Category Archives: Life

I wish we could homeschool our daughter

HomeschoolingOur daughter hates going to school although her primary reason is that she doesn’t get to watch as much TV as she does when she is at home. I remember even I used to hate school. My wife on the other hand, used to love going to school. So whenever I raise this topic of homeschooling of her daughter, she vigorously objects saying that the social environment that she gets at school she won’t get at home. She won’t be able to adjust in the real world if she stays at home all the time.

According to this article, homeschooling is growing seven times faster than the enrollment rate in public schools, in America, due to people’s disenchantment with the current schooling system. It says

A recent report in Education News states that, since 1999, the number of children who are homeschooled has increased by 75%. Though homeschooled children represent only 4% of all school-age children nationwide, the number of children whose parents choose to educate them at home rather than a traditional academic setting is growing seven times faster than the number of children enrolling in grades K-12 every year.

And for those who have some doubts regarding the quality of homeschooling, they have more data:

Recent studies laud homeschoolers’ academic success, noting their significantly higher ACT-Composite scores as high schoolers and higher grade point averages as college students. Yet surprisingly, the average expenditure for the education of a homeschooled child, per year, is $500 to $600, compared to an average expenditure of $10,000 per child, per year, for public school students.

That’s quite interesting, and I’m not surprised by this revelation. Schools aren’t the way they used to be. Everything is commercialized and the student-teacher relationship is there just for a pretense.

Schooling is a big waste of time. You lose your entire childhood to it. And the the blame goes to the parents because they’re always going the easy way. I believe if kids can study in a free environment they will be smarter and more independent. Regular schooling puts them in a box.

Of course homeschooling isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. I should know. I am self-employed and I know how much discipline you require to make yourself work everyday. Not everybody can do that and that is why we require institutions. Institutions keep us focused. Most of the human beings aren’t used to working on their own and this is where the problem comes from. The same thing can be applied to homeschooling. Are the parents responsible enough?

In the current setup, all you have to do is send your kid to the school for the better part of the day. They come back with homework and somehow you force them to do it. What happens when they don’t get homework? Do you make them study? Of course in most of the cases you don’t. This is the crux of the problem. Current schooling system makes study a burden and that is why we constantly seek respite. Although it somehow educates us, it in no way makes us wise. We always have to seek wisdom on our own.

When you decide to homeschool your kid, study becomes a part of life. It’s more enriching and fulfilling. Out of the regular schooling system, your kid gets more breathing space and she gets ample time to pursue her actual talents. Unless you want to become a doctor or an engineer, I think study is simply an assistive intellectual growth. Once you know how to read and write and solve simple day-to-day mathematical problems, conventional education doesn’t play much role in your overall growth unless you are in a specialized field. Even in a specialized field there is no guarantee that it’s your education that helps you grow. 90% of your professional growth happens outside of school and college. They just give you a false sense of security.

Conventional love is not everything in life

Yesterday after my usual “riyaaz” I was humming this song

Hue hum jinke liye barbad wo humko chahe kare na yaad
Jeevan bhar, jeevan bhar ubki yaad mei
Hum gaye jayenge, gaye jayenge

It translates to: for whom I destroyed my entire life, even if she never thinks of me, I’ll keep singing songs in her memory.

Theoretically these lines seem fine, but in the movie what he means is that now he will simply roam around the streets, do nothing else and just sing sad songs.

Love is without a doubt beautiful emotion and one time or another we all experience it. We also face rejection and degection, and sometimes also betrayal. Sadness and momentary depression too is normal. But some people get too obsessed and don’t know when to put a stop to their love binge.

These kind of people need urgent help, or counseling. They need to be shaken out the stupor they have gotten themselves into. If not taken care of in time it can be even fatal. I’m aware of 3 cases where people killed themselves because they were ditched for another person. There was a physiotherapist I used to know who had a promising career ahead of him. He was quite happy and upbeat when he was in Delhi. Then he went to Jalpaiguri to start a special school there and suddenly I heard he had jumped off a railway bridge and killed himself. He had been rejected by the girl he loved.

Then there was my cousin’s son who hanged himself because his girlfriend left him for another boy. His mother still hasn’t recovered from the trauma and keeps talking to her non-existent son.

My wife’s nephew told us about his friend’s elder brother who, again, hanged himself when he was betrayed or abandoned by the girl he loved. He was a promising footballer.

