The biggest tale of hypocrisy

For the past one month in school, I have become a stricter teacher  than what I ever have been . I repeatedly tell  the children in my class (often to their dislike) the various ways in which ‘good and smart people’ behave. I have given rewards for positive behavior and consequences for negative behavior , in a bid to condition the kids of my class into what is considered as socially accepted behavior. It is a famous adage that to preach, one has to lead by example and I believe that this applies to a teacher more than anyone else . When you are responsible for the development of 40 odd students who look up to you , it becomes inevitable for you  to show them how it is done, be a true leader.

Unfortunately in this exercise , I realized that my ideals ( other people refer to them as idiosyncrasies) are quite opposed to what I expect ( or more of  what I am expected, as a teacher) from my students. For instance, I never believe in having a bath in the morning. A bath should be fine anytime of the day as long as it is taken, but according to some people ( read mother) , this is highly indecent. I also never believe that you need to be dressed immaculately and precisely, because in my random opinion, it makes you a rigid person, not open to ideas. I also do not believe you need to sleep at 10 pm in the night and wake up early and study in the morning. I also do not believe that you need to sit in a place quietly, without moving and study without the occasional chit chat with your friend sitting next to you. I don’t believe in organization , and I actually like things disorganized because I find even in chaos , there is a pattern. Many of you might conclude that I have acquired these ideals due to the time I spent in a spoilt environment( read IIT hostel) and might even label these as  wrong habits. On the subject of what is right and what is wrong, I would strongly urge you to read this rather absurd post of mine and give it a thought.

So what should I do in such moments of conflict? A parent came to me the other day , and complained about her son not having a bath in the morning before coming to school everyday. She asked me to advise him and correct his ‘indecent’ behavior. I literally chuckled when I heard this. ( The parent assumed I was laughing at the child, luckily and could not see the real reason for my chuckle). I put on a straight face , and told the kid , “You know why I am always energetic and never sleepy. That is because I have a bath everyday in the morning.That is what smart people do, if they want to learn more and not be asleep in class. ” I lied through my teeth. Although I am not proud of it , I am not ashamed of my act either . Three days later, the parent comes to me and thanks me for my advice, which had apparently brought a change in the kids habit. I told this to my mother and she wishes I had a teacher like me.  😛

This is the simple strategy I have adopted in my class and it works to a large extent. If I have to make kids do something , which I don’t agree with , but certain stakeholders do, I simply become a hypocrite and a liar. I simply make them believe that I have done the same thing every single day of my life. I tell a tale so convincing and with such conviction that I find it hard to believe it myself that I don’t agree with the very same principles. The words of a famous doctor came to my mind:

Words of wisdom

Let us face it.  Everyone is a hypocrite,  in one way or the other. Why not out it to use to effect what is considered by many positive change in kids , so that they can lead what is considered by many as a better life.  Leading by example is too tough and sometimes in contradiction to the values that I developed , that I cherish, that I do not want to give up. Hypocrisy is the only solution to my problem . All that I need  is to be careful enough to hide my real principles away. Not a difficult job for a hypocrite.

Why IITians love consulting

If you go to any IIT Campus in India (be it Bombay, Madras , Kanpur or Delhi ) and mention the names McKinsey, BCG or Bain ( the Big Three as they are referred to ) , you will certainly see turning heads, lit eyes and attentive ears. These consulting firms are the darlings of the placement season, and people who earn interview shortlists are given demi-god status( you can literally hear the words, “Tu God hai yaar” if you manage to get on the shortlist)  in a campus where almost every one already is treated like a demi-god back home( whether they deserve it is a different question altogether). The Big 3 are known for their rigorous selection procedure, which supposedly , only the best , brightest and the smartest can get through.

If you ask anyone why they would love to work in these firms, you will definitely hear a lot of similar responses. These mainly  include the prospects of 1) An Up-in-the-Air-esque lifestyle 2) Doing an MBA from a top US B-School 3) building a wide network. All of these are definitely true, but what has always baffled me is why they think they are a good fit at these firms. I mean , all the ‘problem solvers’ and ‘analytical mind’ arguments aside, I believe that human interactions and relationships are at the heart of consulting ( you need to meet new , important , and  rigid minded clients everyday )  , and at the risk of stereotyping ,I feel  IITians terribly suck at that. I think even the firms recognize this fact to a great extent , but strangely, they still recruit mainly from the IITs.

