Sixth years, West Scotland…

I recently visited two schools Braidhurst, St Columba near Glasgow and had an interactive session with the six year (class 12) students. I was drawing comparisons inadvertently and now that I have had time to deliberate upon them, I thought it was time to put pen on paper.
Students here would either join college or university or an advanced higher in school after they finish the sixth year, pretty much like us back home with the exception of the advanced higher. I was in a group of students and with their overly accented Scottish English (Alan pray don’t kill me for writing it this way!:)), the first question I was asked was when did I learn English, and then moving on to how did the Chinese study if they didn’t know English. I don’t know what the west does to its people, but isn’t it fair to comment that the people here due to a sundry of reasons forget that anything exits beyond them.
Moving on, the accents and the language dilemma had them totally clueless for sometime till they moved to things they knew, about themselves. From what they had done so far and what they wanted to do ahead, a zillion comments and remarks went zooming past.
And the things that struck me were that none of them baring a few wanted to be engineers or doctors, which is something practically everyone in my class in school wanted. People here wanted to study theology, art, music, drama, literature, business with psychology (that was my personal favourite) and noone was reeling under the enormity of pressure that comes along with entrance exams and IITs and PMTs and the atmosphere was so completely relaxed.

I spoke to my mom, whom I regard as a complete authority in matters related to schools and education (for justifiable reasons) and we discussed whether the whole system of having an entrance exam should be scrapped and what would be the pros and cons. Again, like always we had constructive suggestions to give, but implementing them seemed to bring with it a foray of new problems. Some time back when CBSE changed the primary system from marks to grades and no exams, I had seen the entire process, and strangely enough, even some students did not want to do away with exams. Have we become so used to pressure that we refuse to live without it?

Apart from the schools and studies as such, my first reaction when I came to Glasgow was that people here party too much and they don’t work. Well, considering the fact that shops close by 5:30pm and open at 10:00, this does seem like a fair enough allegation, but then now that I have a sort of complete picture of how they are from school through college I have begun to question my own thought process. I mean what is it that we want out of life? All the stress, pressure we subject ourselves to and we are subjected to by various factors, where does all that lead us? Am I not living eventually to enjoy? And, am I enjoying the pressure? Or have I in this whole process been churned to someone else who has forgotten what it is like to be relaxed? Has my whole definition of enjoyment gone haywire?

17 comments
  1. i mean considering the fact tht the labour class hardly ever got the money they deserved..tht cud b a reason y they never got the respect they shud hv..

    Or probably (and methinks more so) the other way round!

  2. @Kunal: I was waiting for someone to touch upon the dignity of labour aspect..very true indeed! and guess finally it is the culmination of both the things together..i mean considering the fact tht the labour class hardly ever got the money they deserved..tht cud b a reason y they never got the respect they shud hv..

  3. Well I agree to some extent with what most people have to say. Or let me paraphrase: ‘India is a poor country. Lets face it. And that is probably the reason for most Indians not wanting to take up Art or Non-medicine, Non-Engg. related professions.’
    I do agree, but I don’t think that’s all that’s got to do with it. I believe that history has a lot to do with it. Indian society is traditionally hierarchical. In addition, Indians traditionally and historically have regarded the learned (in today’s context – the doctors & “engineers” say) as more respectable than say the warriors, then the merchants banias as we would call them, and then the semi skilled, unskilled workers/labourers. It is the same brahman, kshatrias, vaishnavs, and schudras concept to blame.

    We in India do not respect dignity of labour.

    Generations of preconceptions/ misconceptions are difficult to erase in 50 or 100 odd years. Most Indians still impart more respectability to the learned – far more than that given to merchants or vocational careers – and unjustifiably so.

    This is probably the root, the very basic reason for preference to education intensive careers. The others only added fuel to the fire.

    Forget the money Shaunak & Co., we don’t even give most labourers the dignity they deserve. Some of them work harder than most idiots in Infy. And that’s probably why I’ve seen far too many people trying to be “engineers”. ‘Cos we don’t reward (with dignity – the least a human deserves) hard work – we reward the -once-upon-a-time-got-good-marks-in-
    that-senseless-12th-exam-and-then- worked-sort-of-hard-in-college-for-
    4-years-and-now-checking-mail-and-
    having-coffee-at-office – kind of work.

  4. Hi Upasana ! Cud relate a lot to what you had written. In fact was wondering on the same lines recently ……

    The kind of social security benefits availble to a member in the western world is unimaginable..from unemployment checks to job centres….they dont really have to worry about feeding themselves ……with your financial burdens taken care of, you can afford to experiment and try out new vocations….thats not the case with indians… u have to earn a living some way or the other…..so the pressure will be there…
    all said and done… i would have loved to be in their shoes..to explore the possibilites..without the pressures or any strings attached…. who knows i might not have liked it…..:)

  5. @S Fair enuf..
    abt the kids, well with wht i hv seen ppl who r generally a lot more mature and old, wud react in a similar manner!

