The Great Indian Brain-Drain

What can be more exhausting than the Board exams itself?

The wait for the results.

The past two weeks gone by were sure a roller coaster ride for the students who appeared in the 10th and 12th board exams 2018, as the results by both the ICSE & CBSE were declared online.

The board results like every year bring cheer for many and disappointment for some. Like the trend of past few years, this year too, we saw many students scoring above 90%. The “toppers”- they call them. But not all toppers are toppers. What I mean is that all toppers are not alike. By observing the manner in which a topper reacts on seeing his/her result for the first time, they can be categorised.

Like the ‘smug ones’.

These are the omniscient angels. They know their results even before the CBSE (or ICSE) does. 99% dot! They knew it and poof! Here it is. Not a muscle on their face will move when the computer screen flashes their score card with the gargantuan marks on it. Or even when the parents & the media & the neighbours shower all those boring accolades. Just a somber smile is all they have to offer. After all, they knew it, no surprises here.

Then there are the ‘always-hungry-for-more ones’. The score card is displaying a giant sum total of 499/500 and they are already half-drowned in their own tears, mourning the death of that one mark that could have given them a perfect 100%. Absolutely nothing could satisfy these hungry marks-eaters!

Then we have the ‘brooders’. They are initially at peace with their scores, all hail &

hearty, but no sooner do they hear that their comrades got a higher merit, than their merry-making turns into worry-&-racking. How come he/she got a point more than I did, we studied from the same notes! (Sob sob)

And then there are my personal favourites, the ‘dumbfounded ones’. They are the ones who expect 80% but get 90%. They thrice check their roll numbers and even probably call up the Board administration to enquire if there had been any mistake in the compilation of the results. It is upon being only utterly dead sure, that there had been absolutely no glitches at all, the feeling starts to sink in. The feeling of a topper. It might take a minute or two, but once it does they go berserk. There is no stopping them then. This is their salvation. They want nothing more from life.

Funny isn’t it? But guess what’s funnier- our country, which produces lakhs of such toppers annually, is destined to be the youngest nation in the world but is also, ironically, the one with the highest number of educated unemployed. We are producing “toppers” but are we producing enough jobs to retain them? Our country where the pass percentage is a mere 33%, the topper getting a humongous 99% is a self-mockery by our education system.

We are not giving them 499 marks; we are giving them 499 dreams, dreams which our country cannot fulfill. We are raising their expectations only to trash them later on. And this is the root cause of brain drain. What does a topper do when he/she is unable to make a career that fits the magnanimity of their scores? What does an average scorer do? The one who got a handsome 85%. It’s a fairly good score, c’mon. But it is peanuts when compared to the giant 99%. The toppers eventually head West because there aren’t any opportunities here that befit their massive calibre and the average ones, who were made to feel too average due to their super-intelligent contemporaries, also, sadly start looking for greener pastures. The good brains and the best brains all wash out.

I am not saying that awarding some one with what they deserve is wrong but promising unicorns when the forest is actually filled with ghosts is kind of cruel.

Do let me know your views too in the comment section on “toppers” and our education system.

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Farm Loan Waiver- Seriously?

“I have clearly said that I will waive farm loans. If I don’t do it, have clearly said that I will retire from politics and will resign as chief minister,” says H D Kumaraswamy.

H D Kumaraswamy, Karnataka Chief Minister

B S Yeddyurappa, who recently became one of the shortest serving Chief Ministers in India with a 3-day stint waived off loans worth Rs. 8165 crore as soon as he was sworn in.

The BJP, who now sits in the opposition in Karnataka called for a state wide bandh in order to press the coalition government to waive off farm loans.

These were some of the news doing the rounds from Karnataka.

It is almost appalling to see that in today’s times when most things are ephemeral, this age old practice of appeasing the voters still finds salience. We should have gotten-over with such politics years ago. We should have ended the farmer crisis, plaguing our country since eons, first thing when we achieved independence. We should have devised a policy or plan to modernize our agriculture and educate our farmers. But we didn’t. We didn’t because we wanted an agenda. An agenda to fight the elections and on which to corner the government.