I was having a conversation today with my manager today about the Indian education system  and she made a remark , which immediately reminded me of this issue.We were discussing about how as children , we were able to learn  English despite growing up in an environment where the only place you speak English is the school. Strangely enough, the kids we teach struggle to speak in proper English. This is what she said  :

The problem with the Indian education is that it follows an “up or out”policy. People like you have succeeded not because , but rather in spite of  the  terrible education system .

The Indian teaching methodology is extremely uni-dimensional and caters to students with specific learning styles students . Only those students move up the academic ladder and the others are ignored completely  and are left to rot. Other students who do not have these specific learning styles as their natural styles have two options before them : A) Adapt to these styles or B) Be Academically backward throughout life.

If you notice , most IITians have very similar learning styles : Listen to someone speak, write and then learn. This comes naturally to a very few people, but most of them are able to cope up, because their parents wired them into Option A, very often with the warning that you won’t survive if you don’t adapt. Thus, the notion of “Up or Out” is wired into them right from childhood. And this, I hypothesize, is the very reason, why they prefer working in consulting , because they have been equipped with the requisite mindset to work in such environs right from childhood.

The case for Greece

No, I am not talking about the economic crisis looming over Greece. It is clear that no one can save them from that. The one I am referring to is the one that happened at the UEFA Euro Championships 2012. Greece advanced to the quarter-finals after defeating Russia 1-0 in the final match of the league phase. Both Greece and Russia were tied at 4 points apiece , but Greece went through on the basis of a controversial rule that favors head-to-head records of tied teams over the usually used goal difference method.

While critics argue on which rule is better, the inherent mistake everyone is committing here is that everyone  first decides who should be the actual deserving winner and then proceed  to rationalize why one system is better and the other is not. In deciding who should be the winner, people ironically apply no objective criteria ( possession percentage sometimes, but that hardly counts as a criterion in the post-  Mourinho days) ; they just go by what their gut tells them. Useless statements like “Greece should not have won, because they are so shitty”, “Russia deserved to win because they were so good in their first match” are  common to hear. While these are okay as expressions of shock, they definitely cannot form the basis for deciding which system is better. In fact , you cannot and should not even try to decide which system is better

Please give it to Greece. They were able to take  advantage of the given set of rules and constraints.That is what every sport is about   and therefore, Greece deserve to go through.

The Open Mind Conundrum

The phrase  ” have an open mind”  has always intrigued me. Although it means something as simple as being receptive to new ideas,  I am still pretty confused about it. While I always try to be an open-minded person ( or at least project myself as one), of late , I have had a dilemma with being one. Whenever someone advises you to have an open mind towards something which you clearly don’t agree with, I fail to understand why someone brands you as someone with a not-so-open mind. Here is my argument : The person pushing for  the change  is clearly not open to the idea of not having the change. Then , in that case ,  you should not be blamed for being a rigid person.

A classic example would be the situation where you are a teetotaler and you go out with a few of your friends to a bar. The situation would definitely gravitate towards your friends pushing you to not be a wuss and be ‘open’ to the idea of drinking. I have been in this situation many times and I argue that I don’t think I would enjoy it much. The standard reasoning given against you is that a person who has never drunk can never claim that one does not feel better when drunk. Well, you would never understand the fun of not succumbing to this pressure and not drinking ( being in your current state forever).

Summarizing, while doing X is considered being open, not doing X is considered as being not open. But if we let “not X” be Y, doing X is now ” not doing Y ”  and not doing X is ” doing Y “. Clearly, now not doing X seems being as open to me as doing X.

P.S : Just a notion in my head that I tossed out.

Everyone is a hypocrite. And Everybody Lies.

My grey goose quill

It is the task of a lifetime. It used to be called education once upon a time.

The following article is written by Devdas Menon (Prof. at IIT Madras)

This article (which i wrote many years ago) may be of interest to you. I was reminded of it, while responding to many emails from old IITM students concerned about the proposed changes to JEE and the possible loss of a self-image to which many have a strong emotional investment…

We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men,
Leaning together,
Headpiece filled with straw.

