Religions in education?


‘If I don’t pray before the cross I get punished’ my friend explained how his school in Delhi worked. He was in an Catholic school about 10 years ago.

The last time I stepped inside a school was when my mom was working in a school and I had to pick up the house keys. For now, I am no longer living in India but that can change.

The thing that astonished me the most was I never even thought about the way education system in India is so ingrained with religions. It was so normal for me that I never had this kind of conversation with anyone back in India.

My school in India started with morning (Hindu) prayer and national anthem, lectures and classes, closing (Hindu) prayer and then disburse. If you are one of the majority student in the school, this will seem completely normal to you as well.

It was normal to not talk about religions in school, common to not have an opinion in school. Nobody liked the prayers but we did it anyway because we were told to.

We never asked which religion’s prayer are we singing and why?

I never asked that question back in school, college and in university. It was normal to pray in my school. Singing the national anthem is not religious and patriotic so I never had any problem with it.

I think (I am not completely sure) I am Hindu. It makes sense for me back then and now today to pray a Hindu prayer. I can do a Christian prayer too and for me, both of them spell out the same message.

It wouldn’t make sense for a Christian or a Muslim child to pray an Hindu prayer. India is a dense multireligous jungle of a country and if I may paraphrase my friend’s description ‘India had every possible religion’.

Each religion will have its own prayers, traditions and customs. Each of the religious customs have always been seeped into the culture of the practitioners.

If the child of such a culture goes to study in a school of a completely different culture, the result of such a conflict would be severe.

For example, my friend. He is an atheist, for him praying is nonsensical. I can imagine him in a catholic school trying to resist praying sessions, Bible reading sessions and during Carols.

Reflecting back on my school days, I don’t remember having many Christian or Muslim classmates. Almost everyone was Hindu and a majority of us couldn’t be bothered praying unless exams were due.

No one, in my memory asked about why only Hindu prayers and none other. My friend’s school insisted on enforcing Christianity on its pupils.

For me and him, in our 20s, thinking back on it is pretty easy. He says that schools should NOT have any religious influence. He does have a point: teach physics and civil rights at school. Leave the religions at homes and temples, mosques and churches.

Democracy is not about enforcement of religion. It is certainly not what the Indian pledge says : “India is a secular country”

The question now is: What can be done? And more importantly, how many parents, grandparents think about religion when securing admissions?

Because I remember my school friends. We did not care about prayers. We may have cared if we had a choice on prayer.

A year in AUT


A year ago, I was in Mumbai working 9 hours a day and secretly trying to get my visa sanctioned. I had kept my Masters’ plans secret from my colleagues. I would frequently call my brother whenever I needed some advice about my visa or about my job.

No one really tells you how hard it is to live away from your family. It is harder still to live without home-cooked food. It is hardest when there is no dog happily running around when I return home. I have weird priorities.

My friends from India do not share the same time with me. They are lagging behind 8 hours. If I need advice from my friends, I would get a reply from them 4 hours after my message. One of my friends moved to Germany now which lags behind 12 hours so basically I would wake up when she sleeps. I slowly stopped asking for advice and used my instincts. If I am confused, I toss a coin to decide.

I cannot summarize the last 9 university months in one sentence. In fact, I have been writing this post for the last 2 weeks and every draft I wrote was unsatisfactory. My drafts were mechanical, emotionless and not me. I had to sit and shovel the feelings out of my chest so my feelings can guide the words flow into this post. I should thank one of my university staff for that shovel.

I am competing for an award in my university. The final step to submit my award application is a personal essay to the university staff member. I have to write an essay about my feelings. It ought to be easy considering I have a personal blog right?

When I started in university, I was fresh off a content writing position in India. I was trying to transition back to engineering again. I saw my university’s monthly magazine and I said to my friend “I will submit an article in here”. I never submitted any article and forgot about it. In October I read the year’s final magazine again. I regretted never submitting any article.

I was also happy that I did not submit any article, I was no longer a content writer. My writings were academic focused and maybe no longer suited for magazines. My transition was complete.

Regarding my award application, all my essay drafts were sent back for revisions. She said my essays did not have feelings, they were similar to academic writings. She made me stop and think, think carefully about what my university months meant to me. Without her push, this post would have stayed in my drafts.