  6. “@ Shaunak..i agree with most of wht ur saying..though, 12 class students r smarter than u think…”

    I was talking about their maturity, not their smartness. You’re confusing the two. They’re very different.

  7. I think it was John Adams who said,

    “I study war and politics in order that my children may study science and mathematics, in order that their children may study art and music.”

    I subscribe to his point of view.

  8. @ Shaunak..i agree with most of wht ur saying..though, 12 class students r smarter than u think…
    But i was not addressing the Why’s to a large extent..it was just plain n simple WHAT and the intermediate conslusions i drew…

    @ Anon: Whtever makes u think tht i am saying nething against the scots or the way they r..I infact am saying quite the contrary of that!…Its just the differences i felt with my own perspective..i am not saying who’s right or wrong..
    It is surely important to repect someones opinions..and saying tht i think u hv commented without understanding things from my perspective..
    As for everyone thinking for themselves..well i ALWAYS think only of me..and hv no qualms abt accepting tht…

  9. Shaunak… that was fantastic…I truely agree with the last paragraph….At job and during the Uni days I’ve been very closely related to the scottish culture and life style…and my experience makes me feel that it is a very inappropriate statement that the scottish doen’t work…this is a country where twenty year olds do a part time job to fund their own education…so what if they spend week end nights partying…glasgow at night 11 is still a million times safer than our own marine drive, churchgate or juhu…and most of them do it with their hard earned money.. unlike the Indians who bombard thousands from dad’s for pockets each evening out…
    So what if glaswegians feel that their life is for them to live in their own terms… what’s the entire point of postponing all you want for something or someone else’s sake…..saving money for children who would fly out to UK or US….
    well…Upasana…. I feel enjoyment is a term you have to define for yourself…In life it’s all about living the way you want… holding the values you feel are to be held…upholding those principles that you feel need to be upheld….
    Your definition of enjoyment would reflect your outlook of your own life…..
    Stress is there… so are worries and problems… who don’t have it… but life still keeps going…and if you can find atleast a couple of minutes of peace… take it… you have still enjoyed your life….
    People not only here but everywhere forgets that something exists beyond them… only people here are open with their beliefs while back home we try to cover up our extravagent thoughts in colorful terms like ambitions… each of us ultimately think only of ourselves….or else what made you fly out of a country that provided you education inspite of having 60% of population below poverty line…..well… we all of us are minding our own businesses and it is imperative that you respect others point of view as well…
    Life is a one time game and the best way to play it would be to play it in your way…… so you won’t regret it any day…..

  10. About the (in your opinion) ignorance of people in the west to matters not related to them, please remember that you were talking to a group of Std. 12 students. I would describe their maturity thus: ‘They’ve just learnt to wash their own arse.’ You can’t possibly expect different answers from average Std. 12 Indian students. So don’t blame the Scots.

    About their being interested in Art, Music etc. This has everything to do with Maslow’s pyramid of heirarchy of needs (see this image http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/45/Maslowsneeds.png ) Regardless of how we may like to see ourselves, India still is a poor country. And most of us are first generation or second generation middle class. Our parents haven’t had it easy and they’ve pointed it out to us over and over.

    Besides, our society isn’t rich enough to be able to support more than a few (relative to the size of society) artists and musicians. There is a lot of demand for Engineers and Doctors – they get paid a lot of money, so a lot of people aspire to become doctors …
    Few artists live affluently. Most musicians are strictly middle class because society isn’t rich enough to make them rich. So although there are many talented kids, they won’t turn to art unless artists and musicians get the sort of money Engineers get (consistency). It’ll happen 20 years down the line (maybe earlier).

    Third: About exams.
    It is a fallacy that exams cause stress among students today. It is not exams, but parents who are to blame with their exaggerated hopes. They want their children to be able to do the things they couldn’t, without realising or bothering to understand what the children want. The blame rests solely with the parents, and no examination system, however reformed, is going to change that.

    As for the Glaswegians not working hard enough, that’s a very rude statement to make. Working (or not) is their prerogative. It is also their prerogative as to how much they want to work. None of your business, actually. And there are people all over the world whose priorities are developed enough to spare them the stress that comes with the desire to succeed.

  11. @Car, thanks..
    Well, you know you are so right, i know a lot of people who wouldnt want to find meanings, and its not that they dont have empty spaces, its just that they have learnt to ignore them..and i just cant. As for answering the questions, i guess all answers would come to me eventually..My mom always says that..:)

  12. A great post. Very well laid out. However, I wish I could answer your question. Maybe we are too caught up in finding meanings in empty spaces!

  13. Commnets on only last paragraph of your post:

    as far as i know of you. you like atlas shrugged, fountain head kind of books and of course not for the sake of them being a good fiction but for something else. just think about that John Galt (an engineer) or Richard Halley (a musition).

    now what do u call enjoyment ? how would you like to define it ?

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