An online documentation of the khojis' learnings and doings.

I would like to share a story that I adapted from the nobel prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore, in which he warned us of the dangers of McEducation for All almost 75 years ago.

In The Parrot’s Training, we are told of a golden cage that is built to imprison the wild and uncivilized parrot so that she can be properly educated by the king’s pundits. In addition to the 3Rs, she should also learn who is the Boss as well as be familiar with all the latest global brands.

First, the teachers tried stuffing the bird with pages of the official textbooks. That didn’t work. Then a UNICEF project came with all kinds of child-friendly and joyful techniques. They also taught the parrot about child rights.

No improvement.

Then the World Bank gave a loan to the king (with austerity conditionalities of course) to build a bigger cage with a nice toliet.

Still, no difference.

Then the OECD came with the PISA standardized tests and new a national policy white paper was written. Harvard researchers were invited to conduct studies on the parrot’s brain and multiple intelligences.

Nothing worked.

Then Apple gave it an iPad and a free high speed wifi connection. She even got her own facebook page.

But the parrot was not allowed to leave the cage despite her obvious distress. In fact she was scolded for being ungrateful and impertinent. Anti-depressants drugs were prescribed.

As the parrot was overstuffed with information, she internalized her label as a ‘slow learner’ and a ‘failure’ and lost her power of self-designed learning. She became totally dependent on the cage. Her dreams were reduced to being a rat in the rat-race. A deep loss of purpose ensued. Slowly her spirit withered away.
In the end, a lot of people made a lot of money on the parrot’s education, everyone benefited except the parrot.

The time has come to more deeply understand the nature of the cage and its impact on each of us and our communities in both the South and the North – beyond what the World Bank economists tell us.

It is important to crack open and re-examine our definitions of progress, success, happiness and to look at how our imaginations for social action have been colonized by the cage.

We also need to question the assumption that, if we keep adding more and more stuff onto the cage, we can actually fix or transform its fundamental nature.

Manish Jain,
Shikshantar: The Peoples’ InstituShikshantarte for Rethinking Education and Development
83 Adinath Nagar, Udaipur, Rajasthan, 313004 INDIA
Tel: 91-294-245-1303
Web: www.swaraj.org/shikshantar

एक तमाशा सा चल रहा है
इन दिनों वतन में
जिसे देखो अपनी पूड़ियाँ
तल रहा है वतन में
सूबा कोई लथपथ हो चला है खून में

संसद में जूता चल रहा है वतन में
बिहारी,मराठी, हिन्दू, मुस्लिम
जाने क्या क्या क्या जल रहा है वतन में
किसान पानी में प्रदर्शन करते हैं
नेता ए सी में चल रहा है वतन में
फिर कोई नै खबर तलाशते हैं लोग
पुराना मुद्दा फिसल रहा है वतन में
तेरी तशरीफ़ तू ही बचा…
अपना तो मस्त चल रहा है वतन में…

Poem by Rahul 4

तुम्हारे ख्वाब की कीमत क्या हैं…

और इसके ख्वाब की, उसके ख्वाब की…
हम सब के ख्वाब की, जो जवान हैं उन्हें हकीकत का अंदाज़ा नहीं हैं
और जो बूढ़े हैं वो हार मान चुके हैं, जमाना ऐसे ही चलता हैं…
जो सजा हमने भुगती उससे बदतर सजा हमारे आने व
ाली पीढ़ी भुगतेगी

हम सब इसका ही तो इंतज़ाम कर रहे हैं

हममे कोई गुस्सा नहीं हैं, कोई आवाज़ नहीं हैं, किसी आवाज़ देने वाले के हम साथ नहीं हैं…

ऐसा लगता हैं हम ख़ामोशी से हमारी ही मौत का इंतज़ार कर रहे हैं
हाँ हमारी ही मौत का…
तुम्हारी, इनकी, उनकी, मेरी, हम सब की मौत का…