I did a lot of things in my university. I don’t want to list them, I want to relive them as I write the words here. I don’t know when I will resume my university for Ph.D. yet. At the moment, the nine months of university is what I have for certain.

I lived in two different houses while I studied. I loved both of the houses for different reasons. One house was near to sea face and my current house allows me to bike to my university. I made some great friends in my previous house, one of them recently sent me a postcard. The simple 3 lines on the postcard gave me immense happiness. I have to send her a postcard back soon.

I can’t talk about the AUT Debating Society enough. They took me along with them to my first roadtrip to Hamilton. I enjoyed the debating weekend getaway, the location and it took some time but I loved the people I met. On regular university days, every Tuesday I would be debating with them, making arguments and high-fiving my teammates. The funniest thing I have ever heard my teammate say during a debate was ‘Spiritual Porn’. The argument used will always be funny.

Recently, I volunteered for a medical technology event. It was not my first volunteering and it will not be my last. During the volunteering, I felt a surge of pride when people appreciated the exhibits. I should have clicked photos of kids reacting to the exhibits. The kids had a curiosity which made them keep exploring. The event was exhilarating and it gave me an excuse to cycle along the waterfront. I was as excited about these things as a 8 year old would be.

I got lost on so many days here. If I don’t have my phone then without maps I would also be geographically lost. I kept looking for a replacement home. I understand my immense involvement in a church now. They are a bunch of great people but with time I realized that I don’t really belong with them. I was trying too hard. Luckily, I found a good replacement home. A entire community of people who want to do good, and they accepted me into their homes with open arms. They called me ‘fam’, family for short. I can’t wait for their wedding in December.

It is not easy to live in a new country. It is easier to stay with other Indians because it is familiar and comfortable. I never fit in with them either. So I never waited for anyone. I wanted to watch a movie, I watched it. I wanted to eat a pizza, I ate it. I wanted to go to a party, I went. I never waited for anyone, I couldn’t possibly call my best friends from India here.

The year in Auckland, 9 months with AUT was a promiscuous mixture. Some days I went outside the house with ambition, some days I just closed my eyes and slept again. The 9 months are no less symbolic than childbirth for me. I feel independent, optimistic and ready for whatever comes my way and I have come a long way from where I started.

Privilege


In recent times, privilege has been branded as a word to describe to Whites. The use of the word is many a times justified, but I am not the judge of that. I am not perceptive enough to pick out subtle race differences, to spot the minorities. I am not writing a post about racism, nothing has warranted it. But now, I have  a taste of privilege.

 


 

Last night, after a hilarious evening with some friends I took the midnight bus home. I didn’t want to read a book. I sat with music reverberating in my ears and looked around. For the midnight bus, there were still a lot of people riding home. Auckland doesn’t sleep either. I saw faces mirroring mine: tired, sleepy and listening to music than talk to each other. The only sound was the roar of the engine (which was not much) and chatter of a couple. I raced my brain to draw some inspiration in the scene, to get inspired and write a fictional story from the dark passage home but I couldn’t. How could I?

 


 

We all are going somewhere. One station at a time #train #blacknwhite #auckland

A photo posted by Mayur Wadhwani (@mayurdw) on Feb 29, 2016 at 10:26pm PST

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On my way to work in train, I was reading a collection of personal essays. I was mundane, another commuter more engrossed in his phone or his book than to observe people or talk to people. This changed until the person next to me took out a novel. Her interests and mine were different, I read novels for fun and she read because of curiosity, which was now focused on understanding New Zealand’s aboriginals Maoris. I could see her interests in tracing Maori philosophical & cultural roots

In my time in Auckland, Maoris look physically big, scary. It is difficult to comprehend their accent their sense of humor is eclectic, only to be understood by them. After I actually got to know a few of them, I can say now they are simple-minded and enthusiastic about everything. (Exclude a gregarious roommate I had in my previous home)

We spoke first about Maori culture, I already knew a little about their mythologies as I have read some novels. I don’t know everything about them after reading a couple of novels. On the other hand, she is trying to understand the customs, their drive. She said she could draw many parallels between her Buddhist practices and Maori practices. One peculiar custom we spoke of related to their ‘Mana'(or in how I could understand the term: respect) is when a person wronged and their Mana been damaged, the same person must restore their Mana by damaging the perpetrator’s Mana. From my sessions in my University’s debate society, I know there is a property law founded on the same principle.

