Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dear GHMC Commissioner, would you like to surprise us?

Dear GHMC commissioner,

This is a letter from a girl who commutes to work through the back-breaking and dug-up roads, through clogged and overflowing drains, through garbage heaps breeding mosquitoes, in this beautiful city of Hyderabad. May I clarify that this is not to highlight the incapability of the local administration but to focus on these existing problems that are taking a toll on everyone.

You might have received a thousand letters, e-mails and other forms of communication regarding the problems. But, the point is, what have you done despite receiving these complaints? Let me give you an example of my every experience. I stay at Mayuri Marg in Begumpet where the overflowing and clogged drains flow through an Anganwadi school, where kids are likely to contract water-borne diseases. And, when vehicles pass through this road, the drain water splashes on people's clothes on their way to work. Now, not everyone owns a car or bike to not walk on the road and stay protected! The stench from this chokes me. No, I'm not exaggerating, it literally does.

During the rainy season, it is even worse, making our lives pathetic. The manholes are left open, there is no outlet for the rain water to pass off, almost inundating the road to your knee-level. Even vehicles do not pass through this lane during rainy season. I have had the privilege of  walking through the sewage- mixed-water at 2am because of my work schedule and I was almost sunk. Now. my mother would not like to see me stinking like a skunk at 2am and bare with all the diseases in that week.
Sometimes, to avoid this stinky experience, I take another road where the situation has even been worse. The road to Chikoti Gardens. Sewage mixed with water flows right in front of people's houses and no one's complaining. I do not know if they do not have a problem if the whole world's excreta is stocked in front of their houses, but I have a problem with kids of a school, situated beside it, fall sick for no fault of theirs, sooner or later.

Even if I emerge victorious after passing through these lanes and reach the main road, I'm even more unlucky. The road at Begumpet is dug up, battered and harrowing. The dust due to the ongoing works is causing a pain to every commuter, irrespective of who complains and who doesn't. I do not want to see people being killed and their bodies going up in the air like flying saucers. These roads are death traps.

As a consequence to the already existing hardships, traffic congestion adds to woes. I do appreciate the traffic police personnel for monitoring the traffic and ensuring vehicle movement at all times, but I’d hope the traffic police put a little more thinking into not removing a unipole during the daytime, bringing the vehicular movement to a complete standstill.
Even the rain god shows no mercy at such times. To wreck things a little more and make life hell, rains, drains, roads and traffic are a curse to a common man.

Here, I have described what I have observed and gone through. If you don't consider it a blatant generalisation, I would be happy to inform you that this is the current scenario in the city (which you might be very well aware of). These problems stare you in the face.  Even after complaining repeatedly to the local corporators about these problems, no action has been taken.
When we, as citizens, are encouraged to work with the local administration to deal with such problems, what do we do if there's no response? I'm just one among the lakhs of people writing about this.

I do not hope to see a change, but would you consider an option of surprising us someday (with better roads and not-so-clogged drains)?

Yours faithfully,
A Hyderabadi

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why 'NOT' engineering or medicine!!

As far as I know, parents, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, have made Andhra people popular in the US. Why? Because, there is a trend that most here follow when it comes to education. It goes like this: Schooling at a corporate school (where timings for even kindergarten kids are more than eight hours - preparing them for the IITs and MBBS), Two years of Intermediate at a corporate college (which is standard 11 and 12th in ICSE and CBSE schools), run more or less by the same school owners and then an admission in an engineering or medical college. From there, MS in the US for engineering candidates and MD or whatever in another country for those pursuing MBBS.

"Schools need not have a playground"
This trend is followed by many in this state. Adding to this, the state government on April 24, 2011, had passed a Government Order (GO) 55 to cut down on Physical Education Teachers' posts in schools. It then went back on its decision and said: "Schools need not have playgrounds to secure recognition." Now, this has done more damage to kids who wanted to play than prepare for IIT exam to secure a seat in the so-called prestigious institution. However, it was an ego boost for parents who wanted their kids to slog to secure that 'prestigious' seat.
On the other hand, during the time when AP government passed GO:55, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka government were laying emphasis on Physical Education (PE) in schools. They were also mulling introducing a subject in the school curriculum.

