Spare the rod, “save” the child

A Delhi based government school recently shot to headlines. Shanno, a class II student of MCD primary school in Bawana, was “made to stand” in the sun with bricks on her shoulders allegedly by her teacher. She breathed her last at Maharishi Valmiki Hospital in Delhi.

I was shaken by the compassionless approach of the teacher towards a second standard student. I condemn such attack on “innocence”.

I have spent five valuable years of my life educating and exploring young minds. I have been an educator and a guide. I recall my teaching days as one of the best days of my life. I take pride in starting a career as a teacher, being a teacher and proving myself a teacher.

“Proving” is a big word, rather carrying so much of guaranteed truth and honesty; without which proving oneself is a distant dream.

As a teacher, I tried my best to prove myself a worthy teacher. But how successful I am in this endeavour, is a big question, which I guess only my students can answer with absolute precision.

I fondly recall those teaching days: dealing with students of varied minds, backgrounds and abilities, was a tough job no doubt, but a challenging one. Doing homework for the next day’s class, preparing notes, discovering easy and shortcut teaching methodologies, which could be easily grasped by both the fast and slow learners, was a fun!

I came across varied categories of students. Category1: Fast learners, Category2: Mediocres, Cartegory3: Slow Learners. In my dictionary there is no adjective called ” dull” for students, because I believe students are basically avid learners. It’s the teaching methodology that makes him/her fall in the above mentioned categories.

I strongly believe is that a student’s destiny is planned and made out of the efforts of his/her teacher. All depends on how a teacher teaches. How does he/she handle moments of a student’s emotional crisis. All depends on the question: Is she an ‘educator’, an ‘instructor’, or a ‘dictator’? Ask a student to pick the right option of the three given. He will undoubtedly pick the third for the most hated teacher and the first one for the most loved one!

Instruction or dictation?

Instructing and dictating is what most of my friends in the teaching fraternity do. Thus in this attempt to dictate, they turn out to be very harsh and ruthless at times. I remember my class teacher of second standard, who use to pierce her sharp nails into our ear lobes when angry.

What I just said about the teacher fraternity, is not a pre-conceived opinion, but an assumption that I deduced based on my experience. There could be many viable reasons for this common quality in a majority of teachers.

Firstly, many of them take up teaching because this was the last career option for them. Secondly, because they are not happy with the pay package. Thirdly, they vent out their latent anger and frustration on poor students. Last, but “perhaps” not the least, the feeling of being superior in a class of little fools (as considered by most of the teachers).

Now the need for “corporal punishment” to deal with unruly students, has been an issue of debate for many scholars and educationists.

Spare the child or the rod?

The advocates of the famous axiom, “Spare the rod, save the child”, are of the opinion that it is impossible to make a child understand his flaws by punishing him physically or verbally. He is termed innocent and hence, it’s the duty of the teacher to be polite and patient with a student.

The Legal facts

The Indian legal system also protects children from abuse of school authorities or even at home.

– Indian Penal Code Section 88 protects an act which is not intended to cause death, done by consent in good faith for person’s benefit. Master chastising pupil fall under this clause.

– A head teacher who administers in good faith a moderate and reasonable corporal punishment to a pupil to enforce discipline in school is protected by this section and such an act is not crime under Section 323.

– Section 89 of Indian Penal Code protects an act by guardian or by consent of guardian done in good faith for benefit of child under 12 years.

However the same section says that this exception will not extend to cause death, or attempting to cause death, causing grievous hurt. These provisions extend to teachers having quasi-parental authority i.e., consent or delegation of authority from parents also, of course, with exceptions. Using excessive force, causing serious injury, purpose being very unreasonable can turn the act of the guardian or teacher with the consent of guardian, an offence, because such incidents are outside the scope of “good faith”.

– Section 23 of new Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 provides punishment for cruelty to juvenile or child. Whoever, having the actual charge of or control over, a juvenile or the child, assaults, abandons, exposes or willfully neglects the juvenile or causes or procures him to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected in a manner likely to cause such juvenile or the child unnecessarily mental or physical suffering shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or fine, or with both.This section has no exceptions to exempt parents or teachers.