It’s totally unintentional that all the three instances listed above involve guys killing themselves for fickle-minded girls. But the point is, by killing yourself or by losing your balance of mind you aren’t proving your eternal love, or you are not going to cause lasting emotional pain to a person who has ceased to have feelings for you. All you are going to achieve is cause a lasting pain to your parents, your siblings, and all those who really care for you or love you. Losing yourself over “unrequited” love is a highly selfish act.

But I think it would be unfair to call these people “selfish”. They are going through extreme mental distress and during this distress the mind pushes either the self-destruction button, or goes into a deep depression where sound decisions are not possible. This period is very critical and the person needs some serious help. It’s not live, it’s an uncontrollable obsession.

Of course folklore, and these days films too promote such extreme emotions. There is a beautiful song to counter this destructive state of mind:

Chhod de saari duniyaa kisi ke  liye
Ye munaasib nahin aadmi ke liye
Pyaar se bhi zaroori kayi kaam hein
Pyaar sab kucch nahin zindagi ke liye

For those who don’t understand Hindi:

It’s not right to abandon the whole world
Just for a single person
There are many things more important than love
Love is not everything in life

It’s very appropriate.

Remembering Teachers Day at my school

I was quite surprised today when I found out that my daughter’s school was closed for the Teachers Day, to day. We never had a holiday on Teachers Day and in fact it used to be a festive day in our special school. We always used to throw a surprise party for our teachers (although I’m pretty sure it was never a surprise for them due to all the conspiratorial hustle and bustle that persisted for a few days before the Teachers Day).

We also used to perform a skit for the teachers. So the second half of the school (after lunch break) was plain fun constituting of sweet and salty snacks, cold drinks (mostly ingeniously made cold drinks) and drama skit.

In our first building (it was just a “kothi” in Safdarjung Development Area, New Delhi) didn’t have an auditorium or an assembly hall. There was this big front room that otherwise had three classes running simultaneously (with curtain screens acting as partitions) and whenever there was a big assembly or another occasion, we used to empty one corner class and turn it into a tiny stage and the remaining two classes were turned into the audience area. So whatever we wanted to perform, it had to be done in that limited space (with one of the bathrooms becoming the green room).

After the drama skit the main organizing party would rush to the school kitchen and prepare the snack plates placing sweets and namkeens as meticulously as possible. The school helpers (the maids and other attendants) used to provide us copious help as it was also a treat time for them. After all whatever was left went to them.

Preparation used to be the greater fun. We had a very relaxed study environment in our special school. On certain days, if we wanted to spend an extra hour on an extra activity, the teachers wouldn’t bother us. Not that it happened all the time, but during certain occasions, it was permitted. So for 4 to 5 days prior to the Teachers Day, we used to spend lots of time collecting money, deciding what to purchase and rehearsing the drama skit in the backyard. Different responsibilities would be assigned to different kids and notes were made. There was hectic running to and fro (or crawling) and avoiding of questions with uncontrollable giggles when asked, “Hey what are you guys up to?”

Some of our parents pitched in too. My mother would get some eatables on the previous day and pack them in such a manner that we would be able to open them in the school without spoiling them. Similarly, my friends’ mothers would do some shopping and packing and together we were able to organize charming Teachers Days.

After our school grew bigger and bigger (fortunately, for us, we had left by that time) these activities ceased to happen due to various logistical problems. From the Safdarjang Development Area kothi the school was shifted to a big building in Hauz Khas adjacent to Gulmohar Park, and then within a few years, from a school it turned into a rehabilitation center and then a research institute. Not a fragment of the old life exists there, but then this is the price we often have to pay for growth and greater good.

For those who believe in the invincibility of fate

If you think what we get and don’t get depends on fate – the circumstances life throws our way – I agree to an extent. थोड़े फूल हैं कांटे हैं जो तकदीर ने बांटे हैं उनमेसे हमको हिस्सा हमारा मिल जायेगा . But I don’t subscribe to this philosophy completely, although I do believe everything in life is random (in bigger scheme of things you’re not even sure if the sun is going to rise in the morning). Think it this way…

You are standing at a bus terminal and hundreds of buses are leaving for different directions. Throwing yourself at the mercy of your fate means hopping onto any bus and let it drop you anywhere. Controlling your fate means consciously deciding what bus to catch and where to go. And this is where the difference between those who let fate handle them and those that control their fate manifests.

