Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Sainik School Plane

While we were in class 11, we were asked to write a short essay (100 words to be exact, + or - 10 words you start loosing marks). One of my classmates decided to write on a delapidated war bird that was kept in front of our school. And Reji, I still have that paper wrote in Soman Pillai's class. Here is his essay.

The Sainik School Plane
It is an old plane lying rusted looking at the school and reminiscing its good old days. The outer part is metallic and there is a glass covering at the pilot's place. Alas, the wings that once carried the plane are now carrying the ground. The metallic covering at the front is removed and the engines are exposed. We can see the remnants of the propellers at the front.

The pilot seat is no more and we can see only a metallic piece in its place. The wires and different parts are jumbled up by the de-juro pilots of our school. It is wonderful to sit inside and operate the parts. The auspicious presence of Chandavila boys give flesh and blood to the plane. I strongly doubt if the plane has given a homely atmosphere to snakes and other creatures. Despite of its drawbacks the plane gives a majestic look to the school and it stands as a symbol of our enthusiasm.

Comic heroes from school days....

When we started, early 80s, things were changing. Tarzan, Mandrake & Phantom were becoming less important. It is worth mentioning that many of us had a secret crush for Narda, Mandrake’s beautiful wife. The hardy boys, Asterix & Obelix were becoming popular.

However my all time favorites were those “detective chithrakathas”. Characters like "Urukku Kai Mayaavi" were famous then. The explosions in those stories were depicted with sounds “Tamaar and Padaaar” and people crying, “Njaan Chathe…”. It always cracks me up when people can shout “njaan chathe..”, standing at the epicenter of a bomb explosion.

As we grew up our mindsets changed. We got more interested in “Malayalam Kambi Kathakal” we bought from Trivandrum “underworld” on our way back to school from vacations and trips outside the school with “out passes”. Some of us even went to the extent of writing such stories and circulating among ourselves.

In one of such magazines, someone had asked whether masturbation is harmful for the body (in the column “Doctorodu Chodikkaam”). The doctor’s reply was, the early sperms are more powerful and healthy so don’t waste it. One of my classmates commented, “We are wasting it so much that our kids will be bullock cart drivers”.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Talking to kids

Before the last election, my second grade daughter had a voting exercise at her school. When she came back after voting, I asked her whom did she vote for. Her answer was John McCain. We are neither republican nor democrat. So I was curious to know why she picked McCain. She said, “Obama is a terro**st. He will take money from rich people and give it to poor, making everyone poor and 9/11 was done by his friends”.

Her answer annoyed me. I felt it was too much for a second grader. So I asked her how she knew all these things. She goes, “my classmate’s parents told her”. That is when I was really pissed. Is it appropriate for parents to tell these to a small kid? I was so worried for a few minutes. No wonder people hated republicans for their negative campaign.

My next question was whom she liked better, Palin or Biden. She answered Palin because “Palin is pretty”. No arguments there :-).

The good part was that, later, I and my daughter read and discussed about all such allegations and she learned (I think) not to take anything just to its face value.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sainik Schools - Gateway to NDA

I see a lot of discussions and newspaper reports from time to time how NDA gets lesser and lesser officers every year. I being a Sainik School cadet obviously had interest in those articles.

Here are my random thoughts.

Sainik Schools were created after the Indo-Chinese war to feed officers into the military. It worked for years and suddenly from the 80s these schools started to defeat the purpose. I blame the system than individuals. I am trying to group them.

Officers – Registrar,Headmaster & Principal (I will call them RHP here on)
When I look at the RHPs in my time, all were from Education Corps. To me majority of the people in the education corps is the least bothered lot (I don’t deny exceptions). They are the main ones who screwed up the school at least in the 80s. To me R&P should have been people with forefront experience (not just education corps experience), in other words they should come from corps like Infantry, Artillery, Signals etc.(or corresponding corps from Navy & Air Force) They do a better job of managing common men than someone with a lot of DEGREES to the name. We want a visionary with the EDUCATION background as H, since he is responsible for the education standards.

We want people who just don’t talk to survive and don’t have the attitude “after me the deluge”. They must be leaders, achievers and visionaries in their own field. By giving them these posts, they should understand that it’s not a punishment transfer but something that is challenging. They should also be rewarded for their good work, may be promotions.

Many Faujis fail to understand the meaning of open door policy – again I don’t generalize. Most of them believe that an open door policy is the starting point to mutiny. Many miss the “human civilian aspects” of such schools and power corrupts some.

Next to blame are the teachers since the RHP leave the school after a couple of years. I have made some categories in this issue

