Reservations unlimited – 24.05.2006

So another old post I’ve dug out. I used to do a lot of current affairs in the good old day. I notice that has dwindled. Anyway, be gentle. These are old posts.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2006

Reservations unlimited

And another viewpoint on reservations by Purushottam Agrawal. Here’s yet another article I loved by Amit Sen Gupta in this week’sTehelka. And since you need to subscribe to it to read it, the only way I can get it to you is to paraphrase some of the points he makes.

To begin with, how many of those protesting actually plan to stay on in the country? From the IITs to the BHUs to the little universities tucked away in Punjab and Tamil Nadu… almost every student is taking examinations to go abroad. So they don’t want to give seats, they want to study in colleges that are subsidised by tax payers’ money and they want to take this education abroad to benefit others?

Next, exactly how do you define ‘merit’? By your ability to study in the best schools and attend the best coaching classes that teach you to beat the system? I don’t think that would be right.

Moving on – the next argument is that Indian educational institutions will lose their competitive edge. Oh but that would be terrible! We wouldn’t want to lose out on all the brilliant research and inventions that the IITs and IIMs give us! And we certainly wouldn’t want Silicon Valley to lose out on the steady flow of worker ants they get from India. No sirree. We just need to keep subsidising higher education with our taxes, sending our children to coaching classes to find a way to “crack” the entrances and then send them off to the land of milk and honey to benefit the white masters. And we certainly wouldn’t want to send those who don’t make the cut.

Something I had no inkling of – The southern states have a much higher percentage of reservation for backward classes and they seem to be doing better than the BIMARU states who are vociferously objecting. Valid point I must admit.

The inability to cope is equally valid. The system needs to be sensitive to those taught in the vernacular. Almost every educated Indian speaks three languages. Everyone of us has a mother tongue that is not English. So why not take that into account?

He makes many more valid points but those are also part ofPurushottam Agrawal’s write up. And my oldest favourite AnilThakraney and his piece on The warring students.

Having said that. I would still oppose reservations because simply, they don’t really achieve their purpose. And the scope for screwing up in this corruption ridden country just increases manifold. All it gives us is a few more students starving to death and a beautifully divided vote bank.

 

Because it’s been a while since we talked about the Brat

The OA, Brat and Bean are reading Dr Seuss. The OA points to a picture and says, ‘This is ham.”

Bean: No, that’s a fish

OA: It’s ham

Bean: No, it’s fish.

OA: I said it’s ham and ham it is.

Bean: No no no. It’s fish.

OA: Who is reading the book here? You or me?

Finally a pained Brat  intervenes: That’s enough both of you. If you can’t read a book peacefully, then don’t read it!

Classic Bean – sticks to her guns. Classic Brat – aims for peace.

—————–

The Discovery Channel is on and the Brat who has his nose in a book looks up and says Is that a Columbian mammoth or a woolly Mammoth or a… ?”

I stare at him in utter confusion. I have no clue.

This is the kind of thing that drives the OA to despair. Our little chubby cheeked son goes down to the playground and while other kids are discussing the finer points of RipJaw and Omnitrix, he wants to talk to you about Servals and Caracals. The kids listen to him for a minute and they drift away. He is forced to drop his topic of interest and join in the game of football. There are fathers out there telling their sons that real men don’t cry when they fall and scrape a knee. The way we mould our children is so vastly different even though we live in a complex full of couples with similar socio-economic backgrounds, that last common denominator. The forced alpha male bravado. The insistence on femininity. The girls don’t join in the football and the boys don’t sit by the sidewalk chatting. How much of this is real and how much of it is social conditioning? What if my son wants to do neither?

“He’s going to be a loner,” says his very social father. The OA is a charmer. He smiles easily and genuinely. He doesn’t get into controversies. When last night I snapped at an extremely rude yuppie type and walked away, he stayed on to smooth ruffled feathers and later gave me a conciliatory smile too. He watches his son lie on the ground and observe a dragonfly. Yes, my green thumb has filled up my little balcony in dusty gurgaon and we have a profusion of sparrows, pigeons, butterflies and dragonflies fluttering around, filling the little garden with the sounds of nature.

The OA observes again – “What social skills are we helping him develop? He walks up to other kids and right after hello, he says, ‘Do you know the different kinds of bears? I’ll tell you. There are pandas and grizzlies and american black bears and…’. Which kids are going to like that?” I have no answers. I don’t know. But I do know that he is happy. That he is earnest. That his school report card says he shows an unbelievable connect with nature. That he stopped a bunch of boys from killing a grasshopper.. “Don’t do that. We’re giants compared to the grasshopper. He is scared just by our size. Why do you want to kill him? Is he bothering you?”  I am touched that the school noted down the anecdote. That they appreciate my little gentle child with the soul of a dreamer and his love of nature. I am grateful he isn’t growing up in my small town of UP where a kid like him would be beaten up and broken down.