– T S Eliot

Nobody likes to be called a hypocrite. Yet, nearly everybody is one. No doubt, some are less hypocritical than others. But there is nobody, to the best of my knowledge, who is entirely free from hypocrisy. Perhaps, to be hypocritical is human.

A hypocrite is one who projects a false self-image…

View original post 2,446 more words

Indian Parents

Indian parents are notorious for taking more than the advised amount of interest in their children’s life. Most Indian kids complain about the extent of invasion their parents have on their academic and personal lives. Their argument is that if their western counterparts do so well with so much freedom( which I believe is a false premise in itself ), why can’t they?

The reason , I hypothesize,  is the innate difference in the cultures of Indians and the Westerners.

The Western culture places heavy emphasis on individualism, identity , self respect and personal achievement. Achievement is central to their value system , it is in their genes, and hence even under trying circumstances, their passion for achievement can help them eke out a decent life.

Most Indian kids, inherently,  however think the other way round.They look at obtaining a decent and comfortable living as their greatest aims in life and do not care about achievements and personal feats. Thus, although they are able to survive , they stop at that point and without proper intervention, would never try to live the achievement oriented life that is coveted by the whole world.

So, the question arises : which type of life is desirable ? I would definitely prefer the latter. The reason ties back to my reflection in a bid to answer this question : “If India was indeed so prosperous centuries back and so ahead in science and technology, how the hell did we manage to fall behind in the race? ” It occurred to me that , centuries ago, Indian rulers committed the same mistake of being content with what they have. They lived a good life, grew food, ate, slept, mined gold and were content with that. Apart from a few random individual achievements, as a nation, we really did not make any progress. The foreign imperialist rulers were able to satisfy us by providing us with our basic needs for survival and we were satisfied with that. Post independence , some of us did drift to the western school of thought , but deep down inside , most of us still remain the same. As part of a  nation aspiring to be a superpower, I certainly feel that we need to change.

However, such a change would be very difficult to develop on our own. It would be highly wrong on our part to let teenagers figure out their own path – the genes would definitely win. The lack of role models in the society adds to our woes. The achieving Indian kids are the ones whose parents have conditioned them to the Western value system right from childhood. Parental help and conditioning is definitely required if we are to overcome our genetic instincts.

I am certainly not suggesting that parents need to take control and ownership of life forever. I am certainly not suggesting this. But in the larger interest of the nation, it wouldn’t hurt to let go of a bit of that control. Chances are you’ll end up being a high achiever. A somewhat miserable childhood( which if you are not getting beaten/abused is really not that miserable at all)  is a small price to pay for that.

They say, the future of India lies with its youth. I differ. It lies with their parents – for they alone can help them shape the country’s future. Instead of blaming them for your misery , use them to your advantage and give them due credit.

A sincere request to Aamir Khan

Dear Mr. Aamir Khan,

I am a huge fan of your show, and really appreciate the effort you have taken towards bringing social evils and injustice to light. I respect you even more for your smartness in positioning yourself as the common man’s savior , and timing your foray into television at the right time : when the other Khans are either depreciating in value or fading into oblivion.You fully deserve the 3 crore rupee fee for this shrewd move and its timing alone, if not for the show.

Now comes the real deal after all the sycophantic banter – a sincere request . While,I agree that there are many issues that are of concern to society, their number is still finite. I have a few suggestions for you, which you can use once you run out of issues/ideas.


Where art thou?

Every time I use money , this is my biggest headache. Apparently, all the coins in India have decided to play a practical joke on us, by absconding for almost a year. Almost every transaction I do, ends up with one party being frustrated because the other party did not tender exact change. I have sometimes even asked the other party to keep the change( in the tone of a rich guy tipping at a five star hotel ), which has placed a huge burden on my already shoestring budget. And not to mention the numerous times I have been chucked out of buses just because I did not tender exact change.


