Sunday, 1 December 2013

Perspective on Education

During a discussion with Chetan (my younger brother) about starting a school, I sent him my perspective on education. Its probably worth keeping on record and even sharing.

The Mythological story about education
God was faced with the question of education for the young ones of various living beings. For all except the man, the answer was fairly simple: The parents will educate the child. In case of the man, it wasn’t so simple for a few reasons. Firstly, apart from the skills required for physical survival, education includes certain mental and spiritual aspects. After all, man has been bestowed with the power to choose and his choices can potentially nurture or destroy. Secondly, there is an inherent diversity among human beings, which is very critical to maintain balance for sustainable existence. Thirdly, the education period or the learning timeline was substantially longer than other species.  
One may identify a few more reasons why education in case of a human being is complex. But what is important is to know how God tackled the question (or shall we say, He’s still tackling it). Given the complexity, it appears to be the job of a specialist. The Indian mythology has probably therefore placed the ‘Guru’ as equivalent of God. Education, especially in the mental and spiritual aspects requires the Guru to be ‘eligible’. Eligibility amongst many other traits would include an understanding of the responsibility he shoulders.
So, when God handed over the eligibility certificate to a few ‘Gurus’, he made it aptly clear to them that 
1. The responsibility is beyond your ‘self’. It is your role and not your profession. Your survival will get taken care of, when you perform your role, but if you make it your profession, it will compromise with your role. 
2. I am being manifested through you in this role. Don’t let it impact your ego. It will create large impact, have a bearing on the history, which gets created. Don’t let it impact your ego. Let your actions flow out of your role, not of you ego.
If I were to take the myth seriously, and if I consider playing some role in the education of human beings, I would infer the following. I am also contrasting it with many educational institutions of today’s times, which though well intentioned, do not fall in line with the myth.
1. The starting point is the identification of the ‘Guru’ and not one’s liking to educate children or his need to earn his livelihood or the need of his ego to create an impact on the society through education. The Guru’s act of educating is not a conscious, thought through act. It just happens. If his role requires any kind of support, there is another role open, that of a supporter or a sponsor. But the driver will always be the ‘Guru’. All decisions apart from those pertaining to education can be of the sponsor, as long as they are subordinated to those pertaining to education.
2. The diversity of human beings and its importance makes it imperative to have a child-specific approach and curriculum. Parts may be standardized, but the whole.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Relationship and Management !!!

Many consider relationships to be amongst the most important aspects of life and managing them is so important. Many respected thinkers and philosophers also opine the same. I’m inclined to think that the first part is quite natural, given the interdependent nature of life but I have a serious reservation about the management aspect.
On deeper thought, I think ‘management’ as an activity is unnatural and may also be at the root of many problems. My assumption is that management originates from thought and is necessarily not intuitive. One may reach the same intuitive action after thinking, but once thought is applied, it falls in the arena of management. Another way of looking at it may be that management is ‘doing’ and not ‘being’ and I consider ‘being’ as a higher state than ‘doing’.
I’m generally not very particular about ‘maintaining’ or ‘managing’ my relationships. Friends, relatives, peers, family, all my relationships are good, bad, strong, weak, not because I intended them to be that way or I worked on them, but they just happen to be the way they are. If I need to manage relationships, they become a burden and instead of adding value, they take away. So, I’m inclined to not manage relationships. Sometimes, I’ve had to pay a price for being that way, but so far the price hasn’t made me uncomfortable. I’ve also had some great relationships and none of these have I’ve ‘managed’.
I haven’t been too conscious of all this till recently. But of late, I’ve been receiving a lot of attention and advice on giving importance to this important aspect. But I just can’t get myself up to it and I don’t wish it to be any other way.
One of the reasons why we moved into this place (Barkheda) instead of buying our own land was that this place was intended to be a community of people who’d like to live in harmony with nature. So, we thought that some time later, we may have a few neighbours, whose thoughts and ways may coincide with ours. The alignment of thought was with a few city people, who were founders and land owners. 9 months later, we’ve realized that there is no alignment in action. Living the thought (in harmony with nature) requires one to come out of the comfort zones. But these city dwellers don’t seem to be able or willing to do that. Consequently, there is a strain in our relationships. Now the question is, should I get to ‘managing’ these relationships (something, which I’m neither inclined nor equipped to do) or should I continue to live the life I’m living and the relationship will reach wherever it has to?

