A Quest on Overdrive … :)

An eccentric rambler on life's lessons and mercies, found and lost… :)


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Testing Times

This blog was published here, after a long wait 🙂 I had sent it to The Hindu for its Open Page article, and it was finally published in print, and online, in the Kochi Edition, this day, 8 March, 2015 🙂 You can read it online here:

http://m.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/those-archetypes-in-the-examination-halls/article6969740.ece/

*does a jig* 🙂 March seems to be a good month 🙂 Last year, 1 March was when a letter to the Editor got published, in the same newspaper,[LINK] and now this! This article also has a cartoon with it, done by Surendra 🙂

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Helen Keller referred to examinations as bugbears. She spoke of the utter disarray of her thoughts, humorously, in her autobiography, in a way that unfailingly appeals to students in my class when we come to that chapter. The collective empathy is tangible for she has spoken of a universal condition in these testing times.

In my twenty years of being part of the system that administers these tests, quite apart from the times I have had to take them at various points in life, there have been some interesting observations, while in an examination hall, and the “types” of learners who do attempt to make it through those tests.

There are the “toilers”, the ones for the long road, the inveterate readers, the pros in the hall, never faltering, rarely lost, chewing nails, or eyes darting nervously. They know where they’re headed. So do the others who look on enviously.

Then  “sweat’ers”, quite different from the toilers, though one might think these go together. These poor souls are usually discovered with sweaty hands, and brows, nervous tics, repeatedly rubbing their palms on their uniform, over their knees. More often than not, great works of art are inked in, in the process of completing the paper too!

One must not forget the “writers”- on a mission, it would seem, to persist, persevere and not stop writing, till the last bell has rung. These examinees are, most often, quite unaware of their surroundings, the consternation on fellow-examinees’ faces, deflecting daggers sent from evil looks their way, with ease. It is quite another thing, that any examiner who marks such papers finds little of value, pertaining to the questions asked!

The gazers, I and II form the bulk of the exam hall populace. On close observation, you find the first kind, suddenly stop writing, look hard at their papers, whip their heads about, fix their gaze on a particular point far away in space, zone out. With equal suddenness they get back to writing. The pattern is random, but fairly, disturbingly frequent. The second kind on the other hand are the dextrous sort. I wonder if they are classical dancers in disguise, sometimes! It beats me how they are able to achieve full surveillance of the hall, and their neighbour’s papers even while the examiner’s eyes are trained on them!

The fidgeters are next – the noisiest in class, without doubt. Randomly (deliberately? ) their pencil boxes take a dive, scatter themselves, after which they bend to retrieve the items, during which time, their question paper would fly off the desk; double scramble in order to grab that, while the answer sheet now flies off. In the meantime, the others on the same bench are assisting, with the result that even their things get scattered. By this time the examiner also joins in the melee, to restore order, which is then achieved, to the background music of a gentle buzz, a hum and muted laughter.

An inevitable part of the group are the ‘teacher-locators’- a highly evolved species of the examinee pool. Their mission is to be able to locate the position of the teacher/examiner at any given point, basically to facilitate exchange of information between two examinees without being noticed! The way one can spot them, in the random sweeping glance one makes, is to note the pairs of eyes that immediately shift away.

The most creative, I have personally found, the boldest too are the “paper-pushers”- quite unlike their government counterparts, these enlist the help of other examinees, to push their papers or have others’ papers pushed towards them. How they manage to do this in the presence of the examiner on duty is what confounds. Fortunately, such souls are usually noticed, identified, and appropriate counselling given to ensure it does not happen again. That it doesn’t, most times is a sign that innocence and doing the right thing are still valued!

Whoever said that an examiner’s duty is unvarying, needs to simply look around for such samples to engage themselves and infuse some liveliness into what is seen as a duty bordering on boredom.

