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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Main Aisa Kyon Hoon!

Once the basic needs were satisfied, I, like many fellow humans, started thinking about questions and subjects, which can be referred to as ‘philosophical’. Words like social justice, governance, balance, ego, paradigm, consciousness, truth, myth, etc. started featuring in thoughts, discussions and reading material. Gradually, realization dawned that these were not definitive in nature like mathematics or physics and could not be taken to logical conclusions one way or the other. I learnt to abort discussions saying that each person has and is entitled to his own perspective. Recently, while reading about Socrates, Plato, Aristrotle, I understood that these abstract subjects have been in consideration for over 2500 years. As I thought more, these were being spoken of during the times of Mahabharat as well, which is supposed to be dated about 5000 years ago. All religious texts primarily appear to be dealing with these subjects. Finally, I concluded that there is some substance in the concept of enlightenment and that answers to these questions are beyond the reach of logical understanding and communication through language. These need to be realized by one. Each person is at a different place in this journey. Communicating what I realize is meaningless, because firstly language has its limitations and secondly, the transmitter of this realization and the receiver are on different planes. Their comprehension of the same text is not the same.

Then, I stumbled upon a book about the evolution of humans. It states some very interesting research findings.
1.  Homo-sapiens i.e. the specie we belong to, first came into existence 2.5 million years ago.
2.  We are not the only species of humans. Two organisms are said to belong to the same specie if they can mate and procreate off-springs, which are fertile. Horse and donkey can mate, but the off-springs (mules) are sterile. Therefore horses and donkeys are separate species, though their ancestral roots are the same. The other human species were destroyed in due course. This apart, homo-sapiens also caused the extinction of most other species of animals and plants whenever they invaded any part of the earth.
3.  Till 10,000 years ago, human was a hunter-gatherer. In other words, 99.6% of our time on earth so far has been as a nomadic hunter-gatherer. A lot of our traits are a result of this era. Humans moved from one place to other, largely living on whatever grew in forests rather than grow something for consumption. The diet was varied and very nutritious. The requirement for being alert to dangers all the time made sure that we were physically far fitter than the fittest people today. There were no possessions and the concept of planning for future was non-existent. Needs of tomorrow were never provided for today and thus there was something to be done everyday. It did not require more than 3-4 hours of work everyday to met daily requirements, but there was no bandwidth or interest for philosophical concepts of dharma-adharma. Eliminating old, sick and weak people in the tribe, who slowed the movement and endangered others, was quite an accepted practice.  Babies were tied to mothers and breast-fed for many years so that small children did not slow down the movement of the group. Consequently, the immune system was quite strong and birth rate was controlled, keeping the population in check.
4.   With the advent of agriculture, arrived many economic issues of population explosion, nutrition loss, a relatively sedentary lifestyle, settled and thus unhygienic living conditions, acquisition of assets like land, animals leading to exploitation and many more.

I don’t want to reproduce all the book says, but there is a lot of learning from the narration.

1.  Our life-times and a 5000 year old history is just a small dot in the process of evolution. Our behavior, tastes, psychological construct, physical construct is a result of this evolutionary process. Much of our intuitive framework is a result of millennia of evolution. Even the urge to eat sweets can be traced to it. Many so called ‘follies’ of humankind cannot be attributed to the existing people, systems or cultures. Trying to making the system any different is an audacious attempt, even if planned over a few hundred years.
2.  Philosophical concepts, religions, mythology is as much a figment of common imagination as is money, government, countries and business. For 99.6% of the time, humans have existed probably without any of these. 10,000 years later, an archeologist may write history stating that there was a time when one human being considered himself as the owner of a piece of land and there was another who certified this notion. Both of them have long become extinct, but the land still remains.
3.  As individuals, group of people, civilisations and generations, we cannot claim to alter the course of evolution even a bit. Even then, our lifetimes are very much integral to the evolutionary process. To say that we have or we can cause any impact to the nature of human being or environment is hugely overestimating ourselves, but to say that our being is immaterial is equally false. Therefore, the world around us could have been no different from what it is. Then how can we term something as wrong and something else as correct?
4.   The individual self is so insignificant but to be a part of the universe is so significant!

