This Post Is Not About That

The Aakash Tablet. You are looking at the only piece in existence.

The Aakash Tablet. You are looking at the only piece in existence.

Recently, I paid a thousand bucks to see a play at Siri Fort, New Delhi. That’s a fair bit steeper than what Delhiites typically dole out to see their local actors give amateurish performances on the spartan sets of IHC, Kamani or Epicentre auditoria. Before you start thinking that I have won that big Sikkim State Lottery jackpot and start reaching out to me as a potential door ka rishtedaar, let me quickly scrub your hopes. No such thing has happened – I am still poor and the purse strings remain tighter than ever thanks to Mr Chidambaram. These hard earned thousand rupees were coughed up for a one-evening-only theatrical ‘event’ – a monodrama by Anupam Kher called ‘Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai’. Rest assured that despite its silly title, this was not a play based on some limp horror (comedy?) film from Ram Gopal Verma’s potty. This play featured a bona fide Bollywood celebrity, one of our leading, national award winning actors doing a one-man act. How often do we get to see that in Delhi? Surely, a thousand was a small price to pay for the sake of art? What’s skipping a few square meals in order to afford that, I thought.

Anyway, this post is not really about Anupam Kher or his play. It is not even about the good folks who had organized the event. And good folks they indeed are – a leading NGO that is providing free education to children in over 150,000 schools in remote, mainly tribal areas across the country. Noble cause by any yardstick because not only are these kids being offered an education, but even their basic needs of primary healthcare, clothing and nourishment are being taken care of by these schools that are managed directly by this organization. Presumably, the charity of the well-heeled in Delhi, and the blood and sweat of the feet-on-the-ground, are allowing that little Adivasi child in Bastar to dream of a brighter future that opens up for her when she has access to language and maths. She now has books and multimedia that open her eyes to the world outside her village. She has clothing that gives her dignity and protection, medicines that keep her healthy. At some point in the future, she aspires to be the nurse who looks after you in a hospital, or your neighbourhood bank teller who greets you as she dispenses cash to you, or the driver who pilots the Metro train that takes you to your destination. And, a mother who insists on a better life for her own children and family.

No, this post is not about the hundreds of kind folks who have the wherewithal to offer assistance and do so, generating opportunities for thousands of kids who deserve and get them. This post is not about them.

This post is about the millions of others who get left behind.

This post is about a nation that dreams big and yet squanders opportunity after opportunity. It’s about the Right to Education Act that gets passed by the federal Parliament in 2009. An act that establishes India as one of the few progressive nations in the world where education to children between the ages of 6-14 is a fundamental right. A law that provides 25% reservation of seats to EWS even in private schools. One that mandates all schools to ensure the existence of a proper building, a boundary wall with gate, a toilet, and drinking water to its students, or face the risk of losing accreditation and funding. It instructs the states to provide educated educators and able administrators to make all of this happen. And yet, 3 years after the Bill was notified, only 10% of the nation’s schools conform to its mandates. This post is also about other associated policies on Human Resource Development, like the vocational schools that don’t exist. Or the grand promise of the new Akash, not the polluted blue one above our heads. Or the free laptops dispensed to children whose homes have no electricity. Not to mention usable sports equipment and training facilities, instead of the locked and rusting behemoths erected for a two-week long sporting event.

Yes, this post is about the points I have enumerated above. But, mainly, this post is about lost opportunities because we constantly attempt to beat a corroded system into place, not by robust, get-your-hands-dirty action, but by new ornamental and shallow promises.

You could say that this post is about getting what we deserve.

Oh, I know, before I close, you still want to know how the play was, don’t you? Well, here is a quick review, in that case. It featured Anupam Kher laboriously playacting the story of his own life in excruciating detail (yes, you guessed it right – the play was quite awful, pompous even). But still, a nice change from what we usually get to see in NCR. You see, what the avid theatregoer gets here is either British or American plays, and it is normal to see desi actors addressing each other as ‘Charlie’ or ‘Polly’ on stage. Never mind that in real life, the only Charlies and Pollys that we actually know are the neighbour’s raucous dog and our aunt’s graceless parrot.

Anyway, like I said, this post is not about that.

 

This piece has been carried in the April 8th, 2012 issue of The Education Post : www.theeducationpost.in. My thanks to Arvind Passey for making this happen. Do check out his blog at : http://passey.info/

 

Article_The Education Post_Rickie Khosla

 

Comments

comments

49 thoughts on “This Post Is Not About That

  1. blogwatig

    Well done Rickie. You write best when you escape the clutches of Bollywood. But then again, this comment is not about that. Because that you already know. Good luck on the new journey!