Saturday, 26 October 2013


It gives me great pleasure to be independent. Independence means not being dependent on someone to satisfy basic needs. Interdependence is surely a higher virtue, but it often crosses the line and gets into the arena of exploitation. This is a separate subject and is a huge aspect of our normal life.
Moving ahead on the path of independence, a new skill got added recently – milking the cow. I can’t express how liberating the feeling is. We now have a cow and a calf within our house premise and I milk the cow twice a day. Kids now drink fresh, unadulterated, organic milk of a free grazing Indian cow – something experts claim as the best possible. We’re also able to get very small quantities of cream, turn it into butter and then into pure, organic, Indian cow ghee. Just a few spoonsful every 3 days, but unmatched quality! All this independently!
The learning, which got reinforced with this experience, was that the biggest bottleneck in learning something new is inertia. I’d given myself 10 days to be able to milk. And it happened that 2 sessions were sufficient!
Siddharth and Shreya seem to be enjoying themselves – all by themselves. There are times when we feel that they long for company of same aged kids, but most times, they are engrossed in their own games, stories, cow & calf. Siddharth is learning to communicate over e-mail – his own e-mail id. He also writes a blog – couple of sentences each time and sends it to dada and dadi. He’s learning to type. I sometimes wonder if handwriting will be irrelevant in a few years! Shreya is also getting more conversant with a laptop and even the internet. She’s learning to read, but is not a hard-worker at that yet.
Over the last few days, coincidently both Rekha and I have had a realization. The importance of organic food, the harm caused by pesticides, nutrition in food and many more are undoubtedly true, but blown out of proportion. Possibly there is a lobby working against the other side of these phenomena. What is likely to be infinitely more harming than chemically grown food or pesticide infested fruits & vegetables, is, stress. Pursuit of happiness can cause stress, rather, it inevitably does. But happiness does not. Instead of spending a lifetime in pursuit of happiness, it is more important to be happy – today! So, a new principle, new norm: Norms and principles are important. They are the cornerstones of life, but the pursuit of a normal life, which causes stress, defeats the very purpose of a normal life. On the other hand, a life without norms, focusing on happiness alone may also result in stress. Quite a balancing act required!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Kids & Education

Education of children is of utmost importance to us. It is one of the main reasons we decided to move into a different lifestyle. Both Rekha and I feel that they haven’t lost anything because we pulled them out of the schooling system. I am certain that I’ve saved them from the system, which is designed to instill fear. When we moved to Barkheda, we were happy to find a school here. Though we didn’t send them to the school to study, they played with the children after school.
Then one day, we were faced with an opportunity to take on the responsibility of the school. We gave it a thought and came to a conclusion that we should run a school, where we can send our children as well. We gave a deep thought to the why, what and how of education. We spoke to a few people, looked at a few methods. Finally, we figured out that it has to be residential learning space, which doesn’t separate living from learning. Since learning is round the clock, it doesn’t make sense to carve a school time. Learning is not just about academics, but also about physical well being, personal hygiene, a routine, habits, ability to learn and much more. Academics has to be a part, but needs only as much time and mind share as required.  It dawned on us that basically, we’d like to raise a few more children. That way, we’d benefit the children and also, it will be fantastic for our own kids.
The current school has 30 children. We would have liked to start with not more than 10 children; that too, if there is at least one family / couple residing here. We gave an introductory talk to the present teachers and asked them if they’d like to stay here. We didn’t hear from them for a few days and figured out that they wouldn’t like to come out of their comfort zone.
This school was started a year back with a view that when more families stay here, a school will be required. As we review the decision today, two insights appear. One, it is quite unlikely that many families will stay here very soon. Two, it is unlikely that someone who re-orients his lifestyle so dramatically will be aligned with the schooling system of the mainstream. It may therefore be prudent to sequence a school for residents after the residents actually stay here and also express their need for a school.
So, what happens to our plan of raising a few more children? Well, we keep ourselves open and awake to an opportunity, without trying to force pace. As for this school, the consensus appears to be to discontinue the existing school. We are completely in favour of this decision, though it may appear a little harsh.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Dil, Dosti, etc.