Main aisa kyon hoon ? Because that is the only way I could have been.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Economics

Sometime during my college days, I’d come across a definition that economics is the study of human behavior in conditions of unlimited wants and limited resources. The meaning would perhaps remain the same if I say that it is the study of human behavior in conditions where resources are lesser than required to satisfy wants. I think economics is also the study of human behavior in conditions where resources are morethan required to satisfy wants. We are living in times, where this condition is not utopian. There are umpteen examples of people, who have more resources than what they need to satisfy their wants.

I’m not getting into the distinction between need and want, but considering all that a person wants as his need. Also, ‘unlimited wants’ is a misleading notion because the capacity of a person to consume is finite. Therefore the term ‘want’ needs to be defined with more precision. But I’ll leave that for later.

In economics, a lot of emphasis is laid on the assumptions or emphasis is laid upon keeping exceptions out for the purpose of understanding the law. Here too, we begin with the study keeping exceptional possibilities out of the purview.

So, how do people behave when he has more than what he needs?
1.       Hoard
2.       Invest
3.       Charity
4.       Spend on ‘unwanted’ stuff
5.       Release / Let go

It need not be assumed that the above behavior is demonstrated only under conditions of excessive resources. They may be seen otherwise as well, but our study considers the conditions of excess resources.

Each behavior needs to be understood in detail. But that too I’d like to keep for later. I’ll briefly distinguish between charity & letting go and hoarding & investing. Charity is considered as directed giving i.e. giving for a specific purpose. Letting go is not even giving, it’s just letting go. Hoarding is considered owning without making an economic use and investing is putting the excess resources to economic use.

Determination of the characteristics of people who demonstrate each behavior and identification of causes, which make them do so are other areas of deeper study.

What is also interesting to me is to understand the impact of each behavior on the person and the society at large. If we widen the scope of resources to include non-financial resources like time, relationships, knowledge, natural resources, it opens up vast areas of further study.

I wonder if I’ve stumbled upon an idea for a doctoral thesis! 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Work, Service, Earning, Need!

When I quit my job, I thought that it is futile to spend so much time commuting to and fro and in office to earn a living. As it is, the job is getting me more money than I need to live a simple life. Why not release some bandwidth, even if it means earning less.

It is so elementary to look at work as a means of livelihood. One works to earn a living. But is the converse true? If one doesn’t need to earn for a living, doesn’t he need to work? For this discussion, let is consider work as professional work, not personal.

When I tried to establish relationships, I wasn’t able to establish a logical relationship between work and earning! Let’s take a farmer or a doctor. Both of them provide a service (growing food and curing illness). Let’s say there is a consumer who is incapable of doing either of it himself and has to depend upon them to fulfill his need. How does he arrive at their fee? If life is precious, both are invaluable, if it isn’t, both are worthless. From the perspective of the farmer or the doctor, is appropriate for him to refuse food or cure to someone who needs it but cannot pay for it? One may say ‘yes he should serve someone who can pay’, but if there is no other taker for the service, then is it appropriate? How then does one arrive at a fair compensation?

Price determination through demand and supply is devoid of any logic whatsoever. Just because the supply of bananas is more than apples, I pay more for apples, though I like bananas more than apples! Absurd! This, however, is a big topic. It also brings out the unfairness and exploitation aspect as we explore it further.

So, if we don’t take into consideration demand and supply, how does one arrive at the price for a service? On thinking deeply enough, I realized that work is related directly to service and earning is related directly to need. One should work in order to serve and one should earn as much as is his need. We have struck off service and need as abstract and subjective and tried to establish a direct relationship between work and earning. Logically absurd, isn’t it?

Logically thinking, I will serve through my work in an area, in which I am best suited and am capable of innovating and improvising for better results. Working in such an area will ensure that I’m committed to whatever I do and also that I enjoy my work. I will look at others in my area of work in order to learn from them or help them learn. Since both of us are serving, there is no sense of competitiveness. In fact, I will help them and take help from them, in case of illness or other times, when I’m unable to attend work. My business or profession will be centered around the needs of the customer. Similarly, my needs will be served by similar persons, who work to serve. In such working environment, anyone who does not serve with adequate commitment will be provided feedback and he will fall in line.

