March 1, 2016

It will soon be the Ides of March; and everything around seems to be unsettled. Here is another round of Random Reflections for your perusal:

1. College theatre, as I recall, used to be a lot of fun. In addition to acting, one learnt to improve diction, voice modulation and memory. Rehearsals were the best part of the whole drama. In the last week of February, in Delhi, several colleges performed evening theatre. I managed to catch two plays, both very stimulating. The themes were contemporary: one, a comedy, in which a taxi driver has two wives; another, freedom for daughters to be themselves, a hard-hitting commentary. I wonder how many such opportunities are available in smaller towns? How can we get our young to learn theatre?

2. Following the British tradition, the Annual Budget of the national government in India is presented on the last working day of February in parliament. So, yesterday (29 February) that budget was presented. For the next one week, all television channels, newspapers and magazines will debate the various features of the budget. Many seminars and forums will also be organised in this regard. This exercise has also been going on for the past two weeks before the budget, and media is generally obsessed with it. In the meanwhile, a large number of state assemblies have had their budget session, with hardly any notice by national media or intellectuals. If much of what transpires in the lives of ordinary people in the country is a consequence of how state governments function, it is all the more critical that these budgets are scrutinised and debated more seriously.

3. A visiting delegation of academics from South Africa informed that post-graduate level courses on community development (CD) are very popular amongst students. When quizzed further, it was learnt that ‘CD was as popular as MBA.’ This is in complete contrast to what is happening in India; thousands of courses of various forms of management are the craze of the youth; if ‘management’ is in the title of the course, it must be good! Serious post-graduate level academic programmes on community development are withering away in India, where community development began in 1948!

4. We have now become a violent society. If we disagree, we act violently. The most common form of expression of this violence is burning of buses and other public property. Recent violence in Haryana witnessed large-scale burning of private property too—homes, shops, vehicles. Who will pay for this? Why should my tax revenue be so wasted? The current investigation may identify a few people involved, but hundreds of violent men (and they were ALL men) were engaged in such acts of violence. Amazing that we have allowed this to continue as long as I can remember!

5. How can I not comment on the ‘student uprising’ as media is full of JNU on its screens and pages over the past fortnight? Many of us have been on college campuses; many of us have been rebellious against all forms of authority—in colleges, homes and workplaces. I recall feeling a certain excitement in those acts and moments of rebellion; it energised us as nothing else (certainly not academic stuff). Some of us discovered our values and principles in the course of such rebellion; some others figured out the ‘limits to rebellion’ too; some did learn the fine art of ‘negotiation’ in the process. Did we learn how ‘the other’ perceives the same reality differently?

All the very best
Rajesh Tandon