Thursday, June 24, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Corporal Punishment Should Be A Crime

Whenever I hear about a student being either driven to suicide or takes of public humiliation at the hands of the school teachers, I cringe. The recent incident (here and here) of a Calcutta-based student, Rouvanjit Rawla who committed suicide because he was caned, beaten, tormented and humiliated in front of his students only goes to show that the Indian education system has still a lot of catching up to do.

The response of the school is most pathetic:

"As a school, we deeply regret the loss of young life. Attempts being made to hold the school entirely responsible are certainly misplaced. There are times when children need to be corrected and helped. The idea has always been to inculcate a sense of values amongst them. It is also important for the school to ensure that there is an environment conducive to learning and often corrective measures have to be taken to ensure this environment is not vitiated in the interest of the larger student community of the school," read the statement, signed by governing board secretary Supriyo Dhar. 

Values and discipline, bull shit. Little children don't commit suicide for fun. Rawla must have faced utter humiliation from his teachers to be driven to such a drastic step like suicide. When young children are humiliated in front of their classmates, consistently beaten up for flimsy reasons while their teachers go about proclaiming their barbaric actions as acts of discipline, it scars their minds for a long time.

And, more often than not, this culture of corporal punishment comes from the top, either perpetrated or encouraged- subtly or otherwise. The fact that the the school principal of Le Martiniere School himself allegedly caned students shows the kind of culture that was prevalent in this school.

I am not surprised that despite the state government of Bengal banning corporal punishment nearly three years, this practice has been going on at the school. Corporal punishment is a common occurrence. I have myself faced this when I was in school. Even my 1st standard teacher used to beat her students; she was anyways huge, looked intimidating and scary. And it doesn't really make much of a difference in the Indian schemes of things whether or not there is a government rule banning such practices because there's no way to monitor. No wait, there is a way, but no will to monitor. Some teachers aren't sensitized and students too think that being beaten and humiliated is acceptable and normal. Many times our parents too think at some bizarre level that corporal punishment is instills discipline.

According to the above Indian Express report, caning and calling student names at La Martiniere were a common occurrence. It's unfortunate that it takes a student's life to wake us up to the horrors of corporal punishment, something which has been going on for years and complaints of several children, not just of La Martiniere but of schools all over India, fell on deaf years. Until, we lost Rouvanjit Rawla.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Relaxing in Manali

 Our first day of the Manali-Shimla trip was a disaster, thanks largely to Kingfisher Airlines (KF) botching up our schedules. Our flight was cancelled and we weren't informed on time. We were put on a newly pressed KF Red flight that was to have departed two hours behind our original schedule, which got further delayed by another hour. So we reached Chandigarh at about 4 pm and started for Manali at 5 pm. After 11 agonising hours navigating one of the worst-kept roads I have ever seen and constant throwing up, I reached Manali next morning at 4 am.

We didn't do anything much on day#2 except sleep and take rest. Manali is a beautiful place to go if you haven't seen it already. We've pretty much lost the main town to rampant construction and civilisation, but the outskirts of Manali and the surrounding scenery is beautiful. Large and never-ending mountain ranges, mountains so tall they seem to reach the sky, lush green deodhar trees like forests dotting the hills and mountainous landscape with snow-covered peaks is what you'll get to amply in Manali. If you haven't seen snow, Manali is one of the best places to see it. Many homes in Manali, in general, are not well-built, they seem like a bunch of boxes, though they aren't as eyesore as those that you get to see in Shimla. I remember when I had gone to Darjeeling in 2004, homes lined up on roads were so pretty. Even though they housed extremely modest families, they would still know how to beautify their houses. Practically every house in Darjeeling and surrounding areas, including many in Kalimpong and Gangtok, would be dotted with flower pots with flowers of all sorts of colours. Their entire parapets would have flower pots and their love to maintain their houses would be seen in abundance.

Rohtang Pass is one of the biggest attraction in Manali; about 50 kms from the main town. It's a serpentine road full of hair pin bends and a long road to climb up tall mountains to go to this narrow pass that takes you all the way to Laddakh. I did not find anything special in Rohtang Pass since I've gone to Nathula pass and Tsongma lake in Gangtok, 16,000 ft above sea level. Still, if you wish to see plenty of snow, Rohtang pass would appeal to you. The best way to enjoy Rohtang is to leave as early as 5 am from Manali and reach Rohtang as early as possible. If you start late, you'll encounter a lot of traffic. Hence, leave early in the morning. Also, either take your car all the way to the top from where you can get to see a clear view of the Rohtang-Laddakh road (Laddakh side of the mountain) or stop at a place where we stopped, a km before the Rohtang top, and then go all the way to the top on snow on the back of the mountain yak. Since it's very cold and breezy, you need to wear a special gear; a snow suit, gloves and snow boots. They are available on rent at the many shops that are lined up on the Manali-Rohtang road. Be prepared to be fleeced here though; our shop charged Rs600 for a pair. Besides, our suits were very dirty, so try and haggle for a cleaner suit and a better price. I doubt if they allow for bargaining though.

Naggar valley and the home of the great Russian artist, Nikolai Roerich (yesteryear's Bollywood actress Devika Rani's father-in-law) are another interesting places to visit. I was fascinated with the road that connects Manali town and Naggar. Take a few pictures of the Naggar valley and savour the tree-lined road.  I also visited the Hadimba temple and had a sumptuous lunch at the Johnson's Cafe. You must have food at the Johnson's Cafe, one of the best places to eat in Manali. Have the Trout fish; it's specialty. I also had the lasagna which was very tasty. Prices are reasonable and it's a garden restaurant, so the setting is perfect. It's very close to the main market, so it's very convenient to reach.

DakshinaChitra @ Chennai

An ordinary work meeting with an acquantaince in Chennai led to a beautiful discovery, called DakshinaChitra. DakshinaChitra, which literal...