and thoughts on the eve of 65th independence day
Sirs, red letter day for you,” declared the children of Class 10 (S) on the 14th December, 2011, when Dr. SK Tiwari and I were called for an interrogation by them during the morning assembly. We were about to be prosecuted for the trespasses committed by us in our school and college days! A very interesting and respectful method to see that side of ours which is not usually experienced them. They wanted to find out what kinds of follies, pranks, mistakes and fun we had in our earlier days. The one with more proven offences would be “punished!”
Is what we earn disproportionate to our effort and work and hence we do not mind over spending for any service without demanding proportional value for the amount we spend? Is this the cause for the careless and callous patterns of expenditure and expenses?
It was an open and shut case! The prosecution knew Tiwari Sir was a good “boy” all along. I too knew this and prudently decided to plead guilty at the end of the trial, even before it began. At the end of the “gruelling” trial it was the jury pronounced the obvious judgement that I was the naughtier of the two! I submissively, but proudly declared “mea culpa!” The sentence was that I write “something” and produce before the assembly (trial court) the next day. Immediately after the assembly the honourable judge conveyed to me that I was given a pardon and did not have write as sentenced!
In this piece, I make an attempt to discharge the spirit of the sentence by reporting excerpts of the interrogation. The last question asked was an important one and upon it I would like to dwell as the main theme of this expression.
S: Did you eat chocolates in the last one year? (The question was addressed to the villainous Principal who promulgated the rule of “no-chocolates” in our school!) P: Yes, during the recent vacation I ate a chocolate! S: What are the types of disallowed activities you did during your early days?
P: I recall two types of strange activities that I did in my college days on quite a few occasions which surely would not have been allowed.
A couple of cinema halls didn’t have compound walls and a couple of us saw films only after interval without buying tickets - by just sneaking in! We had to ensure that the hall was not “house full,” so we had to choose to do this after the film has “run” for a reasonable duration of time. This was done both for fun and also when we could not afford to buy the tickets but wanted to see a film! Our mess was closed on Saturday nights and we had to eat out. I would fall short of money at the end of the month. A couple of us found an innovative mechanism of going to marriage feasts in the neighbourhood without being invited. We would just greet people and walk in to have sumptuous food!
S: What were you scared of in your childhood?
P: I was scared of darkness.
S: Were you ever punished?
P: Yes, the most severe one while I was in Class 6. There was a lot of commotion in the class just after the juice-break one day. The Class Teacher, Miss Price, was upset and took us all to the Headmaster, Father Carapiet. I was considered to be a good boy. I could make out that Father was reluctant to beat me. He had a variety of canes for punishing children in different ways for different types of “mistakes.” He hit each of the students two times on each hand. When it came to me, he hit only once and that too quite sympathetically! I could sense that he was compelled to administer the consequence although he was not convinced that I deserved it. His entire being changed when he looked at me and hit. His eyes and mine were in touch with each other! What a communion it was. I learnt a great and lasting lesson of life. One must face consequences as a group for what may not have been done individually! When the consequence is faced and the rationale is understood there is a change in one’s state of being. A lot of lessons emerged from this one profound incident. I shall never forget the face of Father of that moment!
I also remember that my eldest brother, who was a student of IIMC at that time, prohibited me from playing marbles with our local boys. I was in the primary school and the locale that we grew up in could not afford other costly games and sports. While we were playing marbles one Sunday morning my brother was passing by and he saw me. He came up to me and hit me on my head. I tumbled and fell down! It was an eye opener for me. I continued to play such games with my friends because I had to remain part of them but became vigilant not to imbibe their habits and values. I became “clever” and was part of them without being like them. Since then I have never been able to be part of any group and there is a strange and deep aloofness from everyone and everything around. It is blissful isolation and individuality.
S: What is your frank opinion of Orchid students?
P: (It was understandably clear that the students are quite unsure of what their Principal thinks about them and were therefore eager to hear about it.) After having been with children of a few schools prior to joining Orchid, I can confidently say that the children of Orchid have shown tremendous progress and improvement in all respects in the last couple of years that I have been here. Given the easy way of life many of us are accustomed to, the kind of restrictions and demands placed on the students by me were not easy to accept for the community. The kind of change demanded was excruciating. I feel very happy with the very good response of our children to the efforts of the school. Aside: I could sense that the children might be “sure” that their Principal may not be too happy with the children because they are not up to the mark with reference to the children of other “good schools.” This perception needed to be addressed because it is not so. I would not like to compare one group of children from one school with another group of even the same school. I think the growth or development each child or different groups of children experience is to be viewed with reference to where the association began from. The improvement needs to be ascertained with respect to the starting point. If there is a significant all round improvement in the child there is reason for the child, school and the parent to be happy. The change can be realised only if the school and child work together. The parent must be with both the child and school and should not disable the overall thrust of the school.
