City Cousins Visit the Village

“Why is our education system so outdated?” I ask my husband. The speed and intensity with which he drops his task at hand and looks up at me, I am sure that he thinks I have finally gone insane. “What do you want me to say? You are the teacher in the family, honey.” he replies a tad confused.

I pull out the vegetable tray of my refrigerator and begin scrutinizing the options for dinner. “Well, during the break at school today, I had a discussion with a few fellow teachers and most of us agreed that this is information overload. When I got to thinking about it, I realized that more than being information overload, it is simply static information. If my students don’t know why they are learning whatever they are learning, what is the point of all this exercise?” I demand washing the cabbage thoroughly.

“They are learning all this so that they can get a degree and land a good job and earn good money!” replies the husband looking at me as if he’s seeing a ghost. Something tells me he won’t be getting caught in a similar discussion anytime in future. “Precisely! Precisely my point!” I shout with an elated feeling of eureka moment as I being chopping the cabbage with a sharp knife. He takes a few sips of his chilled beer and says, “Careful babe! That’s a sharp knife you are holding, not the chalk!”

I bang the knife on the cutting board and turn around to look at him. “Why should an eighth-grader know about parts of speech? Why should my students have to rote poetry?” I question, almost dancing in my elation. “To get good marks?” he asks.

Thoroughly exasperated, I turn back to my chopping board and take out my irritation on the cabbage at hand. “Noooo!! It is so that they can use these skills in their working life in future. They need to learn how to express properly, how to communicate properly in the working world!” “Hmm! You might be right.” says my husband.

‘Of course I am right! I always am!’ I think to myself as I switch on the burner and place a pan on it to cook the cabbage that I just finished chopping. As I am pouring oil into the pan, I feel the need to prove my point. So, still holding the knife, I say, “I need to eat my husband”. He splutters and wiping the beer from his hands, asks, “so my vegetarian wife is a cannibal now?”

“See? See? See?” I advance towards him, “so that is why my student’s need to learn what I teach them.” He raises his hands in surrender and that is when I realize I am still holding the knife. I keep it on the table and continue, “One absent comma, and a dinner invitation turned into a cannibalistic statement.” I smile in triumph.

The man reaches behind me to switch off the burner for the oil has reached boiling point and asks, “So isn’t that what you are teaching them?” Now I am truly exasperated. “But where is the application? How do the young children know why they are learning all this? Not all of them are going to become physicists, so why do they need to study biology? Not all of them will become engineers, so why do they need mathematics? We need to show them how biology and mathematics are handy in daily life regardless of their career.”

“Now I am curious too,” smiles my guy. “Why do they need biology and mathematics?” he challenges as he leads me to the sofa in the living room. I sit down and begin my reasoning, “how do you make yoghurt? Biology. How do you know whether or not a stomach pain is merely an overdose of physical exercise or if it something more serious? Biology. When you go to purchase a set of pens at the local shop, how do you know how much money to pay the vendor? Mathematics. Love to play the drums, tabla, guitar, piano? Physics. Love your pet? Biology. Need to park your cycle in a very tight spot? Geometry. By now I am literally jumping with a sense of pride and achievement.

Hubby dearest is shaking his head in wonder. “Wow!! I never thought of it this way! Now that you mention it, life itself is a science, math, art and communication,” he agrees. By now, the hour for dinner is long past and my stomach growls in hunger. I head to the kitchen to put the vegetable for cooking, but the man of my life stops me and offers to take me out to dinner instead. Seems like my fevered arguing has caught his interest.

At the restaurant, we continue talking about this and a lot of parallel and tangential topics come up. “Do you know? That shop which I recently visited has an absolutely out of the world collection of clothes and home décor,” I say happily. I think I should be glad that hubby dearest hasn’t yet questioned my sanity openly. “What has a shop got to with education?” he asks with an uh-oh, not shopping again look in his eye. “They use only local produce like Indian cotton, natural colors like indigo and such things. You know, I would be doing my share of charity work by buying from them, I try to persuade him.”

He sits back in his chair and crossing his arms over each other, he looks at me. “Charity is great babe, but you still haven’t answered my question – what has this shop got to do with education?” Oops! I got carried away and deviated from the topic at hand again. “Oh yes! The shop sources these artefacts and clothes from a ‘smart-village’. This village uses only natural products and applies their education and learning to improve the quality of their produce. They make state-of-art flutes, hand-blown glass vases and so much more. Not only that, a few lucky shoppers get a chance to visit the village and stay in the home of one of the locals for a weekend!” I say dreamily. This spikes the interest of my techno-geek husband. “Let’s visit this shop this Sunday,” he says just as the dessert arrives. It is of course my favorite – malai kulfi with rabdi.

We pay the bill (yes, I staunchly call it a bill, for in India, money notes are called notes and not bills. So, I am adamant about using “bill” instead of “Check” in our motherland) and head home. By the time we open the door to our apartment, an idea has taken root in my mind and refuses to leave even after a month. So I follow through on it and persist despite the many time-constraints and other issues. Today, the idea has taken shape in a physical sense. I am happy and proud to present to you the physical and digital forms of the idea – “City Cousins Visit the Village“.

Dear readers, if you enjoyed this blog post, you will definitely enjoy my latest book – City Cousins Visit the Village. Available across all media in paperback and ebook formats including Kindle and Google play.