This logical thinking can be continued. But anyone reading it in today’s times will find it weird. But it is logical. Importantly, such systems existed a few centuries ago, in some places, a few decades ago.

Have we completely lost this thinking by relating work with earning? Is earning the primary objective of working? I don’t think so. Most people, even today, experience discomfort when they have to do something ‘unfair’ at their workplace; even if it earns them lots of money. Many people, even today, experience discomfort when they earn what they haven’t worked for. 

Though it is considered sentimental and not sensible to talk about fairness at work place, most people feel good when they act fairly.

So, what’s the point? Is there any hope that we will see people working only to serve? We see a lot of people, even today, who work only to serve. That they’re paid for it is incidental. There are many, who aren’t paid enough or at all. But that doesn’t take away their commitment from their work. One characteristic of theirs is that they never try to reason out why they are working. They work, not even to serve. They work, probably just for the sake of work. We see such people every now and then. We salute them, silently and feel humbled.


With this learning, I’m looking at work with an all new perspective. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Matsya Nyaya V/s Dharma/Adharma

Read an interesting piece of Indian mythology, said to have been elaborated in the Vishnu Purana.

Vishnu descends on earth in the form of a small fish and asks Manu, the first man, to save him from the big fish. The notion of a big fish feeding on the small fish is known as ‘matsya nyaya’ and denotes the law of the jungle. By promising to save the small fish, Manu, in effect establishes the code of civilization or ‘dharma’, where even the weak can thrive. Manu puts the small fish in a pot. But as the days pass the fish grows in size and becomes too big for the pot. So Manu moves him to a pond. The fish in due course becomes too big for the pond. Manu moves him to a river. As the days pass, even the river proves inadequate for the fish. The fish is then moved to the sea. It grows too big even for the sea. So the skies burst and torrential rains fall, which end up submerging the whole earth. This, the fish declares ominously, is Pralaya, the end of the world. The story ends with the giant fish, identified as Vishnu himself, towing a boat with Manu and his family through the devastating flood to safety. The latter part of the story is similar to Noah’s ark and establishes Vishnu as the savior. The earlier part explains the rise and fall of civilization. Civilisation comes into being when the small fish is rescued from the big fish; civilization comes to an end when the fish keeps growing bigger than the pond.

I am yet to come to terms with my own logical interpretation of the story.

The law of the jungle or ‘matsya nyaya’ is quite universally considered barbaric or primitive. In contrast, the code of civilization or ‘dharma’ is considered higher than the law of jungle. The sense of fairness or justice is a part of the code of civilization. Therefore, we abhor exploitation of any kind. ‘Matsya nyaya’ is the default or natural course, while this code is a value addition by humans.

This code of civilization differentiates ‘dharma’ from ‘adharma’ and right from wrong. It encourages one to be conscious of this differentiation. Consequently, one is often caught in the cross-fire between head and heart. Whether the head rules or the heart, one ends up in either guilt or self-piety. This unveils a host of other emotions: Anger over those who’re inconsiderate to the code, envy towards those who experience pleasures by ignoring righteousness, fear of not conforming, greed to manipulate those in such fear and so on.
In the story, the intervention of Manu or the establishment of this code has caused the end of the world.

Consider the law of the jungle in contrast. Amongst creatures governed by the law of jungle, these emotions don’t seem to hold sway, though they may be present. The law also ensures that one is alert. It establishes a hierarchy – very naturally. It gives space and freedom. It ensures balance. Thus, it is more sustainable.

When people like me think about the education of children, we emphasise that the child learns naturally, rather than be guided by a moral prescription. We place the natural course as higher than one, which is born out of thought. We seem to prefer the law of jungle over the code of civilization. At the same time, we shudder at the thought of being governed by ‘might is right’.