    Reply
  2. phoenixritu

    I like your brand of sarcasm – I really do. But then – this comment is more about my being a closet anarchist. I’d like to nuke the system. And no – I have no better system to replace it with. Let anarchy prevail

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Your day is bound to come, Ritu. I fear only a social revolution can save this country. As much as I abhor anarchy, our current so-called democratic social order resembles anarchy more than it does order!
      Thank you so much for reading.

      Reply
  3. Akanksha Dureja

    Loved it, as always! I couldn’t help but remember the laptops which were given to college kids in UP, which refused to work and broke down when these notorious kids deleted the Mulayam/Akhilesh wallpapers. See the guts these kids have – Instead of being thankful for the expensive laptops they got as gifts, they were trying to escape from the mandatory existence and ridicule the right to publicity of the elite people who got them these computers to play with!

    Kudos to you for this piece in print! Wishing you many more in future :)

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Don’t you hate it when these CMs and PMs etc behave as if they are some Rajas! What is the meaning of having Mulayam/Akhilesh wallpapers on the laptops in the first place? Were these handed out from their own pockets? No, it was the bloody state exchequer!
      But, as the saying goes, Yatha Raja Yatha Praja.
      Thanks for your encouragement, as always!

      Reply
  4. ddeepa

    Probably the first serious post I am reading from your pen. (I might have read more, but my memory doesn’t aid me much!) Well deserved publication and well written Rickie. But end of the day, it’s not only about systems or promises by the government or the law and order. It’s about each of us and what we do too. :(

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Thanks for reading, Deepa. Yes, it is not just about the government. It’s also about the apathy that we have with our own society. We get angry when our kid misses school for a day, but we don’t fly into any rage when the dhobi’s kid comes to collect the laundry, instead of being in school himself.

      Reply
  5. alkagurha

    Unfortunately it is not about millions who get left behind. Misplaced priorities, vote bank politics, and lack of vision are to blame.
    Congratulations for writing this and making a difference.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      The millions who are being left behind – that’s a demographic time bomb waiting to explode. Can you imagine a country with half a billion practically functionally illiterate people? With no technical skills?
      Sad state, really.
      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  6. Rachna

    Oh thank God that the post was about what it was about. Congratulations on getting published. And I was looking at more meat. This year, in my children’s school finally RTE will be implemented. And, I quite laud that effort late as it is. With due respect, the government miserably fails in providing education in its own schools not due to paucity of funds at all and now wants to shirk its hands of its own responsibility. No, it is not an elitist view but a fact. Also, from where will the teachers come? Grow on trees. Who is taking care of teacher training and better salaries. How do we even attract more teachers? I want to know more about actual on-the-ground implementation and reviews when they come out with schemes not out-of-the-ass ideas that appeal to the electorate but will require magic to work.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      If our ‘normal’ city public schools are going to drag their feet about fulfilling the provisions of RTE, what do we expect from the government run or government aided ones? Can you imagine – a building, a toilet, a boundary wall – even these rudimentary things are lacking in many schools!
      And, of course, nothing can explain the missing qualified teachers.
      For a country that is soon going to be primarily youth-based demographically, we are sitting on a time bomb of a functionally illiterate population.
      Thanks for reading, as always.

      Reply
  7. janu

    You got published! Congrats…that’s a start. Anupam Kher is pompous but, all celebrities are. Wonderful post…lost opportunities and wasted potentials.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Thanks, Janu! Sigh…yes, wasted potential and wasted opportunities littered all across our society.
      Don’t know Anupam Kher personally at all, obviously. He was good in the play, but the idea that there is a play that celebrates the life of Anupam Kher just felt quite pompous to me!

      Reply
  8. C. Suresh

    Congrats on getting published Rickie! So, a typical Rickie opening sailing off into more serious waters – was great to read and a much needed message.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Thanks, as always, Suresh! I guess between TV serial and Bollywood watching, I do raise my head and observe the horrible morass the nation appears to be in. Sad…

      Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Thanks for stopping by, Ekta!
      Ah Himmatwala, my favourite! I didn’t really write a review, but my previous blog post on the film totally expresses by delightful feelings about the film!

      Reply
  9. Jaishvats

    Hi

    I just started following your post and this is the first one I received by email . I expected the usual satire and sarcasm but this is such a serious post . Very well written though . With NGo s the funds would reach as a whole at the destination unlike govt funds where nos are only for recording purposes

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Thank you so much for signing up!
      About the country’s state of affairs, seriously, I don’t even know what will work here any more. The administration is abysmal, and we have given up on them. But it’s not that we can cover the scope that an efficient government can.
      There are only individual pockets of excellence that are driving things forward. As of now, they seem like the only hope.