Farm loan waiver schemes are not new in our country. Since 1990, when the first national farm loan waiver was announced, these schemes have assumed the hue of a diplomatic tool, used by every other political party to sway the voters in their favour. We, too, as meek spectators automatically sympathise with poor-looking debt-ridden farmers and place in high disposition the party that does the same. While it is of extreme importance that every government must turn every stone to uplift its poor but what does hold even greater importance is ‘how’ it is done. We know that ‘advertising our work’ is a sought of inevitability in today’s times for every political organisation to survive but not every-little-bit of a thing should be done for publicity. Sometimes, I mean just SOME times, our politicians should think about our economy on a whole than their individual political careers. A big farm loan waiver might project you as a messiah of the downtrodden for a few years, but the damage it does to our economy is irreparable in the long-run.

Farm loan waivers are like silent killers. They do not immediately send the economy in a shock and neither their effect on the economy is felt by the consumers. No TV channel tells us what probable financial crises these waiver schemes are pushing the banking system into and no political party daresay against it. But these schemes slowly kill our economy.

When we write-off a loan, we strengthen the defaulting capacity of our masses. It is factual that after the year 1990, the cases of faulting on one’s debt-repayment (by farmers) have increased. Farmers- big, small, medium- take large amount of loans from the banks with full cognizance of their incapacity to pay-back but armed with this knowledge that round the time of election their loans would be waived-off. This trend has gradually developed an attitude in our farmers which makes them believe that they have a legal right to loan waiver, and if denied or delayed they don’t hesitate to agitate. It is like promoting a child to the next class despite knowing that he has cheated the whole exam, due to the fear that if you don’t, he’ll start crying.

Loans worth billions have been written-off by several governments till date. Imagine the cost the exchequer has borne. Imagine the losses the public sector banks have incurred. Talk about the rising NPA’s?

All in all, farm loan waiver is not just bad economics but also the worst politics. One state government announcing a huge loan waiver indirectly press-gangs the others to follow suit. Not only it impacts adversely the finances of the state, it leaves it with lesser cash to carry out its more productive welfare activities. Banks are left with no option but to recover their loss from somewhere and hence low saving interest rates and high lending rates.

The sustainable path is always the hard one. Perhaps that is why our governments opt for shorter routes. The need of the hour is to educate our farmer and provide market for his produce. Diversify our agriculture and further liberalise our exports. Instead of waiving off loans, the same money should be used for building modern warehouses to save the produce from unpredictable rains, so that such a situation does not arise when a farmer has to grovel for karz maafi.

An Actress Gets Married

Bollywood was recently abuzz with the wedding pictures of Sonam Kapoor and her long time beau Anand Ahuja doing the rounds. Similar buzz was seen when ‘Virushka’ tied the knot in Tuscany not very long ago. About a couple of years before that we saw Kareena (Kapoor) enter wedlock with Saif (Ali Khan), which was news in itself. Though actors & actresses getting married abroad in charming dresses and at locations which could make any travel freak grow envious is nothing to be surprised about, what does require attention is the timing. And no, I’m not talking seasons here!

Our Indian film industries are notorious for being vastly male-dominated. While an actor remains young even at 50, merely crossing 30 for an actress means less film offers and producers crying for fresh faces. A hero’s career, on an average, spans more than 4 decades, but a heroine’s, well let’s be kind and say, lasts little over a decade and could be more if she stays away from the nuptials.

While Aishwarya Rai Bachchan may look absolutely ravishing in her butterfly-inspired dress and Shilpa Shetty may do all the yoga in the world to look slimmer & younger, no producer would cast them as ‘heroine’ because of but obvious reasons that they are married & mothers and hence Not profitable, but Shah Rukh, Aamir and Akshay, who are well over their 50s, married, fathers, are still seen as bankable. But fortunately now, the winds of change have begun to blow. Such times when marriage for an actress meant death of her career are heading towards an end.