Corporal punishment still exists

Despite all these prohibitions and protections, it’s important to analyse why “corporal punishment” exists in the Indian education system. Why is it still there despite so many laws prohibiting its practice?

Even psychologists opine that “no man is born criminal”. It is his bad past, to be precise, a painful experience of some kind, his failures, his unfulfilled desires which make him cruel.

Teachers practicing cruelty in classroom, are “criminals” in my opinion. As far as I think, a teacher with cruel or criminal mentality of physically assaulting a child might be suffering from a similar psychological disorder. May be he his trying to vent out his anger, guilt or anguish of some kind by punishing a child for his mistakes.

But whatever the reason may be, valid or invalid, I seriously think that innocent students should never be made to suffer.

There is always a way out of this. It is the duty of the schools to organise orientation programmes to make teachers understand and feel the serious responsibility they shoulder. They should realise that in the absence of parents, they are carrying out a proxy task; it is the responsibility of “proxy parenthood” that they shoulder.

In such a case how can they be so harsh to an innocent student, that a corporal punishment turns out to be a capital punishment for him/her!

Although I am no more in this “once termed” humble profession of teaching, I still strongly find myself attached with it. I love my students and fondly remember them.

My appeal to the teaching fraternity: Let’s not forget that our students are also human beings, just like us. They also have the right to know where they go wrong. They too deserve to be loved and treated with care.
And it’s our professional, moral and emotional duty to answer all their queries, however trivial they might be.

Let’s give them a chance to live this beautiful period of their life called ‘childhood’.

Poverty alleviation: In files and reality

Whenever I halt at the red lights of Noida (UP), women in rags, with new born babies tucked under their shawls and wearing a look that beats heights of deceit and brazenness, are seen begging for food; not for themselves, but for the innocent babies they carry.

Beggary in India is a crime, but in the book of laws. It’s evident and we all know that. Any law made in India, serves a medium to warm the pockets of hungry cops. I know the Indian police will outrightly refute this belief of mine, which they might rubbish, calling it just an assumption.

Now coming to the political leaders, I can just say firmly and beyond any doubt that our political leaders, who promise poverty alleviation are liars! If they claim success in poverty alleviation and better housing facility for the people living BPL , why are there more slums than ever? Why is beggary on rise? Why is there uncontrolled population rise among these slum dwellers?

There is neither any resource generation for the people living below poverty line nor there is any “serious” effort by the government to control the multiplying population.

If you have a look at the official sites of the Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation and National Commission on Population, you will just see their aims and objectives being highlighted. If they have achieved something, what’s the harm highlighting them on their official sites?

Here is an endless list of objectives focussed proudly in the official site of the National Commission on Population. I wonder how many of them are really achieved!

National Socio-Demographic Goals for 2010

-Address the unmet needs for basic reproductive and child health services, supplies and infrastructure.

-Make school education up to age 14 free and compulsory, and reduce drop outs at primary and secondary school levels to below 20 percent for both boys and girls.

-Reduce infant mortality rate to below 30 per 1000 live births.

-Reduce maternal mortality ratio to below 100 per 100,000 live births.
-Achieve universal immunization of children against all vaccine preventable diseases.

-Promote delayed marriage for girls, not earlier than age 18 and preferably after 20 years of age.

-Achieve 80 percent institutional deliveries and 100 percent deliveries by trained persons.

-Achieve universal access to information/counseling, and services for fertility regulation and contraception with a wide basket of choices.

-Achieve 100 per cent registration of births, deaths, marriage and pregnancy.

-Contain the spread of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and promote greater integration between the management of reproductive tract infections (RTI) and sexually transmitted infections (STI) and the National AIDS Control Organisation.

-Prevent and control communicable diseases.

-Integrate Indian Systems of Medicine (ISM) in the provision of reproductive and child health services, and in reaching out to households.

-Promote vigorously the small family norm to achieve replacement levels of TFR.

-Bring about convergence in implementation of related social sector programs so that family welfare becomes a people centred programme.

Only laying down objectives won’t help. The government, in collaboration with various NGOs and with the active support of the local self governing bodies should pace up the so-called poverty alleviation programmes. It’s time to pull up their socks, before it’s too late.

Eunuchs: Facing empathy or abhorrence?