      Reply
  10. purbaray

    What to wonderful wonderful post!

    A nation of armchair slacktavists, content to point fingers at others. But it’s always good tp read about organizations, individuals and their concerted efforts. The least we can do is, watch a pompous actor tom-tom about his achievements, to support them.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Sadly, I don’t know what will work in this country any more. Perhaps a revolution? But we are not even capable of that – there are too many amidst us to subvert even that. I feel we have always been a nation driven by individuals who excelled, so perhaps those pockets of excellence will continue to shine and pull the nation on.
      Thanks so much reading and for your kindness!

      Reply
  11. Nisha

    I wish we could just do something about the whole system without blaming the politicians. How can they be so insensitive to people’s needs?? The Laptops will go to their homes. Each would be bought with a lakh more than it actually costs and the plan to educate will go in the dump.
    Just hate our government.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      We are the country, we are our government and we are our bureaucracy. It’s all us. So, unless all of us became better people, I see no hope.
      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Reply
  12. Amit

    I wish we could start on a new slate. Something similar to dinosaurs.
    But I do hope that we reach there without the extinction of our specie. There has to be a climax to this madness.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Wouldn’t that be nice? If we all could start from scratch. I’d like to be born in Norway, please.
      I think it took the West around 200-300 years to look like the current reasonably civilized version of themselves. We are around 60 years into our modern avatar..just a couple of hundred more years to go!
      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  13. Leechie

    very well written post. I must say you are a brilliant writer Rickie (defn slightly above mediocre as you wish to be). i read some of your other funny posts also, they were hilarious. thanks for sharing your views and you are bookmarked now.

    Reply
  14. The Fool

    Interesting how you connected the article with the play and ending was real cool. But the points are relevant. Couple of days back I read an article how schools are trying to fleece money from the parents of even these poor children. Education is definitely an area that needs serious attention.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      It will be beyond catastrophic if we continue to produce millions of educated illiterates in this ‘young’ nation. Really, specialized education has got to be the key priority in this country if we have any hopes of producing masters of their domain and not millions of jugaadu jacks of all trades.
      Thanks for reading, K!

      Reply
  15. Saru (@PerfectOdyssey)

    I don’t know how I missed it, I regularly check for your updates on Fb. Sorry about that and congrats on the feature.

    About losing opportunities, we as a nation ace at it. It’s good that we supported the cause, I wish more people to come forward.

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Glad you didn’t miss it!
      Yes, it is beyond sad that millions upon millions fall through the cracks in our country. And the cracks keep getting wider because no one thinks it important to fix them.

      Reply
  16. Anonymous

    Well, well, well, this post was indeed something that cradled us to witness the vicissitudes of our supposedly perfect system and allow us to yet again question the very dynamics of how we plan to run a nation that has enough population to overpopulate an entire planet. You know I’d like to add a point that even after bringing all these welfare and education related policies, we end up spending a much lesser chunk of our gdp on our education than a nation of our magnitude ought to. And as this post reflects,a substantial chunk of what is being spent is anyways not being used for the intended purpose. It seriously signifies that as a developing nation we are more tilted towards sustaining growth which we even otherwise are not able to do, than to plan for a better future. I wouldn’t blame the polity, the bureaucracy or the system but I’d like to blame the whole social setup. For when was the last time that our setup actually served a purpose other than motivating us to study better in order to get a job. This post forces us to think about it once.very nicely put up. :)

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughts on the post.
      Frankly, I don’t know where we are headed. We seem to take one step forward and then half a step back with our policies. Our implementation is abysmal. Governance is dysfunctional and the population is strangely apathetic. With so many things out of sync, who exactly are we waiting for to come in an rescue us this time? I don’t think the British are interested this time round!

      Reply
  17. Dagny

    Rickie, It is said that every successful entity (man/ woman/ idea) needs a champion in order to become successful. Who champions the case of education in India?

    Change was never bought about by legislation was it?

    Reply
    1. Rickie Khosla Post author

      Our leaders are mere midgets, and imperfect ones at that. Is it just our nation or is the entire world going through a tragic leadership crisis? You are so right, where are the champion for the cause of education? Or any cause, for that matter!

      Reply
      1. Dagny

        I genuinely believe that mankind is undergoing a period of intense growth. That is why terrible things are happening. Environmentally, socially and politically, we are under a moral crisis of unprecedented magnitude and pervasiveness. It is making me anxious, though I know in the long range, something good will come of it. But I wish it were done and over with. I feel as traumatic as a child would feel during birth- trapped midway between my mother’s womb and the world.

        Oh don’t mind me. I am whimsical… :)

        Reply

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