Nov 2009 – A trend blend!

I love traveling and my favourite destinations are the UK and France, especially the cities of London, Edinburgh and Paris; cities where the historical architecture and amazing buildings have been preserved so well that they are inhabited today even after 500 years.

What amazes me is the fine blend of traditional and modern worlds that coexist in these countries. These countries have a tradition of respecting, recording and preserving old culture and wisdom. At the Edinburgh Castle Museum as I was walking through what struck me was the huge section devoted to the great wars of Mysore and they had one huge wall filled with names of officers who died in those wars against Tipu Sultan. Walk through Srirangapatna and the guide cannot go beyond the name of Tipu Sultan.

If you ever happen to visit historical places in India; we only get to see ruins of India’s culture and take a deep breath and pride in its glory, but very little is done by any of us to preserve it. The only thing that we do today in the name of development is to bring down old structures and build new swanky structures over them which in no way are reflective of who we are as a nation.  The architecture of most Indian Airports is a case in point, great structures but nothing Indian about them.

If you were wondering why I am talking about tradition, I see a similar trend in the way in which we are treating our educational system. It seems like the entire country is out to change India’s Educational System.  Top priority is being given by the government in this direction. I just want you to hold back for a moment and look around you.  Today we are known as an emerging super power and we are on the threshold of greatness as a nation in the eyes of the world. All this is thanks to the educated Indian and one of the biggest qualified work force of the world. Incidentally we are all products of the so called old and outdated educational system.

The point that I am trying to reiterate here is that India’s traditional educational system that has been followed over the past 50 odd years was not that bad.  Yes of course it had its limitation that need to be worked upon, but my worry is that we are out to change it completely and we might lose its essence in the process.

It is very important that we identify the core strengths of the ‘Old School’ and ensure that it is nurtured and carried forward.  Bringing in innovation is important, but not at the cost of old wisdom. Let us strive to build an educational arena in India that has place for the ‘Old School’ thoughts and actions and enough room for modern innovation and technology to coexist. This is the ideal way forward.

Oct 2009 – A passion for life

“When I look at my school mates today and see how wonderfully well they are doing in life, I know for a fact that it was not the academics that shaped them but the sporting culture promoted at school that made us better team players capable of handling defeat and victory, adaptable and with a passion for life.”

Back at school, my Alma Mater–St. Germain High School, Bangalore it was mandatory for all students to get a hockey stick to school.

I was in Grade 3 then and I remember every student in school spending a lot of time during and after school hours playing hockey. In retrospect, the idea behind the compulsion I think, was not to make all of us hockey players but to expose all of us to the thrill of an amazing sport.

Our school had always been famous for sports and had produced some legendary sportsmen in the fields of cricket, hockey, athletics and football. This did not happen by chance.  There always was a concerted effort to encourage sports among students and the support and infrastructure provided was excellent. The sports department had a director, senior staff, junior staff and several qualified support staff. They were not pot-bellied middle-aged men who sat by the side of the field and directed students, but were active participants in the learning process and taught us by example not theory.

I can never forget the days when our entire school from Grades 3 to 10, almost 1000 boys walked 8 kms to witness a hockey match at the Sullivan Police Grounds near Brigade Road. The cheering, energy, excitement and the bonding that we witnessed is rarely seen today. I am sure today if something like that is done by schools, parents will file a case against the school for cruelty against children!.

In addition to sports, our school encouraged Cubs, Scouts and NCC among its students. My Hindi teacher doubled up as our Scouts master, my History teacher was the Cubs guide and the accounts teacher was the NCC coordinator. Years later I heard the term multi-tasking, I did not need a corporate management lesson to understand it.  Years ago my teachers were doing it so effortlessly.

Another important aspect was the fact that students who were good at sports were given a lot of support from the academic teachers to cope with their studies. This goes to prove that my school was also in the top league of schools in academics.  Father Hilary Periera was my school principal and he must have been almost 60 years old at that time.  I distinctly remember him wearing a white robe and holding a hockey stick and giving a tip or two to the hockey team. This is despite him having a limp in his leg and back problems.

Every time we won a final match we promptly got a holiday the next day.  That is how important a sport victory was for us. Our school did not have to have a special diet laid out for us.  We were young boys capable of digesting anything given to us and being fit was not a buzzword; it was a way of life for us. Sports was not a part of our school, it was a passion that ran right through the system!