With Kareena, Anushka and Sonam deciding to take their wedding vows when at the peak of their careers, the insecurity associated with marriage and acting seems to be disappearing. The trend in Bollywood is changing. From ruling the silver screen for some years & then settling down with a richie-rich merchant when you have crossed the magic number, to making the choice of marrying the love of your life right in the middle of the prime of your career, is a statement that our leading ladies have so boldly made. You can be married and still be in demand. There is no direct proportionality between being wedded and decline in your worth as an actress.

Women, in general, now do not look at marriage as an impediment to their careers. They are more than happy to get married at the time they feel right and carry on with the careers of their choice & have as many kids as they want along the way.

Marriage is not the end of the road, rather it is a beginning. It is a stage of life through which men pass too. Then why should it be defined any differently for women? We as audience must change our perspectives as well. An actress is an actress, married or not. Why is it that a heroine older than 35 looks ‘old’ but a hero even of 60 does not?

Do share your views and let me know in the comment section.

From American Hegemony to American Hypocrisy

us out of iran deal

So finally the United States has pulled itself out of the historic Iran-nuclear deal, achieved after much brainstorming during the Obama-era, thus making Donald Trump deliver on another of his election campaign promises. Although the other parties to the deal (the UK, France, Germany) tried hard to keep the US intact, but what unfurled was much anticipated. Donald Trump maybe the most widely criticized POTUS in the American history but is also the only one who seems to be delivering all his election promises, however controversial those might be. He is far from being ‘politically-correct’ (neither that he cares to be), he finds no qualms in hailing abuses publically and nor is he a bit contrite about the xenophobia that he spearheads.

Under Trump, America is somewhat shaken-off from a hypnagogia. The gun laws, the immigration laws, the nuclear weapons laws, the climate deals, the WTO, everything is back in the news. Though the shaking was a much needed one, but not needed to be such a rigorous one. Trump sure wants to ‘Make America Great Again’ but this shouldn’t be done at the cost of years of trust built-up in the international community. He might be pretty smug at being able to bring North Korea ‘seemingly’ down to its knees but it must not be inferred that Iran would follow suit. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was necessary but pulling out of the JCPOA despite the world leaders and IAEA backing Iran and then threatening other nations with CAATSA if they support Iran, shows a quintessential America trying to maintain its hegemony on the third world.

The US invaded Iraq on the pretext that it possessed weapons of mass destruction but kept providing Pakistan with billions. It was the first country ever to use atomic bombs and now it talks of ‘denuclearisation’. It says it wants to make the world a peaceful place to live in while it is the largest exporter of arms globally.  America believes it has achieved a great feat by being able to bring Kim Jong Un to table but we must not forget that they were the reasons why the 38th parallel was drawn in the first place. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Berlin Wall; half the world’s territorial disputes date back to British Imperialist era and the other half to the Cold War. American hegemony was the reason for the emergence of dictators like Kim II Sung and militant factions like Taliban.

All in all, Uncle Sam is a hypocrite. He talks of democracy but silently practices hegemony. He conveniently accuses nations like India of human rights violation but has no answers for Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Donald Trump is as if American hypocrisy personified. He is a typical American who expects the world to kowtow to his whims & fancies only because, well, he is an “American”.

America can no longer lead. What is left for us to see is what better role it can play now in world politics.

The StolenWealth Games

The Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial event, ongoing at The Gold Coast Down Under (Australia), saw some unusual incidents making news headlines, apart from hundreds of artistes performing at the opening ceremony and thousands of athletes taking part in it.

There was a set of people holding placards and sloganeering outside the Carrara Stadium in protest of the Games. ‘The StolenWealth Games’ they called it.

These were the Australian aboriginals, who inhabited the island continent for more than 60,000 years. Today, they have reduced in number and are unrecognized, largely as a consequence of the British colonization. Just like India and Ireland and Africa and all the other nations the British so unapologetically ravaged, Australia too was a victim.

The Australian aboriginals have echoed the unspoken of millions by derisively rephrasing the Commonwealth Games to StolenWealth Games. Wasn’t it, after all, the plundered wealth of 51 countries (& more) on which ‘the Great Britain’ thrived on for so long? Didn’t the British abuse & loot these nations beyond reparation in their quest for power? Well, yes! Then why remain a party to it?

