Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Of home, work and work-life balance

Today, I heard an eminent person take a position on the concept of 'work-life balance'. In fifteen years from now, he hopes that the 'work-life dichotomy will cease to exist' for all the right reasons. Ideally speaking, our work should indeed be our life (in all its visible and invisible manifestations) and our life should be our work (with all the concomitant acknowledgements and citations) and therefore for a man, work-life balance, for all practical purposes may appear to be a false dichotomy. A claim further supported from a capitalistic perspective which places a premium on productivity and efficiency. I reflected for a moment whether it would indeed be possible for me, as a mother, a daughter and a daughter-in law to do away with this dichotomy. The following is a reconstruction of my thought process in this regard.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been engaged in a long drawn-out job of spring cleaning. Not that my house is big and not that I don't have help. In fact, I had to struggle to keep my ever-helpful elderly mother-in-law at a distance before she finally remarked that if I didn't want her to do the job, at least I should maintain proper 'work-life balance'. Nevertheless, the spring cleaning will continue for a few more days because, I am out of the house from 8 am - 7pm everyday (five days a week) and have to catch up with grocery shopping and other chores over the weekend.

Last week, I was unwittingly stuck near Ikea Hyderabad during the evening rush hour. How was I supposed to know about Metro construction work on that stretch and factor that into my travel plans? Such are the moments when I celebrate the presence of Swiggy in my life. As I picked up the delivery ten minutes after reaching my home, I could remember the advice given by a well-intentioned individual -  I should try and wake up an hour early in the morning so as to finish cooking dinner as well. This would help me maintain proper 'work-life balance'. And my well-intentioned doctor says that I should try to sleep for at least 7 hours every night.

At around 4 pm everyday, I receive an update from my kids' school about the work they are supposed to complete at home. I check and memorise that to rattle it off to my twins as soon as I put down my work bag and rush into the kitchen to do the chores. And whilst making the Rajma curry, I step in occasionally trying to check whether the chaps are doing the work.  (Please refer to this earlier post on my kids' homework and you will get the drift - Dear Ma'am, I'm sorry my twins haven't done their holiday homework) I do this because I know at the end of the day, if SR does miserably in Hindi, it is because his mother is not able to maintain a proper work-life balance.

Everyday, at 4.30pm, SR gives me a call asking whether he can take his cycle to the park. This would be followed by a confirmation call from SB asking if I had indeed given permission for them to take their cycles to the park. Sometimes, I think about work-life balance and wonder if I should disconnect the call. But honestly...would it be worth it?

Last year, as my father-in-law breathed his last in the hospital, I was at my workplace, trying to prove my professional worth. I had made a choice to stay back on that day, because I had to be a 'professional'. In the recent days,  I find that I have been consoling myself by recollecting how I did manage to steal a few moments and visited him the night before he went into the last leg of his life's journey. And most importantly, convey that I was indeed there with him, just like on all the earlier occasions when I had accompanied him to the hospital.

So, for a woman like me, work-life balance is just a manufactured chimera thrown at me to explain my 'perceived' inadequacies either on the personal or the professional front. When I look back, I find that  I am often negotiating  across the various demands and responsibilities placed on me at various points of time. Sometimes, as a woman, I may be judged for my lack of work-life balance. But what matters to me at the end of the day is just tucking SR and SB into the new comforters that I had purchased for them and seeing them sleep peacefully, fully aware that I, as a mother,  can provide for them. And sleeping with the thought that the next day, my workplace would see me putting my best foot forward.

So... yes, I tend to agree with this gentleman but for more different, more domestic and more personal reasons.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Of school attendance, fake circulars and 'burning issues'

One of the distinct memories that I have of my kindergarten days was the ceremony which we kids knew would happen everyday. The first thing in the morning, the teacher would open this long book with yellow/green tinted papers in which she would have written all our names in neat handwriting. The whole process was ritualistic - each kid's name being called out with utter solemnity and our expected response -  'Present ma'am'. This would be done once a day (in the morning), though I faintly recollect attendance being taken for the post-lunch sessions as well. This must have happened during my fifth grade. Apparently some of the boys used to go home for lunch and would not return for the rest of the day. 

