59.5 %. It has seemingly become more of an appeasement tool for all political parties. If reservation was the best method for upliftment of any caste or class, then why it has not succeeded till now in achieving the aim? It only creates further divide among citizens; there are students belonging to so called ‘upper classes’ studying in government schools, having no access to high standard resources being from rural areas or lower income group (not covered under economically backward sections) families and don’t qualify for any reservations too. It is well understood that reservation cannot and should not be abolished in a hurry, it has to be a gradual well thought out process. Reservation based on caste or class has never benefitted anyone, what is required are equal opportunities and a level playing field to compete.

reservation

Governments must undertake the undermentioned measures to provide a level playing field for all to compete.

(a) Free education to all ‘backward’ class and rural students in government schools. Implement Right to Education Act ruthlessly.

(b) Improve the quality of education in government schools.

(c) Ensure subsidised coaching facilities to backward class & rural students in renowned coaching classes in cities.

(d) Open Government run coaching classes for backward class & rural, students. Quality of educators has to be ensured. Students should be selected for these classes based on their performance in schools.

(e) Admissions in all colleges to be based on entrance exams so that only desirous candidates join.

(f) More Poly-technique colleges and facilities for earning professional diplomas be opened. Quality must be ensured in such institutes.

(g) Graduation should not be essential for all Class A jobs. Certain diplomas should also be made eligible. This will reduce the mad rush for college admission to an extent.

(h) Psychological counselling/ conditioning should be made compulsory for all students from VIII standard to build their mental strength and shape them towards a better future.

(j) Once adequate measures to provide level playing field in competitive exams have been institutionalised then gradually the process of reducing reservations should come into effect. A start can be made by raising the ‘cut off’ marks laid down for reserved category students for admissions. Any reserved category seat left vacant due to non-availability of suitable candidates must be offered to general category candidate.

Fee Structure. While it is understood that Government must not interfere in every issue but in matter of education, which is a right of every child, it must. The fee being charged by private schools must be governed by a legislation and they should not be allowed to charge whatever they want, at will. Commercialisation of education should be curbed at all costs.

Digital Connect. Online education is the need of the hour. COVID -19 has forced it on the schools and it is here to stay. While private schools, due to the location and the facilities available can manage but the schools in rural/ remote areas are lagging. These schools must be provided with all possible support to implement e – education otherwise there may develop a great ‘digital divide’ and students from rural/ remote areas are bound to suffer. CBSE and state Education boards should develop and host their own e-education portals for benefit of government school students. The facility can be made available to other schools too on payment. High speed internet facility must be provided to all schools and all areas to help teacher and students connect. The teachers need to be empowered to help them in handling online classes.

Conclusion

Education is the basic pillar on which the society stands. The ‘quality of life’ index of a nation is directly dependent on the education standards of the citizens. This sector cannot be neglected. The school going students may not be voters who affect the outcome of elections but on them depends the future and the quality of future leadership of this great nation. I request the people in power to pay attention and work towards bringing in qualitative changes in the education system and make available high-quality infrastructure and resources to students and teachers.

neglect education

PS: I am not a schoolteacher or an administrator, I am just a parent who has a limited knowledge of management of educational institutes/ schools (having been part of the management of some government run schools). I have had privilege of experiencing school education only till 10th standard (that is the only Board Exam I have faced) beyond that it was more of ‘On the job training’ (I have never been to a college). The views I have expressed are solely personal, part based on my own experiences gained from being a proud father of two children who have gone through the paces of acquiring formal education and from being married to a lady who has been working in the field of education last nearly 26 years with some breaks here and there.

Life is beyond earning a salary and paying rentals…..

The other day while browsing the internet I came across this lovely quote “You are not here to just work, wait for weekends and pay rent”.  It is so relevant today where most people are just working 9 am to 9 pm (some even later than that), there are no evenings; the day starts and before one realises it is night. Weekend is the only time left for catching up with lost sleep, friends or relations (Some use it for catching up with laundry too).

 

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The Joy of Sharing….

Long back, we as a family took a decision of celebrating all our important days like birthdays, anniversaries or days we achieved something in life in the company of children/ adults who in some form or the other are deprived of a normal life. We visit orphanages, schools for special children or just around the streets meeting poor people, specially kids. It doesn’t cost us much but gives lots and lots of happiness and joy. We don’t have much money to share but we do have is time, experience and knowledge in abundance, to share. 

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Deepawali..…the battle within….

Deepawali, is one festival which is celebrated across India by one and all irrespective of the religion they follow. As per mythology Lord Rama reached back Ayodhya (His Kingdom) on this day after completion of his 14 years exile and vanquishing Ravana in a bitter battle at Lanka. This day happened to be a New moon day (No moon) and each end every house was well lit up with the help of earthen lamps to welcome the prince (Rama). Even now all houses are lighted up using earthen lamps as also modern lights to commemorate the home coming and people burst crackers too to express happiness. 

happy Diwali

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My life lessons from mythology….

India is certainly a land of festivals and celebrations. The entire calendar is dotted with festivals celebrated across the land and breadth of the nation. We have just been through with the Navratris (nine nights) and today is VijayDashmi or Dussheraa (10th day), the day Ravana was killed by Lord Rama, a symbol of victory of Good over evil. All festivals are not just meant to be occasions for celebrations but the main aim of the mythological tales is to convey life lessons and strengthen human beliefs in the prevalent value system. 

ravan_dahan1

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