The Commonwealth nations group is nothing but a redundant organization and a sour reminder of a dark period in our history, of how our motherland was raped of her heritage and wealth.

The grouping, ostensibly created to co-operate and promote democratic values among member countries, had no real motive but to prevent retaliation from these exe-colonies-now-independent-States against Britain.

Whatever the British did in India (or any other country for that matter) was wrong morally, ethically, politically and in every other aspect. They devastated our culture, social fabric & language and left our country in shambles. They did no good to us through the Raj and are not doing any of it through the Commonwealth either.

Why should India be a part of it anyway? We are a republic and the only head of the State we recognize is our democratically elected President, not Queen Elizabeth II, III, IV, V or any other for that matter. We are not receiving any indispensable benefits from the grouping, rather, on the contrary, the cost of travelling to England has increased manifold. Our economy is on the way to surpass that of UK’s this year, so don’t really require much of their assistance too. Britain has also lost much of her repute globally and is bound to lose more under the stewardship of Theresa May. Friendly relations can still be maintained and as far as trade is concerned, the dynamics will inevitably change on account of Brexit.

There is (and never was) anything to gain from this membership but an international reminder that we were once a British colony. I strongly feel that India should pull out the Commonwealth. India and her resources is nobody’s wealth but us Indians. We are NOT the ‘common-wealth’ of those pale-skinned islanders anymore and never will be.

And as for the Games, yes, our athletes will have one event less to perform at, but then again, it is neither the last one nor the only one.

So what do you say? Should India pull out of this organisation or not. Feel free to comment.

Instagram Id: sanjana_the_thinker

CBSE Paper Leak: Our Education System in Perspective

It’s been more than a week that our news channels are going all gaga over the #CBSEpaperleak and #CBSEsham etc. etc. hash tags. Our school students are sloganeering out on the streets in protest and from school teachers & principals to CBSE chairperson & HRD Minister, nobody is spared. While everyone is sympathizing with the poor class 10 & class 12 students who would have to once again go through the traumatizing exam fear for seemingly no fault of their own, and elaborate diatribes are being launched by the opposition parties fuelled by extensive media coverage, I am still trying to make head & tail out of this whole imbroglio.

Yes, the question papers were circulated via emails and whatsapp groups and also that the CBSE has decided to re-conduct the examination is all clear to me, but what bamboozles my mind is the reckless TRP-hogging disquisitions on our news channels. What are they exactly trying to conclude? From high ranking political spokespersons, relentlessly mudslinging at each other irrespective of the agenda on the table, to regular school students, wearing their angst on their sleeves, what largely remains absent is a legitimate conclusion, without which any debate or discussion remains incomplete.

Exam paper leak-out is a reality in our country, however grim it may be, but it has been there since decades and will be there for many more to come. Days, even in some cases a night before the exam, question papers are sold to desperate students in prices ranging from a few hundreds to many thousands. Universities are as such notorious for paper leakages, and now the CBSE board too has been accused of this malfeasance. Parents association has moved Supreme Court against the re-exam, students are all up in arms, political parties are asking for the HRD Minister to resign, the media, as usual, is fanning the flames, and between all this hullabaloo the real agenda has gone down the drain- Our Education System.

Our education system is far from perfect, true. But that doesn’t mean countries with more comprehensive systems don’t face such wickedness. But the reason why these are increasingly becoming rampant in India is two-fold. The primary reason being our education set-up which spuriously promotes rote learning than practical knowledge, and the ancillary reason, which cannot be ignored with respect to the current scenario, is the level of pressure exerted by parents on their wards. CBSE chairman Anita Karwal may have said that marks do not define a person, but ironically the very institution she heads has failed to vindicate her claim.

Because of rising pressure on students to get a perfect score in the examination such malpractices are being resorted to. Parents keep nagging their kids right from a tender age up to their 12th boards to score better & higher, and it is this fad of ‘high marks’ that allows the manifestation of such people who, by exploiting loopholes in our system, are able to slither out such devious schemes.

