Sunday, January 18, 2009

Socialist or Selfish

Its 4.30am and I am reporting from my hostel (big deal huh!!!!!). I have nothing to write but it’s the only thing that’s keeping me going and that has saved me from potential unemployment so I turn to it for some succor.

Understandably (or not… I couldn’t care less) I have nothing to write about except the whole set of things that has caused me so much discomfort for some time. I remember one of the passages from my school days. It’s from the book “My Experiments with Truth” and the passage debates upon individualistic and socialistic existence of men. In other words, to exist for oneself or to live for the society. As is becoming of a good book, it extols the greatness of living for the society while stressing on the right to self fulfillment as a basic tenet of democracy. Thus, I am confused as to where should one should draw the line when it comes to making a choice. Be selfish or be socialist in your attitude.

In this regard, I have a story to relate. Being a student with above average credentials prodded me towards teaching many students in younger classes. One of my students, lets call him Ram, was one of my brightest students. I could never fathom his parents’ obsession of seeking my guidance for their son but I took it up for the money all the same. Ram was like any other 8th grader but with a unique disposition of dexterity at Social Studies and Mathematics alike, and everything in between. That is to say that he was good at every subject and though he wasn’t top of class, he was well recognized for his versatility and innovativeness.

Ram was one of my last students for the day. He is one of the students who need least guidance and cause least mental exhaustion. Ideal for the last batch. But that day he was unusually quiet and his actions were more robotic than usual. When initial prodding didn’t get me far, I tried the hostile I-will-tell-your-parents method to get his part of the story.

Ram: Bhaiya, in 2 days time we have an inspection in school. Since we are an upcoming government school, sirf class 8 tak hi hai na, we need to impress the inspector coming from the department, to improve the stature of the school and to get us more funds for expansion.

Me: Hmmm… that’s good for you and your school. Why are you worried? Don’t worry you’ll do fine.

Ram: Nahi nahi. Not afraid of the inspection. Actually, Mr. Jay called me after the class for a discussion. We had a talk on certain issues for considerable time and I am wondering what to do about his proposal.

Me: Proposal?? What kinda proposal does an 8th grader get from his class teacher?

Ram: Well Jay Sir says that this inspection is very critical for our school as there are many schools vying for aid and unless the inspector feels that the whole batch is good, we would not get anything in aid and our school won’t get the necessary permission to scale up to class X with all the facilities.

Me: Good to see that your teacher is so worried about the school and the students. (And most importantly, about his increment, I mumbled inside.) But that’s pretty simple isn’t it? Just ensure that your best students are showcased in front of the inspector. That way the impression of the class will also be improved and the teacher’s work is also less in training the students, as they will be talented automatically. Just divide the work amongst the best students. Simple.

Ram: I thought so too Bhaiya. Infact when Jay Sir was making the teams for each subject I was worried I would be in atleast 3 teams because he had used the annual exam marks for deciding the composition of each subject’s team. But finally, my name was declared in the list of students, who had to memorize the prayer songs which we sang from our prayer book for our daily assembly. You see, I am one of the few born singers in the class. It seems the inspector might want to hear some prayer songs from us.

Me: Good hai yaar. Now as your tuition teacher, do I teach you prayer songs? And I don’t see any proposal still.

Ram: (Chuckles) Nahi Bhaiya. Prayer song toh I can sing anytime, no sweat. The proposal actually materialized when Jay sir said he wanted to meet me after class. He started by saying that he was sorry that he couldn’t put me in any teams as the head master had restricted him from placing students under excessive stress and placing me in any one team would be undermining my proficiency in any other.

Me: So, he left you with the prayer songs?

Ram: Shayad. But he promised that I will get to contribute in individual team preparations for their subjects. The teams will make use of my notes for the inspection and take my help in ironing out few additional answers. But I am not supposed to volunteer for giving any answers as I generally do. The answers will be given by students handpicked by Sir. Only they are supposed to raise hands for a particular subject. In lieu, of course, Sir has said he’s going to think of me as a great team player and keep me in mind for his future plans.

Me: Ohh… so you are going to be in all teams, rather coordinating all teams, with a centralized consultant kinda role. That’s cool.

Ram: Uff Bhaiya. Nothing like that. I am still part of prayer team. Of course, I will be making significant contributions to the inspection preparation and play a critical role in the development of the school. Isn’t that cool!!! Besides the central coordination roles were already decided while I was away watching “War of the Words: The Great Debacle” last year, which had our school seniors in the finals so wo place to gayi na.

Me (Now it’s going beyond my comprehension): So you are basically rattofying the prayer songs while slogging your ass off for other teams to do well.

Ram: Aisa mat bolo, Bhaiya. Look at my contribution to the school’s expansion. That’s going to be cool right. Tomorrow if the school gets a permission to expand up to high school, I can proudly say that I was part of the team which did it.

Me: But what if he didn’t ask for the prayer songs. Then your contribution is zero isn’t it?

Ram: But Jay Sir to jaante hain na.

Me: Haan theek hai. But high school ki scholarship ke liye headmaster hi nominate karenge and he’ll give it to some person who answered Mathematics questions brightly or to someone who supervised the preparation of all the subject teams. Not someone who memorized a bunch of prayer songs. Hai na?

Ram: Hmmmm wo to hai. Anyways its late now, I need to leave now and I can’t come tomorrow. You see I need to sit with various subject teams and prepare with them, besides the bunch of prayer songs. I hope that’s not a problem. Perhaps we can do an extra Sunday.

Me: Theek hai. But just think over what I said. School ke liye fight maarna hai ki apne liye scholarship ka scene banana hai.

Ram: Ok Bhaiya. (And he left…)

Two days later, when the inspector asked a question about equations, 5 hands went up in the class. I don’t know if one of them was Ram nor do I know what I would have done if had I been in his place. Even if I had known how would I know that it’s the right decision.

Is it ever possible to know what the right decision is?

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