The other day I witnessed forced entry of two eunuchs into my sister’s apartment, equipped with ‘dholkis’ and other musical instruments. Dressed in saris, wearing heavy make-up and carrying an obnoxious aura, they danced and sang to their soul’s content. Reason? The birth of a baby in my sister’s family.

They performed a small ‘pooja’ at the doorstep, with a liitle ‘aata’ and ‘haldi’. Then started the real drama.

After a short display of happiness at the birth of the baby, the eunuchs put forth their unbelievable demand of Rs 21, 000, and surprisingly standing at the threshold of an army officer, a Captain so to say, whose monthly take-home remuneration is somewhat around Rs 12, 000!

This undue demand came as a shock for the entire family. After a terrible search, a sum of Rs 5000 was traced in the locker. Sacred by the presence of the eunuchs, known for their disgraceful behaviour in public, my sister’s mum-in-law offered them an amount of Rs 11,00. She also explained them the financial constraints of the family.

But to my surprise, they were not in a receptive mode. They threatened to create a ruckus, if their demand was not fulfilled.

At that time I was fuming with anger, but stood helpless, as I knew that I could do ‘nothing’ to pacify them.

After repeated entreaties, they agreed on accepting Rs 5000. The family took a sigh of relief at the thought of at last getting rid of the “mindless eunuchs”.

Finally they left happily, showering blessings on the baby. But they left me thinking. I kept asking myself: Was it an extortion or beggary? Do they like or despise living the life of a “hijra”, as we term it? What is it, that has made them so shameless in their social approach and harsh? Several questions haunted me all night.

After reading about this class of the society, whom we may call the “third sex” or “hermaphrodites”, I found that very few of the eunuchs in India are truly hermaphrodites by birth. Researchers found that most of them are castrated, under various circumstances and for various reasons, since ancient times. They are hence termed as pseudo-hermaphrodites by scholars.

This class of sexless people are denied the right to live a normal life like ours. They are deprived of the right to work normally as we do. They are looked down upon by this society of normal beings like us. What they face is hatred and mockery. This extreme repugnance from the society, compels them to be harsh and hence behave in a disgraceful manner.

Having born as a normal human being, either male or a female, but later castrated, they too have sex drives, which get them into prostitution. They live a wretched life and also die wretched. I read somewhere that when a eunuch dies, the corpse is beaten 27 times with slippers by the others in the community, so that the dead eunuch is never born as a eunuch again. Indeed a heart piercing fact!

I wonder how many of us really think about them. Human rights activists are busy fighting for the woman’s cause, child abuse, human trafficking and what not. What are these activists and the government doing for this class of people? They are in desparate need to be identified and respected at the same time as the third sex called eunuchs.

The Government of India should start educating them and creating job avenues for them as well. They are the backward class of the society, in the truest sense, who need to be cared and dignified.

By destiny or choice, the truth that stands bold and loud is that these eunuchs lead a miserable life, conditioned to face abhorrence. I guess it’s high time we seriously press for their rights, so that they are also empowered with the right to live, think and speak, the way we do.

Letter from a wife…

My Dearest…

I am having a strange feeling right now; feeling of guilt, anger and remorse.

All these years we have been into a relationship, and I guess, we know each other considerably well.

There are basic differences between us, and that I guess are quite typical of two separate beings. I mean it’s quite obvious that two separate beings with two separate personalities are bound to lock horns with the drop of a hat.

But adjustments are also required to bridge those differences. And I guess both of us are doing the best in this regard. There might be many of my habits which you dislike, just the way I hate many in you. But we are persistently striving to make ourselves believe that we belong to each other despite all those differences. At the same time we also desire to correct each other, though we may not do so.

I agree none of us is “perfect” to the heights. I also know that we can “never” reach the pinnacle of perfection. Yet expectations thrive between us.

You expect certain things but never say, while I say because I expect! I expect because you are mine. When expectations are belittled by either of us, we feel hurt. That’s quite obvious. There’s no dispute over the fact that when a man and a woman get tied up in conjugal bond, they start expecting little things from each other. I don’t mean materialistic expectations, but emotional ones. It’s unavoidable, irrespective of whatever you say or feel.

