Archive | January 2018

Child beggar in the Contour of Knowledge

Girl beggarBirthdays are always exciting; all the more for students. College life cannot be full without birthday parties. Today I went to a birthday celebration in a popular hangout in BHU campus, Varanasi. All students gathered one after another and were eagerly waiting to have the cake cut. As we were waiting for one more student to join us we were alarmed to see a group of students who were walking towards us. I got afraid and thought to myself if they were coming to attack us telling that cake does not belong to our native culture and we are to be hanged! I was wondering if DJ night incident will repeat with IIT students. Certain friends were murmuring that these students look like the inmates of Birla hostel who according to them were responsible for all turmoil in BHU & IIT.

All of us gave a sigh of relief as we noted that they were not walking towards us nor were they to harm us. But we could see an unwelcomed visitor in our midst. She inquired when the cake would be cut and she needs some. As I closely gazed at her I found that she has not clothed well and seemed to be a minor. As she started begging to a passerby, I could understand that she was a beggar. My interaction with her revealed that she stays with her mother and 3 siblings in a nearby place. She replied in negative for my question if she goes to school. She continued that she would continue begging as long as she lives. It was time for us to cut the cake; and two more similar children came. Others much younger to her and were selling balloons.

This was not the first time I see kids begging in BHU and IIT. It is like being in deep water for BHU when it comes to restrict general public into BHU . People from nearby villages come to collect grass, BHU main roads are used to commute by the settlers who stay in and around BHU. Also BHU attracts pilgrims to its Vishwanath temple. Though restricting general public may be difficult in the present scenario I think strong measures has to be taken to counter begging inside BHU campus or any campus for that matter.

Begging inside a campus that promotes knowledge is an oxymoron. University is a place where ideas are supposed to be generated, issues in the mainstream universe gets solved and progress of the universe is visualized. Presence of such social evil in such institutions would tarnish the sanctity of the institution and the very purpose of education. We are kept in dark as to these children are encouraged to beg due to the predicament of the family or are remain as the victims of child trafficking racket. University has to take up a project wherein these children are properly studied and measures being taken to ensure their education and minimum support mechanism for the dependents if any. Leaving such children as they are is costly. We are encouraging a generation of beggars. On the other hand we may also be indirectly opening avenues for theft.

Why is it that a temple of knowledge is not affected by children begging in its own institution? Why universities to which the nation look for solutions harbor such evil in themselves? Are universities becoming hypocritical? Is our education system being reduced to skill development and employers producing machines which has nothing to do with the deeper questions of the society? Can some BHU students join together and voice to the administration and bring shine in the face of the ones who beg?

Birthday girl cut the cake; Friends enjoyed. Will this birthday and this encounter with child beggars open our eyes and  encourage us to do something so that these begging children can celebrate their birthday with dignity?

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Placed IITians speak!

 

f7ecda04-63c9-4dd3-a69b-e2e1fe1302a8                “If winter comes can spring be far away?” said Shelly in “Ode to the West Wind”. We are about to enter February. We are approaching the season where juniors bid farewell to their seniors. In Varanasi the placed IITians has already started the bash. Among the outgoing students there may be some lucky ones who are placed in good companies and have their future secure. No wonder their class mates watch them with  jealousy as they are less tensed and care less about their academics and are day dreaming the day they leave IIT  to get into a new phase of life.

It was exciting to be a part of a party organized by some placed IITians belonging to IIT-BHU. I am proud that my wards are placed! I am so happy that they were mindful to invite their mentors and their juniors to celebrate their placement. Juniors were not slow to revenge their seniors who once asked  them to give their intro and do certain activities. It was expressed by way of quizzing their seniors about their experience, placements, future dreams and so on.

Taste buds near Bhelupura, Varanasi was the place these placed IIT-BHU students chose for their dinner party. Even before the dinner arrived to please the taste buds, hearts of juniors were well treated through the nice words from their seniors. All seniors started sharing their experiences and advices one after another.

