Friday, 27 May 2011

What are some of the problems faced by schools in rural areas of North India?

While no doubt the Central Government along with the State Governments is doing a lot to improve the quality of education in rural areas of India under the Sarv Shikshya Abhiyan programme, a lot more needs to be done to address the problems at the grass root level.

A major issue is the alarming drop out rate among the female students in the schools in the rural areas of Delhi, U.P. Punjab and Haryana. There are various factors responsible for this. Among these is that girls have to travel long distances in order to reach their schools. Thus we can blame poor transport facilities or poor connectivity as one of the reasons why girls drop out of school very early. Since parents are often worried about the safety of girls who have to travel long distance, they make them drop out of school! An important way of tackling this problem is to open more schools in the neighbourhood, or to provide the girl students better and safe transport facility. It is a common sight to see overloaded vans and autos moving at great speed in the rural areas with students on board!

One important issue faced by many rural schools is the shortage of clean drinking water. Often, the schools have to make do with their own submersible pumps, and so it is difficult to monitor the quality of water. In terms of hygiene, a lot more needs to be done about providing students with good toilets. The number of toilets in many rural schools falls much below the ratio fixed for the number of toilets per students.Some schools don’t even have boundary walls, this makes them unsafe, especially those close to main roads and public highways.

As far as the Mid-Day Meal is concerned, this is in itself a positive step on the part of the Government, but then it requires monitoring at the school level to ensure that the quality of the food supplied is good. The Governments are paying a lot of money for the improvement of the quality of education in rural areas, but as far as utilisation of  is concerned, a lot more needs to be done! One major reason for poor utilisation of funds could be the abrupt transfer of Principals while they are in the middle of a project. The new Principal or Head Master wouldn’t know about the project or the funds that have been used so far. Thus, it is clear, proper utilisation of funds for various important projects should take place, and there should be transparency in the whole process.

There is a greater need to make school buildings and their surroundings look more attractive and inviting to the students. I remember when I was in Delhi, there was the concept of BALA or Building As a Learning Aid. In a leading public school in sector 15, Gurgaon, a portion of the ground has been developed into a Science Theme Park, where  there are telescopes, levers, pulleys, perpetual-motion gadgets…etc.  Making the schools attractive to students is a must today! A pleasant surrounding, greenery, science theme parks, and enough ground for sports will surely make schools in rural parts of North India more attractive!

What ails our schools in rural areas of North India?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Land Acquisition Norms, Need for Review?

The recent resentment and agitation in one of the villages in Noida calls for a review of Land Acquisition Norms. Often, under pressure to develop housing societies and build express ways, Governments are forces to acquire the land of farmers. In many cases the farmers get a compensation package which is much below the commercial value of the land from which they earn a living! What makes the issue of land acquisition more painful for the farmers is that they lose the means of earning a living. The financial package is soon depleted on luxuries like cars, mobiles, plasmas t.vs. to mention just a few! Once the money is depleted, the farmers have nothing left from which to earn a living! No wonder, the crime graph in various rural areas are on the rise, and you can imagine how unemployment, and the enjoyment of a brief but high standard of living makes the youth unable to go for lower paying jobs!

It is high time the various State Governments should work out a more rational and transparent compensation package for farmers whose land is being acquired, keeping in mind that their livelihood is being snatched from them. Keeping all these facts in mind, the compensation package should be at least two to four times the market value of the land. A situation should be created where farmers come forward to the Government with offers of getting their land acquired! Unfortunately, haphazard growth of urban areas, lack of master plans for major cities, bottlenecks on highway, encroachments and a burgeoning population have all added to the problem. Also, building of express ways has become rather fashionable. I don’t understand why perfectly good roads are being torn up to make way for the so called express ways. Perhaps what makes express ways more attractive is the toll tax collected by them! Thus till now, it is clear that farmers are at the losing end when their land is acquired by the Government, unless of course they sell their land to a private developer who would pay them a better amount for their land!

