Saturday, October 8, 2016

Khaike paan Banaras wala...khuli jaye band akal ka taala

So...there is much noise around the popular Bond figure Pierce Brosnan endorsing Paan Bahaar paan masala.

Most 'modern' Indians thing its inappropriate, funny and all other words in the dictionary ranging from 'Ehhh' to ' Uhh'.

Most of these paan masala despising people with a strong colonial hangover find it funny to share it on facebook posts without realising their colonial hangover that allows them to do that. Many are also unaware that Rajnigandha sponsored the Jaipur Literature Festival this year. Read about Paan masala at Jaipur Literature Festival. and a very nice tweet mentioned on Wall Street Journal, sizing it up all:

Braking news : 94% of  consumers don't know who is & 97% of those getting agitated by the ad don't eat pan masala.


Anyways...

Whats the problem with Bond endorsing paan masala....when people often talk about him endorsing alcohol brands....his drink 'shaken not stirred'.

So, alcohol is cool and paan masala isnt. You will have to put the 'spitting argument' aside for some time. The reality is that a large part of India does endorse popping something into the mouth and keeping it while another large part of India endorses popping a liquid like beer or whisky into their mouth. While both are bad...but beer is something which comes from the developed worlds while things that you put in the mouth is hardcore Indian. Most of the alcohol consumed in India is called English wine and nobody cares about Indian wines or promoting things like mahuli or tadi. Its not cool because its hardcore Indian.

Indians are very happy endorsing brands which are not rooted in India... whiskies, scotch. But when a Irish guy endorses something which is very Indian...its not acceptable. Bond can endorse Scotch but not paan masala.

The problem with us Indians is that some things are so blatantly rejected despite their Indian origin that it becomes uncool to endorse them...until some white skinned people tell us that its actually cool and it becomes cool. This is nothing but our colonial hangover of looking up to something which is endorsed by white skinned people.

Wait until Bond endorses beedi.

I have seen very many non-Indians liking the beedi but its sad that nobody wants to promote it.

Everything is wrong with Indian stuff...right from sari, alcohol, designs, language, eating with hands, speaking in Hindustani. All of them are uncool unless somebody tells us its not.

Am glad paan masala is getting some endorsement now.

It may however, be said and acknowledged that paan masala is injurious to health and so is tobacco and alcohol.

I am sure we can find a solution to the spitting issue. I know of many highly educated Indians consuming paan masala and gutka and being proper with it. Its just that its not mainstream to eat paan masala.

I would also love Bond to endorse paan itself...the Banarasi paan....which is a delight I tell you.

And I hope more and more Indian eat paan Banaras wala so that khul jaiye band akal ka taala.

Come on guys embrace India...There is nothing wrong in consuming paan masala or paan. Its as wrong as smoking cigarettes and consuming alcohol.

and I would have loved to write this article in Hindustani.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Indian Independence Day in a British agency

 In 2012 I joined a British Government Agency in New Delhi. It was just a normal transition into new job until the nationalist in me got triggered.

Its normal in India to see the tricolour and remembrances of freedom fighters in the run up to Independence Day. Its more marked in the school education sector, where I come from. 

The first trigger was a display of paintings in the office corridor. Made by school students during summer, some of them had the tricolour and portraits of nationalist leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Radhakrishnan and Ambedkar. It was interesting to see pictures of Indian nationalists in a ‘British’ space.

Little did I realise that I would be triggered, yet again, soon as Independence Day was around the corner.  

I have been used to office spaces being decorated with Indian flags and its colours, a couple of days before Independence Day. I knew I will surely miss it in my current office with it being a British agency. But then how can an official agency of Britain celebrate Indian Independence Day…as the very concept of Independence in India is anti-British…and it has to be since we got independence from the British. Being a nationalist historian as well, interesting thoughts started crossing my mind.

Indian nationalism has been constructed on a variety of pillars and one of the pillars is definitely on how British colonialism exploited us and how we came out of it with our freedom struggle. No doubt every Indian child is shown numerous films and plays of how we fought with the British. Children read books about it and all of this gets together to support our nationalism.

