My schooling happened in Delhi, where I grew up playing cricket and football with the neighbourhood children and paying minimum attention to academics. After my 12th class, I studied furiously for an year and got through the IIT entrace exam. I ended up at IIT Kharagpur, where, after four years of hanging around aimlessly creating some life-long friendships, ingesting tea and other more harmful things, paying a minimum attention to academics, reading a lot of fiction from the institute library, and in other ways having a very memorable time, I was thrown out into the world with a job and with no idea of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
All-in-all, I think I had a good education. (You will notice that ‘paying minimum attention to academics’ runs through my school and college experiences. 🙂)
Samdhong Rinpoche, in the video linked on the blog post dated 27/6/2022, says:
“Right now people are all intoxicated, like someone asleep after taking opium, or in an alcoholic stupor. People are dazed, unconscious, in the intoxication of modern civilisation.”
Another way to look at my educational journey is that it introduced me to types of intoxication and taught me how to maintain the basic level of intoxication required to function well in the modern world.
I have been thinking about what a good education for India can look like…
A batch-mate of mine is from a big business family and his folks were very unhappy when he decided to join IIT. Their argument was – but these are the people we hire, why do you want to waste your time hanging out with them? Getting through the IIT entrance exam is a ticket for a seat on the privilege-bus in India. You can get tickets many other ways too, including being born in a privileged family. Almost all my friends form IIT, who came from middle-class backgrounds like mine, took the offered privilege-bus-seat and became part of the privileged class (Dharampalji in his essay ‘A question of backwardness’ says what seems to symbolise this class most is foreign trade and travel). Unfortunately, I was otherwise occupied and I missed this bus.
The privileged classes, who decide the fate and direction of all the modern systems that are running India, are a small minority (Dharampalji thought that, including their helpers and assistants, they are 15-20% of the population). It seems obvious that a good education for India must be something that leads to the good of all (or most of) the people of India. This is difficult because the people who take decisions and run the education system belong to the privileged classes and they naturally work towards maintaining and growing their privilege.
I was thinking that a good education for India can:
a. Be designed for the not-privileged people of India, celebrating and nurturing their strengths.
b. Show the students the hollowness of the intoxicated stupor of modern life.