Sunday, March 21, 2010

Miss Pronounced

G.B.Shaw once stated that'England and America are seperated by their common language'.If he were alive and adventurous enough to travel across the length and breadth of our country, i am sure he would be a trifle confused at the legacy left behind by the British, making English the first language of the literate Indians today.The accent and pronounciation prevailing across the country would undoubtedly leave him mother tongue tied.
I have lived in several States of the country and in terms of mispronounciation, Punjab and Bengal topped the charts..In a small town of Punjab i had the 'plaiyer'of interacting with some S-kool teachers.I was told that while naming the parts of the body , a five yr old child pointed to his leg when asked where his 'tongue' was.Tung in punjabi means the leg!!On another occasion while being taught plurals a child retorted the plural of duck was ducka!!To my amusement a Bengali clerk was always handing me a 'Shit of paper',and believe me he was not referring to toilet paper!
When i started my school six years back , i was on the lookout for a facilitator.The applications i receieved and the interviews i conducted convinced me that the top honours belong to my State of Residence..
Mostly all applications i received were addressed to 'Dear Sir/Madam,as the case may be!They were signed off with your humble servant,genuine regards as also requestingly yours!The one which caught my eye was someone 'humbly offering her humble self to your gracious self to put into services as you please , I will obey and live up to all your expectations'!!For a longtime i wondered if it was a proposal or an application!!
An English hons graduate from a local college had cited 'Bedminton' as one of her hobbies.Her favourite author was 'Sexspeare'!She told me she liked'Romeo and Juliet', and when i asked her what really appealed to her about this play she mumbled..'means, it is like Laila Majnu'!
When i asked a History topper to tell me the historical significance of the town, she failed to comprehend the question and after delving into her mental archives for a longtime came up with what can be termed as the briefest answer in history 'Buddh Bhagwan!
After many such responses I decided to keep my line of questioning simple and related to the school,so i asked one of the candidates to recite their favourite nursery rhyme.The rhyme went like this..'Chubby chiksh, deempel cheen';Rojee leepsh tith weetheen.Curly hayer bhery fayer. eyej are blue lubhly too,teachers pate is that you, yase yase, yase!! My whole being cried out No, No No..But looking back i am grateful for this recitation as it introduced me to the rudiments of 'Bihari mispronounciation'.
In this State people throw sleepers at each other and fall aslip.The most popular animals in the joo are ziraffe and jebra!The favourite mode of transport is a bhan.I had a girl who spelt her name as 'Niva', her parents had named her 'Nibha'.The brightest from this State is capable of winning a Nobel Prize only if he pulls up his shocks! If you really want to seek vendetta just ask them to say'she sells ,sea shells on the sea shore'.
I have taken it upon myself to work with my staff on their pronounciation and everytime they pick up a book and read i have a 'hurtattack'!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'Cog'nitive Abilities

There is a certain static, a buzz in the air during examinations in this state which is second only to the election fever which grips everyone during assembly and general election.Not surprising since we are talking of the most politically volatile State with a defunct education system.Fortunately the present government has been proactive and are taking desperate measures to revamp the system.
Till a few years back, those assigned with invigilation duty were sent off by a tearful family with instructions that 'life comes before duty'.A similar scenario was witnessed in the household of an officer assigned on election duty when the family went into mourning and neighbours got together for a preemptive condolence session!
However ludicrous it may sound i am just stating facts.Over the years i have heard appalling tales of mass 'cogging'.The wards of the examinees burnt the midnight oil practicing the art of almost writing on rice and ensured that their loved ones were not taxed and got a goodnights sleep.More audacious ones sat next to the candidates armed with weapons and books to help them through the farce called 'board examinations'.There are unrecognized colleges without a faculty that enroll the students and then send them to a local recognized college to attend classes!!There have been incidents of an SP being taken to task as his wife had acquired a degree from the local university without taking exams as also a prominent citizen arrested and put behind bars for printing fake degrees at his brothers' printing press!!(They were not caught by vigilant authorities but were booked due to personal and politically motivated vendetta!)
There are reforms being made now.All the teachers employed by the state government face termination if they are not present to take the classes and cheating is now a criminal offence in the State!This has resulted in a certain tragic hilarity..I have a friend who has been teaching English for over two decades lamenting that she remained exhausted as she had to be in college from 10am to 4pm.I was once completely distressed to see that my drivers son had failed his inter exam,when i expressed my displeasure the driver told me it was not the sons fault it was because he was not allowed to cheat! A couple of years back i heard gunshots from a leading college which is located right behind my house.I was told it was the parents of the students taking exams, protesting as they were not allowed to help their children!!The protest got unruly and the police had to resort to teargas and fire shots in the air to disperse the crowd.'The shot in the air' apparently fatally injured one person(a flying in rage parent, i presume!!)
Very recently ,i saw the most absurd video on a local tv channel.Brains and brawns had been replaced with acrobats and gymnasts!There were shots of two young 'spidermen' climbing three floors to throw a chit into the classroom.A young boy was running on an 8" narrow parapet of a neighbouring house with a bamboo pole with a chit stuck at the forked end. After strategically placing himself in front of the assigned window he tapped the pole and someone from inside extricated the slip of paper!!!
Is there no way to change the mindset of these people, to let them know that rather than risking their life and limb or go to juvenile prisons it requires just a little effort to sit and study, take exams but most imporatantly to make them aware of the true meaning of education!!