Monthly Archives: October 2008

Call me Indian…Thank you very much.

The issue of religion, nationality and the idea of “belonging” to one country has been going round and round. Do I have a take, of course I do! Silly of you to think that I don’t.

Let me, however, start from a different part of the world though. I have been teaching this class “Racism and Sexism in the US” for the past 2 months now. It is an interesting subject examining race and gender issues and how they have evolved through the centuries in the US. Mind you, by race I mean people of every color. One class that I taught last week or so, brought up this interesting question…Why is it that when a White person of European descent born in the US is immediately accepted as “American” while a person of any other color or race be s/he first generation American or fifteenth generation American asked the question where are you from? It was an interesting class, one person in my class pointed out that he was a fifth generation American and yet is asked “No, I mean where are your parents and grandparents from?” or how every Black person is referred to as African – American because of their color. Teaching this class made me think about how desperately immigrants try to blend in and yet are never truly accepted to be a part of the country, no matter what. Even if I become a citizen, I am never truly going to feel American or even if I do, I am going to be reminded every time in some way or another that I am not one. It is a little pathetic, forget my position, what about the people who came here eons ago searching for that elusive dream, or trying to find peace and quiet in a land of immigrants.

If we realy think about it, India is a land of immigrants too, every person or part of Indian society has been imported. For all the hue and cry about Raj Thacerey’s “Marathiness” or any one else’s “Hinduness” they live in a society where true hindu has no meaning, no substance and true marathi has no foundation. Given that, I don’t think anybody should write any long post with the intention of proving their “Indianness” Just the fact that you live in India should be proof enough. It is harder to sit here and look at news channels incessantly airing the numerous masscres and religious violence becasue I know it is not a repreentation of the India I love.

The India I love was where I and my friends decorated our class with home made trees for christmas, it was where the nuns let us have fun for diwali and holi and where ramzan or id was another day when students might have the most delicious food in their lunch boxes. The India I know was where I solemnly read out psalms from the Bible every night, becasue I beleived that was how wishes were granted or sat with my father and found similarities in the Koran and the Gita. The India I know was not a palce where anyone had to prove their worthiness to come home for a good night’s sleep and good food. I don’t care who you are, You are Indian enough once you come in. The India I love was where everyone stood up against atrocities becasue all that mattered was another human being was getting hurt..and that was that. I don’t need to defend my position be it on religion, be it on caste or be it on cultural things, for the simple reason that MY STUPID, LOVABLE COUNTRY GIVES ME THE EFFIN RIGHT TO LET ME BE. Why the hell should I defend myself to you….I don’t give a damn who is getting hurt, I give a damn to how you are going to help that person stand up again, that is what I was taught and that is what I will do. All the Raj thackerey’s in the world cannot make me less of an Indian if they wanted to.

This is my country too. I love it and try stopping me from wanting to love it more if you can.


The Book of Abby!

ER has been one show that I have been watching since I came here, which was about 5 years ago. There is something about it that draws me to my couch every thursday. Its high paced environment, the as close to reality scenes and more than anything else, the emotional and raw nature of the doctors on the show. Every other “medical drama” I feel has become sanitized too much, be it House or Grey’s Anatomy. There is this quality of disbelief that they create that ER hasn’t at least so far. It is believable to a large extent. It is on its last season this fall. It essentially means we will be seeing characters leave, die, make guest appearances and reconnect. Greg Pratt left two weeks back. He dies from complications after a blast. Abby and Luka left yesterday. They move to Boston to restart a journey that has been off an on for the past decade almost. It is difficult to say that a particular character has been well etched and one has not been within the context of this drama. But the truth is these two characters have been consistently well etched throughout their time on the show. There was something about the very damaged nature of Abby that was endearing and the stability and sex appeal that Luka brought that was charming. Their relationship has been a more complicated version of “Rachel and Ross”. In this last show she recites throughout the show verses from the “Book of Job” Job 3: 23 – 26 and at the end Job 38: 12 – 24. I have bene thinking about their significance since. I have realized that they in a way signify the journey that she has been through so far and how she views her future to be. In essence the whole episode was about how to get up inspite of buckling under the weight of her problems, about how life can be really lived only after she starts taking reponsibilty and ceases to just exist and how the unexamined life would not be worth living.

There was this underlying message of having faith in one’s actions and abilities, no matter what you do or where you are. I think she sums it up best at the end when she tells this little boy, “You are not a bad person, you just did a bad thing” Inspite of all the nagging questions that we might have about our lives, our future and everything in general, it is important to keep in mind that we have to keep walking and also acknowledge the fact the mistakes happen and recognizing those mistakes as just that and not defining our lives based on that is the best way to live.