I tried my best but could not recollect any discussions regarding shortage of attendance between me and my peers. Of course we were kids and this was one lesser thing for us to worry about. Also, at that time, my tiny mind did not definitely deem it to be an issue of epic proportions worthy enough to be discussed on FM radio for about three hours because, well....there were other burning issues.

This morning, I put on my headphones to listen to the customary chatter on FM Radio. Two radio jockeys were discussing a 'burning issue' - an order supposedly issued by the All India Council for Technical Education scrapping the mandatory 75 percent attendance for engineering students'. As I heard the discussion between the rather enthusiastic RJ's (probably they had been engineering students in their earlier avatars? ) and the vindicated listeners (a good majority of whom appeared to be engineering students),  I realised that the debate was turning out to be pretty polarising. 'Is it a good idea to have mandatory 75 % attendance for engineering students?' -this turned out to be  moot point in the trend of the discussion on both the FM channels (till as such time the RJ's realised the goof up).

There were various strands to this debate, most of which can be summed up as follows. First and foremost was notion that after the rigmarole of preparing for the various entrance examinations, it is but natural to consider colleges as fun spaces and therefore, attendance appeared to be an  antediluvian concept in such spaces. Secondly, (and oddly enough) students are old enough to decide whether they would want to attend the classes because they are old enough to decide.  What was also happening was that these notions, with their polarising potential, were preventing a larger and more relevant debate through a brute majority of shallow opinions.

Let's take a step back and try and understand who are the students who 'opt to study' engineering, how are they coached for the entrance exams, what are the pedagogical methods/practices adopted by the corporate colleges who scream from the rooftops about the number of admissions that their institutions have secured, how the same system percolates and is sometimes reinforced in engineering institutions due to the lack of quality faculty and misguided 'vision and mission' of the institutions, and how all of this results in the majority of the institutions churning out frustrated graduates who find it difficult to secure relevant and purposeful employment or find it difficult to pursue higher studies. Answers to such questions would also throw into relief the increasing number of student suicides (both at coaching centres and engineering colleges) and the growing unemployability of the engineering students. And the debate would show that  emphasis on rote learning, inconsistency between the curriculum and industry,  lack of opportunities for relevant internships and vocational projects and limited access to hands-on learning intervene and make this cycle more vicious.

Therefore, we must step beyond the polarising aspect of this debate and understand how the right words and phrases used in the fake order enabled an instant connect with a growing number of disgruntled engineering graduates who are seeing limited scope for their campuses functioning as spaces facilitating a lifetime of learning and fulfilment. While doing so runs the risk of validating the issues raised by the circular (and I doubt if the NSSO indeed conducted such a survey as claimed in fake circular), it should rather be seen as an opportunity to deliberate upon the ways in which engineering education in our country can be made more relevant, purposeful and rewarding. And with the majority of the students in our country 'opting' for engineering, there is a critical need for such an engagement.

PS: This post was originally written in Jan 2018, when the fake AICTE circular started making its rounds. AICTE swung into action and established that the circular was fake.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Was he bigoted?

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a conversation with a young man who was one with of the top IT firms in Hyderabad. Without batting an eyelid, he declared that men were better than women at managing money because men think and plan for their generation (family) and the future as well, whereas women don't. Against my better instinct, I refrained from rubbing it in, but the proverbial bee remained in my bonnet. Here was a young, responsible (this boy was taking care of him family and saving up for a sister's wedding), well-educated, well-earning man who had such bigoted views. On further reflection, I arrived at the conclusion that he was not intrinsically may be that his education did not allow him to access the narratives of women who were otherwise (for that who could be otherwise as well!) Probably, all he had for consumption were the mainstream images of shallow women manufactured by media houses and films with an eye on box office collections and TRP ratings.And all his education could not destroy the power of such images and tell him that the reality could indeed be far away from the screen! Any thoughts on that????

Friday, May 4, 2018

Of Schools, Dystopian Realities and Mr.G.Neelakantan

One of my neighbour’s joyous exclamation that her toddler
had gained admission into a prominent school (about 20 kilometres away) led me to remember a few incidents that happened while I had been scouting schools for my sons. 