Perhaps, we limit the understanding of ‘might’ or strength as physical strength. Might can be gained from intelligence, skill and love. Perhaps we also infer that ‘having a right’ will lead to ‘asserting the right’. It may not be so…perhaps.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Wealth

Money is unanimously seen as a very forceful variable. The importance of material wealth outstrips any other form of wealth. It differentiates the donor from the needy. It differentiates the respected from the condemned.

A person abjectly poor in terms of physical, psychological and spiritual health assumes the role of a donor (because he is materially rich) to a tribal beneficiary, who has everything except money. Material wealth in such cases include high academic qualifications and high positions of political or economic power.

What does richness entail? Who should be considered rich in the broader sense of the word ‘wealth’? A cheerful disposition, ability to sleep like a log, the skill to cook food or stich a cloth, access to the freshest air or the expansive sea, a temperament to be cool during crisis, ability to connect emotionally with a loved one in pain. Surely the lack of many of these is felt when the need arises. How different then are these vis-à-vis money?

Consider this…In the broader sense of the term wealth, a child is born with some inherited wealth. The parents’ job is to help him increase his wealth till the child is on his own. Later the child is on his own, doing the same job.

As a person assumes adulthood, his growth in net wealth is either very slow, stagnant or it degrows. He gains money, house, car, but loses out on health, enjoyment he draws from playing football, time spent with friends. However, if he is conscious of this, he might be able to stem the erosion.


Sounds quite logical…doesn’t it?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

What's up!!!

Mahesh, 32, is a manual labour working in a village. He also has a couple of buffaloes. His wife also goes for manual work in people’s farms for about half the month. Gopal, 23, is an engineer, working as a sales executive with a large Indian company in Mumbai. Dipika, 20, is in her final year graduation with an excellent academic record. Srinivas, 42, is a senior executive with a large MNC bank. Revati is studying in 10thstandard and is academically brilliant, social, well read (for her age).
Economically, their parents or larger family members aren’t dependent on them. On the contrary, their siblings and some other close family members are also in an economically ‘surplus’ zone. None of them have any extravagant lifestyles or expensive habits. None of them are too ambitious. None of them are any serious practitioners of some art or sport.
All of the above are typical representatives of people around us. All of them (possibly except Revati) have grown up with a primary aim of earning their living and then being economically independent. Economic well being offers respect in the society and independence in decision making. They are, thus, people who’ve arrived, or sure to.
When they catch up with friends on facebook or personally and ask ‘what’s up?’, there’s a talk about the road trip or the vacation that is being planned. Cricket, politics or minor events at work or school / college are the discussion subjects. There may be a few others, but mostly inconsequential. It wouldn’t have mattered if it (the discussion) hadn’t happened.
Few of such people eventually think about issues like the social culture and values, health, environment and other such issues of larger, though not of urgent concern.

Even reading the four paras above seems boring. There’s nothing happening in the story! But it interests me to think about what will happen in these stories. There may not be any urgent challenges, but will there be any important ones, which they will take up some time? Something for which they will not mind staking all they have? Something for which they will not care what the society thinks of them? Will they find something really interesting in life? For some reason I’m unable to comprehend completely, I’m losing sleep over it and am writing this at 4 am! Am I headed for an appointment with the psychiatrist? 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Jai Shree Krishna

