Sunday, August 8, 2010

Whispers and Howls

At a function, marked by quiet dignity, a collection of essays entitled Novel and Society was released in the seminar hall of the Department of History, Patna University. It is dedicated to one of the renowned teachers of Patna University and a polymath cultural figure, Dr. Shaileshwar Sati Prasad who headed the Department of English earlier this decade. Several men and women of eminence who spoke on this occasion, referred to the programme as significant because the commemorative volume marked the respect shown to teachers by their students at a time when various agencies have conspired to heap humiliation and indignities upon them in the public space.
The event has been covered by the media and there is not much that one can add. But many interesting things were happening at the margins of the programme. An odd comment by students and young scholars, a smirk, a knowing smile; you know those sorts of things. And then there was this thing shared among three fairly intelligent young people who were sipping soft drinks. They were speculating on how Mathematics could be taught in the years to come. And one of them inspirationally drew upon the lyrics of an old film song with some not-so-subtle changes:
Thethar ke do aage thethar
Thethar ke do picche thethar
Aage thethar, picche thethar
Bolo kitne thethar?
The change in identity of the subject from ornithological innocence to the conscious damning indifference as understood by the vernacular thethar was a critique of educational governance in this state. If such voices are heard from the margins and the voices get louder, it is a wake-up call. This state has been a crucible of dissent. From Buddha to Gandhi and JP, resistance has been articulated very radically to reject the order that felt comfortable in its own arrogance. Today's whispers may become tomorrow's howls.


  1. the necessity of dissent cannot be overrated in turning the wheel of civilisation. but the question is dissent from what? and for what? and by whom? the wheel will move no doubt, it is capable of moving either way. is movement always better than status quo and vice-versa??

  2. The sad part is that the voices from the margins get strangled by those in power and the marginalized once in power act like the erstwhile 'powerful'. While SSP has done a lot for the students and deserves all the praises that he gets, there are others whose contribution is in the negative. Due to such people, even the good teachers have to suffer! It's time to wake up and take stock of the condition of higher education, else nothing might be left but dilapidated structures!

  3. I may seem quite an odd man out but I firmly believe that teachers have a two fold duty ,one is academic and the other is political .For the welfare of the society and environment , it is necessary that there should be the rule of knowledge but the political power often tends to disregard the control of the wise and the knowledgeable and they are disdained by fools and the evil .

    Teachers like Chanakya and Aristotle knew that
    learning should not lack in political potency . But , often academicians ,specially under the democratic capitalistic materialistic set up, just traffic in learning and fail to feel their true responsibilities which necessitate the political strength .

    It may be a time to wake up but waking up is not that easy . To me , more than any other discipline of learning it is the concern of literature .I agree with Dr Smriti Singh that sincere care for students may restore the ancient esteem but as long as teachers have to face the political harassment , their prestige remains compromised .