While the foibles in our education system cannot be denied and indubitably remain for the government to amend, I personally feel that we as society are too responsible for this. And because we will not accept anything less than a 90 or 95%, the coaching institutes are able to cash-on on our fancies. They charge exorbitant amounts as fees in return for a guaranteed best result, and then to keep their reputation they run such rackets. They ostensibly circulate the question papers among their students as ‘worksheets’ or ‘expected questions’ and thus the student does not even know that he/she is inconspicuously becoming a part of the sham. As for the outsiders, the leaked papers are sold directly. Many a time’s parents are aware of it and often a party to it.

Because we run amok blindly after ‘marks’ and NOT after education, these rackets are able to flourish.

A re-exam cannot, of course, cure us from this malaise and neither can the resignation of our ministers. The government is taking the necessary steps it should in the matter and its time we too start doing the same by changing our outlook towards education and examination.

Do share your views and let me know your take on our education system.

Instagram id: sanjana_the_thinker

Travel

Some, oh no, many a times,

I feel like a caged animal,

Who wants to flight.

From my own burrow I wish to flee,

To the deserts or to the mountains,

Or even to the forests, for a spree!

Months, weeks, days or even few hours would suffice,

But that little time should all be mine.

Gold, silver, diamond or jade is not what this heart yearns,

But world, beauty and intellect is all for which it burns.

What use our feet, if to stay put we are to remain,

What use our eyes, if from exploring we are to refrain.

Like a free bird should all babes be upbrought,

Not like a fish in the bowl,

Where they are left to wrought.

Only a young mind that voyages can know the perils of the sea,

So when comes the buccaneer, wallop!

And make his way out of melee.

It is the youth that learns in the jungle fire where to breach,

So that then in age, the same lesson, it can preach.

To make a grey head wise & discreet,

Journey one must, to North, South, West and East.

For schools can only make us read, write and speak,

But travelling can let us know, tell and believe.

The ‘OTHERS’

Just as my daily morning ritual, yesterday too, I picked up the newspaper lying in the balcony and began cursorily scrambling through it only to read it thoroughly later on. The front page usually inundated with political news was, for a change, covered with sports news of how Steve Smith plunged Australia into its worst captaincy crises. As I flipped through I read about Donald Trump playing golf while millions ‘marched for life’ outside the White House, and also how 2017 proved to be an annus mirabilis for the Indian narcotics bureau.

The newspaper, as it is always, was filled with ‘who said what and to whom’ from one corner to the other and among all these shibboleths there was this one little bulletin that caught the attention of my eyes.

“Don’t ‘otherise’ disabled with terms like ‘divyang’, says university topper”

Although I had a lot of work to finish first yet I decided to delay it for 5 minutes and give a quick reading to this particular news article. The news was about a university topper, Rahul Bajaj, who happens to be partially visually impaired. Despite this, he won 20 awards at the Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University. I felt immensely inspired at once but as I read on my feeling changed to that of disappointment. On asking how he thinks that the disabled should be treated he says that the government’s term i.e. divyang for the handicapped or differently abled or specially abled should NOT be used as it leads to their ‘otherisation’ & ‘alienation’. They should be treated as equals. I completely agree with the latter part of his statement but the former portion of it needs some rumination.

Of course, physically handicapped or not, every human being is equal, indubitably. But what I fail to understand is what is wrong with coining a respectable term for a set of people, who are, in some minor way, differently abled than the rest?

‘Alienation’ or ‘otherisation’ does not happen when government decides to replace viklang (handicapped) with divyang (specially abled), but when such people try to take undue advantage of their condition. I might sound callous here but it is true. It can be anybody. We all know we have Acts for prevention of exploitation of children, women, SC’s/ST’s and physically handicapped. And we also know that sometimes these legal provisions are misused by the very persons for whose welfare they are implemented so that they can coerce their way through.

To be treated as equals it is equally important to be fully aware of your condition and not be perfidious about it. Moreover, in my personal view, I feel that a person ‘otherises’ himself/herself from the majority when he/she decides to act victim on the basis of a certain disability he/she might be suffering from and NOT when you are being offered assistance by the government for the same.