Societal pressure
Now, there has been a debate about the Indian education system, its pros and cons. The education system in Andhra Pradesh schools is turning out to be pathetic and its people, illogical. Kids have no choice in it. They are compelled to study because the parents think the kid is useless if he/she doesn't become a doctor or an engineer.
Let me give you an example: The other day, my cousin was talking about how a mother promised to take the teachers (in that school) out for lunch, if her son (who is in Nursery) secured above 90 percent in his final examinations. When my cousin went to the school, the next day, to collect her son's report card, she asked one of the teachers why they looked all dressed. And the answer was: "We're going out for lunch (with that kid's mother).    
Also, with changing lifestyles and professions, parents are okay with putting the child through rigorous study hours and 'total care' at school. Now, here we have two types of schools or even more.

1. Corporate or Digital or Techno or whatever-you-call-it schools: These schools are generally run by the owners of corporate colleges like Narayana, Chaitanya, Vikas, etc. Their prospectus boasts of 100s of ranks, kids winning Olympiad (Maths and Science) and such competitions. But, they give least importance to communication skills, English, extra-curricular activities, sports and literary, painting competitions. They are of the view that these only waste a child's time, they do not help attain the knowledge the kids will have by studying Maths and Science.
2. International Schools: The concept of international schools is a farce. No one understands why they call it an international school. Is it because kids learn accented. American English which you otherwise can't learn? Is it because they offer A/C buses to kids only to spoil them? Is it because they force the use of gadgets on kids to build peer pressure? I do agree that there are kids who do academically well, but the impact of such riches on kids is bad.

Parents' role
Most parents do not have time for their kids. They have jobs which consume most of their time. They come home exhausted. Even if the child is yearning to talk to both of them at once, he/she cannot. If the mother/father is at home (in most cases, the mother is), it is even more difficult. Some kids, do not see their parents for days or sometimes, even weeks.
Even those who are not working have relatives, colleagues, friends inquire about which school the child is studying in. And, here's where the comparison begins. Even if the parents are dead-against their child studying in digital/techno/corporate schools, they might give it a shot or at least re-think their decision. It is true that parents are protective and care about their child's future. But you cannot make an Ambani out of your child when he/she is just three or four.

Child's psyche
Understanding a child's psyche is very important. Be it a three-year-old kid or a 17-year-old boy/girl, the rule applies for all. The fact that kids cannot decide for themselves when they are three is right. But, why are you forcing someone to study in a school that will not even let your child fall and pick himself up and learn that it is OKAY and that he/she will become stronger? Why put your child in a school to show off your riches or maintain status?
For example: A parent might be earning good enough to put his child in an international school that charges a bomb. But, you drop him in your Maruti 800 car. Now, you have a car and you are proud of it. But, after you drop your child at school, there are kids who will see which car the kid's dad has. I have come across instances where the parents of five-yr-old kids tell them not to talk to those kids who don't have cars. And, the kids follow their parents and do not make friends with one and all. They will grow like that. Now, this kid will be asked by his friends: "How many cars do you have? Which car do you have? Do you have a play station at home?, etc". Now, the poor kid has no answer. He will be laughed at because his dad doesn't have five cars like the others' dads, he doesn't have a PS3 which others do and so on.
This will have an impact on the child's psyche. He will go home and ask his parents. They might buy him a PS3, but what about five cars? Are they even bothered about their child and the peer pressure which is indirectly affecting them? In this case, the damage has been done.
Another example: My friend was telling me that he came across a father who had no clue of what Play Station was. But, the kid's stubbornness brought him to that shop. The father came to my male friend and asked: "Do you know what PS3 is and what's the cost of it"? My friend is into gaming and hence, knew about the intricacies of it. Now, the father only had Rs6,000 with him and the game that his kid wanted costed more than double the amount the father had.
The above example clearly shows how parents want to go the extra mile, even if they don;t have the money, to please their kids. But, what about those the money to afford? Wouldn't this be a burden? On the other hand, the child starts rebelling, whatsoever. It is easier for them to hate someone than love them, because anyone who gives them something they ask for is good for them. So, even parents are vulnerable to becoming the BIG BAD BOYS here. This will increase the gap between parents and kids. They stop sharing, keep secrets and start doing things without telling their parents. This is a reason to worry, for their parents.
Similarly, curtailing their freedom will only want to them do something which the parents ban them from doing. If you ask them to stop watching cartoons, they will, but at their friend's place, somehow. Same applies to those who might take interest in sports but parents do not let them go. This might make him/her worse. Unknowingly, you are spoiling your child. They will stop studying. They will not perform well in their academics if they are forced to do something they dislike or even constant comparison with other kids might prove fatal.  This way, kids do not grow emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually. Parents are responsible for STUNTING their kids' growth.
Their physical and mental health is ignored. You do not let your child play. He will sit at home and start eating. You have no problem feeding him burgers, pizzas and french fries. But you keep worrying that he is putting on weight. But, you restrict him from playing out.
Worried over his predicament, the kid over-eats. He will put on weight because of depression, has health problems and suffers mentally. This can become almost irrepairable.

