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.

15 comments:

Scarlett said...

I was shocked to read this story in the papers. Particularly that a form of punishment as archaic as caning should exist in a school as esteemed as La Marts. I went to a Catholic school in a relatively smaller town, but we were never caned. Never even heard that such a form of punishment existed, in fact. This is surreal.

Purba said...

Most Missionary schools used to follow this archaic practice in the name of discipline.

That it still happens despite a ban on corporal punishment came as a shocker.

The knife said...

@Ash, Purba...I was surprised that you guys were shocked. Specially since I saw it in both the ICSE Protestant Schools that I went to. Thought that was the norm.

Old World Cup story. There was a Dutch guy called Hiddink who once coached South Korea. He was surprised when he saw the Koreans were surprised that he didn't slap the players. Apparently that's what Korean captains, coaches used to do

S.R.Ayyangar said...

When I was in school 1956-66, almost all teachers used canes and rulers.I have no count of such canning specially from my Sanskrit teacher. Even in college, my Physics professor used to send the boys out of the class for non performance. Such were the days!

Moonshine said...

In our school (convent), it was a ruler.. and being hit on knuckles.. in primary school.. probably just to scare us. Dont remember any such thing happening in high school.. our punishments used to be standing outside the class and such!! Scary when it happens in such reputed establishments.

Gobri said...

Why is it more surprising to know that caning happens at reputed institutions? It happens at the most reputed establishments all the time... home. Most people I know were hit as kids at home by parents. They have turned out absolutely okay and the parents are very nice people too.

The knife said...

@ Mr Ayyangar,

Thanks for writing in.

'Such were the days, nicely sums it up. Times have changed. India has been free for a longer period now. The Central Jail of Andaman is a more distant memory. And Sanskrit is even more than dead.

Changes happen by the minute. Even at work we feel that folks are more 'indisciplined' than they were were in the late 90s.

The magic lies in understanding reality and moving with it

@Moonshine, and one would have thought these would be more 'evolved'

@Gobri...well are they? Caning, beating does happen. As do worse forms of child abuse. It's just that people are speaking up now

Miri said...

What is even more shocking is the photograph of the rally held by parents of other students of the same school coming out in support of the school, and interviews with some parents where they said the school knew best and they did not doubt their competence on handling their children.

I am shocked that the pressure to be in a "good" school in India has come to such a pass that one will do anything to get on the good side of the "authorities". I may be wrong, but i can see no other reason for this support when it is very clear that the reason this child took his life is because he had been traumatised. it could happen to anyone.unless we say no!

ab$hake said...

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Sue said...

"The British rulers knew it. As did the Whites in Apartheid South Africa." But it's now 2010 and we really should have learnt by now.
You know the teacher in question, when asked whether he knew it was illegal, said he did but that he would never do it again. Too late already I would say.

Bhaswati said...

Our school, not missionary, just a poorly-funded government aided institution, didn't have caning. Instead, the teachers who believed in this kind of punishment would use their hands, beating "offending" students mercilessly and endlessly, until the targeted pupil almost fainted. We can all guess how effective that was in "reforming" students. Zilch.

magiceye said...

that indeed was tragic....

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Sunshinemom said...

Touched. I was an extremely naughty kid and have experienced similar treatments and it only resulted in furthering my ego, hurting my dignity, not to speak of tears that would swim but refuse to fall. Thankfully, I studied in the South during my later years and the teachers were not only more qualified as academicians than the ones in brutal North but also more understanding.

Bikram Das said...

"well fools do not grow on trees baba, they are born...now gordhop get back to study" this is what my maths Sir used to say in my ICSE school in Assam!, and canes (rulers), you bet....uncountable times i had to go through that ordeal. It is a coincidence that today i was listening to another public radio talk show here in the US where the topic was whether it is ok to beat ones kid in rare occasions, and i came to know that it is not very uncommon or unheard of in the African American homes. Strange links over a period of 14 hours....by the way i was checking out your food blog as I was searching for some posto ilish and then stumbled on your mumbai coffee house blog. Also read about your paper on how small business can benefit from the social media. In fact I was helping a colleague collecting info to prepare a ppt on the same topic.