Mahabharata has always appeared to me as the mother of all literature – any story that can ever exist has already been done in Mahabharata. Revenge, love, envy, friendship, lust, greed, valour, cowardice, conflict, conspiracy, family dispute, friends, lovers, illicit lovers, brothers, brother-sister, mother-son, father-daughter, non-romantic boy-girl friendship (long before Mohnish Behl): everything. Only, there isn’t a single father-son bonding story.
True, there are fathers and sons. We have Yayati, who exchanges his old age with his son Puru’s youth. (His other son, Yadu who refuses to the exchange gets cursed – by dad, who else?). We have Shantanu who allows Ganga to drown his seven sons so as not to annoy her. And the eighth son who he rescues (a curious sudden bursting forth of fatherly love), he manipulates him into vowing lifelong celibacy so that daddy dearest could walk home with the next hottie by the riverside, Satyavati. We have Bhim who fathers Ghatotkach on his trips to the jungle and then uses him to neutralise the Vasavi Shakti (that Indra gave Karna), with, of course, his life.
Sons in general have been good. Dhrishtadyumna kills Drona to avenge dad Drupad’s humiliation. Oh, and that brings us to the first ‘good dad’ story – Drona at least decides to be killed once he learns son Ashwatthama is dead. Not much by the way of love or bonding but at least a dad who isn’t an asshole. Dhritarashtra – Duryodhana: we see a powerless dad more than any great love or bonding between them. Another good dad is Vasudev who drops his new born Krishna to Gokul – but here again, there is no dad-son bonding, more like an instinct to save a new born. See, the bar for a good dad is so pathetically low!
Same with Ramayana – you won’t find a single warm, strong, rich, dad-son story. Come to history and you will find dad-sons fighting each other for kingdoms.
Why is dad-son bond so less explored in literature? Tough to believe it just slipped off the minds of the great story tellers across thousands of years across the globe.
(Pic courtesy: unspalsh.com)
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Global business? World level corporate leadership? Lingua franca of international business? Fair enough. Only, a much higher percentage of IIT grads go abroad, do Masters and PhDs in foreign Universities, work internationally but still you can take IIT JEE in Bangla, Oriya, Kannada or Malayalee – without ever attempting to answer even Physics and Mathematics in English. And CAT, with most of IIM grads working in India tests the admission aspirants in English.
Lets take another defence. IIM grads need to be top scorers in an English test so that they can access and understand the best global practices, benefit from cutting edge ideas internationally to lead their companies. Fair enough. Major hole – the success of IIT grads globally shows that one doesn’t need to be a top scorer in English to do any of that. Another funny thing, this need to be a top scorer in English doesn’t stand for UPSC IAS exam – this when a bureaucrat works in much more complex situations with a much higher variability and would benefit much more from understanding the best global ideas.
So, we have both the counter-examples. a) A huge group of IIT grads who never top-scored in English and still do well in global corporations, and, b) a huge group of bureaucrats who handle much more complex problems in a more variable environment than a corporate leader but are never required to top-score in an English test.
Something seems amiss. Either no one thought it through – highly unlikely though not impossible. Or, people did think it through – to answer this, let’s imagine what happens if CAT stops testing for English. Not hard to answer – small town, mofussil India will crowd up the IIMs, as they do the IITs and IAS – the predominance of DU, Bombay University, Presidency Kolkata – elite universities will break.
Is it deliberate? Malicious? A walled garden for elites? Serious statements those.
But not tough to see that a) top-scoring in an English test is neither required for achieving global corporate leadership, nor learning global best practices to solve complex problems, and, b) certain predominance structures will break if CAT stops testing English.
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It wipes off sweat from its forehead. The wasp. Sitting in her home on a tree trunk. Power goes. Fan stops,TV too. Irritated, she comes out.
Bright, hot sun all around. And then, she sees a patch of shade. She quickly flies there, looks up. A dark cloud, covering the sun. She smiles. She looks at the cloud the way you look at very few people. Then, she feels a sudden urge to reach out and tell the cloud it comforted her. So, she flies up. Up and up. But the cloud is too far. She cries out, “Cloud. Oyi, cloud.” But the cloud is too far. Doesn’t hear. She tries to fly further up but her little wings won’t carry her. Disheartened, she descends.
Just then, the cloud sees her. Something about her draws him to her. He comes down. Down and down. So down, he reaches little Pintu’s terrace. Pintu, standing on the terrace gets all wet. Clouds are water vapours, after all.
So, cloud comes down. Wasp sees him. Smiles. “Thank you cloud,” she says, surprised at the tear in her eyes.