My mother was next to Shreya when she woke up today. Instead of the ‘good morning’, mom said ‘Jai Shree Krishna’. Shreya didn’t respond. This was a new greeting. Mom told her to repeat the greeting and said that she should say ‘Jai Shree Krishna’ every morning and whenever she greets someone. Shreya casually asked “Why should I?” Mom replied saying, “It feels good.” My mom-in-law joined her and reinforced this to Shreya. I walked in and asked (on behalf of Shreya), “Who feels good?” Suddenly their defence  mechanism took over and mom said, ”Ok, ok, we’ll not try teaching your children.”
Just a casual event, but loaded with understanding. One, at the age of 4, Shreya retains a tendency to enquire. By this age, most children lose this tendency completely. Genuine enquiry leads to knowledge and understanding. But as parents, as teachers, as elders, as opinion leaders, we should reflect whether we encourage or even respond favourably to a genuine enquiry or are we too busy trying to indoctrinate. Are we too sure of our prescriptions, of ‘what is good’?  That is about genuine enquiry. But, it is a subject of deeper study.
Two, when I walked in and asked, “Who feels good?” it was surely not a genuine enquiry. I sensed an indoctrination happening and was critical of the fact that not only was genuine enquiry discouraged but also bulldozed. My question was actually rhetoric. I was actually saying, “If you feel good saying it, you say it. Why do you want her to emulate blindly?” Later, I realized that I need to be more conscious of my (inward) reaction. I’m not able to accommodate the natural tendency of my mother or mother-in-law. I would like them to answer and encourage the genuine enquiry. Am I also indoctrinating? I’m not sure.
Three, my mother’s response was perfect. She responded to my rhetoric, not to the verbal question, which could be argued as a genuine enquiry. But, had she responded to it as if it were a genuine enquiry and given a reasonable answer to ‘why’ one should say ‘Jai Shree Krishna’, may be all of us would have benefitted and happy. Shreya would have been encouraged to ask her genuine enquiry questions, I would have realized that this was not indoctrination, but there is some substance to it. My mother would have also been happy. Why? A little difficult to articulate, but simple to understand.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

FUN

Having fun is very important for us (our family, I mean). And it is so for many people we know, for almost every child in the world. In fact, it can be argued that it is the purpose of life!
We also enjoy company. Fun can be had within oneself, within the family or with a larger group. All forms of fun are necessary. But ever since we’ve stepped out of the so called ‘mainstream’, our interaction with friends (from the erstwhile mainstream life) has reduced to almost zero. I get a feeling that they don’t want to interact with us. No casual phone calls, no comments on facebook / blog, no replies to e-mails. The initial feeling was that of depression, nearing betrayal. But it is not as simple as that. I've been trying to figure out the reasons for this change.

There may be other reasons, but one reason is that when we moved towards a life into a village most of our friends, colleagues, relatives looked at it as moving away from fun. It is quite obvious. Leading a simple life, being environmentally conscious, inculcating and preserving good human values are not associated with having fun. Monks, social activists, gurus, honest politicians & bureaucrats are not associated with fun. On the contrary, they are seen as people who have renounced fun. Renouncing fun is equal to being boring. Exercising regularly is equal to not being able to sleep late, eating healthy is equal to not eating out, and sleeping on time is equal to no late night hang-outs.

The notion is also supported by the fact that most people, who have moved to such a life are burdened with a host of moral values, which has indeed taken the fun out of their lives. Reducing the use of plastic, using public transport instead of cars, eating red rice instead of white are some common characteristics. These don’t bother me much. What I find alarming is that they don’t watch masala movies, don’t go on treks or vacations, don’t eat sweets even occasionally, and keep pestering their children not to fight, share toys, eat without spilling and talk politely all the time!

So, my friends are behaving inline with the generally accepted norms. It is quite likely that they are missing me as much as I’m missing them. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Breaking News!

Concern for relatives (outside immediate family) seems to have reduced considerably. Of course it varies, but in general, we've become more 'practical'. Our reaction to news from relatives is perhaps similar to news one gets through TV or newspaper about people in general. 

For example, when we get informed about a sudden death or detection of a terminal illness at young age, the likely reaction is "Oh! What is the impact on family? Are people financially dependent?" Almost zero time is allotted to 'feeling' the grief (or even joy). It different in different communities. Rekha feels that among South Indians, the bonding between family members is not very strong, unlike Marwaris or Gujaratis. People would rather keep the doctor’s appointment or not disturb the schedule of children than to comfort a cousin in deep grief. 