It was that pillar of Indian nationalism, which was triggering me…and making me uncomfortable to celebrate Independence day inside a BritishGovernment agency, being an employee. A couple of us friends just joked around…perhaps we should go around the office shouting slogans - British Quit India!

At the same time I was thinking how difficult it would be for Britain (or Britisher) to be a part of Indian Independence Day celebrations.  While Britainrespects India’s independence, how can it support a day in India, which is all about criticising what Britain did to India? I wonder if Britain sends India Independence Day greetings.

I immediately started admiring the modern world and the current world context. On one side, we Indians do take pride in having fought the freedom struggle against Britain and on the other side, a supposed nationalist Indian works for a British agency. And then the nationalist writes in English (the language of the people whom we won the freedom struggle from) for a English newspaper.

The journey of Britain from a coloniser to a development aid partner in the last 66 years is interesting to note. And that’s what I admire about the modern world that the notions of traditional nationalism do not exist now…though some of us may want to tag along with them.  Perhaps, we need to redefine the way we celebrate Independence day and contextualise it in alignment with the newer paradigms of the modern world.

I wrote this piece onyear, and thought I must share it with the British Government Agency top boss before I make it public. However, the agency did not allow me publish it saying that it may jeopardise Indo-British relations. Well these are some last hurdles we have to cross in this post -colonial world.

A conversation with a British...actually Scot colleague reminded me of what I had written and I thought I should publish it now having moved on from that job established myself in the new one. We had something called a 'Scot-xit' referendum and then Brexit, which prompted my Scot colleague to use the term Inde-exit for Indian Independence... jokingly. Another, Canadian colleague corrected that it was not an exit but a rejection of colonisation. But, the incident got this article out of my archives at least.

Right now I am trying to choose the right words so as not to offend either Indians or British. Be politically correct. How silly? Training of being part of an inter-governmental body. Why do we humans have to be politically correct and not speak our minds...even for fun. And while my national identity was taken aback by Inde-exit, it did put me on a thinking track.

Also, what I am thinking is that if Kashmir becomes another country and gets freedom (which I wouldnt want)...would a Kashmiri be writing a similar article about India House in Srinagar and I call it Kashmirexit.

Interesting thoughts!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

JNU has always been 'seditious' and we are proud of it.

JNU is a very seditious university if I go by the Indian Penal Code.

I have had my time discussing and arguing about independence of Kashmir with some of my Kashimiri acquaintances, when I was a student there. And of course we talked about Pakistan also, when we talk about these.

If the current government had its way, most of my batchmates would have been in jail on charges of sedition.

JNU has produced a number of bureaucrats and diplomats and as part of the job they have to have many seditious discussions with people around the world. I guess what happens at JNU is just a practice session for time to come. JNU Presidential debate and many other forums exist for this and I think thats what makes JNU different from many other universities. It contributes to relevant debates and issues of the country.

Though I have no sympathies for Afzal Guru in any manner (I do contemplate whether, death sentence is a viable punishment ), but to arrest the JNUSU President or for that matter any student of the university because he is raising his or her opinion is tyranny. If some people in this country think he shouldnt have been hanged, let them say atleast. After all most of us commenting didnt see the evidence or follow the court hearings.

Everybody has a right to express opinion, no matter how obnoxius it may sound. We allow mullahs and pandits and granthis in India to express their defiling opinions and not arrest them. Somebody declaring to destroy a temple or a mosque is bigger sedition in India than somebody supporting Afzal Guru, considering that we are a secular republic as put in the constitution. We never said in our constitution that India is a nationalist republic.

Lets change our colonial penal code for sedition.

I am courting arrest by current government of India for the following reason very close to my heart:


  1. Our national anthem doesnt inspire me and it should be changed. None of the Indians understand it. let our national anthem be Saare Jahan se Acha. Iqbal's masterpiece. So what if he chose Pakistan. At least people understand it.

Sorry...got a little emotional.