“Why cry?” asks the cloud.
“I tried talking to you but you were too far.” she says.
“Oh, no worries,” cloud says, “My friends are air and water. Say anything to the air and it will take your message to me. I will say it to the water and it will bring my message to you.”
The wasp smiles and then, makes a sad face. “But my friends are butterflies. They can’t fly up to you.”
Cloud too goes sad. The butterfly comes along. “What happened?” she asks the wasp.
“You are my friend, but you can’t take my message to the cloud.” says wasp and makes a sad face again.
“You worried for this?” the butterfly asks, then says, “Flowers are my friend. And their friend is fragrance. So, you tell me your message. I will give it to the flower and the fragrance will take it to the cloud.”
The wasp smiles. She hugs the butterfly. “Careful,” says the butterfly, smiling, “careful with the sting.” They both laugh.The cloud too smiles.
So, the cloud now sends his messages through the water and the wasp sends her messages through air and fragrance.
(Photo courtesy: pexels.com)
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Class VIII. Or was it VII?
Mathematics period. The Mathematics Teacher in class. (Do note the capitalisations – it’s not without a reason, but that for a later post). Some copies being distributed so everyone on their feet moving about – between the teacher’s desk and their own.
I sit with X. X has gone to get his copy. His notebook lying on the desk. I sense an opportunity.
Now, this X is a friend. But is also the guy who beats me 9 times out of 10 in Mathematics. Big deal? Big fucking deal. And he beats me 9 times out of 10 in overall score. Yes, till he didn’t leave the school, both of us would be either first or second in class – me being second, you guessed it, 9 times out of 10.
So, the moment X leaves, I pull out my fountain pen and write, “X chor hai” on his notebook. An act of pure spite. A kiddish way to get back at a competitor you can’t defeat. Also, I wrote with my left hand, so that handwriting could not be matched.
X returns. Sees his notebook, complaints to The Mathematics Teacher.
Now, I had a curious dynamic with The Mathematics Teacher too. Good words from her meant way more than good words from any other teacher. Perhaps because she was so tough to please. Perhaps because dad always glorified maths as this super cool subject every self-respecting human should excel at. Also because she always took great pains to answer all my questions – and my questions too arose from an interesting place. Somehow, I had heavily bought into the idea that all I needed to do to become a famous mathematician was to falsify any of the theorems taught in school. So, any new theorem or method taught, I would think of conditions when it would not hold. And that popped several questions in my head. And I would stand up and ask. And she would answer them. Am sure most of those questions would be pretty absurd. But she never seemed irritated and never discouraged any questions.
But I digress.
So, X goes to The Mathematics Teacher. She looks at the notebook and says, “Everyone bring their pens here. Check whose ink colour is this.”
And my heart sinks, the ground crashes beneath my feet. Why ink colour? Why?
“Ma’am, shouldn’t we match the handwriting?” I protest, not knowing that I had just given away.
“No,” she says, “Handwriting can be changed.”
So, the ink colours were matched. And it was mine. She just said, “Why do you say that? What has he stolen of yours?” and then let it go.
I now remember I used to write in Blue-Black ink by Chelpark – it had a distinct hue. Perhaps that prompted her to match ink colours. Or she would have done that anyway- no way for me to know.
But that’s how, yet another battle ended – between her, the defender of all ancient mathematics theorems and I, the challenger, only desirous of breaking in any one of them. The result, the same as always – me trudging away with my tail between my legs.
(Photo courtesy: Nicole Honeywill, Unsplash.com)
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So, I am standing at a paan shop – one of those large shop-front variety that you find in Western India (different from the humble khokhas/khomchas that dot the North). A gentleman walks in, puts his hands in his pockets and several coins fall. One lands on my foot.
A fairly common occurrence – my standard protocol would be to shake my foot to drop the coin and step aside so that the gentleman can pick it. That’s how I would react, that’s how I have always reacted – it’s such a small thing – programmed in my head like press the button, bulb glows.
But, I bend down, pick the coin and hand it over to the gentleman. It happens so instinctively, I am amazed at myself.
And then, I remember. Some ten days ago, I was at Nazeer’s. Ordered food at the counter, time to pay. Wallet out, coins fall. One lands near the feet of the gentleman standing besides. He steps aside, bends down, picks the coin and hands it over to me. I smile and thank. End of the story.
Only, the story didn’t end there. It somehow seeped in my subconscious and changed one of the most automatic patterns in my head. The gentleman doesn’t know. But his little act just made me more civil.
Like the good in you finding its way into someone else and making him slightly better.
(Photo by Alena Koval from Pexels)
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