Our relationship with family, friends, relatives and people at large has undergone a major change in the context of our new life. This change was one of the striking experience during our vacation and after. Most people don’t seem to be able to relate us and vice versa. College friends, who once were a part of my being, everyday, were in touch every now and then, while I was in the city, aren’t interested in meeting me now and I don’t feel any pinch. Office colleagues are almost total strangers; I didn’t feel like and therefore did not visit my office, though I stayed there for over a month, not even spoke to anyone on phone! Relatives seem to be getting acquainted afresh, not excited, but inquisitive, curious. No one is rude, no one seems to be avoiding me, but just seems a little guarded and I’ve become quite indifferent. A large vacuum has thus been created and sometimes I feel very lonely. Immediate family, parents, siblings have filled part of the vacuum by being more interactive than in the past. However, their concern for our safety, our children’s future, our future brings in a lot of fear in the interactions. We’re probably searching for an audience for the excitement and happiness in our new life. It’s a strange feeling. I can’t complain. I’m not sad, but there’s still something amiss in my relationships. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Inspiring Dialogues from Hindi Movies

"गलत क्या है जानने से फरक नहीं पड़ता। गलत को सही करने से फरक पड़ता है।"                          --सिंघम 

"दिल अगर सच्चा हो, रब सब कर दे सेटिंग। "     --हैप्पी सिंह 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Perspectives : Agriculture, Health

A student of economics views agriculture & allied activities as ‘primary sector’ in the structure of a country’s economy. Industry is considered secondary and Services as tertiary. Developed economies are those in which the dependence on agriculture is miniscule (less than 5%). Lesser the % of population dependent on agriculture, more developed is the economy considered. Someone has taught this to the world and today it has become an almost an unquestionable law of economics. I view the ingraining of this thought as nothing short of systematic brain-washing. It’s probably nothing different from what happens with fundamental extremists.
Agriculture and allied activities ensure survival. When we say that 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture, we’re assuming earning money is the only need. But for physical survival, every person is dependent on agriculture. Think of it, what constitute the secondary and tertiary sector are not life essential, but agricultural is, without exception. Viewing agriculture only as contributor to the economic growth, measured purely in terms of money is hugely demeaning it. A farmer is earns the least when compared with his peers in secondary or tertiary sectors. The world views him as ‘undeveloped’. What more, he views himself as inferior to others. A farmer is widely considered as someone who drags the GDP growth % down. He tries hard to ape the city counterpart and before he dies, the least he ensures is that his children are out of farming. 
Thus, slowly, but surely, we have an increasing tribe of people, who think of themselves as contributing far more than a farmer. They think they are the ones who make the clock tick. The children in this tribe don’t know that roti is made from wheat and wheat grows on plants.
It is in the interest of this non-farmer to at least wake up to the reality that his survival is under-written by the farmer and his growth is largely dependent on the same farmer being sold his goods & services. These goods & services, though, in most cases, are not life-essential.
Having money to buy food is not as re-assuring as being able to grow food. Times are changing fast. With the quality of food deteriorating (due to use of excessive chemicals), being able to grow food will possibly be the only way to ensure continuous supply of good food. 
Cancer and other ailments, which are caused primarily due to modern lifestyle, are commonplace nowadays. The suffering is not just for the patient, but also the closest relatives – and quite some suffering. Not taking care of one’s own health should be considered as grave is a suicide attempt. Ultimately, taking care of the body is our responsibility towards the maker.
Taking care to keep away from specific ailments is almost impossible. What has caused cancer in a person, is still unknown. There may be multiple reasons. What seems appropriate is that one follows basic lifestyle discipline, as downloaded by very old-timers. The attack on the body is from so many fronts: water, air, food cooked outside. It is impossible for any person to plug all the loop-holes identified. The most logical way is to holistically understand healthy living practices and subordinate everything else to this way of life. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Perspectives : Happiness, Profession

Staying in Barkheda poses significant challenges to a city dweller. So many things we take for granted in a city are a struggle. The flip side is that many of these things, when accomplished, give genuine happiness. Procuring clean drinking water, being able to burn the chulha, electricity, things we take for granted in a city, which give no happiness in a city, give tremendous happiness here. When I realized this, I thought it strange. Is this the kind of happiness I’ve come here to get? But on second thought, what the heck! Happiness is not this kind or that. If something makes you happy, just be happy. That’s all there is to it.
We in a city are so trained to match skills with people. For example, a doctor, a mason, a plumber, a mechanic, a cook, a carpenter, all are supposed to be people with special skills. So much so that we’ve even classified some work as something which only the maid can do! But in a village, almost everyone is able to do the basic work of each of these ‘professionals’. Isn’t it how it should be? So elementary, but we’re making more and more compartments…even teaching 4 year olds that these are various ‘community helpers’. Is it possible that on a particular day, in some household, no one has cleaned after the kid has done potty, because the maushi was on leave! Parenting may also become a special vocation!!!