Thursday, May 25, 2006

Educational Euthanasia

KANPUR: A 23-year-old Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (IIT-K) student, Shailesh Sharma, on Wednesday committed suicide by hanging himself in his hostel room. A resident of Pande Mohal, Nariya in Varanasi, the deceased was a final year student of dual degree programme at the chemical engineering department. IIT-K officials claimed that the student might have taken the extreme step under depression after coming to know that he had failed in two courses —advanced thermodynamics and advanced fluid-mechanics.

LUCKNOW: Pankaj Kumar, 23, a student of Bachelor of Technology (electrical) in Babu Benarasi Das College in Chinhat, committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of his rented room in Chinhat area on Monday. He belongs to Etah district. An elaborate suicide note was found in the room. According to the suicide note, he had done badly in his first semester exams.

NEW DELHI: A college-girl in west Delhi Thursday committed suicide a day before her English exam, police here said. Heena Singh, 20, who hanged herself in her Uttam Nagar home, was a second year BA (Bachelor of Arts degree) student at the Delhi University's School of Correspondence Studies, the police said.

BANGALORE: At 85 per cent, Nandita Nandkishore is among the rank students of the CBSE Class XII batch of 2005-2006 of National Public School, Indiranagar. The results were declared on Tuesday, but it was too late for the 18-year-old. It may be little solace to the grieving family of the “meritorious and ever-smiling” Nandita — as the associate principal of NPS, Shantha Chandran would like to remember her — that their eldest daughter scored a high percentage in her board exams.

Do you notice a pattern here? You do? What is it? Death? Of course. But what else do you notice? Look harder. You will have to do better than this. I request you to please look harder. You will have to look beyond this article, beyond these headlines and into the lives of hundreds of such stories in our country that happen at the same time every year to be really able to see the pattern that is stitched into this disturbing fabric. You will have to go beyond the news to comprehend the mindset of these individuals. Young men and women destined to bring glory and unsurpassable intellectual fortune to our nation. Bright minds with strengths untapped and options unexplored. Buds that never really got a chance to blossom since they were busy nipping themselves off. They now remain as mere names in a forgotten headline with other peers who took that path. Bodies dangling from a ceiling fan somewhere or a carcass that resurfaced from a grim lake outside the city.

India, to the world, is a fascinating place. A place where snake charmers roam free and temples protrude out of thick woods majestically. A country where ‘everything is on sale’ and everyone is a genius. A gentle reminder of the fact that magic and logic reside in the same bosom like two faces of the same coin. This was not supposed to be India’s future. Not based on the predictions the super powers had made about a decade ago anyway. With religion being India’s curse and poverty being its only visible shadow who could have possibly imagined that this starving nation of a billion would leapfrog into a future that the world was not prepared for! Not a soul could have appropriately prophesized the strong man power and stronger will power India has now become synonymous for. American televisions are having a field day with the endless speculations of when is it that India will emerge as a super power. The international market is showcasing us as the powerful underbelly of the knowledge pool that floods the subcontinent. Special television programs and economic forums are going blue in the face debating how India’s fortunes have changed overnight. The Indian movie industry is getting a lion’s share of all this attention and is raking in big moolah while the technology sector is said to be at its all time high. Ah! What a time to be alive, is it not?

Or is it? The people mentioned above in the headlines certainly did not seem to think so. For had they been even remotely enthused by the apparent publicity India is getting in all fields across the world they would not have taken the extreme step that they did. On an average India loses at least two dozen bright and potentially priceless minds every single time an examination result is announced. Be it Kanpur, Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai. Some young adult somewhere has decided to call it quits. When I used to read patriotic tales of our beloved freedom fighters who were not more than 21 when they took to the gallows with a proud smile on their face and an enviable shine in their eyes I always wondered what invisible force drove these seemingly regular people to find bliss in death. Today when I read the same aged young men and women end a precious life for something as trivial sounding as an examination I cannot help but start getting a better picture as to where India really stands.

There are many factors that drive a person to do such an unthinkable act. Strict parents who condition their children from Kindergarten that succeeding is everything. Failure is not an option. That component of fear is what grows into a monster within them, eating away at their soul bit by bit and eventually enveloping them and gobbling them in one giant gulp. The kind of parents who have time tables of study for their children when they are in elementary school. The kind of parents who are so insensitive to the innocent mind that in the process of making a better adult they manage to successfully kill the child. The kind of parents who make the child feel worthless if he/she were to get, what according to them, is a ‘bad performance’.

The second obvious factor is our beloved education system. A cruel and heartless soul laundry of a factory that heaps loads of work for the young minds without leaving them any other option except to memorize the most mundane details about some meaningless piece of information. The monster-manufacturing unit that works 24/7 day and night tirelessly dishing out new assignments and new ways to torture the developmental process. With time this process has only become more meaningless and more abundant.

While these seemed like internally manufactured electric chairs the third factor is the world outside. The global community that is expecting India to keep pushing the envelope in this insane race towards an unknown goal. Is the need to succeed so important that it is becoming unbearable by the child and the hands that rock their cradle? The competition in the current market in almost every field is so ridiculously Herculean that there is no way to even start to comprehend its solution, as it were. With changing lanes and growing pains this factor is only becoming worse each day. You are either in or you are out. No other choices offered.

The only question I have for all these factors is - Are we training these individuals to live or to die? What use is this ‘cutting edge’ concept making in India if it turns out to be an evil which is cutting the throats of our future? What is the point of such a meaningless rat race if it is going to end up becoming one vicious never ending cycle of distress and suffering? What is it that eventually matters? And who decides that?

The aim of this article is not to offer solutions since the solutions are not out there. They are within us. Each one of us who is a cog in this systematic eradication methodology behind applied by the education and economic system in our country. Solutions that need to start at the grass root levels of our up bringing and social platforms. Solutions that will hopefully lessen the burden on the child who now takes a bag-on-wheels to school like an international tourist in an airport. Solutions that help the future understand that succeeding is not everything. A solution that hopefully teaches a child to follow its own heart and not that of a looming shadow. Could this scene be more tragic? Is there a way out?

I leave you with these questions to ponder on. Meanwhile we lost a few more Einsteins, a couple of more Kalpana Chawlas and one Sachin Tendulkar this year. All hail this successfully implemented educational euthanasia.


0 reflections: