Thursday, May 12, 2016

READING TEACHERS

The Commentator says;
 If you read teachers, I mean, not the profession or system of teaching, but the individual human being who performs the roles of the teacher, you'll find it very awkward and boring. They are just as human as any other person sitting next to them in the local bus or train. The game changes when they are brought within a classroom environment. Like a piranha in a tropical lake, they suddenly attain an unprecedented ferocity, both in their dealing with students as well as any other realm of intellectual activity. Perhaps the only form understanding of cognitive psychology is that which deals with students or in general, the learner. What about the teacher? The commentator wonders if there exists a branch of psychology that deals with the teacher and his mind.

Investigating the faculty hideouts, places innocently termed as faculty rooms, one may locate the fact that many of the ferocious piranhas in classrooms are actually silent guinea pigs. Like all natural guinea pigs, the teachers too are subjected to experiments both by the managements of their institution and by the bodies appointed by the governments. The Commentator believes that interventions don't really change a teacher. Only a teacher's inner calling is capable of reforming him in making him the man of infinite wisdom.
Image Courtesy: www.melart.com

The Commentator feels that reading To Sir, With Love is a life-changing experience. This is so, especially for teachers. After reading this book, the Commentator felt that perhaps, this book has the capacity to amplify the inner-calling of teachers. A real-life experience, a true story, told in an artistically relevant fashion, in the form of a novel is thus a guide to those who are beginning as teachers. Their minds will expand at the wisdom offered by To Sir, With Love. Also they will see that some of the difficult classroom experiences are not unique at all. Those touching experiences that make your skin crawl in a classrooms might have happened several times to different teachers. What To Sir, With Love does is to prove to the teacher that their experience is not isolated and therefore not unsolvable. E R Braithwaite's classical classroom drama, this autobiographical novel, proclaims through its content that as a teacher you are not trapped either by your experiences or beliefs.

The Commentator has often felt that perhaps, it's idealism that renders immobility to the persona of a teacher. The teacher is robbed of flexibility of the state of being, sometimes, thinking that any attempt at modifying one's strategies would somehow dismantle the very identity of the teacher. Braithwaite, the protagonist of the novel To Sir, With Love is an engineer originally, who goes to try a teaching job. He has a reason that forces him to take up this new job at Greenslade School, East London. His reason is very simple. It does not require elaborate explanations: he couldn't find any other job because of his skin color. In a society that treats all people with dark skins as subhumans and worst than animals, Braithwaite is a question mark. He is well educated, able, and sharp. Why wouldn't he land a good job apt for his high qualifications?

Image Courtesy: Google
The impetus for Braithwaite to succeed in Greenslade School is not idealism. It is also important to note how demanding the principal of the school is. Mr. Florian, a man of principles, offers one-on-one lecture to impress Braithwaite on the ideal upon which the school runs, on his very first day itself. Braithwaite realizes on his first day at Greenslade School that he has entered a demanding profession. Don’t you agree that many of the young people, now, just like Braithwaite, enter teaching profession as a last resort, when they fail to find another job? Nevertheless, what Braithwaite does with his situation is quite a feat and a study aid to any student of teaching.

The Commentator believes that just like any other profession, teaching too demands a learner’s attitude from the employee. Teachers must acquaint themselves with cutting edge knowledge of the times in order to stay competent in their profession, a depressing lack of which is seen mostly in Kerala. A dilemma exists: if teaching is just a job or more than a job? The Commentator empathizes with the dilemma shared by many young teachers. The answer is not with me, though. It’s out there for you to find.  

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

THE DANCE OF DURGA by KANIKA DHILLON: A Review

The Commentator says;
The Dance of Durga is a novel with its plot set in India. Its appeal, though, is universal. The present body of Indian English Literature is mostly set in urban centers. This trend has set in motion a new feel to the Indian English literature, a new set of vocabulary too. The Dance of Durga is different in that this novel overcomes the obsession of the writers in India writing in English to downplay Indian-ness for a sweeping monolithic urban aesthetics.

Kanika Dhillon has a voice that takes readers to the villages of Northern India, a voice that is captivating. Although the chapters in this book move chronologically, the story moves with seasons. The Commentator felt imbued with the spirit of the summer and the chill of monsoon through the pages of this book. The Commentator has recently been under a literary fervor to read and explore whatever that is ‘Indian’ that has appeared in stories over the years. And two writers have bonded with the Commentator: R K Narayan and Ruskin Bond. The bangor of life in a small town is RK Narayan’s canvas. Bond on the other hand dealt with nature. Kanika Dhillon, in The Dance of Durga paints the landscape of an individual’s journey.
Kanika Dhillon with SRK // Image Courtesy: Google

The protagonist, Durga aka Rajjo, is not a usual heroine who is all good at heart. The Commentator observed streaks of grey in her persona. She is adamant in fulfilling her personal ambition. Her desire to replace Rani Maa, the godwoman is the driving force that transforms her life. However, the business of the godwoman is not all too spiritual. Observing Rajjo without her desire to achieve higher realms of power and possibilities would take us back to the village girl that she used to be. She suffered bitterly in love as a teenager. Although she is born with the gift of seeing future, she does not see the course her own life was about to take when she fell for Kashi.

After aborting the baby she was pregnant with in Kashi, her family marries her off to a wealthy old man. It’s imperative to question such a ridiculous system. This, though, is the Indian reality. Kanika K. Dhillon uses the machinations of realism in order to create the fantastic journey of Rajjo. The Commentator also noticed that the author used significant sensory details in this novel. As a reader, one could see, hear, and smell the background of the story. The innocence of childhood and village-life is followed by the thunderous catastrophe of Rajjo’s life with the abusive Sethji. The Dance of Durga is a monsoon of a novel.

The Commentator observes that the subjective space of Rajjo is saved by her own desire to be loved and fulfilled. Even in a predicament that could have pushed her life over the edge at Sethji’s house, she escaped due to her sheer will power. “Look for a desire and you will find your passion, your reason to be,” (100) she advises Raahat, the teenage boy she befriends at the Ashram, where she reaches after leaving Sethji’s house.
Image Courtesy: www.thehindu.com

The Commentator believes that the novel projects the thought that if you have the desire, the passion for something in your life, you could survive irrespective of the number of odds you face. In the Ashram, Rajjo finds two of her passions: to become a powerful person, like the godwoman Rani Maa, herself and to find Harsh Vardhan who is married to another woman.

The novel has two parts named Rajjo and Durga respectively. The first part is Rajjo’s struggle for recognition, the fulfillment of her desire, and survival. The second part is her life as the powerful Durga. Kanika Dhillon has worked previously for movies such as Ra.One by Red Chillies Entertainment Company, and the South Indian movie Size Zero. “She has written the hugely successful TV show for Disney called Ishaan” [Wikipedia]. Kanika’s career started out as “an assistant director to Farah Khan, on Om Shanti Om, and then moved on to Red Chillies's Billu Barber, which was directed by Priyadarshan”[IMDb]. Her skill as a screen writer has been evident in the genuine dialogues that appear in The Dance of Durga. Kanika Dhillon is also the author of the bestseller Bombay Duck is a Fish (2011). 



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