They Were All Honourable Men…

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

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Yes, they were all honourable men.Men who had fought their way to the top; Men who were known for their hard work and integrity as much for their philanthropic contributions to society;Men who one could not speak of without a mark of reverence and awe;Men who had become household names for all the right reasons.That is, until their fall from grace.

And in almost all cases, GREED proved to be their undoing.Greed for money, Greed for power, even Greed for sex.Well, as Gordon Gekko would say, there was nothing wrong in their greed; if anything it only indicated their ambition; and ambition is good;it motivates you and takes you far.After all, who doesn’t want to be a Billionaire??

However, when this greed starts getting replaced with greed for making easy money, instead of creating wealth; When this greed starts to operate with scant respect for the laws of the land;When this greed requires the sacrifice of moral and ethical values as collateral; Then it is safe to say that the decline has begun!

And we the public who have reverred them, have an obligation not to let our passions get the better of us.We can feel sorry for them;But we should not let them become martyrs in our imaginations.We should not try to defend them on the basis of their good conduct or on the basis of their contribution to society.We should let the Law take it’s course;So that a strong message is sent to other wrong-doers who are also contemplating taking a plunge into this filth of greed under the expectation that they will not get caught.

Finally, I would like to recall the quote of the judge who indicted Rajat Gupta..

He is a good man.But the history of this country and the history of the world is full of examples of good men who did bad things

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The Bouffant Crown

Bouffant Crown

The Iron Ladies

Recently, I watched the movie “Iron Lady” which is based on the life of Margaret Thatcher. The movie gives significant detailing of Margaret Thatcher’s hairstyle which was restyled to give her a softer but more powerful look. Her hairstyle is popularly called as Bouffant and has been adopted by many powerful women with short hair, including Indira Gandhi. While Margaret Thatcher’s hair was adorned by lots of curls, Indira Gandhi’s white streaks of hair gave her a rather unique look.

Besides the hair, both the women were nicknamed as Iron Lady, both were the first female Prime Minister’s of their country, both were known for their authoritarianism and both guided their countries through wars.But I guess nothing stands out as much as the striking similarity of their hairdo :) .

I am marvelling at the magic that can be woven by the unpretentious scissors. It’s a hairy business, indeed :) .

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Middle-class Appetite for Social Activism

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; Indeed it is the only thing that ever does

Civil movements with a middle class flavour were a major highlight this year. While the Arab spring in the middle east dominated the international news, closer home we had our own anti-corruption mass movement that was expertly led by eminent social activists like Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. These movements though completely independent of each other and triggered for different reasons, had a noticeable common thread running through them. At the centrestage of these protests was a hitherto reluctant middle class directing it’s ire at an arrogant officialdom. The middle class which has mostly been an invisible entity in mass protests and demonstrations in India, was suddenly in the forefront of the movement, taking up the lost cause of battling corruption that has slowly but steadily been eating it’s way into the very moral fibre of our society.

As the movement grew in proportion, most of us belonging to the middle class strata took to the streets, holding placards, shouting slogans, waving flags and participating in group fasts. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter were pivotal to the movement participation, organization and recruitment. In fact, spontaneous protests erupting in several pockets of the country, marked a major turning point in the movement, forcing the incumbent government to sit up and take notice. The political class of the country which so far had faced pressure either from the business enterprises or the BPL community,initially wrote off this middle class unrest as a harmless protest. But when it started becoming clear that the movement won’t just die down silently and that the people on the streets meant business, the government machinery finally started churning and cabinet leaders were found on the backfoot. They soon realized that this was not the middle class with the trademark “chalta hai” attitude; this was not a scared lot; on the streets were law abiding citizens who had decided they were not going to tolerate the government’s complicity in corruption any more;this was a society finally out of it’s inertia and establishing it’s assertiveness in public and political causes with an uncharacteristic firmness.

Middle class involvement in public protests has largely been unheard of in the history of this nation. They were not a prominent force during the freedom struggle; in fact the middle class had not yet evolved at the time. The middle class was never a driving force behind the most important reforms this country has seen. The only time some feeble protests could be heard from them, was whenever there was a fuel hike or food inflation. Even on such occasions, the opposition political parties would be the ones leading the protests, and the middle class would be largely inconspicuous on the streets.Of late, officialdom excess and delayed justice as was in the case of Jessica Lal murder or Ruchika Girhotra molestation, has sparked protests from the middle class. But once again this has been mostly sustained by the growing social activism of the media and press and not by any leadership demonstrated by the middle class.Middle class hesitation in getting involved with political causes, or issues that resonate with them, or for that matter their reluctance to even stand up for each other has been only too apparent to ignore and brush aside. Fuelling this apathy has been a lack of awareness and a sadly absent public opinion. The middle class has been neutral at best, and it won’t be a far-fetched thought to say that they have even been co-conspirators with the powers at worst.

