Monday, January 04, 2010

Idiots on the other side

What a coincidence, I wrote about this controversy yesterday and it so happened that in the evening I was in a theatre watching the movie ‘Three idiots’ which I never thought I would. The show was literally served to me on a plate. I generally find it very difficult to sit through a Hindi movie for three odd hours and because they’re mostly based on a trite, convoluted formula, which can be generalized as the first half being funny and enjoyable, and the second grim and morose. Despite conforming to this formula to a certain vague degree, Three Idiots was thoroughly enjoyable. The acting was splendid and the story filled with situations that plague the education system of our times. It even touched upon the aspect of love in a certain admirable way, even if it went a little overboard, but then again, who am I to judge love, anything can happen because everything’s fair in love and war.
I couldn’t help but shed a tear when in the movie, Lobo commits suicide and when one of the idiots is pressurized to an extent that he attempts it. I recalled the horrors that my sister, to some degree, and some of her peers, to a much greater degree, underwent in medical school. It seems that some faculty members turn into conceited sadistic psychopaths who inflict unspeakable mental torture on the students, many a time which also manifests as an economic and mental havoc on the parents of the students. They’re hell bent to make the students bow down and conform to what they feel is right, there’s no room for creative zest, which needs to be harnessed by a kind, intelligent and benevolent teacher; it is subdued with great force and brought down to the general conforming mediocrity. That way, I feel that in India, a student of arts is better placed than a student of science since they can still play around and experiment with creativity, even though to many, it might seem counterintuitive. Parents themselves too are hell bent on goading their kids with the burden of their aspirations and pushing them, many a time, on the wrong leg. The example cited in Three Idiots was apt, “what if Lata Mangeshkar would’ve picked up the cricket bat to play cricket and Sachin Tendulkar would’ve been pushed into a career in singing?”
I have come across an army officer who could’ve been great painters (still is) but waits for his retirement to finally start painting again, there’s a doctor who could’ve been a painter/singer/writer/experimental-biologist but is treating patients without feeling any passion for her work, and there are so many others. What about teachers? Forget school, in the years I studied graduation, almost all the teachers I came acrossvwere doing their job more for earning bread for their family than out of their love for the subject, post grad was better though. This fact was very well reflected in the classes; zoology teachers didn’t know how to pronounce the names of many animals (say Gila Monster) and couldn’t recognize many animals that weren’t there in the specimen jars (thank you Discovery Channel and NGC, my knowledgebase is much wider than theirs), botany teachers told us that Ganesh-ji was the first transgenic and two of the four senior chemistry teachers behavior was inappropriate with the girls in our class, and they did so right under our noses; all this was emetic. I have no problems with anybody’s personal religious belief but caution should be exercised while conducting a science class, it would be just as abhorrent to hear a science teacher giving genetic explanation about Jesus’s ploidy. I once picked up a snake that was killed in the neighborhood and took it to the zoology class to my teacher. I had read about how to identify a poisonous snake from a non-poisonous one but failed to identify this one correctly, I wanted my teacher to fill me up on this. Her reaction surprised me; she freaked out but tried her best to hide her terror. I had to pay for these “mistakes” in the form of psychological pressures; I had made the teacher look bad. I earned a bad name amongst the faculty members; I was the scalawag. I never enjoyed their classes and at times expressed it in a subdued way; more trouble. It was immature on my part to start bunking classes, what I should’ve done was excelled in the subjects but by not doing so I just opened the door to bad times. I started to ignore studies and did something worse; I fell in love with a girl (and earned some more bad name!). I wonder if life would’ve been easier as a gay. There was love and war going on at the same time and I was taking a beating from all corners. Zoology, the first complicated word I had spelt in my life at a very young age and yearned to pursue as a career, wasn’t as interesting to me anymore.
The only channels I still watch on TV are Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet, I love clicking animals, love drawing them, still love going to the zoo, and I still fancy the idea of living in a jungle and studying wildlife but now I study proteins almost 10-12 hours a day in a lab. I am so thankful for it, for this too is very interesting. When the teachers of the college, from where I did bachelors, found out that I’d made it through the entrance exam to MSc (and none of their dear students had except one that got a paid 'NRI' seat), they weren’t too please (these were my teachers). Later when they found out that I’d cleared two PhD scholarship exams and even done well in GRE, the gentlemen from the chemistry department said that I probably had “contacts”; they were in absolute denial. Do I despise them? oh yes I do! In fact in all the years of education, I’ve loved PhD the most and I’m so glad that I didn’t quit after graduation.
Anyway, the movie was great. Only that they threw caution to the wind when they made that vacuum contraption; they obviously have no idea about the omnipresent dangers of the microbial world, of how quickly life-threatening infection can set in under such circumstances (that's why an operation-theatre is aseptic as opposed to a film-theatre) and the kind of training it takes to be an obstetrician who can manage a complicated delivery but despite all that, it was thoroughly entertaining. Last but not least, I loved the red Volvo SUV (I think that insignia on the grill was that of a Volvo but I’m not certain) in which they drove around in Shimla, Manali and Leh.

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