Does fate leave you alone when you have chosen your bus? No. Suppose you wanted to go to destination “A” and the bus breaks down on the way. All the buses passing that way go everywhere but to “A”. What do you do? You can either catch one of those buses and see what awaits you, or you can start exploring other options that can take you to “A”, irrespective of what obstacles you have on your way. You can take ride on different vehicles going to “A”. You can start walking.

Life is a collection of random events – call them vehicles – and if you sit on the back seat you call them fate. It’s no use not believing in fate because you alone don’t control your life. Those who seem in command of their fate simply act and react strategically to the randomness they encounter.

Recording at my daughter’s school function

"They don’t even allow the handycams inside," cautioned Alka, my wife. "They will take it from us."

We were talking while preparing to go to attend our daughter’s school’s annual function that they always hold at Siri Fort. Video recording devices are not allowed because then people start crowding the space in front of the stage and besides, after the show you’re supposed to purchase the official CD from the school.

"You said despite that many people brought their video cameras and recorded their children’s performances," I said, quite eager to record her dancing on the stage.

Our 4-year-old daughter, Vasudha, was going to dress up in a dazzling lehenga-choli and adorn an artificial hair bun. I myself put make up on her face in the morning as my wife never uses make up and she said that since I have had a few of those weird girlfriends who wouldn’t go to potty without putting on make up, I must have some idea of how to apply it. By the magic of osmosis, I do in fact know how to apply a functional make up.

Obviously I did a good job and our daughter looked like an angel. Without hesitation I can say that it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life and I couldn’t wait to record her while she performed on the stage in that splendid appearance.

So while leaving we took along our Sony Handycam, and as a safety measure I also put in my pocket the Vado HD flip video camera, since people there would think it’s a phone. I put the handycam in my pants’ thigh pocket, as I would be on wheelchair and they mostly skip checking me at the malls and cinema halls and I knew they wouldn’t check me at Siri Fort too.

We easily sneaked in the cameras, as almost everybody in the audience had. The performances were great. My happiness and pleasure had many facets. The vicissitudes of life haven’t allowed Alka and I to go out much and do things that we enjoy doing together, one of them being watching plays in auditoriums. Just sitting with her, watching those highly talented children giving their performances, and waiting for our daughter to come on the stage with her classmates, was the stuff memories are made of.

In between I kept recording other performances because one, I wanted to make sure the zooming was able to focus in time (it was taking around 30-40 seconds for the camera to give a clear picture), and two, there were some performances by highly energetic kids and I wanted to show their recordings to our daughter just to give her an idea how well some children perform.

One of the performances had many Sikh kids dancing on Karnatic rhythms and they were really looking cute. Me being a Sikh, Alka (she’s from UP) laughed and commented that I must really be enjoying watching those little Sikh kids dancing on a South Indian tune and she insisted that I recorded their performance by specifically focusing on them. I focused on them turn by turn and recorded almost the entire enactment. The only flip side was, I forgot to press the record button. Alka laughed uncontrollably: Sikhs are normally at the receiving end of jokes that depict them acting strange when placed in certain situations. At that time in fact we both laughed.

Our daughter’s dance performance was almost at the tail end of the entire function and people whose wards were through with their performances had started moving here and there in order to fetch their kids from back stage. We were sitting in the middle section so it required quite an effort to keep the camera focused, and when people came in front of it, it lost focus and again took some time to refocus. Her performance started amidst this chaos.

My entire concentration was getting her in the focus. The handycam was in full zoom so it jumped great distances even if I moved it a little, so it was very hard to focus on my daughter. Alka located her first and shouted at me asking whether I was able to see her or not, but I was so engrossed in trying to focus on her and avoid people that constantly kept obstructing the view that I couldn’t hear her. I was finally able to focus on her. As soon as the show started she brought her partner in front of the group and started dancing there with him. She was in her full glory, totally in command, and looked beautiful. She even directed her partner who kept losing track of the steps and when he got lost in the crowd of the other kids, she quickly found him and tried to steer him in the right direction. In her baby steps and cute movements, she danced on the stage as if she has always being doing that. Watching her in the handycam screen was sheer bliss, although my neck and my arm ached due the stress caused by having to keep the camera constantly in focus due to the moving bodies.

Their performance lasted for a couple of minutes and everybody thoroughly enjoyed it. I followed her with my handycam until she vanished behind the side screen.

After putting the camera down I looked at my wife and she was on the seventh cloud. "Did you get the whole thing?" she asked, gleaming with pride.

"No," crestfallen, I realized. "I forgot to press the record button."