Given this background,one would instantly question the seriousness and sustainability of middle class social activism that has of late been dominating our news headlines.Has the middle class come of age? Is it drawing it’s strength from it’s growing numbers? Is the middle class ready to realign it’s interests away from the political system? Is the middle class evolving into an influential constituency and effective pressure group? Is it becoming a clout to be reckoned with?

Only time will tell us, whether what we saw this year was just a flash in the pan or was it the beginning of the demonstration of strength by the middle class. This country has so far been witness to a complex relationship between governance, political democracy and the middle class. But the Anna Hazare movement has proved that the middle class can come out of it’s shell and take part in movements that are not limited in scope by their apolitical colour but which in fact aim to reform the political system. This was not a movement driven by a mad fit of rage. This was a middle class movement that was well thought of and driven by a long term vision of change.

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Classroom Teaching in India

Every truth has four corners; As a teacher I give you one corner and it is for you to find the other three” – Confucius

The teaching profession is widely considered to lay the foundation stone for nation building.Teachers have the immense responsibility to nurture students who are capable of thinking out of the box and taking independent decisions so that they can face the toughest of life’s challenges and become leaders of tomorrow.With teachers having such an immensely important role to play, it is only fit to introspect on whether our education system and specifically our classroom teaching techniques live up to expectations of the 21st century.Are traditional modes of imparting learning to students within a classroom worthy enough to be continued in the near future or do we need an urgent course correction? Has the time come to adopt a different set of tools to prepare students for the ever burgeoning competitiveness that is becoming so ingrained in our social fabric ?

Below is a list of different methods of teaching and the retention rates they produce,

  1. Lecture = 5%
  2. Reading  = 10%
  3. Audiovisual  = 20%
  4. Demonstration = 30%
  5. Discussion Groups = 50%
  6. Practise by doing = 75%
  7. Teach others = 90%

Traditional modes of classroom teaching in India have primarily revolved around lecturing and reading with limited focus on practicals.The driving intent behind teaching has largely been to complete the ever growing curriculum instead of fostering comprehension of the subject matter.Reading out the chapters from the book line by line interspersed with answers to queries from a few inquisitive students and ultimately rounding up everything by discussing answers to the questions in the Exercise section at the end of the chapter has largely been the modus operandi of teaching in any average classroom in the country.This is finally followed up by testing the student’s learning through internals,tests,exams etc. where questions are mostly formulated in straightforward and predictable ways and in fact, sometimes are just copied from the Exercise section. Answers are evaluated on the basis of whether all the points from the text have been covered or not.Sometimes even this is sacrificed due to the huge backlog of papers to be corrected, and random marks are rewarded based on superficial things such as handwriting,presentation,direct quotations from the book, quality of introduction and conclusion etc.All this leaves little room to guess that our prevalent education system lays more emphasis on raw memorization of facts and figures than on strengthening student’s analytical skills,creativity and ingenuity in approaching a problem.

As most of us would have already experienced that text and lecture based teaching encourages only rote-based learning , besides offering little stimuli to capture the student’s attention in the classroom.By easily falling into the trap of monologue, this style of teaching is almost unavoidably characterised by minimum student participation.In fact, our archaic modes of classroom teaching suffer from so many loopholes and drawbacks that having a detailed discussion on the topic would easily run into several pages.So leaving that aside, the question we should be asking ourselves is “Are traditional teaching styles sustainable in the long run? What are the other alternatives? And how urgently do we need to change our education system?”

With passing years, school and college curriculum is only bound to increase and entrance exams will become more competitive.If we were to continue down the existing path, teachers will find it increasingly difficult to complete the curriculum within deadline and students will be simply swamped and over-burdened with study material.There’s only an extent to which memorization can work without the assistance of comprehension.The pace of study will become so fast that all the joys associated with learning will be nipped from the bud and students will become more exam-oriented as opposed to learning-oriented.