The children of Orchid have undergone a lot of fundamental improvement in listening, language, thinking, conceptual and imaginative skills. The overall taste and demeanour has changed so much. Our kids have been unlearnt a lot of difficult and undesirable patterns of talking, thinking and behaving. When children or adults are undergoing such essential change it is commendable. The school had conceived and implemented deliberate and carefully planned strategies to bring about this reform. Kind of metamorphosis! The results are showing. The children interrogating us to ascertain where they stand is indicative of the kind of objective feedback they are looking forward to. It may be due to the counsel and guidance of educators of the school. The staff and children of Orchid have travelled a long distance and hold immense promise to make the school a good learning centre and to live in our society so that it becomes more beautiful. The interrogation ended on a respectful and good note! Indeed a Red Letter Day-one which is memorable!
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ME? WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT US? I have responded to the question of the students in the article above. However, I would like to explore it further because it is a basic question of our lives. The curiosity to know what the other thinks of us bothers, and even haunts us, in different ways throughout life. Sometimes we may know what the other thinks about us but yet we want to hear explicitly from the horse’s mouth! We want to hear about it even if it may not be favourable to us! And when that is told to us we are upset!! Why do we crave to hear about ourselves from others instead of reflecting and introspecting? Why are we scared to look at ourselves? Do we know that we are basically ugly and cruel although we may be physically beautiful? The human being is an extraordinary organism with the most intricate feedback control system conceivable. The organism is so marvellous that we hardly know about it at all. Most of it is unknown to us. How such an intricate system could come about is just beyond our imagination! It obtains feedback from the external world to organise and activate so many functions like movements etc. Similarly, there is continuous feedback to the closed loop control systems within the organism. For example the heart begins to beat faster when there is an increased oxygen demand of the lungs of a man running.
The control systems of the organism related to the inner and outer worlds are obviously a part of a larger whole. One of the most striking features or capacities of the human being is how he becomes aware of himself. This question has occupied the thinkers, philosophers and seers of every age. To be able to observe oneself critically, as a scientist would observe an object of his study, has been indicated by J. Krishnamurti to be an invaluable, and perhaps the only, instrument available for bringing about fundamental transformation of oneself. In this kind of observation, he asserts the observed reveals itself in the most beautiful and innocent manner. In the process of revelation the observed seems to become free from itself leading to freedom, which is change. It seems from his talks and explanations that bringing about change of any kind in the psychological domain is very simple. The experience of educators seems to be different and disheartening because we do not make much headway in quite a few cases! We struggle to find effective strategies to bring about change in even simple patterns of thinking and behaviour of ourselves and of children. From whence does this paradox arise!
Obviously, many seers and philosophers have explored the significance of introspection and the clarity it brings for better action. Action rooted in introspection is more likely to be of better “quality,” is perhaps the implication of some schools of thought. However, Krishnamurti has said that perception or the observation, in itself is purgatory and cathartic, especially in terms of untying the knots and unburdening of the psychological pain. He also suggests that out of clear observation emerges right action which does not leave any residue. In view of the immense possibility it offers, the ability to introspect and explore the inner world is an important aspect of education. Recent educators have also been emphasising upon the need for children to have better emotional quotient and improved intra-personal intelligence. The nature of introspection called for by the modern educators and that hinted upon by Krishnamurti may be basically different due to the motivation for them being different.
The question raised by the students of Class 10 impelled me to introspect upon the purpose of education. Whether each of the “multiple intelligences” has to be evoked by different learning processes designed for different contexts or whether there are more integral approaches of education which can bring about a holistic movement is a question that requires closer examination. How to observe so that the observer becomes the observed? This is the sixth consecutive issue of our value added newsletter. The process of staff and students writing for it and the editorial processes are getting streamlined and established. It is largely a self sustaining activity of the school presently. A lot of the work happens naturally without much ado. It is a happy time for the school and its community members. I feel confident that we can take up many challenging initiatives of different kinds in the time to come. Our children are growing up well and they are bound to contribute meaningfully to our society in the years to come! I wish all our students, staff members, staff families, associates and parents of our school a very happy new year!