The senior who spoke first encouraged others to give their best and not do the things for name sake. He also mentioned how many IITians do not whole heartedly involve in different things; be it studies or event management, or being part of any fest. He encouraged the juniors to involve with their heart and mind. And he also said that their four years stay in an IIT should not be just academics or movies but he encouraged his juniors to explore oneself. Four years of time is a good beginning in ones journey towards self discovery. Avenues are plenty for IITians. He encouraged them to be bold enough and knock for opportunities in new avenues rather than settling in the traditional or routine ones.

The another senior wanted to encourage his juniors to get into core jobs rather than being placed in software companies. He also said that people would be looking at others based on their money, position or placement; but one has to live for oneself which will ultimately give contentment and satisfaction. He also stressed the importance of being part of a spiritual reflection group. In a time when spirituality is either marketed or kicked out irrelevant he stressed how a Bible study group helped him to get focused and not get distracted. He said being a part of the spiritual think thank where scripture is discussed and meditated also helped him to get encouragement when he was at his lowest ebb.

Juniors also did not stop to cease their opportunity to comment about the seniors. One said that their senior was so lazy. He recollected how his senior missed class as he slept off. Another recollected how he played cricket with his senior. Yet another was remembering how his senior used to visit him in his hostel, update about his well being and encourage him. Yet another junior found it apt to hint at the dominating and demanding nature of his senior. Yet another recollected how his senior introduced him to a spiritual think thank which in turn benefited him. Even as the sharing got over all got into peth pooja and nice selfies!

102nd foundation day in BHU; Where whenceforth

On 22nd of January 2017, BHU witnessed its 102nd foundation celebrations with a lot of pomp and show. Each year BHU’s foundation day is commemorated on the Basant Panchami day. This year as usual it was also celebrated with full energy and enthusiasm. Devotion to the deity of knowledge was expressed through Poojas, Sanskrit recitation and other religious functions as organized in different departments and hostels. Each department displayed tableau in the procession that was held. Enthusiasm of faculty members, students and other workers were seen in the way they were shouting slogans, dancing to DJs and exhibiting social issues through tableau, fancy dressings and so on.

Any institution witnessing a centenary year is remarkable. Centenary is a good time where we can feel proud of the achievements of an institution and reflect to look forward. BHU can take pride for itself for its alumni who are renowned academicians, civil servants, artists, politicians, scientists and even have been conferred with civilian awards.

BHU as an institution has also been in the media for various negative reasons. I would like to draw your attention to the recent issue of violence that broke out in relation to the DJ night. I would like to take your  attention to the true purport of BHU as envisioned by Pandit Madhan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of BHU. In his biography, biographer Sitaram chaturvedi observes, “The word ‘Hindu’ in the name of Banaras Hindu University does not carry any communal and sectarian connotation. Malaviyaji was very clear on this point. In a speech delivered at the time when the Banaras Hindu University Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly, Malaviyaji took great pains to clarify this point and to explain the true purport of the Banaras Hindu University. He said: “It (the University) will not promote narrow sectarianism but a broad liberation of mind and a religious spirit which will promote brotherly feeling between man and man. Unfortunately we are all aware that the absence of sectarian religious Universities, the absence of any compulsory religious education in our State Universities, has not prevented the growth of sectarian feeling in the country. I believe that the instruction in the truth of religion, whether it be Hindu or Musalman, whether it be imparted to the students of the Banaras Hindu University or to the Aligarh Muslim University, will tend to produce men, who, if they are true to their religion, will be true to their God, their kind and their country. And, I look forward to the time when the students who will pass out of such Universities, will meet each other in a closer embrace as the sons of the same Motherland than they do at present.” However I am saddened that growingly I see narrow sectarianism and communal attitude been developed. DJ night incident is one such example in this regard. There have been previous incidents too which prove the same. It is high time we reflect on Malaviyaji’s founding vision and shun away from communalism and narrow sectarianism.

Malaviya envisioned an university which aimed at “‘Promotion of scientific, technical and artistic education combined with religious instruction and classical culture.” But I am saddened by the inter departmental and institutional hatred that exists in the university which is expressed through different clashes. Arts students are despised by IIT, Science and Medicine and same kind of hatred is also expressed vice versa. Malaviyaji envisioned a residential university system which would be a confluence of arts, science, medicine, etc interacting with each other. I think it is high time we celebrate mutual respect and get into much of inter departmental and inter institute friendship and cooperation, joint ventures and taking each others’ help in understanding ones own academics and the universe in a better way.