आओ बेटियो, आओ बेटियो

स्याह सदी के कफ़न से,इस अंधे चमन से
हर सैलाबे घुटन से बाहर आओ बेटियो ,
ऐलान-ऐ-ख़ुदी का अब दौर आ गया है।

आँचल में सिसको न छुप-छुप जियो
सर उठा के फ़ख्र से तुम जियो बेटियो ,
अब जिल्लत की रुख़सत का दौर आ गया है।

हर घर की लाली, हो फूलों की डाली
बन ख़ुशबू फिज़ाओं में घुल जाओ बेटियो ,
घर-आँगन को महकाने का दौर आ गया है।

भुला बुर्के की चोट, हटा घूंघट की ओट
हिला ज़ुबाँ-ओ-होंठ आवाज उठाओ बेटियो ,
एक नई दुनिया बनाने का दौर आ गया है।

हटेंगी सलाख़ें, टूट जायेंगी बेड़ियाँ
बन खुद लौहार ये ज़ंजीरें पिंघलाओ बेटियो ,
लौह के मौम हो जाने का दौर आ गया है।

सब दीवारें गिरीं, मिट गये फासले
आज बेटों सी तुम हो गई हो बेटियो ,
रिसते घावों के भरने का दौर आ गया है।

ये ज़मीं कह रही है, आसमाँ कह रहा है
बॉंहे फैलाये ज़म़ाना कहे आओ बेटियो ,
तुम्हें सीने से लगाने की जी चाह गया है।

आओ बेटियो, आओ बेटियो ……….

और न जाने किस गफलत में हम गुम हैं…

हममे से अधिकतर जवान लड़के-लडकियां ये ख्याल रखते हैं की राजनीती उनके लिए नहीं हैं उनकी जिन्दगी तो इक खुबसूरत नोकरी करते हुए बितनी चाहिए जिसमे वो शनिवार और रविवार की खुबसूरत छुट्टियां बिता सके पैसे की कोई कमी नहीं हो और हम आराम से अपनी जिन्दगी बिता सके,

मगर मैं पूछना चाहता हूँ उनसे जिन्होंने अपनी पढाई पूरी करली हैं क्या उनको ऐसी जिन्दगी मिल गई हैं ?

और क्या जो पढ़ रहे हैं उनको ऐसी जिन्दगी मिल जाएगी…

बुरा मत मानना मैं तुम्हारा दुश्मन नहीं हूँ में खुद भी तुम्हारे लिए यही चाहता हूँ मगर ये तुम्हारे ख्वाब हैं और ये पुरे नहीं हो सकते मैं तुम्हे ये हकीक़त बताना चाहता हूँ हमारे मुल्क की सियासत ने हमें उन हालातो में ला खड़ा किया हैं जहां से अगर हम नहीं निकले तो हम हमारा अस्तित्व ही खो देंगे…

आज जरुरत हैं हम हमारे मुल्क की नई इबारत लिखे और ये हम सबको मिलकर लिखनी होंगी, हमें इसलिए राजनीती नहीं करनी हैं के हमें बड़े पद मिल जाये बल्कि हम अपने वतन से मुहब्बत करते हैं और वतन की बेहतरी के लिए राजनीती करनी हैं…..

और अगर हम नहीं करेंगे तो अंजाम हम सबको मालूम हैं

और जब मुझसे ये कहा गया…

के मेरी कोई पहचान नहीं हें,
और इस दुनिया में कोई मेरा भरोसा नहीं करेगा
और हद से हद
जब मेरे लोगो ने इस बात पे भरोसा कर
मेरा साथ छोड़ने में ही भलाई समझी
तो यकीन मानना

मुझे जिन्दगी का एक और
बेहतरीन मकसद मिल गया

 
rahul….

Inline image 1
Friends, Healthy Dames, Lend me your fat,
For I am too thin and that’s a fact!

My body disposes of every nutrition thrown at it
I’ve been called Skeletor and sometimes I really look like it

All those great-looking body-hugging tees, they melt my heart
Though if I put one on, I certainly won’t look the part!

I can’t feel my hands and feet in winters cold
While upon me many times my shirt will fold

When I stuff in more food to balance my BMI,
The signs aren’t good, like floating interest on an EMI

My system suddenly reacts, disposes of the excess mass.
In forms of solids, liquids and, well, even Gas!

While most humans can stay afloat in water high enough to gulp air,
My Low-Vol, HD physique makes me sink like a wreck in the seas of despair.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ripened mangoes
Remind me of summer
Its long afternoons
Siestas under thin sheets
Whirling fans overhead.
Long midsummer afternoons
Remind me of childhood
Its golden sparkle
Story-tales being spun
Under leafy banyan trees.
Of dust—many feet kicking it up
As they played cricket.
Childhood, indeed
Reminds me of mangoes
Their sweet, warm smell
After long heavy meals with cousins.
There was always space
For just one more.
One more mango.
One more siesta.
One more, one last story.
One more childhood.

What is that which binds me to you?
A bond so taut it cuts my fingers
You don’t hold it from your end
You don’t even acknowledge it exists.
Is it a noose around your neck that I have placed?
Do you wish to be free?

Is hope a good thing?

Why does the world spin on a tilted axis?
Why do camels walk in the rain,
While fertile lands crack with thirst?
Is hope a good thing?

Or maybe it’s my imagination
Gives me dreams to sustain
Like a crack from which a shaft of light escapes
Into that abysmal hole of loneliness
What is the difference between hope and false hope?
Is there any?
Tell me,
Is hope a good thing?

But what will you answer?
You, the shredder of quilted hopes
And burner of combustible desires
They flare up so fast and leave nothing but smoke behind
Polluting, suffocating, poisonous fumes.
Is hope a good thing?

But what will you answer?

“I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That’s too bad
Oh, all the things I could do
If I had a little money
It’s a rich man’s world…”

Sang the pop music group, ABBA, in the 70s and in this case at least, things haven’t changed much. Money governs the economy, and our lives. Among teens, in both rural and urban areas, there is a need to earn money, as soon as possible, as quickly as possible. Everything these days, it seems, is focused on the ultimate aim of having plenty of money in life. We go through the endless rut of exams and studies, in order to get a degree. And for what? To get a job with a good starting ‘package’ and gradually increase our bank balance.

There is a Mewari proverb that says; “The river never drinks its own water. The tree never tastes its own fruit. The field never consumes its own harvest. They selflessly strive for the well-being of all those around them.” Everything in Nature gives unto itself for something else; nothing is done with a selfish intent. In our post-World War 2, materialistic, consumerist, capitalist, environmentally-destructive, and ultimately selfish society, this sentence is of no value, no significance, and meaningless. Economics says that the ultimate aim of Man is to consume or ‘allocate’ scarce resources for meeting his unlimited needs to achieve well-being.  But as we strive to produce more and more, in order to consume more and more, is well-being really achieved? And can money really buy us happiness, or is another, completely different dynamic at play?

In the light of our ‘fast-growing’ economy, there are problems of inflation and exponentially increasing prices. Poverty hasn’t been eradicated, there in widespread inequality of incomes even today, the rich are getting richer and the poor become poorer. There are growing levels of stress, loneliness and increasing cases of depression. Perhaps, as many people feel, there is a need to re-think the idea of economics, and create an economy that doesn’t promote the ideas of materialism, competition and wastefulness.

Of the many alternatives proposed, one that epitomizes the core value behind the Mewari proverb is the concept of a ‘Gift Economy’. What is a gift economy, exactly? Wikipedia describes it as “a society where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards”. Very simply, the idea is to give away ‘gifts’, in the form of anything – food, clothes, household items, books, information, other services – without expecting a reciprocation or a ‘charge’. In some indigenous societies, gift culture is practiced in the form of ‘potlatch’, a ceremony held on special occasions by a family that gives a feast to the community and distributes its wealth to the people gathered. The value of the gifts given away indirectly increase the family’s social stature in the community; it earns respect in the eyes of the villagers. One could argue that it isn’t completely based on ‘gifting’, since there is an expectation of return, even though it maybe intangible.