Teachers/School's role
Setting up the above mentioned schools has become a fad and fetches good bucks. A visit to these schools makes you feel that the teachers are trained to lure parents into admitting their kids in such schools. They do not talk of physical education but maths and science and IITs and ranks. Even parents are touted into this and forget what they want, assuming this is THE school they've been looking for.
Second, the money these schools/colleges spend on ads (print and broadcast) makes you want to envy them. The broadcast ads make an instant impression on a desperate parent's mind and draws him/her to their school.
Third, these schools do not treat kids academically equal. There will always be kids who will not understand things easily, but might be talented in other subjects or areas. Such kids are ignored by these schools. They are separated from the rest of the "intelligent" kids who are given special training. Through this, they discriminate kids and make them feel they are unworthy. This also impacts a child's mental health.
Fourth, crowded places. These kids look like prisoners who can go for a break only when the bell rings once during the eight-hour schedule. 

What is happening to them?
Now, after their graduation, there is no productivity from these kids. Some of them do not reveal to their parents about what is happening in their lives and take to consuming alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc. Some go for higher studies and study MS, MD in foreign countries. Eventually, most of them are denied jobs. Why? Because they were not impressive enough for their employer to be hired. They return home and land up in a company. They manage to get a five-digit salary and think they're ruling the world. They talk of corruption, but do not step out of A/C or office. They talk of green environment and travel all alone in a car and so on. This only blinds them to the stark reality. They live in a world where the employer provides all the benefits and get "softwared" or begin getting fake certificates to become certified doctors or indulge in malpractices.
Please not that this is not the case with all, but most. 

The Alternatives
There are careers apart from Engineering and Medicine. The permissions for too many engineering and medical colleges in the state also has made it almost mandatory for parents to look at these as the only career options. There are very few takers for arts in the state. There are not many colleges that offer vocational courses and permissions for such colleges are not given. Why? Because they do not fetch good money like Engineering and Medical colleges. And, hardly any know of such courses.
For Example:  In a state where the broadcast media dominates the print, I work for the print. It is often shocking to see how people respond when I tell them I work for an English daily. They are astonished not because I work for English print media but because I'm a telugu girl who works for the print media. I'm often asked: "How are you working at a print media being a Telugu girl? You don't look like one also, so it is okay" are the replies I usually get. I make it a point to tell them that I've been lucky to have parents who never forced me to pursue engineering, though I was close to becoming a victim of it. I tell them my parents respect their kids' choices. However, they think, I'm a "very outspoken girl who doesn't listen/respect her elders and makes no sense and that I want to "get my ass kicked by being in this profession."
I was also asked about my marriage prospects and I'm almost certainly sure, I will not find a Telugu guy ideal for a marriage, if only it ever happens. (Because of this mindset)
Therefore,  I'd like to say that those who keep their eyes and ears open will find alternatives to Engineering and Medicine. There are a whole lot of career options in this state. Do not be ignorant of other options. Just have the patience to search for them and most importantly, identify the institutions that offer courses of  their interest. Explain to your kids about how their career would be if they chose a particular course. Go the extra mile here.    

A word of advice
Parents have to realise that their kids also have choices. Being overprotective, comparing them with other kids, putting them through stress (physical and mental) can be disastrous. It will only increase the gap between parents and kids. Do not make your kids dumb heads and averse to the world around them. Leave them. Let them explore and have their say in their lives, but be concerned.  
And, that is why, NOT engineering or medicine, but, I have chosen to be different and opted for JOURNALISM, have gone to another state to pursue my PG. :)

P.S. Andhraites (read Telugu people) do not go anywhere out of AP. IF they do, it will only be America and not any other state within India. :D :D