Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Hope you are in a happier place Rouvanjit

You might have read about young Rouvanjit Rawla. He used to study in La Martinere for Boys. One of the premiere schools in Calcutta. I am referring to him in the past tense as he took his life recently. Thirteen years is all he got in this world. The caning or corporal punishment that he received in school apparently led to his suicide.

Caning? Didn't that happen only in David Copperfield?

Well not really. I moved into an ‘Indian’ school in Calcutta in 1984 when I was ten. My earlier experience with schools, or play schools, was in the UK, Iran and then in an ‘International’ school in Calcutta. We knew about the Solar System. But not about canes.

The ‘Indian’ school I went to, following the ICSE board, was where I first came across the concept of caning. Except it was with wooden rulers and not canes. Our teachers would take our rulers and then hit us across our palms. At times till the rulers broke. Boys. Girls. No gender discrimination. Across ages. By all teachers. Always on the palm of the hand.

No homework? Whack. Talking in class? Whack. Talking in Bengali? Whack. Not polished your shoes? Whack. And so it went.

Then there was being made to stand out of class. And even the occasional take your shirt off and stand. And for girls, take your shoes off and hold it on your head and stand. No, this was not in Panchayat in Haryana. This was in an English medium, ICSE board, Christian Missionary School situated bang in the middle of Middle Class Calcutta.

Did it make us do our homework, not talk in class, not speak in Bengali, polish our shoes? You are kidding me!

I remember a very different occasion when I was in the seventh or eighth standard. Same age as Rouvanjit. I was called into the staff room to meet a teacher. This teacher usually used the ruler till the clasp of his watch come off. That day was different. He sat me down and pointed out that I was the son of a teacher myself. He said that if I would bother my teachers then it was possible that my mom’s students would do that too. Would I like that? The penny dropped. There were fewer detention occasions for me after that.

But then reasoning takes patience and effort. Caning is easier. The British rulers knew it. As did the Whites in Apartheid Africa. And do school teachers in India.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Of sons and mothers

The defining mother son moment of Hindi films of the seventies was Shashi Kapoor telling Bachchan ‘mere paas maa hain’ (Mom’s with me) in 'Deewar'. Nirupa Ray, who played the mother in question, played the same character in a number of other films too. Struggling to put ends meet so that she could bring up Amitabh Bachchan in various movies. Unquestioned devotion to his mother drove the hero and the story of the film.

The recently released Hindi film, ‘Wake up Sid’, showed a very different mother son relation. Supriya Pathak, the mother, was doting and smothering. Ranbir Kapoor, the petulant son. Churlish. Irritated. Snapping at his mother at all points.

Something which would have been unheard of for a hero in the seventies.

Is it becomes the times are different? Is it because we have moved to consumerism from Gandhism?

Or is it because Wake Up Sid was directed by a Bengali? After all Bengali mothers are considered to be amongst the most protective of their sons.

But then are these things culture specific? Are their mothers who don’t dote on their sons? Being a Bengali son I can’t think of such a scenario.

What’s your experience?