This is one issue I am extremely particular about.India is probably the only country in the world which has so much fetish for a language that is not native to it – English. So much is the obsession that we have made it our official language and our primary medium of instruction. And in the middle and upper classes, this fetish for English has manifested itself in a new form of subconscious and implied racism : I am probably judged more by the language I speak than the colour of my skin or my caste.This is the sort of look you are likely to get :

Ew! You speak Hindi. Don’t you know English?

It has gone to the extent that it is nowadays more cool to use English equivalents of derogatory phrases than the Hindi one. ( In fact, I hypothesize that all other factors remaining the same, if 2 persons yell out the same abuses at you – one in English and the other in Hindi – you are probably more likely to be pissed of or have a poor opinion about the second person). Chinese people are proud to speak Mandarin everywhere, Russians are proud of their language, Most Europeans prefer their native language to English, but we are still obsessed with English.

We frequently blame our education system to be pathetic, which might be true to quite an extent. But a fact that we have overlooked here is that our system uses a medium of instruction, which is native to neither the teachers nor the students. A gap in growth is bound to occur. And in scenarios where the medium of growth is the native language, the gap occurs due to the fact that adequate text/literature is not available in that medium. An argument offered is that learning English opens pathways to opportunities in India. I choose to disagree. These pathways to opportunities require English because of our society’s obsession for English. Look at Chinese kids and the growth they have in studies, despite studying in a language that is atleast 10 times more f***ed up than English , but is native to them.

P.S: I write this blog in English too because I have no other option.

You do see my point , Mr.Aamir, don’t you?

I will still tune in to Star Plus at 11 am every Sunday , in the hope that one day, you shall throw some light on the concerns I have. May the truth always triumph.

‘Exam’ining life

As I blankly stared at the opposite wall , struggling to think of ways to kill time at 3 in the morning , I could not help but press the rewind button in my life to what changes had caused me to suddenly become so restless. In the 22 years I have spent on Earth, I was supposed to have acquired a lot of new skills to help me be occupied. However, the past three days have been undoubtedly the most boring 72 hours of my life , second only to the 50 odd matches I have watched  Chelsea FC play.

After deep thought , I realized that this was the first time in my life that I did not write a single examination for  a whole year. Writing examinations has been an integral part of my life, right from ‘peaceful’ first grade, where I wrote about 35 tests a year, to ‘terrorizing’ undergraduate years at IIT  where the number rose to 65. I always thought that I hated examinations, but being away from them for a year has been so difficult for me that I actually miss them. Having been raised up in Nerd-vana( read this to know why), examinations are to me what  a canvas is to a painter – a means of expression. In fact , I missed examinations so much that I searched for online university courses and registered for them – just so that I could study and write examinations. It also occurred to me the only reason that would force me to pursue higher studies would be that they entail an examination  component.Examinations give me a platform to prove my worth , prove what I learnt , something, which no theatre stage, microphone or podium can do .

Does a good education really need  examinations ? All these years, I have thought that the answer to the second question was YES. But, now, as I stand on the other side of the court – as a teacher to 32 students , and make them write exams every week, every month – I wonder whether I still hold those views. I suddenly wonder whether I was actually a victim of the educational system –  addicted to exams and with it the urge to outscore  peers. Is this a value worth passing to my classroom kids ? A big question for me to answer.

Fan-tastic Club

At the beginning of the season, after the 8-2 defeat to Manchester United, as an Arsenal fan, I vowed that one day, I would definitely become the manager of the club and show it the right direction. I am sure there were millions of other Arsenal fans whose mind echoed the same thoughts. I even contemplated mobilizing the fan forces and initiating a coup  to take over the key decision making processes in the club. Although, the idea of a fan managed club seemed an interesting , I assumed that it was next to impossible.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon Murcielagos FC’s website  which has actually gone ahead and implemented the above idea.


In fact, it has taken it to the next level by having no coach or trainer for the team. Participating in the Mexican second division, Murcielagos FC outsources all key decisions directly to the fans, with choices posted for supporters to vote on. The fans can vote online or via text message on everything from game tactics and team configuration, to player selection and in-game substitutions. They can even vote to decide which players will be awarded bonuses.

PS -The club hasn’t been very successful. I have a gut feeling that the reason lies in rival fans registering as fans for the clubs and voting deliberately for shitty tactics.