Monday, May 30, 2011

Medium of Primary Instruction

About a month back an old issue came to life once again. The issue of medium of instruction in primary schools. The Issue is not the medium instruction as such. It is the government aid given to primary schools.

In the beginning all schools which were eligible for aid got aid. Then the government decided that the mother tongue should be the medium of instruction at primary level and said that it would not give aid to English medium schools. That was about twenty years back. Schools which were teaching in English either switched to local languages (Konkani/ Marathi in Goa) or charged extra fee for English medium. This went on for nearly twenty years. This year suddenly there was a demand from a large section of the society that the government give aid to English medium schools also. There was also a section which opposed aid to English medium. Depending up on which side of the bread they saw butter, politicians took sides.

Arguments and counter arguments flew thick. Mother tongue supporters said that a child can grasp much better what is taught in mother tongue and so, teaching in MT forms a firm knowledge base and many more such things. English supporters said that our children are losing out because they are deprived of English which is absolutely necessary for future prospects and many more such things. After kicking the issue around for some time and passing it on to the ‘Center’ for views, the ruling party saw that there were more numbers behind English and announced that “after careful consideration of all aspects” it has decided to give aid to English medium schools too. The section of politicians who were against English medium - the ‘Bharatiya bhasha suraksha mandal’ decided to protest and held a ‘rasta roko’ and also called for Goa bundh on 6th june.

My view is that both the arguments are baseless. A child can learn in any language and can learn any language if taught properly at the appropriate time. My vision does not go far. But what I have seen near me makes me feel so. I learnt in Kannada medium till 7th standard and then switched to English medium. Whatever others say, I think that I am not bad either in Kannada or in English or in anything that I learnt using these languages. My sister learnt in English medium till 7th standard and learnt Kannada only later. She is better than me in both and everything else. My children’s primary education was neither in English nor in their mother tongue Kannada. They learnt in Konkani and are fine in Kannada, English and Konkani as well as whatever they learnt in those languages.

The whole thing was bugging me. The photograph of our leaders squatting on the highway blocking the traffic and the “Bundh”call, both of which I always hate, increased the irritation and I had to say something somewhere. So I wrote a letter to “Navhind Times”. I do not know if they were short of words today. They published it with a heading “Nuisance to Public”.

Nuisance to Public.

It was disgusting to see the ex chief ministers, sitting M L As, MP, and so called dignitaries and intellectuals posing proudly for the photograph while blocking the high way.
Blocking the road, (other than providing news coverage to these people), only causes hardships to citizens and nothing else. This is just a step away from acts like stone pelting, setting fire to buses and cutting railway lines and is a disgrace to any civil society.
These people who should condemn such acts are encouraging them.
It is a pity that our leaders cannot even think of better ways of protest.
Now they have called for Goa bundh on 6th June. Yet another nuisance. Where are our leaders leading us?

M S Raghunandan, Ponda

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mango Season

Mango season is here again. The first few mangoes were seen in the market about a month back. ‘Mankurad,’ the most sought after variety in Goa was being sold at about hundred rupees a piece and there were people to buy it at that price! Some soul who longed for those mangoes but could not afford them, wrote in the letters to editor coloumn - ‘Mangoes beyond common man’s reach’- and suggested that the government regulate the prices! After about fifteen days the price came down to about five hundred rupees a dozen and the news papers announced “Goa’s famous Mankurad with in common man’s reach”. Five hundred rupees a dozen and that is within common man’s reach! I am way below a common man then. I should ask for a BPL (below poverty line) card from the government. After that I noticed a steady increase in the quantity of Mangoes in the market but still did not dare to ask the price.

Since last week there are hawkers selling mangoes in almost every street corner. In one corner I found a small boy (less intimidating) in front of a basket of Mangoes and hesitatingly asked for the price. It was two hundred rupees a dozen. My wife is very fond of mangoes and I had noticed her eating them with her eyes whenever we went to the market. So, I bought half a dozen mangoes.

Two days after that first half dozen the price came down to about hundred and fifty, and I purchased a dozen fruits from Sandeep naik. Sandeep is a vegetable vendor who shifts to mangoes in mango season. In a market full of sellers who try their best to attract customers, he stands like a ‘sthitapragna’ (he who accepts happiness and sorrow, ups and downs, alike and in general is not perturbed by anything) in the center of four or five baskets containing fruits of different sizes and different varieties. If enquired, he will point at the baskets saying “three hundred, two fifty and two hundred” or so. His price is fixed. No bargaining. If you bend over the basket he hands you a plastic bag and looks away. You may take half an hour to select the fruits you want. Once you have selected the fruits and put them in the bag you hold it in front of him and say how many you have picked. He will not even count them. He will nod his head, take your money and give you the change. He will not prevent you from selecting what you want even if you upturn the whole basket. Very much unlike the other sellers who shout at you and almost wring your neck if you try to displace one or two from the top and try to get at those placed at the bottom. His attitude suits me and I usually buy from him.

A dozen mangoes do not last long in our house and I had thought that if the quality of the Mangoes was good, I would go back to the market and buy another dozen. Just as I entered the house I saw two plastic bags full of mangoes placed next to the stairs. One of our neighbours, who knew that we were partial to the fruit and had been to the market before me, had found the price very reasonable, and had bought two dozens for us. A goodwill gesture for having removed his tooth free. We like Mangoes yes. But what to do with three dozens? It was nearing ten in the morning and I thought I will give it a thought after the clinic and went to attend to the first case. The first patient on my list, who owns a farm, entered carrying another bag of mangoes. Now we had nearly five dozens. As I finished the morning session and was about to close the door, a car arrived in front of our house. It was the driver of one of my friends carrying a box containing mangoes all from the trees in their huge compound and all of them ripened on the tree.

That evening, the old lady who stays next to our house slowly walked in carrying her quota. During Mango season, she sits in front of her house watching her tree, with a few stones and a stick at her disposal, waiting for the ripe mangoes to fall. She collects all the mangoes that fall from the tree and is aided by the stones and stick in keeping other contenders like the cattle, crows and the neighbourhood children away. Usually she has a heap of fruits next to her by evening. They are not dessert mangoes but the ones used for making mango curry. I had given her one guava fruit from our tree and she has free access to our hibiscus plants. The investment was bringing dividends. We could not refuse her hard earned mangoes.

I do not know in what ‘muhurat’ I purchased the first half dozen. Since then It is raining Mangoes in our house and there are heaps of Mangoes in all corners of our kitchen. Different qualities in different stages of ripening. Good ‘Mankurad’ just right to be cut and consumed are placed separately. Unripe ones are in another corner. Over ripe ones to be converted in to pulp or juice are in yet another place. The ones to be used in cooking are still in their bag. We have distributed Mangoes to whoever we could reach but still have about five dozens with us. There is a pleasant mango fragrance all over the house. In case anyone is intending visiting us these days, be prepared for Mango juice on arrival, mango pulp with rotis and mango curry with rice for lunch, and cut finest Mankurad for dessert.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama dead - My take

Osama is dead. America got its revenge. But the Taliban, Al quaeda, JEM, LET etc etc are all very much alive and kicking. The British danced in the streets because their prince got married. Americans are dancing because their enemy is dead. Both happenings are of no consequence to the society at large. Foolish people rejoicing over these things probably because there is nothing else to rejoice over.

Major beneficiary of Osama’s death - Obama. He got something to boost his image.
Next, the TV channels. They got something to keep the viewers engaged.
Third, me. Got something to write a few lines about.