Everyday I thank God for something new. Today I thank Him for this child being born into this home. That he was not born into a home where it would be whacked out of him. That he was not born in a home where he’d not get the opportunity to nurture it. But most of all I thank Him for giving me this child with a beautiful soul. And for giving us the opportunity to learn from him and to keep the gentleness intact. For giving us this child who will strive to preserve the connection man and nature are losing. Two of God’s beings, working to maintain the balance.

Lessons learnt

The OA is sitting on a chair with his legs stretched out on to the bed. The Bean comes along, crawls on to his leg and then wraps her arms and legs around until she is dangling upside down. The OA raises his leg cautiously and examines the 12 kilos hanging off it and asks, “Whats up, beanie?”. She responds – “Nothing, I’m just a koala bear right now.”

—————–

The Bean and the OA are later going through her alphabet book and she goes – “C for cat, C for camera, C for cone, C for..” and without missing a beat… “big yellow city”.

The OA looks at the page and cracks up – it is a golden crown!

—————–

G’pa and the Bean are putting together a puzzle and the Bean thinks it over and in a jiffy has it done. A proud grandfather grins at her and says, “Sweetheart, you have my brains…”

“No G’pa, I have my own brains and you have your own.”

—————–

I am visiting school friends left, right and centre for pujo  and almost all of them have dogs. The Brat and Bean are getting a real life course in dog breeds. This is a Beagle, this is a Dalmation, this is a Pug…

And then we’re back home and the Brat tries to remind the Bean of the lesson by pointing to my parents’ dog – “And that Bean, is a German Shepherd…”

The Bean nods wisely and says, “Yes, and he’s also a dog.”

 

The One Where The Bean Grew Up

or – The One Where The Bean’s Feelings Were Hurt

or – The One Where The Bean Started School

or – The One Where Lumpy Was Abandoned

Take your pick – any title would suit this. As I’ve said before, I don’t know what it says about me as a parent that my kids love school and strangers. And so it was that the Bean began school on Monday. I took the lift down and the OA drove me and her to school slowly. She ran off to play while we were completing admission formalities (no, this is not the Brat’s school, just a stand alone playschool) and soon decided to stay there. So home the OA went, to get her a tiffin and bottle. We were reluctant to go into class and give it to her in case seeing us made her want to come home, but we bit the bullet. I found her in a sandpit, ‘making cakes’.

“You go home, mamma, I need to bake some cakes for the other children,” says she busily. Right, I nod, handing her bottle and tiffin to the teacher. And then I limp back to the car, feeling older and more lost. Why is it that the children who have flexitime/WFH/SAHM at times, mothers like me, fly away so fast? I’m the mother who would have stayed with her for as many days as she wanted, to the exclusion of all else. Kids are just so perverse. I am sure if I had a travelling job the damn kids would have wanted me more, just to spite me!

She came home happily and wanted me to carry her to her room. With my knee the way it is, I shook my head regretfully, told her that she was a big girl and too heavy for me to carry, but offered to hold hands and walk to her room. She mournfully agreed and walked.

A little later she appeared at my side holding a spotted, stuffed dog. “This is my new baby, Spotty,” says she.

“Where is Lumpy?” I ask, missing her fifth, purple limb.

“Oh, he’s growing up and turning bigger and bigger. Now he’s too heavy for me to carry. So I got myself a new baby,” she explained.

It broke my heart and I rushed to gather her in my arms (knee be damned) and we hunted Lumpy down. But it was too late. She fell asleep hugging Spotty last night and had breakfast with Spotty this morning while I foolishly sat there holding Lumpy, hoping she wasn’t still feeling rejected and somewhere deep down, crying for Lumpy too. Yes, I’m an ass. I don’t need to hear it from you.

PS: She’s gone to school very happily today with Cousin J (yes, Cousin K’s little sister who has got through a Delhi college. So now I am local guardian to TWO teenagers and mother to two brats. House full at all times) and as I watched her walk away confidently, her little three year old shoulders carrying a pink bag and pink bottle, and thought of the Brat literally hopping from foot to foot in impatience to get to school, this whole move seems to be justified.  Lost phone, 4 hour commute, aching knee and everything. We’ll be okay. And here I shall hark back to Amanda Marshall. Cry Armana, cry.

Phew!

So don’t be surprised if I don’t publish comments tonight. I am going to sleep better than I have in two years. The house is flooding again, I still can’t get cellphone signal in parts of the house, the kitchen is still a mess, I don’t know where my head ends and my ass begins, but the Brat loved school. Yes, the school loved Brat and the Brat loved the school and we love the school and we love the Brat too. So err, seeing how coherent I am, it is probably a better idea to call it a night. Thank you good folks for your wishes, your blessings, for the hand holding, the tear wiping, the loving emails, the text messages, the good vibes… Somehow it felt today like my whole life had been leading up to this moment. I can now exhale. It’s all good.

PS: When we walked in to school, bright and fresh and early, he skipped to the classroom without looking back, after giving me a brusque, “I need to go now Mama, you go home.” Yes, you do darling. It’s about time this little bird flew the nest. Happy flying!