Just want to add for all the people out there slamming JNU. One incident at a university doesnt merit all the criticism. JNU has contributed a lot to the nationalist and secular fabric of this country. Of what all that made you a nationalist...that textbook in school was written by Bipan Chandra, Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar.

I am a proud nationalist JNUite.
P.S - Lots of jokes going around. I was hurt. One of my JNU friends commented Joke is Joke. Joke is koi jaat nahi hoti. So, I started enjoying these jokes. Let me share one from a friend who needs to be heading a top advertising agency in India but isnt. JNU should be named Jinnah National University. Ha Ha Ha.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Paan Masala at Jaipur Literature Festival: A nationalist and environmentalist's POV

Disclaimer: I dont endorse paan masala, though I do consume it occasionally. I have never visited the Jaipur Literature festival. I never edit or re-read my posts. Issued in the interest of paan masala consuming people and environmentalists.

Dont know if the eminent literary personalities at JLF paid any heed to what was printed on the huge bill boards claiming themselves to sponsor the festival. Rajnigandha was one of them. Its a renowned brand of paan masala in India. For the non-Hinustani speaking and non-South Asian literary personalities, colloquially called firangs by the paan masala eating community, paan masala is a concoction of betel nut and some other stuff, the consumption of which is supposedly injurious to health.

But this is not a blog entry of a WHO professional. So, lets come to the point straight.

Most of the paan masala eating community in India must have never heard of JLF, even though there money was being spent on the festival. Afterall, Rajnigandha was the second biggest sponsor of the event. Dharampal Satyapal, the original owners of Rajniganda, must surely have had a reason to sponsor the festival and to promote the silver pearls product (silver coated cardomom seeds) rather than the popular Rajniganda paan masala.

And more interestingly, the so called literary creatures of India and elsewhere, would never ever think of getting on stage with Rajnigandha paan masala in their mouth. Its not the in-thing to do at a literary festival, even though that very company is the second biggest sponsor. Interestingly, Rajnigandha was the key sponsor of the ignored cousin, Delhi Literature Festival.

It would not be wrong to presume that JLF is primarily aimed at English Literature and not Hindustani literature, even while taking cognizance of the fact that some of my friends performed dastangoi at JLF and the fact that this blog is in English and not Hindustani. Taking sheer economics in light, the paan masala eaters would rather have wanted their money spent on a mushaira or dastangoi than perhaps listening to the so called literary guys, who shy away from speaking in Hindustani and would rather not want to be seen eating a paan or paan masala. But that is for Dharampal Satyapal group to decide.

It is worthwhile to mention that the environmental cost of eating paan masala and spitting it, is surely less than consuming a bottle of mineral water, the container of which (read plastic bottle) will never ever get recycled in Jaipur and would perhaps be buried on this planet for million of years. I wonder why the average JLF goer shies away from popping Rajnigandha and rather drink some coke or mineral water from a pet bottle. Let me add that Rajnigandha was one of the first companies to introduce paper packets for its products. Pic Below of plastic pet bottles at JLF



Even after having said the above, it doesnt stop a writer from expressing the fact that perhaps more needs to be done at an Indian Literature Festival (meaning based in India) to make it more Indian than merely doing it at the Diggi Palace and inviting some firangs to spend a nice winter in Jaipur basking in sunlight. Pothi padd padd jag muya...pandit bhaya na koye. Stop using these plastic bottles...you literary people.

Also, we need to think if its an effort of Rajnigandha to become cool or JLF to become more Indian.

Muh men Rajnigandha...Kadmon men duniya #JLF2016

P.S - Even Zee TV the main sponsor is more Hindustani than English...though one colleague from Jaipur tells me that Zee English is coming soon.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Talk about dating & love in a Mathematics Class. Yes...you read it right.

What is this entry on 'Love'' doing at an educator's blog. Well...it has a reason, as it concerns Maths.

