Saturday, August 25, 2018

Dancing teachers and Pupils - Liminal meets the Morals

What makes it difficult for people to accept everyday thing which is not 'appropriate' or 'proper' in the strict societal and hypocritical senses? Let me explore them. But before that let me show you video which inspired me to write this blog.

Well its a video gone viral. It depicts a bunch of students and school teachers dancing possibly in their school compound together, apparently in a Hindi Song tune.

Yes, this instigated criticism and todays public media quite naturally took the matter to manufacture  opinions. Of course, it shook the Victorian morality of the people. Meanwhile, fearing the public shaming and possible humiliation one of the teachers explained the phenomenon as one of the highest emotional moments where they started to dance after a wonderful day-long programme. Here is her facebook comment.

She explains a) it was a girls' school, b) all of the gates were closed, hence a closed door and 'private' affair, c) the song which was played in the viral video is an edited one and original song was not a Hindi song and it was something else.

What makes her explain such a phenomenon of an intense emotion:

of course we know what makes her give explanations. First of all, a group of women dancing openly is way too much to the society at large. Secondly, they are not only women but also teachers, how can they dance. They are supposedly wear the serious 'teacherish' looks and carry a 'serousish' gomratherium looks. How can teachers smile and dance at all. Third and more importantly how can they dance in a popular Hindi song and inspire their students to dance as well. Hence, the explanation.

A patriarchal social mind loaded with a supposedly defined 'proper' Presentation of Self is expected to feel the shock going through the spine as Teachers becomes emotional with students and starts dancing with a song.

Meanwhile, the school remains a heterotpic, juxtaposed and liminal space all through. Students, yes the future of our species can do things which they cannot otherwise in their domestic sphere or known places. This ability to do things which they cannot do in other places makes School a space of uncertainty and not a place with certainty. Civilization with its aim of making a disciplined citizens/labours/products to rule over can never allow such liminal space to expand itself. Hence, teachers are supposed to be wearing masks of proper representations whom students can 'follow' to become the ideal types.

Such ideal types are constructed as faceless categories of expected behaviours and this, by no means fit the stereotypic expectations.

What is at stake with this unintentional viral video will reveal much of the initial question of this blogpost: what makes it difficult?

Well here is the list:

A. The sense of proper which is a subtle mechanism by which patriarch and civilization exercises power through multiple channels. Be it the sense of presentaiton of self, interpersonal relationships, defined place instead of space, and cultural gaze loaded with patriarch/discipline/hierarchy and so on.

B. The form of stereotypes which is installed within the everyday discourses of the public sphere. Such stereotypes exclude everything which is natural and humane only to include the established exchange relationships.

C. The hidden morality (moral policing to be precise) which is a complex outcome of the sense of proper and stereotypical that is not ready to face a slightest difference

D. The violent and exclusionary mechanism that links such collective sense of 'proper' with practices. In a sense it justifies the explanation given by the teacher in social media. Yes, this is out of fear of being labelled as deviant and then excluded.

While the schools as heterotypic, juxtaposed and liminal space remains as it is internally, the perception of proper surrounding the institution aggravates. No matter how shocking it may seem the incident actually shows the positive and humane dimensions of everydayness in the liminal space. It is and it should be as such otherwise there wont be much of a difference between a school, a hospital and perhaps a prison.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Zara Haatke Zara Banchke Yeh Hai CBCS Meri Jaan

Kaleidoscope happens to teach in an heavily understaffed college in Kolkata. It is so understaffed that even with their best efforts, a considerable percentage of possible classes are not allotted. Yes, this happens even after they exceed more than about 20% of their supposedly working hours as per the University Grants Commission (UGC) rules. Well as he knows UGC has become a temporary matter with something 'revolutionary' to install by the centre, curriculum has undergone drastic revision as well.

Now its no longer the 1+1+1 system, this is much awaited, hyped the CBCS system with a name that everyone happens to talk about the Choice Based Credit System. Kaleidoscope is not going to discuss the system and its flaws, because that will entail a research paper and Kaleidoscope hardly has the time for it. Let him just place his case in the broad spectrum of revolution that Higher Education system awaits.

Kaleidoscope teaches in a department with two faculties. To attain the CBCS demand of total 140 credits and 20 credit for the first semester (click here) Kaleidoscope had to set a routine in which which the first semester took away about 75% of their total possible classes. Think about the unfortunate second and third year (fortunately Kaleidoscope does not have a third year yet) students. They are left with no choices than to enjoy the underdeveloped campus. Yes, they can do whatever they want to. They can supervise the construction work, see the vertical extension or go to the shopping mall near and see how people enjoy the airconditioned built in neo-liberal economic spectacles. They will not have classes, nor they have a proper library which is yet to develop in this college.

The broad spectrum:

Kaleidoscope would invite you all to look at least at four recent phenomenon:

a. The move to replace 62-year old UGC by Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) based on no solid ground but a mere argument that "the existing regulatory structure as reflected by the mandate given to the University Grants Commission required redefinition given the changing priorities of higher education" (HECI 2018).

b. "uniform standard and quality... maintenance through systematic monitoring" happens to the second most important aspect HECI, hence a designed syllabus from which only a small percentage universities can change.

c. declaration of Jio Institute (which is still in imagination) as one of India's six Institutes of Eminence.

d. an increasing push on revenue earning through the institutions themselves -  a push towards privatisation.