It is quite known to us, that we are in love, and that’s perhaps the reason we are together. But I believe it’s important to assure and reassure, in order to enliven the relationship, or to be precise, to bring a catalytic effect to it.

When I tell you repeatedly that I love you, I need you and long for you, you will surely feel warm. When I tell you that I lust for you, besides loving you eternally, I am sure you will feel desired, When I tell you that you are the only man that fascinates me in my dreams, you will feel special.

When I call you in odd hours of a day, just to tell you that I was thinking fondly about you, your heart will be overwhelmed with emotions. And one fine day, when you receive a bouquet of roses, unexpectedly, without a special occasion, you will know how much I love you.

If I secretly decorate our bedroom with fragrant flowers and candles to surprise you, it will leave a lasting stamp in your mind and will move you beyond limits. If I cook your favourite food on your birthday, and celebrate it in a different way, you will know how much I adore you.

But do I really need to do all that? Does love need a medium to get communicated?

I believe the answer is sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no”!

‘Yes’, when you are not expressive and ‘no’, when expressing love admiration verbally comes naturally to you. In both the cases, love is getting communicated. That means, it needs to be communicated, “come what may”.

“Touch” is a five letter word, yet houses the power of five thousand watts! It says all, or nothing at all!

A single touch can make you feel how much you are wanted and in what sense you are wanted.

A relationship based on just “sexual pleasure”, is not long lasting, It needs warmth, admiration and respect. But to top it all, psychologists have revealed that it is also equally important, as it is said to be the food for a growing relationship. “Nature’s law”, we call it.

Do we really practice it religiously? Let’s answer this question with “utmost sincerity”, in order to help our relationship grow healthy.

I remember, one day you sent me an SMS which read: “I want to grow old with you.” How warm I felt!

These little gestures of care and admiration make me feel so much “desired” and “special”. That made me feel that I am the most special woman in your life.

I don’t require the riches of the world, I just want to make our relationship grow stronger and fonder, so that we can understand the true clandestine meaning of the bond called “marriage”.

Another shoe to remember…

A Sikh journo shot to headlines today, after he audaciously hurled a shoe at the Home Minister P Chidambaram. It was like a sequel to the Bush shoe drama carried out by an Iraqi journo Muntadhar al-Zaidi of Al-Baghdadiya television – an Iraqi-owned station, who shocked the world by flinging a shoe at the then US President George W Bush, at a press conference in the presence of the Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki.

That thoughtless action by an Iraqi journo, cost him high. On March 12, 2009, al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting a foreign head of state during an official visit.

But what has happened today is indeed yet another display of dirty politics, so typical of Indian politics. Come election and you are spared for any crime you do, if you are from a minority community.

Jarnail Singh, a journo from a Dainik Jagaran, was exonerated, immediately after he dreaded to hurl a shoe at the Home minister of India. Indeed unbelievable!

Two things that left me flabbergasted were: Firstly, a close observation of the video footage showing the shoe throwing episode reveals beyond doubt that the shoe was not thrown at Chidambaram. In fact it was just passed over to him. Secondly, how come the journo escape detention after carrying out such a task.

Jarnail Singh claimed that Chidambaram declined to answer his questions related to the ’84 sikh riots and that angered him beyond limits. He went on to say that his action was not right, but the issue that he raised was absolutely right. So he even declined to apologise. Yet he was let off!

What is the reason? None of us really knows. Based on my presumption, I can just say, this might be yet another political arithmetic. Detaining a Sikh just before the Lok Sabha polls, and at a juncture when the entire Sikh community is fuming over CBI clean chit to Jagdish Tytler, would mean loss of a potential vote bank for the Congress.

Interestingly, the manner the shoe was hurled at Chidambaram, also implies that the entire episode could be a dramatised version, carrying an interesting political storyline, not known to the common public.

Besides all this, what was more shocking than the journo’s act, was Akali Dal’s announcement of a reward of Rs 2 lakh to Jarnail Singh for the heroic deed. Avtar Singh Hit, national general secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal, went to the extent of comparing him to Bhagat Singh who threw a bomb in Lahore Assembly.

Politicising literally “everything” is what Indian politics is all about. This is yet another incident to count. But this time sadly, it’s a journalist who is playing the protagonist.