Tag Archives: Education

Does This Marksheet Make My Brain Look Big?

My favourite thing about the CBSE board exams is that they took place fifteen years ago. But as it turns out, they’re still a thing, with millions of students taking the plunge this week, one and only one question on their minds: How much do I need to score to make aunties and relatives shut up about my future? (Ans: Move to Siberia.)

So first up, best of luck to all you students and/or the impersonators you’ve paid to take the exam for you. Chances are that by now, you’ve heard tons of friendly advice from older people, because giving gyan makes us feel good about ourselves. The advice usually ranges from “Don’t worry, I also scored 23% and I’m rich enough to go to Phuket for honeymoon now” to “If you mess up that six mark math question, you’ll end up wiping windshields for heroin money.”

I have no clue how you’ll do in life but statistically speaking, if you’re a girl, you stand to do better than the boys in your class. I know this because every year, every newspaper in the country will announce the results with the headline ‘GIRLS OUTSHINE BOYS NYAHNYAHNYAHNYAH BOYS SUCK’.

It has been this way for as long as I can remember. In school, the tongue-in-cheek explanation was that girls got extra marks for neat handwriting. Now this sounds like a typical sexist reaction by boys who can’t stand a girl scoring higher than them, but honestly, as hard as I try, I cannot recall a girl having bad handwriting.

When you say ‘girls’ handwriting’, it conjures up an image of perfectly spaced words perched on the line like elegant tightrope walkers, whereas a guy’s handwriting looks like those tightrope walkers fell eighteen stories and splattered across the page. And then there are those girls who take notes with six differently-coloured pens, highlighting and underlining keywords as they go, while the boys are using their chewed-up 045 to draw breasts and horns on historical figures.

Another headline you’ll always see on result day will be along the lines of ‘POOR KID OVERCOMES ALL ODDS TO TOP THE EXAM; MAKES REGULAR KIDS LOOK BAD’. People of privilege – myself included – cannot even begin to imagine the tenacity it takes to be that person, and we have nothing but respect for such people, but it’s also the kind of thing that makes you feel like Deepak Tijori at the end of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. I mean does your 90 percent even count if you didn’t spend months studying under the streetlamp outside your employer’s sweatshop? My parents always tried to inspire me with examples like these and said things like “If you don’t work hard, that poor kid will grow up to be your boss.” Because if your ingrained class bias isn’t motivation enough to study, I don’t know what is.

I imagine it’s tougher for students to study now, what with a million distractions fighting for their attention. If I’d had a cellphone and broadband in school then, well, I would never have gotten out of school. I’d still be living off my parents, scrolling through six different social media feeds while they tried to get me to mark “Top three coal mines” on the Indian map. (Hint: When in doubt, mark things in the general vicinity of Bihar.)

In fact, teachers today should use the internet to teach boring subjects in a manner that students will understand. They should get rid of those dreary post-lunch history lectures and just send students links that say ‘A British Trading Company Came To India. You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next’. The flipside is that you’d get to see exam answers like, “so like Simon was this guy who came here and wuz all up in mah bizness and peeps were like Y U NO GO BACK and he was like no u lol.”

But on a serious note, good luck once again to everyone taking on the biggest challenge of their lives that will totally determine their self-worth for years to come. Here’s hoping you do well so you can move on to the next challenge, and the next one, and the one after that until you wonder why you were even worried about your boards in the first place. In any case, you always have the Windshield Wiping industry to fall back on.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 8th March 2015.)

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Warning: Sex Education May Be Injurious To Ignorance

Indians have been waging a war on sex for ages, mostly by having lots of it. The latest gladiator to step into the arena is Union Health Minister, Dr. Alok Nath Harsh Vardhan, who wants sex education to be banned in schools, and yoga to be made compulsory. These two points appear together on his agenda, as if the latter would negate the former, which is ridiculous because yoga makes you flexible and toned and that just helps you score better. (Notable exception: Baba Ramdev.)

To be fair, this appears on Harsh Vardhan’s personal website so it’s not like the BJP has specifically advocated it as a party. I, for one, cannot imagine them ever promoting a populist agenda based on some antiquated notion of culture. But it’s also reasonable to think that Dr. Harsh Vardhan should know better, given the professional title attached to his name. He’s an ENT specialist, so now I’m wondering how he treats colds. Does he ban breathing? Or maybe he tells people that they can never, ever, ever, EVER know about the existence of ice cream because it could be bad for their throats.

Here’s the problem with that approach: people, especially youngsters, really like ice cream. They don’t care about the flavor – at that age, they just want to get down and dirty with a tub of the good stuff, and they’d take eight helpings a day if you let them. With chocolate sauce on top. And that’s not a metaphor.

For some reason, conservatives seem to believe that teaching kids about sex is the same as telling them go frolic as if they were extras on Game of Thrones. We’re talking about a species that is 30% acne and 70% crappy EDM, so clearly, they should stay far away from badonkadonkadonk. But they do need to know about the workings of the human body and mind, because should they choose to mess up their childhood with sexual dynamics that adults are barely able to deal with, they’ll at least know enough to not accidentally produce more Pitbull fans.