6 February, 2015

Examination duty and time on hand and no better work to do those three hours, gives rise to such diatribes 😀
Day#26 of #RamblingsInFebruary 🙂

february ramblings


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An Examination Teaser

No Hall is noisier
When silent young learners
Take an examination,
In Mathematics.

Paper crackles, rustles
Instrument boxes clink, clang
The soft whizzing noise of pencil strokes
Swift, grating, against a firm, stern ruler 😀

Pages turn
Fingers turn spiders
Dipped in ink
Scrawling systematically
Over the lines.
Over and over!

Eyes glued on paper
Numbers forming magical patterns
A slicing stroke angled down
There.

Vanquished.
Obliterated.

War, no less
Is this
A Battle waged
In numbers, balancing
Intangible emotions, bordering on despair
With the spring of eternal hope

That figures out stuff

And does its number.

6 February, 2015

Day#25 of #RamblingsInFebruary. For a change, an honest-to-goodness February post, even if it is late 😀 These are of course the exam tales 😀

february ramblings


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Gender Sensitivity and its Import

*This one’s an essay written (last year in July) for an online endeavour of creating social awareness on discrimination – an endeavour that is work in progress. Since I’m hard-put to create posts, magically,  out of thin air, this is being used here as well :D*

And disclaimer: Long post; standing-on-soapbox alert 😀 

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The other day I walked into a sixth standard class, for a substitution period. As is the norm, I began to talk to the students about football – the World Cup being the favourite topic of conversation these days, even among the little ones. What was immediately clear was that most of the boys had something to say, and the girls just giggled and made faces. All of 11 years old, and they were already pouring scorn on the boys – and of course, vice versa!

When the interest began to wane, I asked them what period they were supposed to have had, and pat came the reply – GS class, teacher! Oh, I exclaimed, your Science Teacher is on leave? But one smart alec had already counted the number of Science periods, found them intact, and come to the conclusion that it was not GS for General Science, but GS for something else. It then struck me, that on the way to the classroom, I had a brief conversation with a teacher who said this year she had a GS class – GS for Gender Sensitivity. I recoiled. Gender Sensitivity? And what “syllabus” /  “Curriculum” did that entail? I had a mental picture of a teacher in class, actually “taking class” on a topic as sensitive as this! And it was a depressing picture, given the extremely judgmental and prejudiced people we are.

Gender insensitivity is what we see around us these day – as we have from about the time that the world and its mother-in-law (the phrase itself is so discriminatory, but for lack of a more appropriate phrase to comprehensively include the whole universe of gender insensitive people, I use this!) – discovered and decided that men were superior to women. The same people who worship the “teachings” of Vedas and the Scriptures, which in every way possible pay the highest of tributes to Womanhood, are now the masters of denigration in extremely subtle to violently explicit ways. I sigh mentally, and physically each time I come across this in action, feeling exasperated at the thought that each moment, each second, women have to put in twice the effort to even be lauded for doing something a man has.

Back to this sixth standard I was in. I told them it probably was Gender Sensitivity class they had and was met with confounded expressions. To clarify further I asked them if they knew what gender meant – Hurrah! Some did! They said, male/female … and looked embarrassed. There! That expression itself was telling enough. Now that we were on the same page, a bit, we went on to see who did what at home. Not surprisingly, most of the children spoke of ‘mother in the kitchen’, or ‘helping with homework’, and fathers returning late, reading the newspaper, doing work outside the home, watching sports channels and news channels! I then asked the boys what they did and the girls what they did at home – same reply – most of the girls helped their mother, and the boys their father. However, interestingly enough there were some, a handful, less, who actually crossed over to the other side of the perceived set of duties of girls and boys, though reluctantly in the case of the boys!

A few classes later I happened to discuss the same things with Class ten, and was pleasantly surprised by the answers! A majority of the boys there did a lot of housework, right from sweeping and swabbing to and helped to wash dishes, lay the table, which is certainly a new one for me!