On a philosophical level, the ideal of gift culture is the complete lack of expectation of returns. Where the driving force behind the giving isn’t the need to receive, but the need to give. It operates out of love, and what certain old romantics refer to as unconditional love. But is such a drive, such an ideal, even possible? There are certain people who experimenting with the concept.  Like ‘Sewa Café’, in Ahmedabad, which runs completely on the idea of gift culture. As their tagline says, ‘Living is Giving’, it is a volunteer run café that doesn’t have fixed prices on its menu. Guests can pay whatever they want, it is anonymous and you don’t pay for your own meal, you pay to ‘gift’ a meal to a future guest. And amazingly, it manages to cover its costs and even make profits! Except that the profits are more in terms of people’s love than monetary.

Inspired from this idea, Madhusudan Agrawal of Ahmedabad has started a new initiative, called the ‘Smile Store’. It is “a place for sharing, connecting and recycling. It’s a complete volunteer run gift store. There are no price tags, anyone can leave anything, anyone can take what they need and put any donation to run the store. Without any strings attached, this store is an experiment to spread trust, love and smiles.” *1

Many such small ‘karma kitchens’ and ‘free stores’ have sprouted across the length and breadth of India. But how can we implement this idea in our own lives. First of all, THINK. How often has ‘fun’ and ‘entertainment’ been link inexcusably to money? We go to ‘hang out’ at Café Coffee Day, go to watch movies and end up spending quite a lot of money. We zoom around on our scooters or go for long drives in our cars, and more money is spent. We ask for ‘treats’, and when it’s our turn give some too! Most of what we do with friends results in lighter wallets and sometimes empty ones as well! So, is there a way through which we can have fun, but which is conducive to our pockets, as well as the environment and society?

A friend of mine organizes cycle adventures on the outskirts of his city. During weekends, some people gather and head off into the wild on their bikes (pedal-driven ones!) for a day of fun, adventure and new stories to tell. How easy is that? Some years ago, I had invited some friends over and done an impromptu mural-making session on a wall outside my house. We did warli art, and the designs still look beautiful and attract people to the house! Another friend of mine was sick of constantly giving and receiving gifts in the form of material presents… most of which she never used, and to others she felt compelled to give a ‘return gift’, the pressure of which she didn’t like. She has resolved to not accept such ‘presents’ anymore, and instead, as ‘gifts’, she usually gives a service to the person concerned, like a meal she’ll cook, or clean somebody’s garden, or give a nice head massage. “It is more engaging for both the receiver as well as me, because I don’t just give a ‘thing’ that I’m obliged to; instead, I give my time, my attention and my service as a form of love to that person, and this is obviously more special.” She says. The gifts she accepts also are ones in such forms only.

Two friends of mine and I, once decided to delve into the art of cooking and help each other learn to make three new dishes in the period of three weeks. Each week, we met at one person’s home, and made the ‘special dish’, while shooting the whole process of cooking on a basic video camera. We made a snack, a main course and a dessert. They weren’t fantabulous, of course, but we relished them! (Our parents ate a little reluctantly, though). And in the process, we learnt not only the finer aspects of cooking, but also many things such as basic video-shooting and editing, improvisation (once, the electricity went and we had to cook in candlelight), making the best from what we have, working in a team, disaster management, and basic marketing skills as well (How to Make a Dish That is Terrible into Something That Looks Edible 101, and parents always needed some convincing before they would taste!). More than anything, we learnt how to have fun – differently, creativity, and without spending money and time just on consuming stuff.

And if I were to summarize what ‘gift culture’ truly means to me, I would quote a much-loved Beatles’ track that goes –

“I don’t care too much for money
‘Cause money can’t buy me love…” 

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