Sunday, March 8, 2009

Education and Social Mobility

In an article published more than a year ago I had mentioned how education is proving to be the most important tool for social and economic mobility. In the past 5-8 years, large numbers of youngsters from deprived backgrounds (socially and economically) have found their way out to better prospects for themselves and their families through acquiring better education. The growth in the economy, especially in the IT and other services sectors, has been a boon for them. One cannot also ignore the sacrifices that the families of these youngsters have made to make their dreams possible.

Have things changed now? Or rather, do people now look at education differently now?

Why do I ask?

The fear that economic slowdown in the US and Europe will be pulling back growth in other countries of the world seems to be coming real. Even in countries like India and China which were reportedly growing at or above 10 percent and seemed to be poised to continue at the same rate for some more time, the effects are visible.

Companies depending on orders from the the US and Europe, and not only in the IT space, expect sharply lower business for a couple of years. The fear of their employees seeing lower pay packets or even of losing their jobs were compounded by the Satyam scam. Immediately after the scam came out there were reports that the company would shut down and almost 53000 would lose their jobs.

Around this same time, we saw a report of one IT graduate who had got into network marketing after his day job. "This way I will be assured of some income even if I lose my job", he is reported to have said.

People spend a lot of money (borrowed) and give up many comforts and even essentials to go higher education, because they believe that things will surely change after they have got their degrees.
If there is no assurance that things will improve, rather, if there is apprehension that the expenses on education will bring on additional burden, will families be willing to take the risk?

Will a tea-stall owner in Patna borrow for his sons IIT education if the prospects of a well-paying job are low?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


There is a running serial in a regional language TV channel on the story of Shiva and Parvathi. The last episode had Shiva burning Kama Deva to ashes with the laser in his third eye, for having used his flower arrow to stir the mind of a meditating Shiva, to create in him a desire to consort with Parvathi.

The new episode carried a conversation between Indra and Narada, in which Narada alludes to Indra's escapades saying that he must be finding life difficult in the absense of Kama.

Kama Deva is the Hindu equivalent of cupid, only that he is more "mature". Kama literally means desire, or rather, lust.

What is this life without lust? That seems to be Indra's predicament.
In fact I was also thinking about lust and life in Delhi, with people having so little time to themselves or with their families.

And then the newspapers came out with stories of high profile "call" centres and influential madams.

Perhaps there is more underlying than I have been able to see?

Modern and Traditional

The traditional and the modern. The co-existence of these seemingly contradictory characteristics is so common in India that we seldom notice it or think about it.

I see so many of our youngsters, college going girls and boys, as well as the young people working in the new techno and marketing companies. Well dressed, branded wear, hip, expensive mobile phones, gelled hair, deodorant, accented talk.
But many of them also have those coloured threads on their wrists, the threads that have some kind of religious significance.

Writing this brings to mind a thought that has been nagging me for a while.

I grew up in an atmosphere super charged with prayer and faith and religion. From the time I was around four until I was fifteen or so. I would pray and have goose pimples all over, my eyes would overflow with emotion and the feeling of being "touched" b y the divine.

And then "liberation" set in. The rebellion and independent thoughts of young adulthood. The pendulum of faith swung to the other extreme. I lost "faith", because faith, by definition, is belief without a foundation - unfounded belief.
Over the years I have vascillated between faith and doubt, and even after so many years and so many experiences I do not know where I stand.

I describe myself as a seeker, someone willing to believe, but yet on the lookout for what to believe in.

And that has led me to a question regarding parenting.
We have brought up our son without any strong spiritual or religious beliefs, without faith. My argument was that, in time, he would find his own reasons and explanations and beliefs.
But there have been times when I have doubts if we did right by him. Faith is a strong support to hold on to in difficult times, when friend, relatives and the world in general seem insufficient or unable to provide us the kind of support we are looking for. "God", by whatever name called, is the ultimate source of strength.
By not providing him with the opportunity to draw on this source of support, haven't we deprived our son of something very valuable?

Size Plus!

Moving through Delhi has been a pleasant surprise.
It is always a pleasure to see so many "abundant" women.
I have deliberately used the word abundant, because abundance is a state we welcome and desire.
There are so many of these size plus women on the metro circuit, all dressed up and decked up, and seeming to be unconcerned about how they look among all those skinny straight girls trying to starve themselves into "beauty".

My sense of a beautiful woman has always been more in line with the classical form that we have seen on our temple sculptures.

Not that I am too concerned about looks when it comes to people I know, irrespective of whether they are people I like them or dislike them.

Because, in the case of people you know, most often we do not see them as a "body" but rather as an idea - which includes much more than the body, a collection of memories and experiences, expectations and disappointments, a totally that can not be explained just by the way a person appears to a stranger.

When I think of my wife, it is a collective idea of the shared life and experiences of so many years together.

Back to the Plus women of Delhi.

I appreciate their spirit.

I am writing about this today because one person who met me on business today described someone else as " a big woman, just like me". She was not being apologetic about her size, and I was glad she was feeling comfortable about her body.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Mother and her Son

During this mornings walk in the park I saw a mother pushing her son in a wheel chair.
Actually this is not the first time I saw them. I had seen them a couple of days ago in the park itself. The boy must be in his late teens. He looks spastic or mentally retarded. What touched me today was that the mother was crying silently as she pushed the chair.The boy was in his own world, twisting his body and looking around, oblivious.

I wanted to tak to this mother. But I was afraid. Would she be annoyed at my intrusion?

What I really wanted to do was tell her something that could make her feel better.

I believe in rebirth and also that life on earth is part of the journey to evolving towards a higher state, what has been variously called moksha or Nirvana, liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

There is a belief that cildren born retarded and helpless, unable to understand and respond to their surroundings, are actually the rebirth of holy souls who have narrowly missed moksha.These souls choose to be reborn in such a state so that they are unable to think or do anything in this life that can set them back in their journey to liberation.By make sure that they cannot do anything negative.

I wished t tell this mother that perhaps she was mother to a great soul?
Anyway, I didn't have the guts to tell her anything today.

Walk, Again

I have taken up a walk in the park every morning. This is not the first time I’ve started this ritual, though. But each time I did this earlier I could not sustain it beyond a few days. There was always the excuse of having to walk on roads, and the threat from stray dogs and vehicle pollution . I am allergic to both.

Both these excuses are not available now. There are dogs in the park, but they mind their own business. The park is also just across the road from my house and is big enough to give reasonable workout for my legs and circulation in just two laps.

This time I must follow through and do the walk for at least 21 days without break.

Why 21 days? Because I have read that it takes at least 21 days of consistent “do” to make any practice a habit. By the time you make it to 21 days, you have also become used to the benefits of the new practice that you don't want to stop and lose these benefits.
Perhaps I should also say that we will continue with the practice just because we do not want to change - the new habit has become a part of the routine, and changing it might seem uncomfortable?

A Nest

Finally settled on a place to stay. A DDA flat just across the district park. Satisfied with the space of a MIG flat. Although the windows doors don’t close well, the toilet is tiled, something I didn’t see in any of the other places I was shown. And the second floor gives the additional space of the rooftop and freedom from drainage worries.

This should be okay.