However, we quickly moved on from books and spoke about the city life, which is lonely as compared to rural life, rife with communities and mutual care. She said that she is trying to help out in her own way to take care of the surroundings, to give back to the country she is staying in and trying to understand the wealth gap existing particularly in Auckland. She mentioned that she feels privileged to have enough food, shelter and livelihood.

 


 

If you ever ask any foreign national to describe India, or Mumbai specifically, they will say it is very poor. She said the same thing while reminiscing her last trip to Mumbai. She was torn at the sight of so many poor people living without basic amenities. I wanted to tell her that she was a magnet for all the beggars as she had dollars. The heartlessness of my own words shamed me. Our conversation had quickly moved on from Maori culture to the poverty prevalent in my home city, the intensity of our conversation didn’t. As for the homeless in Auckland, I could say I have seen worse. Became immunized to worse conditions.

Probably why I never complain about buses running late in the city, as I have traveled buses which were running with a joke of timetable in my hometown. Why I never complain about the traffic or for that matter the standard of living here as I know it is four times what I was used to. And I am still scrapping the end of the barrel here.

When we spoke, for me it was very easy to fire up, and be outraged by her pity to call India poor. After all we are improving. However, the truth is we have to fight for basic amenities in India. The biggest of which is, and forever will be, water supply. There is too much in rainy season, too little in summer. I tried to defend my country by quoting Rang De Basanti ‘No country is perfect’ but at the end, I knew she was right. The ceaseless struggle, my city which never sleeps, city I left behind. I moved to a place with better living, with hopes of making a better life.

I have no conclusions to draw from yesterday. Because we never reached a conclusion. Maybe there will never be a conclusion.

On Professions


For the last two days I am sitting in the hospital, one of my aunts just went through a surgery.

Now, hospitals are scary. Downright scary. And they are white and all silent and squeaky clean. I don’t trust things when they are clean. Tawdry seems real while tidy seems put up. Like there’s something to be hidden.

And this is coming from someone who is trying to make a career in Medical industry.

You meet the mortality of human life in a hospital, the severe questions of likes  ‘What are we doing with our lives?’ resound in the ears. Resolutions are made about healthy living, tears shed and hard earned money actually comes to use here.

Hospitals and medical industry is important.

Just yesterday I read about the Gabbar is Back movie controversy. I haven’t seen the movie but according to this article, in the movie there’s a scene in which doctors are portrayed in a negative way.

IMA is demanding the scene be culled, a disclaimer saying that views are subjective to the maker and movie be banned till such demands are met.

Doctors, once a very respected adepts, are now looked at in suspicion. In India, the profession which is in turn responsible for saving lives is in fact accused more than once of taking lives. Just look at the newspapers, more doctors are in the headlines for something illegal and unethical than doctors who are sincerely hardworking and honest. And TV shows, though made with an intention to spread awareness only helped in demeaning doctors and all related personnel. I get it, people are made aware these days to prevent being victimised by an ever lurking opportunist. Its the right thing to do.

Yes there are black sheep in this profession, but where aren’t? A perfect example would be the recent documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ in which lawyers open up and express their feelings. If you haven’t watched that documentary then you should. The umbrage you will feel at such statements will be unparalleled.

Like I said, a few people are bad. In every profession. And in saying that I give support to both movie and IMA. Because to each their own opinions. Its subjective.

The reason I wrote the post was that statement in the article that says doctors are a noble profession. And while that’s not debatable but isn’t every profession noble? Armed forces? Teachers? Bankers?  And on and on.

Every profession is noble. Today in the same newspaper, a pune residing garbage cleaner’s story is shared, on how she lives her life and now she attended a International Labour conference in Geneva. I can argue her work is no less noble! (Read that story here)

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Ah! India! There is always sometimes to debate over.