The battle between faith ans reason has been one of the most dominant battles in every history. Should reason rule and faith not at all? can they both share the stage? Is reason without faith possible? Is faith without reason blind? Honestly, I don’t know….But if I had to make a pick I would put reason before faith. The idea that implicit faith was not for the betterment of humanity and everything including our faith be questioned and vetted was according to me one of the corner stones of the reformation movement. The idea that when one church tells us what to believe in and how to believe, man remains ignorant and subservient. Once man takes it upon himself to learn the word of god and understand it in his own way, examine the work and apply it to his life by himself, he lives a more fuller life.

Perhaps that is what is needed today. When faith becomes an issue and blood is shed over whose faith is bigger, better or larger, or whose faith has the most discriminations or which faith is bound to make you a villain or a poor bloke, it just means that reason has been kicked out the back door. Every religion makes the argument of using reason to figure out the work of God. Maybe it is just easy to mug it up and recite it like grade school poetry. Why would anyone want to do that when you can actually use your capacity to figure out something and apply it to your life is beyond me. Be it the many religious crimes, be it homosexuality or abortion, be it the idea of live in relationships and pregnancy outside a relationship, once we start using reason to figure out the issue and not just rely blindly on faith, everything, just maybe will be a little easier.

On the other side!

So for the past one month, I have been playing the part of an adjunct professor. I am teaching two subjects – three classes. One of the classes is an introduction to politics. It is about the political transformations of countries mostly industrialized ones, democracy, authoritarian rulers, totalitarian rulers and such. I have been teaching this to about 30 odd people for the past 4 weeks and I have come to realize a couple of things. One how hard it is to make something as dry as lower house and upper house interesting and how heart breaking it is to see students sleep it off at times. Being here, I am also gaining an admiration for the teachers who gave a damn every time, who persisted in spite of my wry remarks and the notoriety that we last benchers brought to the class. I mean I used to be a group of 10 playing anthakshri in chemistry class. Oh I swear God has a very dry sense of humour. I admire the professors who actually bothered to go through that torture and care passionately about teaching us something. I am also realizing how many people, full fledged professors just showed up in class and rattled off something unintelligible for an hour and left us to figure out what we actually needed to study.

I am gaining an appreciation for the teachers who thought what they taught would make a difference and a feeling close to disgust for the ones who thought it was not worth their precious while. The sad part is I can count only a handful who have left an indelible impression on me. I am not sure why I was left underwhelmed by so many teachers who taught me. Avila, the school I went to for 7 of my 12 years was actually best among the lot. Every teacher there, except maybe a couple of them seemed to love the subject. Undergraduate sucked big time. We learnt much more by teaching each other then from the professors. What is it about the system that makes way for only a handful of teachers to make a difference. I know, the students ar enot to be blamed, for the simple reason that seeing the ones here, students there seem to have much more awareness of their field, surroundings and the world in general. There is so much passion that goes untapped

I see a big difference between here and there in the amount of information that students are privy to and how aware they are of about the things that are going around them. There is however also a difference the system that makes you want to come up with creative ways of teaching. The students challenge me and make me want to teach, if not in one way then another. The department and the other professors give me information on how to go about doing something or how to make the class more interactive and yet manage to teach something. There are times when I want to throw chalks on every person sitting there like a dunce and there are times when I want to not stop teaching because I see some interest. I mean I teach this subject for a group whose major is not politics. This intro class is a requirement for them. So getting them to be interested in a subject they need, only to fulfill some requirement is difficult, even more difficult is making them understand why it is important to know about politics in other countries and how it affects them. I think I am a good teacher (My blog ppl…let me massage my own ego at least here), my only downfall is probably expecting them to have the same passion that I have about the subject and the same curiosities that I had to learn the subject. I have to realize that not everyone is going to fall in love with what I did, just because I explain it so beautifully or vividly..I mean I am expecting a person who studies accounts to fall head over heals for the Meiji restoration and the Bundestag.

That I guess is one disadvantage that comes from being in academia too long. It takes time to realize that not everyone around me is going to share the same interests I do, or share the same passions I do. I am sadly stepping into real like folks and it sucks big time. I feel like Rachel in the Pilot episode of that show (Hmm.. what was its name :D) where Monica says “Welcome to the real world, it sucks, you are going to love it”