The first form of sex ed I ever got was from Shabana Azmi on a DD ad, telling us that “AIDS chhoone se nahin phailta”. That was when my generation learnt that you got AIDS when a woman dug her long red fingernails into your back. I also got a lot of sex ed from Ramsay movies, so even at age seven, I knew that if you took your clothes off and got a bump-and-grind massage under a bed sheet, you would get attacked by a vampire. It was a pretty apt metaphor for STDs, so let it never be said that the Ramsays weren’t subtle.

But I want this generation to have a more informed outlook than I did, while also remaining true to their Indian roots. That’s why I put together this little culturally-approved sexplainer, which defines various aspects related to sex, such as:

Safe Sex: Ctrl+Shift+N.

Unsafe Sex: A union that’s frowned upon by Haryanvi elders.

Appropriate sexual position: Anything that results in a male child.

Foreplay: Company offsite to Bangkok.

Sex with strangers: Bad. Wrong. Terrible. Anti-National. Unless the coitus is preceded by a ceremony where the stranger is coated in haldi, as if he were a bhindi, and someone has been paid to tell you that the stars and planets bless your caste-approved rishta because that’s just how significant you are to the universe, and of course, an obscenely bloated party that only reminds you that most of your “relatives” are just freeloading douchenuggets.

BDSM: Acts involving domination and gratification through humiliation. See arranged marriage above.

That should be enough to get youngsters started on the path to knowledge. For everything else, there’s always the Internet which, incidentally, also gets a fair share of ban threats. Maybe things would be better if people just loosened up and got themselves some ice cream.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 29th June 2014.)

Read This Column Now. You Can Enjoy Later.

Dear Students Who Just Got Their Results

First up, I’d just like to say, congratulations on getting done with your board exams. I’m glad I’m not you because I went through formal education once and even today, I get the classic exam nightmare, wherein I’m late for a math exam and I reach the hall only to discover that it’s actually a physics exam and also I’m naked and the invigilators are strangely okay with it. (Based on a true story.)

Now you may hate board exams, but they’re important because they help find new faces to put on the side of a BEST bus. Maybe you are one of those pimply toppers, in which case you should know that six commuters just felicitated your photo with paan juice.

Or maybe you’re at the other end of the spectrum, in which case you’re contemplating a career as the guy who has to wash off that paan juice. Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a student, because with so many non-traditional options open to you — from the liberal arts and humanities to music production, gastronomy and zoology — the only question you need to ask yourself is, “What branch of engineering should I pick?”

You’re probably eager to start college and discover your true self through Old Monk, THC and Snapchats of your nether regions. But before you get there, you still have to deal with cliched advice coming your way from parents, uncles, neighbours, doodhwala, humour columnists and anyone else who is not you. The most common one is, “Beta, if you work hard and study now, you can enjoy for the rest of your life.”

If you’ve ever fallen for this, let me just say HAHAHAHAHA SUCKER. This is pretty much how it goes:

In class X: Work hard now, then later life is full enjoy only.

In class XII: Work hard now, then college will be chill.

In college: Work hard now, and life will be a pantless tequila party.

At your first job: Work hard now, so that you can rise up faster and work even harder. Then enjoyment.

When you start a family: Work hard now, so that these annoying little people who look like you can enjoy their life. You enjoy later.

At retirement: You’ve worked hard all your life. Now put on this adult diaper and wait for death.

(I like how Indians use the word ‘enjoy’ to describe any fun activity. “He was fully enjoying” could mean anything from “He really liked the salad” to “He really liked being asphyxiated by that limber Nordic woman”.)

Then someone will start talking about how you don’t need formal education to be successful because Steve Jobs was a hippie dropout and Bill Gates mooned Harvard on his way out. What they forget is that these people were goddamn geniuses; Gates had been coding and tinkering since he was a kid, back when computers were seen as some sort of voodoo fad. You, on the other hand, spent that time wondering if your special “me-time” activity could cause blindness. Seriously, if you’re a dumbass, please get a formal education. This will not make you any less of a dumbass, but at least you’ll get paid to be one. This is why people get an MBA.

And finally, there’s the cliché that isn’t repeated often enough. It’s something that needs to be hammered into your heads, regardless of result, i.e. these marks, much like a woman’s opinion in India, do not matter. Or rather, they’ll cease to matter soon enough.

You may get into a top college, which is great, except you’ll be competing with the brightest minds in the country, until you graduate and realise that dammit, there are more smart people to contend with, and that nobody cares about your Class XII math score. It’s like playing WWE trump cards and looking to kill with a Shawn Michaels card, except everyone else has a deck full of Andre the Giant.

Or you’ll land up in a college that’s basically an abandoned cargo container in some place like Jabalpur, where the professor and the watchman are the same guy, and the only extra-curricular activity is sweat. You’ll survive that, because honestly, the only way to go from there is up. (You’ll look daft while doing it, all angsty and metal-y and emo, but you’ll do it.)

At the very least, if you can figure out what you absolutely do not want to do in life, you’ll be better off than so many working professionals today. Then you can work hard and “enjoy” hard too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for a math exam and why am I naked… oh wait.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 8th June 2014.)