Slowly, things are changing, and for the better, I understood. However, it still bothers me that we need a separate class, in the school curriculum to address an issue that should be part of every class! It works, for the system, presumably, on the same premise that we needed a Moral Science class to improve our ‘morals’ – we all know how we did there! And how, so very NOT, it shaped us! I know for sure, we were more inspired by the role models certain teachers became for us, or maybe that friend or classmate or schoolmate who refused to conform and did the most motivating things. Certainly not the lessons from the Moral Science class!

I have the same argument to make for the Gender Sensitivity classes, except that this time, perhaps there may be at least a few youngsters who would take up the baton of finding that sensitivity and passing it on, hopefully to the generation before them, and here I mean the elder generation. The youngsters, from a very early age, we know, right from infancy, take their cues from the home environment and later bring influences into it from what they experience outside of home. With the GS classes, are we working in reverse? And will it be successful? I do hope so, because of the fact that children who are treated in gender discriminatory ways would probably see that others in their class, JUST LIKE THEM, have a different set of rules, and so can, and will hopefully make that attempt to change the rules at home!

When I mentioned how much the girl child in Indian homes is suppressed and oppressed, even in this day and age, and I am on the young girls’ side,  a young lad in class ten piped up – Ah yes, teacher, you’re a FEMINIST!  Instantly I got on my soapbox! You have to understand this about me – you call me a feminist and then my back is up! Got you, didn’t I? Feminism, for me is humanism. Feminism has long been associated with a violent ‘burn the bra’, and ‘man-hater’ image of a woman – when actually it is about making a difference to bring about equality of the sexes, that pipe dream, and doing it in practical ways!

Treat everyone, and yes, man and woman, with the respect they are deserving of! Shoot down prejudice, too, by saying things like a Daughter is equal to ten sons… yada yada, for all the things she does, super-humanly!! Or that a son is a son, only till he gets married, but a daughter is a daughter for all her life! What we are doing is cleverly engaging in that same superiority inferiority game, aren’t we?

I have two sons, who are now married, to lovely girls – and I mean lovely as not just a physical attribute but the loveliness of their selves. My sons have been brought up with this one main notion, that they are not care-takers, but partners in every sense of the word, in their relationships. It is indeed possible to treat everyone, both man and woman with the sensitivity they deserve.

The newest routine I see doing the rounds is that now, to reduce gender discrimination, and increase gender uniformity, parents, teachers, society at large, are advised to not colour code – that is the western way of colour coding! Pink for girls and blue for boys! Avoid buying pink for your daughter or baby girls, and so also blue for boys! Or, don’t give girls dolls to play with, or boys bikes to play with! The moment you say DON’T do something, it reeks of discrimination again! Instead, why can’t we be more inclusive? Add bikes, add blue to the girls’ lists, and dolls and pink to the boys! Let them choose for Gods’ Sakes, and stop anyone who has derogatory things to say of either! It starts right there – allowing the boys to be boisterous and girls to be sedate. Indeed, even this day and age!

Gender sensitivity. And I haven’t even started on Sex Education.

So, what’s stopping us from really really being Gender Sensitive?

6 July, 2014

Added here, for Day#24 of #RamblingsInFebruary 🙂

february ramblings


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Nerve-wrackingly Near

… the date, today, here.
27, My Dear (says bloggie dear)
Do you hear?

I do, I do, I wail
As words slop out of my word pail
Trying to figure out how not to fail

Just one day left
And my muse stuck in a cleft
And thoughts going pfffffftttttt!

So here, I shall depart
Else I come quite apart;
And go seek some word art

To spruce up sprightly like
Leaving, before out, I psych 😛
Causing you to take a hike!

Be back I shall, soon.
Going now, I am, to hunt a boon.
Rattled like a bleddy loony ‘coon 😀 😀

27 February, 2015

Story of my life, as I struggle to meet the deadline set by Shail, in the #RamblingsInFebruary. But I will, I shall, I can’t not.
Blog ki izzat ki sawaal hai 😛 😛

Day#23 of the rambles 🙂

february ramblings