1. Quality of the masters: If you look at the common scenario in India, who teaches the younger kids? The best lot leaves for Engineering, Medical and other better options. The rest complete the bachelors or masters degree. From there the remaining cream picks civil services, teaching in universities etc etc. The dejected rest when don’t get any better jobs end up in teaching the younger kids who are to be molded to become successful citizens. As GB Shaw aptly put, “Those who can will do, those who can not, will teach”. So we are getting the bottom of the pie as teachers.
2. These teachers don’t have anything to look forward to at school. They are underpaid compared to their counter parts and obviously they carry the “I don’t care” attitude. They don’t have an agenda other than to teach the text books and they are not recognized or paid depending for their achievements at school. To me each teacher should have a yearly, formalized agenda of achievement that has to be tracked. Things like courses to be taken, the expected results of the cadets he/she is teaching etc with proper accountability and traceability. Teachers exceeding expectations must be well recognized and regarded. There should be also an option to get rid of the permanently non-achieving lot over a pre-defined time. Most successful companies lay off the bottom 5% performers every year, to get rid of the FAT.
3. The teachers cease to learn anything more as a part of their personal/career development once they are at school. They just hibernate into teaching bare minimum required that too with very little knowledge they managed during their college days. The school provides bare minimum formal opportunity for continuing education or personal development to this lot.
4. Exchange programs: In the 70s there were at least a few teachers from foreign countries came to teach the cadets on an exchange basis. This gives a better outlook for every one. I understand that a foreign exchange may not be feasible, but at least an inter-Sainik School exchange in the early years of ones career may be a solution.
5. In the 90s a lot of old/good masters retired and the organization decided to recruit young lady teachers. I don’t have anything against them, but I think it’s hard on them to achieve in a Sainik School type of environment. Think of the height when these lady teachers are senior-house masters. There are/were a few exceptions here too. The wisdom comes with age and experience. Think of an unmarried youngster trying to become a father figure. To me it is like Catholic priests (unmarried) counseling couples on marriage issues – don’t take this statement to the heart, I am not against any religion just trying to give an example.

In short what we lack here is professionalism and passion to their own jobs among authorities and teachers. They should have acted as mentors.

To me, the cadets are not to blame. The school should create an environment for their overall development so that they can concentrate doing their duty of studying. To achieve this everyone must strive hard collectively.

Sorry that I bitched. I know it is easier said than done. I am not professionally qualified to give suggestions or solutions on these issues. I also understand the fact, “After a ship has sunk, everyone knows how it would have been saved”. And as an outsider to the school administration, it is easy for me to find mistakes than solutions.

Gods - Man's Creation ?

I recently recieved an email about a Malayalam Song by Vayalar on the creation of God.
"Manushyan mathangale Srishtichu, Mathangal Daivangale Srishtichu...", which traslates some thing similar to, Man created religion, religion created God. Man, religion & God together divided amongst themselves, soil & mind."

Here are my random thoughts on this subject.

I do believe in God(s). Anyone can give you examples to prove both ways. But I personally agree completely with Vayalar's song, "God was the creation of man". In my opinion God came into existence when man couldn't give a reliable/scientific explanation of things happeningaround him. For example, thunder, lightning and volcanic eruption were Moses' encounter with God on the Mount of Sinai, and to me, Ten Commandments were his final creation. In the past, it was easier make people believe anything by the mention of God(s) which stopped them from asking more questions.

The holy books were written (much after the event actually happened) from ballads and fairy tales and we all know how the truth changes when from ear to ear. Over time people, who were important to a religion, made their explanations to support their own acts. For example, in Bible, a believer is asked to pray alone with the doors of the room closed so that others don't see him talking to God. But after churches came into existence, community was considered more important than individual itself. The heads of the churches gave their own explanations to Bible for their own existence.

The great flood during the time of Noah and Manu (refer Mathsya – fish – incarnation of Vishnu) looks same to me. You can also see the flood Legends from different parts of the world (China – the family of Fuhi, Babylon – Utnapistim, Chaladian – Xisuthrus, Australia – woramba, Greece – Deucalion). This makes me believe that the human race came from a single place somewhere on earth.

Coming to Hinduism, it was never an exception to my theory. If you look closely, Hinduism is not a religion, but it's a practice. You become a Hindu only if you practice Hinduism. The "Upanayanam" – thread ceremony depicts the transformation of an individual from non-Hindu to Hindu (Later it was completely absorbed by Brahmins and taken away from other castes making the rule that Gayathri Manthra can be only heard by the Brahmins). During Manu's time, even girls were allowed to get Brahmopadesham but the later Orthodox stopped that.

The four castes were previously defined depending on the work an individual performed, but later became inherited. Untouchables were created much after Krishna. If you see Krishna, he was a Yadav, who is listed in Indian constitution as a Scheduled Caste and was an untouchable once upon a time. It is interesting to note that in the past, the lower castes were not permitted to enter even in Krishna temples and the elite, orthodox Brahmins (Called Savarnar in Malayalam) did the pooja in those temples :-). Interesting?

Another legend that interests me is our Ayyappan. Sabari was a lady according to Ramayana who lived in those mountains and hence the name Sabari Mala. Ayyappa is believed to be the son of Shiva & Mohini
(Vishnu's lady form) –even Gods were homosexuals :-). Mohini came during the time of second incarnation which is Koorma (tortoise) – to steal Amruth from the Rakshasaas. But Ayyappa's friend Vaavar is a Muslim and Muslims didn't exist until 570 AD. Don't you see something wrong here?

I prefer to believe that 10 incarnations of Vishnu were nothing but evolution. May be Darwin silently stole it from here :-)

Mathsyam (Fish, life started in water)
Koormam (Tortoise, amphibians)
Varaham (Basic life completely out of water)
Narasimham (Transition from animal to man)
Vamanan (First human form, short like the pigmies)
Parasuraman (The forest man)
Ram (Man starts to rule man, still attached to forest so it's a
Balaraman (I don't know what he was for)
Krishna (most cunning of all, the modern man)

I was reading a book recently about how Cows became sacred for Hindu's. The name of the book is Myth of the Holy cow by DN Jha. Aryans who were nomads must have eaten meat (readily available) since they never stayed at a place for farming.

Myth of the Holy Cow by DN Jha - Digital book from Google (some pages are missing)

As Jesus said, "Ninte Vishwaasam Ninne Rakshikkate"…