So there’s enough evidence on the table to suggest that we need to start looking at other alternatives.As per the tabular data cited above, teaching others, practicals and discussions are the most effective teaching methodologies.Encompassing all these three is a newly emerging teaching strategy called Cased-based teaching  that has currently been adopted, albeit in a smaller way,  in the premier management institutions in the country.The principal hallmarks of this style are,

  1. Students are divided into small groups of 5-10 people. Each of these forms a study group.
  2. Students are apprised of the study material prior to the classroom session.
  3. After individually going through the study material, the study group meets to further discuss the topic so that as many points can be laid on the table as possible.
  4. During the classroom session, each study group puts forth their viewpoints.
  5. The teacher is responsible for guiding the discussion towards a logical conclusion, while prodding students for a 360 degree analysis.
  6. Most of the time discussions are open-ended and more often than not there is more than one possible solution to the problem.

Since case-based teaching is very student-centric as opposed to lecture-centric, it successfully creates a breeding ground for student participation.Under this, spoon feeding and a passive flow of information from the instructor to the student is replaced by an environment that is conducive to letting the students construct their own knowledge, challenge assumptions, expose contradictions and ultimately leading to new knowledge.During the classroom session, students are actively processing the information,instead of just absorbing the information.The results of this collaborative learning model is that we nurture quality students with a strong understanding of fundamentals and having the ability to critically appreciate a problem and it’s solutions.

While case-based teaching is a good fit for social science based courses, science and maths related subjects require a blend of case-based teaching and lectures. This is so, as in the case of the latter, significant work needs to be done by the teacher on the classroom board by way of demonstrating theorems, formulae etc.Nevertheless, case-based teaching seems to be a more valuable way of utilizing time within the classroom as the focus is more on fostering comprehension and analysing the topic from all possible perspectives. Once students understand the topic, memorising becomes so much easier, probably even fun !

The fact that a paradigm shift is needed in our classroom teaching styles is more than evident.Teaching methodologies that encourage students to think independently, enables them to handle pressure and nurtures their confidence are the need of the hour.As we get surrounded by more competitive times, it’s become necessary that we stem the rot in our education system that currently seems all but poised to becoming a breeding ground for mediocrity.Because, Thinkers and not Nerds is what we need from our future generations !

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The great IPL tamasha

For $2.4 million, to Kolkata Knight Riders, he is (gap) sold (followed by a bang on the table).Thank you!

This was the first time that the IPL auctions were being telecast live (the IPLwallas have no dirth of ways to make some easy moolah) and even though I am not a IPL diehard fan, I coudn’t resist the temptation to waste some hours watching the tamasha.Of course, my curiosity arose not from the game of cricket, but all the headline grabbing controversy surrounding IPL in the last season. And yes, I also wanted to see what a live auction is really like.

As the auction progressed, KKR bought Gambhir for a whopping 11.04Cr, Yusuf Pathan and Uthappa attracted some aggressive bidding, the dashing Dhoni lookalike Saurabh Tiwari created a mini ruckus between RCB and Punjab, our very own dada found no takers and The Wall almost went unsold, not to mention that highly reputed pardesi players went either unnoticed or got sold for comparatively paltry amounts.This was an auction that defied well-established norms and logic regarding player selection, but most reputed cricket jounalists and commentators actually managed to find a method in all the madness, saying that IPL4 was a vote for youth over experience.

The fact that IPL bidding prices are disproportionate to player ability and reputation is something that is well known and extensively debated since the first season.The twenty-twenty format of the game does not require strategists, experience, survival capability and a flair for good shots as much as agility on the field and the rudimentary ability to hit the ball hard.With it’s loud marketing and hired bollywood glamour, the IPL brand and business model , that relies heavily on fanbase strength for it’s profits, has already started spelling the death knell for the Test and ODI formats.

Entertainment over cricket, glamour over fundamentals, youth over experience;one cannot but help asking whether or not this is sustainable in the long run?Won’t the constant brouhaha surrounding IPL ultimately lead to fan fatigue? And what kind of culture are we endorsing by paying astronomical amounts to youngsters while brushing aside experienced elders?Are we nurturing genuine cricket talent or are we too preoccupied in conferring celebrity status on match-winners?The million dollar question remains, is the game of cricket going to be the only casualty in the long run?How much would have been lost by the time the glitter and shine comes off?

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