Kaleidoscope's case - not unique:

Kaleidoscope's case is by no means unique. Understaffed colleges and universities are understaffed for both teaching and non teaching positions and now there is a centralisation of curriculum. This is expected to result in a large-scale failure of the entire system of the public higher education institutions throughout the country. 

Meanwhile, those of institutions of repute will seek an increase in the revenue earning as there is a push from the system itself. 

It is not very far that a parent will find both the public institutions and private institutions charging more or less the same amount of fees and that the private institutions having autonomy have developed better infrastructure including the number of faculties required to meet the CBCS like curriculum. 

The resultant factor definitely will be conscious beings making choices, yes Jio institute or the like will flourish by then.

Impact on society:

On a personal note, Kaleidoscope was once told by his father "if there was no Nehru with his socialist policies, I could not have afford to give you education even in the local school you have studied, let alone college and university." Yes, Kaleidoscope like millions of his fellow country men could not have studied if they were not given near free tuition fees, free books and wonderful teachers and no teaching uncles. 

With a push for unification and privatisation and eventual failure of the public institutions, people will seek private sector educational institutions. Now it is of no surprise to find that in All India Higher Education Survey (AISHE) the grtoss enrolment ratio has increased from less than 5% to 25% if one compares it with 1990s and 2016 - 2017. There is a notable increase in the enrollment of Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) students which is about 50% in public institutions. What is the scenario in private institutions? Yes, as expected this is less than 27% of the total enrollment. Similar case is that of women which is about 33% in private institutions and 45% in the public institutions and this trend will increase. 

Hence, Kaleidoscope should not be seen as cynical if he finds a dark wall in front of him as he prepares for his classes. There will be campuses with biases, rising incidents of suicides by the underprivileged students as exemplified by Rohit Vemula. There will be rise in the fees to such an extent that families like Kaleidoscope had will not be able to afford, and there will be private institutions where only wealthy can educate themselves. There will be funding available for only departments like Centre for Rural Development and Technology at IIT Delhi, spearheading the national programme on panchagavya (cow science). Textbooks will be rewritten to suit a particular political agenda and so on.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Compensating for a gendered world II - A migration story

Kaleidoscope found Tarulata a few years back in 2013 to compensate for the marriage of her daughter by working as a maid to his house (click here). He knows there are gendered stories behind many of the maids he encounters in his world. In West Bengal a lot of them are coming from his neighbouring country Bangladesh. Kaleidoscope is not intending to address any of the larger issues like refugee problem or of late Assam story of National Register of Citizens. He just wishes to share a story of forced migration, just one amongst the millions untold.

The story lets say belongs to "Anna." The name is not from any place in South India, but is from Bangladesh. The name is linked to a Bangla phrase "Ar naa" meaning not any more. Yes, she has a literal name of ending. Her parents tried for a male child but only got females and hence after fifth issue they decided to call it off! There is no prize in guessing what the childhood this Anna might have had.

Anna grew up, never got formal education and ended up marrying a carpenter contractor having considerable amount of ancestral property. Anna, developed all the skills one needs to run a family, manage farming, milk cow, manufacture cowdung cake, and maintain a household. All unpaid and expected job for a woman. She has had two daughters and two sons and meanwhile for some unknown fear her in-laws migrated from Bangladesh to India. Anna had well settled life in Bangladesh in a peaceful village life. She had Muslim friends and there was hardly any thing to discuss about being Hindu and Muslim (I had to ask about it with particular emphasis).

Meanwhile her father-in-law paid a visit and asked Anna to give her daughter to him to India as her mother-in-law wanted to see her. Anna was never agreed but her husband didn't listen to her.

She got a phone call after a couple of years from her daughter begging her to come to India to rescue her as she was put as a maid to one of the rich Marwari households in Lake Town. She asked her husband to make arrangements to go to India and bring her daughter. Her husband having all faith to her in-laws didn't give much attention but reluctantly came to India. He was being told that his daughter is staying at one of their kin's house and not in some Marwari houseld. He believed in that and came back. Meanwhile, her daughter called up her again and this time she told that she doesn't want to live any more if they are not coming to rescue her.

Anna convinced her husband by making a havoc in the village and all their neighbours helped her. Meanwhile because of the social pressure her husband decided to sale off all his properties there and settle down in India as he thought of his ailing parents. He had to sold everything in one fifth price and they made a move in the Bengali month of Bhadra.

"No one moves out in Bhadra month dada! People do not even throw away cats and dogs from home in the month of Bhadra, but my husband because of his ego made that hasty move. Even one of our Muslim neighbours asked us to stay back and spend at least that month and then make the move, but he didn't listen to me..."

Anna came to India with her husband in India with little savings in hand. Settled down in Bongaon with her in-laws and her husband suffered a brain stroke to become paralysed. Its been eighteen years, she is taking care of everything. She raised her daughters and sons. Her rescued daughter now works in some private agency and married to a descent man of her choice. They help her run the family. Her younger daughter is also married and settled. Her elder son is learning to become a electric mechanic and younger one is studying in class IX.

Anna - still manages to smile while she works at Kaleidoscope's home as he and the queen has recently become parents.

Bangladeshi - the derogatory term Kaleidoscope like many others knows are essential components of 'affordable' labour - no matter how harsh it may sound. Bangladeshi - the derogatory term entails millions of stories - larger than life. larger than imagined life!