In its first foundation day of BHU Gandhiji was present and delivered a lecture which was not very much welcomed by the esteemed members in the dais but was something that attracted the students fraternity. I would like to bring to give a glimpse of his first speech, ” I myself have been fed up with speeches and lectures. I except the lectures that have been delivered here during the last two days from this category, because they are necessary. But I do venture to suggest to you that we have now reached almost the end of our resources in speech-making; it is not enough that our ears are feasted, that our eyes are feasted, but it is necessary that our hearts have got to be touched and that out hands and feet have got to be moved”. BHU witness a lot of lectures, symposium and so on. I recollect being a part of a lecture series where the speaker challenged all the members to be true to rules, involve in nation building and all good character one should have as ideal member living in the university. I could overhear a neighbor sitting next to me who happened to be a faculty member saying “it’s good to listen to all these lectures. how bad it is for us who propose to be the first to overrule all these.” I have been many times saddened by seeing child labour, indifference to women, caste feeling, lazy work culture, unhygenic pan spitting and so on in BHU. BHU would be a pioneer to have a lecture series and discuss all these but all in words. Aren’t the words of Gandhiji prophetical? When will we be doers and not just preachers?

I pray to the God almighty that as BHU enters into another remarkable year may God flourish this institution, let this institution involve in nation building, foster brotherhood, practice what it preaches and nurture and give birth to many shining stars!

Pongal/Makar Sankranti Reflections

Very happy Pongal wishes to my Tamil friends; Makar Sankranti to the ones in North and Lohri to the one in the North west! Ankita Chobey in her article [i]in Mumbai mirror describes this as: “It is January and for Indians it is the time of the year when we mark the beginning of the season’s end – that is time to bid winter a farewell. This is also the time of the year when winter harvest festival is celebrated. Across the lengths of our country, this festival is celebrated in various ways. While some call it Makar Sankranti, some call it Pongal and some name it Lohri”. Though these celebrations are done across India in different names and different legends are associated with it two things are quite common: Mark of the end of a season and harvest festivals.

Since it is a harvest festival think along with festivities and Pujas it is also important to spend time thinking about the well being of the ones who are involved in the whole work of agriculture and harvesting them. The plight of farmers are getting worse in India which is an agrarian country with 70% of people depend on agriculture. Times of India article[ii] reported that over 12000 farmers commit suicide every year since 2013. The figures are alarming. I stay here in Uttar Pradesh where I constantly listen to issues where the farm lands are taken by land mafias for constructing flats. An article[iii] in BBC notes, “Half of its people work in farms, but farming contributes only 15% to India’s GDP. Put simply, farms employ a lot of people but produce too little”.

All of us get excited when we get fresh crops, see greenery and celebrate festivals. But mundane realities remains the same. I wonder if our economic model has done any serious favour for uplifting the poor. Rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Today as we celebrate harvest festival, can we seriously think about the ones till in the field? Think about what possible can be done for them?

As I conclude I would like to give a glimpse of some of the Agrarian themes in the Bible. Though Christians are not known to celebrate Biblical festivals, Bible mentions about atleast three harvest festivals:  the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31, Deut. 16:9-12) which celebrates the early harvest and the final harvest called the Feast of Booths, Shelters, or Tabernacles; (Lev. 23:33-44, Num. 29:12-39, Deut. 16:13-16). There is also a festival which was called festival of Firstfruits which also has to do with harvest (Lev. 23:9-14, see also Exod. 23:18 and 34:26). As I finish I quote few Bible portions:

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” Deuteronomy 11:13-15

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth” Psalm 104:14

May the God as per His promise protect our land, give good yield, take care of the farmers and take away the ailments of farmers who got affected by Okhi and other calamities. May He change our heart to be good to be farmers and the land.

[i] https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/news/india/makar-sankranti-lohri-pongal-how-india-celebrates-itswinter-harvest-festivals/articleshow/56518330.cms

[ii] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/over-12000-farmer-suicides-per-year-centre-tells-supreme-court/articleshow/58486441.cms

[iii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40184788