Land Acquisition and Farmers’ Agitations

Monday, 23 May 2011

Armageddon and the End of The World Predictions

There is a lot of hype about predicting when the world will end. While the book of Revelation does talk about the end of the world, it is very difficult to decipher it. Then came Nostradamus, and he, it is said predicted how the world would end. Well, the world has not ended till now! A large number of cults along with their leaders predicted the world would end after a space craft arrived over head. Blame it on the Branch Davidians and David Koresh! This obsession with nihilism, or destruction is linked to the concept of Existentialism as propounded by Nietzsche and Kant. The concept of existentialism questions the meaning of life and it  concludes that we are all stuck within the circle of life from which there is no escape. Joseph Conrad’s Novel “Lord Jim’ and most importantly, the novella, “The Heart of Darkness” postulate that  ultimately, their is no purpose of life, and that Man is essentially bad, because that Id. is waiting to wreak vengeance, the beast within is straining to break its shackles and wreak havoc. I remember the lines from Shakespeare’s Play, Julius Caesar, where Mark Antony predicts the unleashing of the “dogs of war” to wreak vengeance on the conspirators who had killed Caesar.
The theory of existentialism assumes that  human beings are free and responsible for their own actions in a world without meaning or the presence  of God. It is within the context of a growing disillusionment, lack of faith, coupled with an increasing dependence on Artificial Intelligence or A.I. that people have started fantasising about Armageddon and the End of The World! Remember that movie, “2012”? What about that movie, “Water World”? There is even a movie titled, “Armageddon”! Somehow it seems as if there is this self-destruct switch in everyone. No wonder so many successful socialites might have used this self-destruct switch, albeit through an overdose of drugs. Some pertinent examples would be Marilyn Monroe, or perhaps Anna Nichole Smith?
Suppose, therefore that there is a collective destruct switch, what then would happen, Imagine the power of throwing a switch which snuffs out the lives of countless lives? Doesn’t it give the leader immense power over his subjects? Thus, if you can predict the end of days, then it gives you immense fan following! It gives you immense power over a large number of people! And of course power intoxicates you, and you make all sorts of wild predictions about how the world will end! If man can predict how the world will end, then what is God’s role? The Holy book very clearly suggests  that no one will know about the exact date of the Second Coming, although it advises us to be prepared at all times and not to think about repenting at the eleventh hour, lest the eleventh hour should never come!
Thanks to Hollywood, we now know that the ancient Mayans believed that the world would end in 2012. The myth of the Phoenix talks about the phoenix bird which is consumed by a fire every 1000 years, only for a younger bird to emerge from its ashes! Now there is talk about anti-matter, or dark matter which is threatening to devour our world. Mathew Reilly has talked about this dark matter or anti matter in his book “The Six Sacred Stones”. This book describes how the principal characters have to race against time to place six sacred stones in six different locations on the Earth in order to start  the Machine which will prevent the dark matter from devouring the Earth. The Earth itself is a giant machine according to the Novel. The documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” draws a very grim picture about the impact of Global Warming, and it even draws a computer simulation about the end of days for us humans! Today we know that there are some statistical errors in this otherwise brilliant documentary by Al Gore and R.K.Pachauri.
The President and General Manager of  Family Radio Harold Camping had Labelled May 21 as, “World Wide Judgement Day”, fortunately, the world has not come to an end! Hollywood has made many movies based on how the world will end. Some titles that come to mind are, 2012, Independence Day, Water World, Judgement Day, The Day after Tomorrow…and so on.The Documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” also figures in the list of films that have tried to paint a picture about how the world will end. The Sci-Fi flick series of Terminator also paint a picture of a world taken over by Robots and the series describes a world where Man is pitched against Robots. Whatever may happen I believe we should live life to the fullest. We should appreciate Nature as a creation of The Almighty Lord. And of course we should have strong faith in The Almighty Lord knowing well that He has plans for all of us which are beyond Scientific or Statistical Analysis! Life is a paradigm which is incomparable, and it is beyond analysis. It is better not to guess what God has planned about the end of the world.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

My Memories of a Bygone Era In Dhanpatmal Virmani Sr.Sec School


While browsing through my hard disk I came across some photographs that I had taken of the 2009 Annual Day we celebrated in Dhanpatmal Virmani Senior Secondary School. For a brief moment I was transported to the past. It is very difficult to let go of the past especially when it spans seventeen years of your formative years. I give credit of my success to the seventeen years that I spent as a Lecturer in the Dhanpatmal Virmani Sr.Sec.School. The support of the Management, especially the support given to me by The Chairman of the Dhanpatmal Virmani Senior Secondary school, Mr.Anil Virmani was crucial. I remember how once he told me about a module created by T.C.S. which could be used to teach a person to read in Hindi in 40 hours and he asked me to contact T.C.S. for it. I contacted T.C.S. and was indeed able to get the Cds.! It was a wonderful time I had in Dhanpatmal Virmani Sen. Sec.School. Mr.Anil Virmani encouraged me to go for The Intel Teach to the Future programme. I was able to complete my beginner’s level certificate course followed by my Master’s level under the guidance of Mr.Anil Virmani! I hope to be of continued help to the Dhanpatmal Virmani Management as an expression of gratitude for nurturing me.A special thanks to Madam Asha Kishore for always lending me an ear and giving me the best possible advice during my tenure in the school! Mr.Amitav Virmani, the then Manager also is an inspiration to me. He is dedicated towards the upliftment of children and he has a mission in life. Thanks to all of you!The few photographs given below rekindle my memories in the Dhanpatmal Virmani Sr.Secondary School.



