I work for an agency, where education for Peace and Sustainable Development is our mandate. I have been dong some basic level research for the last year or so on how to utilise mainstream subjects like Maths and Science to teach Peace and Sustainable Development. My aim was to embed these elements in the curriculum of these subjects. The primary aim was to utilise Maths and science as tools for Peace. You know boring stuff we do as peace educators (this sentence is only meant for students reading this blog)

So, it was as simple as turning a simple mathematical question like 240-18 =? into

Bharatpur Sanctuary has 240 species of birds and 18 of them have gone extinct. How many are left.

Same question but the context is different. Though I wonder how interesting a context is that for a kid.

Its the usage of Maths as a tool is social aspects that makes it come alive. I have been a strong advocate of mathematics being taught through its application in real life. A whole chapter in my book is dedicated to that.

Anyhow...

An email took me the Hannah Fry's TED talk on 'The Mathematics of Love', wherein she uses data from a dating website to predict the effectiveness of finding a partner. Its the sheer use of big data, if I may call it, and mathematics to decipher love patterns and dating patterns.

For me it was a fun video to watch...interesting insights... until she started talking of divorces and mathematical equations to predict them.

I was zapped when she made an analogy between countries at war....and boom it was Maths for Peace...that she was talking about. Something I was up to in my job.

While several single people may get benefitted by this video to find a date...fortunately I have one. But for sure Mathematics has the potential to bring peace on the planet....and love too.

Wonder what if we start a Maths class for young teenagers like that...wouldnt they be interested in Maths. The Maths class would be a super hit. I think its an interesting video to be shared in Maths classrooms of  senior grades... as they start dating.

And perhaps an interesting context to begin talking about peace. Love takes us to peace.

Do watch this amazingly interesting video.



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I will not let an exam result decide my fate: A letter to the recent Class XII passout

Hi Dude/Damsel,

So, I am not writing to you to give you some advise or Gyan...as the entire world must be giving you now...including some of your 'wise' friends.

Just want to share myself with you as your pal. Its just that I am way too older than you.

Anyhow, I guess you passed the exams. Perhaps there's another letter to be written to those who didnt. But I will leave that for another day.

Either you got great marks or average or dismal. I know you wanted more...everyone...even the ones who got 100. Thats human phenomena...we want more. No matter we dont know what to do with those extra.

My brother once told me, "Paise kabhi poore nahi honge life men" or "You will never have money enough in your life". He was perhaps true, no matter how much I earned in life, I always wanted a little more... so that I could buy a better phone, better car or a better house.

Its the same with marks I guess. Even if, you would have got a percent or two more...life would still be the same...you would want more. Thats the reason of these ads Ýeh dil maange more', Aur dikhao...aur dikhao

Now you may tell me to cut the crap...that you wont get admission in a college


...but let me tell you it wouldnt matter in the long run.

Go out interview your relatives...a little older...who are now finished with their education and ask them what really matters to them in life. Definitely it wont be the Class XII results! I will love to hear in the comments below on what they shared.

Ok! Ok!

I get it...you are there and you have to face it. and you dont want another homework of going around talking to people.

So...face it. But Face it powerfully.

Dont let it kill you man. You are much more than your examination result...even if you are a 100%, 90%, 80%, 70% or 50 %

As Suli Breaks sings...I will not let an examination result decide my fate.


And let me tell you a truth I realised long time back...and bloody well wrote it on the last page of my book. I dont even remember 5% of what I read in school university and college and whatever I am doing right now...I could have done right after grade 10.

And I can bet it its true for most adults whether they admit it or not. 80% of adults will fail if I ask them a Grade 7 maths algebric equation. And they have the gall to tell you...perform better in Maths.  They never used that Maths and will never use it. And by the way neither will you. Its just that we have to do it still.

Seriously, this education is a pre-decided game made for you to pass your time and fail...no matter what. It doesnt make you think. It doesnt make you happy? A Board cannot decide who you are and who you arent? Is it only education that matters? Then why didnt these 100% guys or toppers really mend the roads in India or the poverty around the world. The system has failed us. Dont let a failed system decide what your worth is?

Ok Admissions!

Does it mean that if you dont get the right marks, you dont get to study what you want...what you really want to do? If you are really passionate about what you want to do...you will do it anyways.