The issue on hand is quite fundamental and very important. Have family members & relatives also become distant enough that their joys and sorrows have become just ‘breaking news’? Is talking to friends and relatives akin to channel surfing? It seems so. Not just amongst certain sections, but quite widely spread.
                                                                                     
So, what? This is how life is evolving. True, this is how life is evolving, but are we conscious and do we feel this or is this too just another issue to be discussed over tea and get back to ‘being practical’? Given this background, why would people be expected to be sensitive to the ecology or unknown fellow countrymen or other living organisms? Let's be 'practical'.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Walking the Talk

Land price is a major factor governing my decision to buy land. My concerns are thus:
1.   There is no economic rationale for price of any agricultural land to be valued beyond a threshold. How does one arrive at this threshold? Let us say that one family of 4 can manage not more than one acre of land. If a person can earn a gross revenue of 1 lac from an acre and net revenue of 80 thousand, the net revenue should cover his cost of living (including a reasonable saving) and the cost of capital (interest cost on investment in land). If his cost of living is pegged at 60,000 pa, he cannot service more than 20000 of interest pa. The land price for an agricultural land then cannot exceed 2 lac per acre. One may re-calculate this threshold by modifying the assumptions of how much land can a family manage and how much gross revenue can one make from the amount of land he can manage.
There may be other methods of arriving at the threshold. But, this has to be a factor in price determination.
2.   Senseless rise in land prices are pushing people away from agriculture and even further from natural farming. At the market prices, in most areas, a farmer cannot even cover the interest cost through farming revenues. Given the market prices, it makes sense for almost every farmer to either sell his land or use it for non-agricultural purposes. This will result in everyone monetizing all the land and there being no food to eat. Quite a scary scenario.
3.   Non-farmers buying land at market determined prices is only pushing up prices astronomically. If I buy land at such prices, just because I can afford to, I’m directly causing a rise in future deals, thus aiding the systemic catastrophe directly.
These are macro concerns. Agreement at macro level is quite easy to get. More so from people who’re not involved and even more from people like me for whom agreeing to the rationale saves money.

At the level of individual decision making, the thinking process is quite different. Plastic bags choke drains, thus aiding the possibility of floods in cities. But plastic bags offer a convenience and I think that just by my refusing to use a bag will not avoid floods if others continue to use. Similarly, if I’m a seller of agricultural land, I will agree with the rationale above, but think that my singular contribution to the systemic catastrophe is insignificant. But if I am a buyer, I will vehemently support the theory with a complete conviction that I’m fighting the cause of saving humanity from a disaster.

There is a phrase in hindi / urdu, “Sau chuhe khake billi chali haj ko.”I’ve sold real estate at market prices and am sitting in possession of real estate, which is valued very high at market prices and at market determined prices, it is sure to rise astronomically as well. I’ve contributed to the catastrophe as a seller and am opposing contribution to it as a buyer.

Rise in all kinds of real estate (agricultural, residential and commercial) without any relation to its productive utility is one of the biggest causes of an eminent systemic economic catastrophe. This is leading to a social, cultural and environmental destruction. It is resulting in dilution of values amongst younger population. Quite conveniently we blame the education system, western countries and philosophies, but refuse to look within. All this damage is directly impacting me and I need to stop contributing to the systemic mess, whether I’m buying real estate or selling it.

Therefore, I must reverse the unfair gains I’ve made on real estate and also refrain from making unfair gains in times to come. This is what I can possibly do to reverse the unfair gains. I give myself the liberty to earn 10% return on investment in my real estate. This percentage can be debated. It can also be debated that if I’m staying in the house, I should not earn capital gains. After calculating, it works out that half of my networth needs to be reversed. This is a real test. 

How do I reverse it is another question. Not easier than accepting the fact that half the networth is unfair. One option is that I buy land at high market price, since I’ve gained due to high market prices. But this will still aid the systemic catastrophe. The other is that I buy agricultural land from someone at fair price and sell my house at fair price. I can think of more options. What I must consider is that if I need to create a systemic impact, I should create a fair system and not an isolated fair deal. It is far too important to address the core issue of fear we’re facing today. Fear manifested as greed, exploitation, degenerating values, widening gap within the society. People like me, who have been on the benefiting side of the unfair exchange are the only ones who ought to act.  


There is a dire need for creating a fair exchange mechanism and a fair price determination system. I'd like to invite comments on this subject. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Education, Modern Schooling, Culture, Development, etc.