                                                       Worthy members of our trust and management









Tuesday, 17 May 2011

In Defence of a Sycophant

I have come across many types of people in  the forty plus years of my life, but none is more unique or exclusive than the sycophant! He is ever demeaning and self-effacing as you will see. I have seen a few street curs ingratiating themselves before a more healthy and powerful Alsatian or, forbid it, a Rottweiler! And, it is in that street cur that you will see the human equivalent or the Sycophant! 

Sycophancy in itself is an acquired art, and it doesn’t come easily! There are some exclusive institutes which provide degree courses in Sycophancy, but then they are so exclusive that the lesser candidates might not even be allowed within a hundred yards of the exclusive institutes. Ha, I once tried to apply for a course in Sycophancy, but was turned off the gates of the worthy institute after being told that I didn’t fulfil the eligibility criteria required for admission to the course. It was after this rejections that I thought that I would study this unique species called The Sycophant.

My studies of the Sycophants have shown the following traits: The accomplished Sycophant will greet his boss with a very low bow, and if he had a tail, then you would see it wagging furiously! The rolling eyes and the bashful grin are the second trait of the sycophant. The staccato repetition of “yes Sir” and the speed thereof will tell you about the level of accomplishment achieved by the Sycophant! He is ever ready to lay down his life for you, although the moment things become serious, he will be the first to run away!He is like a creeper which requires a stout stem for support. Without your support, the sycophant will wither away! The sycophant seems to mumble the words, “without you, my lord, will I be nothing, for you are my lord, and you are my refuge” in a frenzied tone!

I did write a poem on the character of the sycophant, but then, no one even bothered to read it! I then thought that perhaps I might write about this worthy topic in prose and not verse, so that perhaps, then I would be able to get admission in a reputed institute of sycophancy. I have heard that Sycophancy is one of the highest paying callings in this world. I have heard from reputable sources that Sycophancy is soon to be introduced in schools as a vocational subject. Well good luck to those who are able to do this course, they will be more successful in life than me. I don’t bear the successful sycophants any grudge for being more successful in life than me! Well, I am not jealous in nature, and won’t begrudge the successful Sycophant a word of admiration!

I have often been scolded by my friends and family, and relatives for not being more ingratiating and for not grovelling a little more before my teachers, but then what to do, I haven’t developed this rather elusive art and skill. Well I guess I will have to continue receiving scolding from everyone for being such  hopeless  material for sycophancy. Well I salute all those people who are such accomplished sycophants, and wish them the best in life. As for me, well I guess, I will continue observing accomplished Sycophants and write about them, albeit with awe and a little bit of envy!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Morning Walk


I am greeted by the rising sun, red, round like a ball,

My cheeks caressed by  the cool fresh breeze. I will

Swing  my  arms  as  I  power  into   my  walk!   Well,

Ready  for the  fight of the day, at the world I smile !


On my walk I  come across  many  early risers.

Three  men   briskly   walk , the  tallest in front,

The   shorter  bring  the  rear  while  he  blocks

The road  as if he owns it!  He’s the parliament!


The old  man see I back bent double! He shuffles

With   the   help  of  a   walking   stick !  He  greets

All and Me with a “Ram, Ram” each time we pass!

Ah, well a well,  age thou art surely forgetfulness  !


I  step  lightly  into  the park at the end only to see,

The    same   old  woman  sweeping  the  road. Face

Serene, Boxed with silver hair,crossed with wrinkles,

For   it’s   true,  the  end  of  my  walk   marks   she!


Thus,  ends    my   daily  lesson  in  life!  You start

Briskly  but   slow  down  towards the  end.  Sweet

Sunrise    marks   our  birth  while   weary  Sunset

Marks   Slumber, ’cause at the end, sleep is must!


Life  starts  with  a jump, a  leap,  a kick,

To end  in a  shuffle  and  a walking stick.

You end  up sweeping  the road  in front,

Your  walk  a shuffle, Day in and day out!

Back   bent   with  the   years  of  weight !

