Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Dear Team

During his Exit Meeting speech Father Francis G. Parmar said that whenever a NAAC Peer Team visits there are to be three stages. Usually before coming the team remains the “Fear Team”, then it becomes the Peer Team. And if everything goes as they should the team leaves as a “Dear Team”. Father Parmar was spot on as far as this Visit was concerned. Without looking back (with anger and disappointment) at the other Team Visit that we had had, let’s just assert how a good visit can uplift the morale, can incorporate new ideas and ideals, can simply show the way, without bitterness, to betterness.

From the Airport to the final fond farewell, this was a tense, intense, yet pleasant experience. As coordinator meeting all the members was a duty. But it also gave me an idea how truly ‘gentle’ these gentlemen are. The Airport did not disappoint, it showed a completely wrong flight number, wrong schedule, and with no information counter available at the arrival lounge it almost gave me a heart attack. Banking entirely on Dr. P. Venkatramaiah’s mail we found him – patient, smiling, the perfect teacher. The cups of tea that we had in the Airport CafĂ© Coffee Day confirmed my first impression – here was a person who was not only gentle in his behaviour, but also cared deeply about education and institutions around the country. In all the three days we saw him, we never saw the ex-Vice Chancellor, only a great teacher (unlike the last time I must add).

Dr. H. Surya Prakash Rao, the other member of the team, confessed that he was a lover of Chemistry. His suggestions did rattle a few nerves. But his genuine concern quickly turned everything towards him. His smile, his patience, his sense of humour won many hearts. Father Parmar, who has been with NAAC from 1994, who is a trainer of Peer Teams, a reviewer of the same, a man in his mid-sixties, called all teachers Sir and Madam. His polite yet thorough reading of our report, the queries of all three, proved just how much care they have taken in preparing themselves. And this was not a fault-finding mission. Faults are many, but they also appreciated the quality that we maintain even at the face of such infrastructural limitations.

At the end of the visit I don’t know what grade we will get. Very frankly, I no longer care. The purpose of the visit, though many may scoff, is already achieved. A lucid and plausible number of suggestions are there. Mistakes are clearly marked. Commendations plainly spelt. I can honestly say that this team cared for this institution and the students. They never tried to have a patronizing attitude, never the high handedness that is often the case. They were our Peers, and now as each and every staff member feels, they are our friends.

Even though this was our second Visit, this is the first time we are appreciating what NAAC is truly trying to do. And my congratulations and good wishes to NAAC for actually caring.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fire

There was a terrifying fire behind our College yesterday. Several houses in the paper-market, all illegal and cramped neck to neck, were gutted. Our College was saved because the wind was blowing in the other direction. The flames were literally sky high and just one house was between us and the fire. It was nightmarish seeing houses being gutted and their neighbours catching fire. I had seen the Book Fair fire. But this was closer and truly threatening. Several people were stuck and the official version is they were rescued. It was horrifying to know that they were there, and all of us unable to do anything. Our boys tried to rescue some, but they were stuck in a room full of paper, smoke and behind a window with a grill. The air even at that boundary area was unbreathable - burnt paper and ash everywhere. We evacuated the students. Gas cylinders from staff quarters (which are mostly in that area) were brought our. Then the fire services arrived. Within ten minutes or so. Three fire tenders from inside the College and ten (as I hear) on the other side of the market. The police played a positive role also. One of the policemen, a plain-clothes one who is familiar to us, was very irritated. Someone had reported to him that our Teacher-in-Charge was stuck in the fire! Some of our boys and girls were very impressive in their concern and activity. The Mayor had come and someone from the council. The TV channels and reporters were there - though the news did not make primetime. Our Chemistry lab is right next to the boundary. One random spark could have meant disaster. No one in the College was aware of the fire until one of the teachers from the adjoining St Paul's School - an ex-student of our College - had come running. It is because of people like him, and many of our kids, that lives are saved. No theory, no politics, no media ever actually help in times when lives are in danger.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Loyalty

Loyalty is a concept that seems way overrated in this post-postmodern age. One wife or girlfriend, one address, one job or even one country now seems so passĂ©. Beginning from football clubs – glamour-ridden Man U or Barca, or our homely Mohun Bagan or East Bengal or Mohamaddan Sporting – to political parties, loyalty has become subject to either huge amounts of money or even small amounts of power. Very often a deadly combination of both. Classic examples like West Bengal’s very own Mr. Mukherjee abound – a ping pong ball sees less movement to and fro different boundaries. Leaders without loyalty to the lead, and the members without loyalty to a symbol or another old-fashioned idea called ideology – and this is something you get to see everywhere in this little world of ours. These personal, and often smaller group/party-oriented spaces now successfully challenge the greater concepts that we had learnt during our period of childhood. For instance one can think of the now obsolete idea of nation. People scoff when someone says that whether something will be good for India! Or the obsolete idea called tomorrow. Who cares what will happen tomorrow! The West and capitalism have successfully given us the Sidney Sheldon mantra – if tomorrow comes. In this age of accidents (something people now accept as routine and the gravity of something is measured by the number of lives lost) and terrorism (sponsored by some state or the other) and political play (again another parenthesis saying that no play is considered foul anymore – just as in sports we have been taught now that sportsman’s spirit or fairplay are for pansies) all we seem to bother about is the next pay-cheque. The other impact factor now is the absence of any impact. We know that the same company sponsors Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, but do we care. We need the binaries and combinations to keep us occupied with non-existent rivalries, rivalries which are there only in our minds. The players – including politicians – care only for bank or vote accounts. And we keep thinking in terms of anger against terrorism which often occurs conveniently to remove our minds from the fact that the country is being sold by those who are pretending to protect it. Very soon we will see a great South America like class division here in India too – no middle class to keep balance. The Rich will worry about their money, the poor will worry about the basics. Who will have any time to care about the country?
 
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