This argument holds true not only for the differently abled people but also for those groups who often find themselves in the ‘others’ category like the transgenders, gays, lesbians religious minorities etc. we have often seen some of these groups out on the streets, holding placards, shouting and asking for a place in the society. These people are fighting for their rights and have no qualms if they are called for what they are. Acceptance by your own self first, of who you are and what your capabilities are, will only gain you equality in the society.

No one, be it a man, woman, third gender, specially abled, fully abled, homosexual, bisexual, SC, OBC, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian can ever be ‘otherised’ from the society until they decide to.

If we resolve not to be ‘alienated’, no political power or any other power for that matter, is strong enough to ‘otherise’ us.

23rd March: Time to Give Them Their Due

87 years ago, on this very day, three sons of our motherland were hanged to death. The common dream that their eyes kept watching until they were shut forever only came true after 16 years of their unmatched sacrifice. And today, even after 70 long years of independence they are yet to receive what is due to them- status of national heroes, akin to that of M. K. Gandhi.

Yes, there are many who hold Bhagat Singh, Shivram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar in the highest of gravitas, even higher than M. K. Gandhi, but our country on a whole have somewhere failed to do so. My intention here is not to draw comparison among our freedom fighters but only towards the fact that how the successive dynastic political regimes of our nation have deeply under-rated one set of freedom strugglers and over-rated the other, purely to gain and then to retain power at the Centre.

It is somewhat abhorring to see ‘terrorist’ prefixed to the names of these heroes. The British are long gone and this tag should go too, now & forever. They were not terrorists or revolutionary terrorists. They were nationalists. The reason they and many others like them have been sidelined for decades is because they vehemently disagreed with M. K. Gandhi’s kind of politics: ahimsa.

We are often told that India achieved her freedom through peaceful means. I don’t know how many of us are acquainted with this but by preaching so we are spuriously undermining, firstly, the sacrifices of many who happily laid down their lives for our nation, and secondly, the cost of independence- partition and its concomitant, massacre of thousands of Indians. Would India have achieved her independence much sooner and sans partition if Bhagat Singh & his likes had lived longer? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe this question holds no relevance today altogether, but what does is that the youth of our nation, which is being beleaguered by the sick mentality of the likes of Kanhaiya Lal, LeT, JeM and ISIS, must be made familiar with the supreme sacrifice of such heroes so that as and when they take up arms, it is only to protect our nation, not to kill our nation.

There are many Bhagat Singhs who remain forgotten & unsung, who died young, who were true nationalists, who were subjected to atrocities, who were fearless and who parted ways from the Congress because they knew that ‘prayer and petition’ isn’t enough to win freedom. They used other forms of methods, often termed as ‘extreme’, to fight the British because they wanted to see these foreign rulers, who had corroded India, run with their tails between their legs, out of our country. And this was probably their only folly. Had they colluded with the Congress or M. K. Gandhi, 23rd March would have been a public holiday and we would have only celebrated 50th or 60th Independence Day by now.

Maverick

I am no chip of the old block & so happily I proclaim,

I do love my parents though, but a desire to be like them,

I so disdain!

They are people of another time and of another world I will never know,

But to step in their shoes, do what they do,

Eh! Is a thought I have to forego.

Let me tell you how proud I am to have come from them,

From so rich a heritage & great culture no less;

From the Lands of Gods my ancestors rise,

And also they are known for their feats & mights!

I am happy indeed to hear so high of them,

But I am the black sheep in my pack’s den.

I cannot tread the road they trot on so long ago,

For the wilderness is different now than what ’twas

In the years they grew.

My direction is divergent and so are my thoughts,

I cannot help but find my own path.

I follow my heart, I follow my mind,

Like them I cannot stop & say it is fine.

I wish to see the world and witness its wonder,

Lie beneath the blue sky & see it thunder.

I wish to go away at dusk & come back at dawn,

When the suns an orange red & the warmth has gone.

No matter how much I yell & I cry,

You, I cannot convince, that I am no fry.

With wolves, foxes and hyenas, yes, it is filled;

But I am no deer mother, that you upbring.

You care too much, and that is your trait,

Afterall, you thought, only a lamb can come from a sheep so straight!