Happy Teacher’s Day, Whether You Like It Or Not

It was Teacher’s Day this week, or as I like to call it, “Ashish, get out of the class.” Every year, around this time, I get nostalgic about all the fun I had in school, especially the part where I wasn’t forced to sit around and listen to Prime Minister Modi’s speech about how I was the future of the nation and how I should respect my elders and floss every night and stop doing the awesome thing that I had just discovered because it was against our culture.

Mind you, this has nothing to do with my political beliefs. It’s just that if you make a kid stick around in school for longer than absolutely necessary, he’s bound to hate you with an intensity otherwise reserved for tinday ki sabzi. If Modi wants the students of today to grow up and vote for him, he should save his speechwriters the trouble and just give the brats a free period. (Throw in a Shin Chan catchphrase and you’d have those kids begging their parents for a lotus tattoo.)

In the run-up to 5th September, there seemed to be a lot of confusion about whether or not it was mandatory for schools to telecast his address. The truth depended on how much coffee the fact-checkers had had, but for me, the most striking image was one that had been going around on social media. It was a photo of a classroom full of kids, say about eight to ten years old, watching Modi’s address, except one boy was standing in the foreground doing the little finger “May I go pee?” gesture, with a teacher pointing at him to sit down while also giving him a death stare, like he’d asked to pee on her foot or something.

I’m not sure if that photo will get shared a lot, but if it becomes big enough, these are the headlines you can expect to see:


Sagarika Tweet: The boy’s pained expression proves that he is from the minority community. This is a dangerous precedent!!. Should we start communal fires that our pee can’t extinguish?!!!

Buzzfeed: 16 Hilarious Indian Gestures That Signify Susu

Instagram: <High-saturation Photo Of Lower-Middle Class Man Peeing On A Wall That Says Something Rustic Like ‘Gadhe Ke Poot, Yahaan Mat Moot’>

Firstpost: A 6000-Word Piece On Why Indian Girls Don’t Have The Confidence To Stand Up And Do The Finger Pee Gesture #Misogyny #Patriarchy #NobodyWillReadThis

And finally, Chetan Bhagat would announce his new book: a story about a boy from middle-class India, with a middle-class driver-type name like Sunil or Ramesh, whose English is not very goodly speaking because of full middle-classness only. After having middle-class water from a middle-class hotel (which is what middle-class people call restaurants) the boy would rush to empty his middle-class bladder in the toilet of his MBA college, which he joined to rise above his middle-classness, even though he really wanted to pursue his passion for MMS film-making.

But Sunil-slash-Ramesh would enter the girls loo by mistake, where he’d meet and fall in love with a rich girl, who pees wherever she wants to because she’s rich. The movie rights would be snapped up for a hundred crores, while “real” Indian authors – people who know that Whitbread is not a source of carbs – would sit around weeping tears of blood into their manuscripts featuring a poor brown man contemplating the nature of karma while trapped in a quagmire of Naxalism and also an actual quagmire, because that’s where all poor people live. (This man would be Bengali because, c’mon, when was the last time you saw somebody write stuff like this about Noida guys?)

Overall, the PM’s address appears to have been a success. The Prime Minister said all the right things, like blahblahblahblahblah thank you for listening, go home and chill now. Or at least that’s how the kids must’ve heard it. Jokes aside, I’m sure many of those kids will grow up to vote for the BJP. Years from now, you’ll see them at polling booths, fervently looking for the tinday ki sabzi symbol.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 7th Sep 2014.)

O Captain, My Captain, Do You Take Private Classes?

As you know, Teacher’s Day is celebrated on the 5th of September every year to commemorate the birth of India’s most respected academician, Arindam Chaudhri. It is a day for educators to sit back and reflect upon the hellspawn that they have to put up with all their lives, and wonder what would have been had they chosen easier professions, like Bomb Disposal Expert or Wine Shop Owner in Riyadh.

Of course, not all teachers in India fit the stereotype of overlooked and underpaid slaves – some work at coaching classes. According to the Centre For Statistics That I Just Made Up, coaching classes account for 43% of the nation’s GDP. And that’s just the stretch outside Dadar station.

We’re the nation that loves studying so much that instead of doing it well once, we do it shoddily at three different places per subject per semester. I remember when coaching was limited to senior classes in school, mostly for board exams and medical and engineering entrances. Then we started telling kids that they needed to begin prepping by class 8, and then class 6, to the current situation wherein it is understood that unless you get a professor from Bihar to sing calculus formulae to foetuses, they will grow up to become something embarrassing, like roadside earwax cleaners or journalists. (Although the earwax cleaners do enjoy better job security.)

So it was hardly surprising when news broke that a bunch of junior colleges in Mumbai had outsourced their PCM syllabus to private coaching classes, even allowing their staff to walk in and use college classrooms the way Chinese people stroll into Leh on weekends. The catch is that if students choose to not take the expensive coaching option – for trivial reasons like being poor – they allegedly face attendance issues and their forehead acne rearranges to form the words ‘Mera college chor hai’.

In other words, imagine that your local Udipi joint gives up its kitchen to the guys from Masterchef, who then charge you 1000 bucks for a masala dosa. They tell you that you can forego this option and choose the regular menu as usual, but if you do, they make you slurp the sambhar off the owner’s hairy navel.

This is sad because college is just supposed to be a building where you go to celebrate Rose Day, Chocolate Day, Can’t Believe Girls Fall For This Crap Day and Screw It, Let’s Drink Day. Why desecrate the place by forcing kids to study? Nobody goes to college to get high exam scores – that’s what private classes and animal sacrifices are for.

The colleges insist that this friends-with-benefits arrangement helps students prepare more effectively for engineering entrance exams. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that colleges get hefty commissions, with higher limits reportedly in the range of 40k per student. Multiply that by a few hundred students, and you’re suddenly looking at a whopping total of eight to ten US dollars.

But the truth is that by themselves, most colleges couldn’t prepare you for engineering entrances even if they wanted to. It’s like performing open-heart surgery after watching one episode of House. (You need to watch at least six.) Coaching class owners know this, which is why they strut up to colleges in Wasseypur style going, “Beta, tumse na ho paayega.” For example, here’s an average HSC question:

Sphere is round. True or False?

And here’s an average IIT-JEE question:

A magnetized sphere rolls down a frictionless incline in a vacuum while a massless insect runs along its surface with a constant speed, and then lightning strikes the Large Hadron Collider, so how many moles of unicorn blood is needed to create a wormhole for me to go back in time and take arts instead?

Meanwhile, the IB kids are in a corner going, “Whatevs, I’ll just ask Daddy to buy me a college ya.”

The colleges in question are being investigated by the relevant authorities, although for their sake, they’re hoping the CBI takes up the case so that all the files and possibly the students go missing. Meanwhile, the MNS has graciously offered to step in, which is nice because this is the only way they’ll ever see the inside of a college. In all this chaos, it’s the students who end up losing out on valuable drinking study time. One such harrowed student was quoted as saying, “If I wanted to get ripped off by a college, I would’ve just gone to Arindam.”