Monday, September 20, 2010

Confessions of a challenged Economics student


Confession= acknowledgment or admission of insufficiency or fault
Challenged= impaired
economics= a discipline involving the study of the administration of material
student= a person who studies.
Maun= willful silence of an ascetic

Opening apology: I am not a lexicographer, nor an economist.

When you open your mouth, your foot may be the first in it. Such sayings are normally credited to the ancient Chinese sage called Confucius or to some of his modern day disciples but I can assure you, and I am being very honest, Confucius did not say this. The truth is, I just said it although some American may patent it even before I can say, may be Zandu Balm.(Since it is much in the news as a source of pain rather than being whatever it is supposed to be)

Monday is the cruellest day, breeding doubts in thinking minds. And so it happened when I tried to mix literature and development into a heady cocktail of uncontrollable exhilaration. Some of my students got into a discussion on development statistics. Figures flew thick and fast. India is growing at around 8%, someone said. There was an all-round feeling of pride despite the apprehensions of droughts and floods and the Commonwealth Games. Then one quiet, bespectacled, last-bench, latecomer spoilt it all by asking this question. If India is growing at around 8%, how is it that Bihar, which has little or no industries, has generated little or no employment, where education is a sigh of despair, where agricultural output has been on the decline, growing at 11+ percent? I was caught out of my crease. I gulped, wiped by eyebrows like a batsman beaten by a wicket-keeper's agility, waiting for the third umpire's verdict to be displayed on the giant LCD screen.

I decided to be forthright. Look here, I said, I am not a professor of Economics. I shall verify this for you. So I made my way downstairs to the man-who-knows-it- all. Every theory, every piece of data, multiple interpretations of diverse statistics, the entire mechanics of a la carte economics. Tailor-made for the listener. Luckily he spotted me as I tried to catch his eye at the perimeter of his circle of students. I told him of my predicament. Without blinking an eyelid, he said Bihar is growing at 3.7 percent. How do you explain the difference between the official figures and the one that you are giving me? He smiled at my innocence. He said there are more things on heaven and earth Horatio that are known of in your philosophy. I felt slighted. Short of insulting me, he was pointing out the sin of my willingness to believe what the state was representing to it people. That is why, the Knowing One said education is the last of the priorities in a popular democracy. The more popular the democracy, the less popular is education. Education makes you think. Education makes you ask questions. You interrogate and analyse the rhetoric. And when you do that you are not popular any more. You can pick up a zerox of Tagore's Ekla Cholo Re, learn it by heart, sing it if you can and be a lonely Munnabhai minus the celebrity status of a celluloid cut-out.

I went upstairs and declared it was my moment of maun. Good mauning.

1 comment:

  1. Really an interesting and entertaining piece and I wonder who dared compare you with Horatio? You are right when you say that education gets the last priority in a popular democracy, especially something like our. It serves the interests of certain sections of the populace. A questioning citizen will be a danger to serfdoms and fiefdoms.