Last week, we saw a documentary titled ‘Schooling the World’. It was about how modern education is aimed at and has substantially succeeded in destroying the ethnic cultures, ruined the lives of many for the gains of few individuals and nations and distorted children from the path of natural growth and lured them to a much inferior materialistic life. It states that the genesis of the degradation of education lay in the colonial domination, which treated the subjected nations as resources meant to fulfill their dream of ruling the world. It goes on to state that many well intentioned efforts are accelerating this degradation because they are blinded to the real effects of modern schooling. Overall, it is the story of evil western forces using their power to destroy the cultural treasures of eastern tradition by way of reforming the schooling system.
The audiences to the movie were 5 couples, 3 of who have completely pulled their children from modern schooling, one family who schooled their daughter in their own alternate school till age 12 and one couple, who’d taken their child through regular schooling till graduation. There seemed a consensus regarding the evil effects of modern schooling. The course of action for the future was however blurred. I was convinced by the powerful communication, which reinforced my view that modern schooling is indeed unnecessary and harmful for children.
Later, when Rekha and I were discussing, she indicated that it was quite a one-sided communication. As we thought through more, we felt it was quite audacious to attribute every possible modern day problem to the modern schooling. Poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, loss of cultural values and ethnic practices, drug abuse, disregard for human lives were all inferred as effects of modern schooling and the blind faith in it.
I now realize that the subject deserves far more thought before one arrives at a judgment. After all, my enquiry in this subject is not academic alone; it has an application. I need to review my own bias which is probably shaping the lives of my children. Following questions & logical inferences can get me started.
1.       It is true that we’ve lost much of the traditional knowledge, skills and way of life and replaced it by ways, which are destructive (to health, environment, values and more), degenerating and inferior. But, there must have been something amiss in our older way of life. We are not known to buy into a new way of life so easily. Did we yearn for more fun and/or more recognition of our individual selves? It would be quite unfair to say that it was the white man’s coercive ways, which forced people to modern schooling. It would be insightful to slowly, without any bias, relive the process, which led the common man to mend his ways.
2.       Is modern schooling a completely wasteful package? Or can we pick useful aspects from modern schooling, which are better than traditional practices and can now be blended in a newer approach?
3.       When we think of ideal education methods, can there be one approach for all? Obviously not. When we consider the population in question, it may be possible that scores of different approaches are required for different kinds of children and their role in future. Is it then prudent to put the current system in such bad light that anyone sending his children to a modern school is burdened with guilt?
4.       Again, is it fair to attribute so many social problems to modern schooling? Bulk of the problems can be attributed to erosion of values, lack of concern and single minded pursuit to earn more money. Is parenting not to be questioned? Are values a function of the quality of living or quality of schooling? Are schools today not a reflection of what parents would want them to be? What is the complaint about, then?
5.       If extinction of species of organisms is natural, is extinction of traditional practices, languages and knowledge not? Does everything becoming extinct need to be protected?

The point is quite well made that modern schooling has a number of serious lacunae. Certain forces may also have used it to their advantage without a concern for those subjected to it. But unless an alternative is proposed, drawing conclusions may be incorrect, even irresponsible. And we know it well that there are enough number of well intentioned people, who are well acquainted with the flip side of modern education and have been trying to develop an alternative for years. Simply sensitizing people about the ills of schooling will only end up creating angst, guilt and despair. 

Adversity and Prosperity

Watching what interactions, events, thoughts do to you is quite interesting. Imagine a calamity; suffering people, shortage of basic needs, uncertainty and hopelessness. As if to defy the adversity, one witnesses love and concern, selfless service, generosity without an expectation of reciprocation. Innumerable instances can be recounted. Now imagine prosperity. Almost inevitably, one witnesses fear of loss, discontent, greed and insensitivity.


The same person is capable of exhibiting these contrarian behaviours. Many in our generation have spent years sharing a single room with the entire family, who are now intolerant to the same family members staying in a separate room under the same roof. May be, adversary kills the ego and prosperity feeds it, and a well fed ego in turn causes adversity. My sense is that this cycle is a natural process and cannot be broken however much one wishes or hopes. Not in every case, but as a rule.