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Remembering Kandaghat Heritage Railway Station- a Fairy-Tale Railway Station

I was filled with great shock and sorrow when I read in the newspapers that the Kandaghat railway station was recently gutted by a fire that broke out late at night. I was particularly fascinated by the ancient style of the building when I visited Shimla during the summer vacations last year(2010). We were putting up at a resort called the Falcon Crest at Kandaghat, and we planned one day to take a train from the  Kandaghat station to Shimla. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a train. But nevertheless we spent time drinking the special tea at the station, and just looking and admiring the station. It is a good thing that I took photographs because now I know that photographs are all that remain of that Heritage Railway station. I am most glad therefore to share my photographs of that railway station.  I was particularly impressed by the ancient weighing machine that I found there. The building looked rather quaint and somehow I couldn’t help but be transported back to a time when engineers were cutting the mountains to make way for the tracks and the station. Travelling by train from Shimla to Kalka ( I got off at Kandaghat) is an amazing experience. I just wanted to remain at the station and just wanted to soak in the atmosphere of quaintness, an atmosphere of History. The very walls of the station stood testimony to the skills of the Engineers, and the men who toiled so many years to make this a masterpiece of Railway engineering! Well just below are the photographs that I took:


DSCN1636 Quaint Benches dating 1908
Waiting for the Toy Train
Ancient Weighing Machine Dating 1907!
DSCN1640                    DSCN1642


DSCN1648 And the Train finally arrives!

Given below are photographs taken by my daughter, Aastha R. Lal:
                                                                    Waiting for the train
DSC08358                    DSC08362

DSC08363                    DSC08368

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Where the Mind is in deep Turmoil


Where the mind is in turmoil,stuck in a gyre,

And the clouds of adversity surround you,

You wonder if it is worth after all?

To take a sabbatical from the gyre

Of turmoil might offer solace!

But, Nietzsche tells us it is not worth!

So, they take the easy way out,

By topping themselves!

There are none that can get out of the gyre,

For life is a circle that goes

Round and round from which you can’t get out!

So, success and failure cancel themselves out!

There’s no such thing as success, before the circle of Life!

Is this life worth living, Nietzsche?


Few are those who are able to break out of the

Circle that’s called life. None have I heard about!

Many regress into the heart of darkness,

None come out! Death rears his ugly head,

Watching for each one of us, he ,the great

Leveller, where rich and poor turn to dust,

For Alexander came to nought after crossing the

Ganges. Malaria brought him  down!

For he was stuck in the gyre of life,

A circle from which he had no escape!

What then, is the importance of achievement,

If you can’t break through the circle of life?

For, are we all stuck in the great circle called Life.

Round and round we go, like a merry go round!

Is this what life offers to us, a circle we

Can’t break from?

Success and Glory and Achievement and Success

Come to nought before this great circle of Life!

Let me sleep the deep slumber for am I tired of struggle!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Home coming to Epiphany Church-Gurgaon




After attending a function at the Bishop’s residence in the evening of the thirtieth of April, I decided to stay in Gurgaon for the night so as to return to Jagadhri the next day. I wanted to attend mass in the Epiphany church, Gurgaon on Sunday along with my family. I told my wife that I had to attend mass in the church for sentimental reasons since I would be returning to the church after a whole month. I reached the church in the morning at a quarter past eight and received a pleasant surprise to see Revd. Daman and his family in the church. In fact it felt like a homecoming for me to be back in the church where I had been attending Mass since the year 1985, the year I came  to India from Ethiopia for further studies. The compound seemed to beckon to me, the trees, and the benches seemed to greet me with the words, “welcome back!” Bhairo, the church bearer who is without hearing mouthed the words, “jai Masih Ki!”  Stepping into the church, I was pleasantly surprised to see Revd.Daman and his family (He is based in Ambala). He too had stayed back in Gurgaon after attending the function in Delhi. Revd.Mangla was at his post by the altar,Mr.D.D.Lal too was at his post. After sometime, Revd.Samuel Ashish Jacob, the Presbyter in charge arrived. We exchanged smiles and greetings, and it seemed as if I was back home! Revd. Ashish then told me that I was to read the prayer of Intercession, to which I readily complied! After some time  the rest of the congregation filed in, Mr. S.S. Hughes, Mr.Dipender Benjamin and his wife and kids, Mr.Pramod Sagar, the Secretary of the Pastorate Committee,Colonel Sen, Captain Jaipreet, Mrs.Jasmine Samuel, and all the regular church members arrived.A second pleasant surprise was to see Revd. Sudhir step into the church. It felt so good to see all of them. The sheep had returned to its fold after a day of grazing. Then came the moment of announcements, and I was saddened to know that Revd. Samuel had been transferred to another church and that he would be in Gurgaon till the fifteenth of May. We were further saddened that his sister, Janet is not keeping well, and only a miracle would save her! Well, God does work in strange ways and he has plans for everyone; we all prayed for her. I wonder how a gap of just one month makes one feel so emotional. I guess, it is only when we are are separated from our dear ones that we realise how valuable they have been to us! The same may be said for my family in Gurgaon whom I meet rarely during the entire month! Well, the intercession went on well, Revd.Sudhir, Revd. Daman,and Revd.Mangla, helped Revd. Samuel serve the Holy Sacrament. Service ended, and we all gathered in the Church lawn to exchange pleasantries. It felt so good to be home!


 2011-05-01 10.33.32