Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Indian Century.

                               The Daily Pheesh
                               saturday 20 August 2050
In a shocking development, Sardar Bhumiputra Singh, the President of the Republic of India announced his resignation from all political posts today. In a moving and eloquent speech broadcast on SBS TV, the much respected SBS said “I am bored with running this country and its people. These people don’t deserve me.” This caps a Presidential career of 25 years for the majestic SBS who emerged from total anonymity to power after the communal riots and military coup of 2025. The resignation is especially significant in the context of the 2 houses of Parliament and the assemblies of India’s 32 states passing resolutions urging the noble SBS to continue as President till the end of his life.

Sources have reported that huge crowds have gathered in front of the statues of the picturesque SBS all over the country. An atmosphere of mourning prevails among these crowds with occasional slogans of “SBS Nahin to Kuch Nahin” , “Our path, SBS path” etc rending the air. There have also been rumours of suicides and attempts at self-immolation across the country. Further reports are awaited.

The first pan-Indian President (the ethnicity, religious background and even the name of the humanitarian SBS, Sardar Bhumiputra Singh being a pseudonym, are not known yet), the visionary SBS presided over the golden age of post-independent India as the erstwhile poor nation derided for its “Hindu rate of Growth” achieved new highs. The leadership of the visionary SBS saw the tricolor flying over Islamabad, Dhaka and Colombo, China adopting Hindi as its national language, India winning all the gold medals on offer at the 2032 Olympics in Patna and the landmark Bhopal Treaty on Greenhouse gases (which gave India a clean, unconditional and exceptional waiver from using only renewable energy sources). The multi-talented SBS also won the Nobel Prize for literature for his best-selling classic “LIFE”, the Nobel Prize in Economics for the immortal “SBS Theory of Poverty” and the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Medicine for his “SBS meter” which is the ultimate measure of the possibility of life on a planet in space. The reign of the remarkable SBS also saw Bhumiputra becoming the most popular name for young boys and girls as an entire generation of children was named after the inspirational SBS .

The Indian Government and the Shimla-based United Nations have declared a month’s mourning and have asked all flags(including plastic flags) to be flown at half mast. The legislatures of the 32 states of India conducted emergency sessions and issued identical appeals to the post-partisan SBS to take up residence in their respective states. However it is more likely that the stellar SBS will, as recorded in his will, travel to the space colony on Titan and take over the rule of the International Space Colony Agency. The issue of succession is already irrelevant since the Indian Parliament had, in an extraordinary Bill, declared the feisty SBS the last President and political authority of India.
We salute the gallant SBS who to quote a MP’s poetic description “many long years ago made a tryst with destiny and redeemed that pledge, not wholly or in full measure but substantially”

DP special—On this momentous yet sad occasion, we dedicate a whole month’s issues of the The Daily Pheesh to a detailed biography of the life and times of the historic SBS. We hope this will enable our dear readers to gain a greater perspective on the achievements of the magnificent SBS. --DP

PS-1. A special word of gratitude to the good people of India and Pakistan for providing me some peripheral inspiration.
PS-2 As should be gathered from above, the main source of inspiration is something else. I am 3 pages into Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “The Autumn of the Patriarch” and it seems immensely promising.
Image credits

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Transformational Humanities?

This article has been in the works for weeks now and so is likely to be a bit of a zig-zag post.Readers Beware! More of meandering and sauntering through links and posts than my usual "sterling/piercing" social commentary ;)

        I start from this post by asmokescreen on English in India in the context of the recent decision by the Government of Andhra Pradesh to make the CBSE syllabus(and English medium) compulsory for 6,500 schools across the state. A bit of digging around gave me these three articles which did not tell me anything about the logistics but did point out the one of the culprits was a World Bank(aha!) aided project called Scheme for Universalisation of Access to and improvement of Quality Education at Secondary Stage (SUCCESS) also known as the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.

        The press release which accompanied the launch of the program(RMSA) last year clearly stated its objectives as well. A huge increase in funding, emphasis on infrastructure and the very specific aim of enhancing the quality of scientific/technical education in the country. This initiative seems to have been tailor-made to address complaints of lack of investment in education. However the operationalization of this proposal has, as usual, provoked a hornet's nest of what seems to be very valid issues about both implementation and principle. Of course the SUCCESS/RMSA also raises issues about what the government has in mind when it comes to the humanities or the social sciences. I suppose they don't mind at all.

        This issue takes me back to last year when the government of Kerala proposed a radical overhaul of the secondary and higher secondary education systems. Languages were to become optional, vocational courses were to be introduced, schools were to come under the jurisdiction of local self-governing bodies and so on. Unsurprisingly enough, considering the radical nature of the proposals and the utter cluelessness of the of the government regarding possible break-downs in the system, the proposal seems to have been shelved. There were a lot of teachers I knew, who saw a huge threat to their existence and many others who firmly believed in the necessity of the "humanities" subjects for the promotion of a greater cause and for the exercise of a more civilized influence on coming generations of students.

        Now we go this article by Steve Fuller, a professor of Sociology, who takes off from the growing emphasis on science and the decline of the humanities before presenting his own take on the essence of the humanities. While there is a considerable danger when one starts speaking of the humanities as one homogenous unit with homogenous values, I guess there is some relevance to his argument about the the humanities being about getting the "upright ape" to read ,write and think. I also agree that the impact of the humanities is more difficult to assess and is more long term.

        Many of the issues raised in this post have existed since time immemorial and "solutions" are almost impossible. However while moral outrage is spewed out on these issues, it is worth remembering that those who let out all this angst and those cherish and venerate the humanities are often directly responsible for the devaluation of the humanities. There is no doubt today that reading,writing and thinking are essentially "taught" in a very literal sense. These three attributes(in the way they are taught) do not possess, in any sense of the term, the value that is ascribed to them by Prof. Fuller and the innumerable champions of the "humanities as civilization" argument. Thus those who want to fight for the humanities must seek newer paradigms for justifying it or newer paradigms for showcasing it. The New Humanities Initiative seems an interesting way of going about it. But I personally am a bit sceptical of education itself as an suitable medium for social transformation (I know that bucking centuries of educational theory). It is inevitable that the educational systems of the day reflect established notions of society and unless one believes in the effectiveness of certain people and certain times, an overall transformational effect is well-neigh impossible. This has pretty much always been the case. That we have been told otherwise and that we have believed is as much a commentary on our search for engines for transformation.

is an article in the Hindu bemoaning the death of the Humanities in Andhra Pradesh.

PS 1. This is not a claim that education is unnecessary or that pursuing academics is a waste. I do not contest that education can have any transformational value. There are always certain people and certain times which make considerable differences. This post is primarily directed at the notion that education as a whole always has or always should have a trasnformational value.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Katrina Awards

The citation

We are proud to present the award to:

Uma Bharati was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, one of the largest states in India. However her true glory days were in the early 1990s as she(along with certain others) rode the crest of a huge wave on the way to power at the centre(they also demolished the Babri Masjid and instigated a huge wave of riots on the way). She had emerged, at that time, as an iconic representative of "female hindutva" and that too at a very young age. However it's the tragedy of youth that unless he/she dies young, a youth icon often fades into oblivion, or worse, infamy. Uma Bharati spent the rest of her life in an increasingly impossible attempt to stay relevant and match up to the role she had carved out for herself during the Babri Masjid movement. There were some bright spots, her chief ministership and the flag raising controversy being some but on the whole, it was a losing battle. She finally gave up in 2004 and was thrown out of the party. Ever since, life has just grown harder. So can you blame her if she did this?

However, the once-fiery sadhvin found out the hard way that you can't beat common sense!