Go ahead guys...enjoy your life and make this planet a better place to live. If 80% or 90% is bad then those who got 70% should commit suicide....right! but would it be worth it ? NO. NEVER

Enjoy whoever you are? whatever you are?

Life is like a series of 1 day internationals, T-20s and test matches. No matter you got a duck in the world Cup Final. But you still keep playing?

Remember even if you didnt perform your best in this World Cup (read Class XII boards)....there are many more World Cups to come in your life.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

A for Almirah, B for bedroom,D for Door: Home is the best design for a pre-school

Was reading John Dewey in his School and Society, very interesting book and may I say a must read for Early Childhood Educationists. I have been hearing a lot about Maria Montessori and Reggio Amelia in the early childhood domain, but I saw John Dewey to be straight away hinting at what early childhood education should be.

He says that there is very stark change from a home to a school for a child. The school is totally different from the home, in its appearance, warmth and practices. You don’t do at school what you do at home. They are two completely isolated places, which do not want to connect with each other. While John goes on to fully explain, how he wants the school to be connected to the society, I got my idea of an ideal pre school from his thoughts.

 Imagine a school or rather a pre-school, just like the flat next to yours. Same...Ditto. Drawing room, dinning room, three bedroom, kitchen, toilets and the balconies. When you drop the kid to this school. It will be like leaving him in another flat in the neighbourhood or rather just like your home. The child will not feel alienated and would be at home in this home pre-school.

If we look at the primary objective of a pre-school in the society, we find that all the society requires is that the child learns some basic hygiene and may be start muttering the alphabets and numbers. I see no reason why this cannot be taught in a preschool whose architectural design is similar to the house.

The walls of the drawing room could be used to put whatever you want to display. All items in the house have to be marked starting from the door. Alphabet D should be written on the door and also
Door along with it. Its weird that we say A for Apple and then show an Apple even though in many parts of the world Apples don’t grow and aren’t available. To make education contextual instead of putting a chard of A for Apple, this home pre school would have the alphabet A written on an almirah. K fo Kitchen. T for Toilet. B for Bedroom. R for refridgerator. I am clear the alphabet would be in their hearts in no time. The teacher wouldn’t have to introduce alphabets also.

The basic aim of teaching alphabet and numbers would be achieved in no time in this school. Even the rest of the agenda or lets say curriculum of preschool education can also be taken care of appropriately in this set up. Everything taught in terms of hygiene will be taught at the appropriate places.  Hand washing at the washbasins. Eating at the dining table. The kids may even sleep if they feel sleepy in the bedroom. I am not trying to comment right away on the pedagogy of early childhood education adhered to in the schools, but strongly believe that such an environment and set up would be most conducive to the learning, which we intend to happen in a preschool.

The obvious question hearing this idea is that how do we see this ‘home-school’, if I may use that term, convert into a full fledged school model. Would the children continue to stay in this home-school?

How this home-pre school will transition into a school is also organic. One of the rooms in this home pre-school would be a study, where you will have books and a table and a chair. This is the room that will later transition into what we call a traditional classroom. I can envisage the home preschool till early childhood and as the child grows up, the study grows larger and larger until it transforms into a library of sorts with individual workstations for each student. This will also prepare them to take up professional life, when they come out of school.

At the policy level, there hasn’t been much done in India, pre-schools are not governed by any rules, so there should be no issues with opening a school in a flat. Moreover, it requires minimal capital investment and logistics to start a school. Only thing required is a bent of pedagogy. Though I know the larger chain of pre-schools will criticise this pedagogy as they have invested a huge capital in their infrastructure, nevertheless, the idea cannot be shunned just like that.

Most of my ideas are based on actual experiments done on the ground. However, this idea is yet to be tested. But so much is the strength of this idea I believe that even after implementation, its core is unlikely to be changed. There would be a lot of improvisations which may happen in terms, of where the maximum amount of learning will happen, how it will happen but the premise of the preschool to be just like a home wont change. I wish this idea is taken up by some school chain and pray that I take up this idea soon, so that I am able to theorise this and present it to the larger educational fraternity.