A highly recommended school was about five kilometres away which, to me, was a negotiable distance. However, the day to day affairs were being managed by the personal secretary of the Principal who was ‘missing-in-action’. The prospectus was a cool couple of thousands (school touting ‘prospectus’! ) and there would be a ten-minute interview to classify the tiny tots as ‘normal’ and ‘hyperactive’. Very innocently, I asked if any certified experts would do that and I was shown the door.

At the gate of another prominent school, I was informed by the security to fill up an enquiry form and pay Rs.250 per child before initiating any discussion. In yet another school, the head was nice enough to entertain me for about twenty minutes (it was a newly established school) to claim that the curriculum was drawn from the best practices of CBSE, IGCSE and IB, though they had affiliation for none at that point of time. And who decided on the best practices? I was shown the door yet again.

While at one school I discovered that I would be paying an arm and a leg for international cuisine, I found ‘ayyammas’ surreptitiously devouring food from the snack boxes of pre-primary kids in another. I also saw a school where the toilets did not have proper doors. A friend of mine who found the idea of checking washrooms pretty funny changed her opinion after last year’s incident in the Gurugram school.

The similarity across these schools was nevertheless astounding - in almost all of them (except the one where the ayyammas were eating the food from the snack boxes), the total cost for LKG education for my two sons would have costed me more than I had spent for my entire school education. And at the end of all this, I still had no guarantee that my kids would feel safe. 

The following incidents that happened in the recent times add credence to this — protests by parents in Hyderabad regarding the yearly school fee hike, an 8th grade student committing suicide for not being allowed to write an exam, a child not being allowed to attend classes for wearing the wrong footwear, a group of tiny tots being given TC’s because their parents belonged to a WhatsApp group, a child being mowed down by a school bus, and a child falling into a well in a play school (and the parents thought that their child would be safe there). 

All these incidents, when seen together, reveal two things: despite their well worded intentions and their elevated ‘ethos’, many schools today are sacrificing humanity at the altar of ‘profits’.

Hyderabad is one of the metros where school fees could be the highest (as per some news reports in 2016), and this is more often justified by the infrastructure and of course the ‘snob’ values associated with a particular school. Further, many teachers lack commitment because of two reasons: the monetary compensation is far from motivating, and most of them are not teachers by choice. Therefore, they fall in line with the institutions’ philosophy of running the school either as a resort or as a commercial venture. Some schools resort to in-house training of teachers, the quality of which is often questionable.

Despite the glossy promotional material with the photos of ‘happy kids’ talking about ‘great experiences’, teachers talking about their child-centred pedagogy and globalised curriculum, websites proclaiming qualified and experienced teachers and heads with wide and varied experience, there is a palpable sense that most of the schools today are directionless, rudderless, profit-making enterprises. And this is happening because there is a limited sense of accountability. Even if any exists, governments allow them to be circumvented. 

There is a tragedy waiting to happen — today’s schools are rapidly evolving into dystopian realities. They are rapidly transforming into places where dreams are being defeated… on a daily basis. And no one seems to be concerned. And the situation has become more alarming because schools are now unleashing the most powerful weapon in their arsenal — subtle manipulation. 

One morning, a parent shared that her Grade 2 daughter had written a series of Olympiads. The tiny one didn’t want her mother to talk about her performance and so she hid behind, tugging at her mother and pleading with her to stop the discussion. Oblivious to her daughter’s discomfort, the lady continued talking about how her daughter didn’t do well whereas her cousin in Grade 3 stood first in the school. If you would blame the mother….I would request you to pause and ponder regarding the origin of the mother’s problem. She had obviously seen the online portal of the school where the photos of the toppers were regularly posted. Like many other parents, she was pressurised into enrolling her child for the nerve wracking exams that involve preparation and practice; the parents were expected to train their children with the school’s support being restricted to registering and procuring the preparation material.

Parents who contribute to the school’s initiatives and respond positively to their policies are generally seen as star parents (appreciated during Annual Day/or any other function) whereas a questioning parent is seen as a ‘problem’. Therefore, neither did I raise questions regarding the sensibility of manipulating the tiny tots into writing the Olympiads, nor did I enrol my kids for those tests. In other words, I had developed a thick skin, just like many others. 

At that moment, I could not help but recollect this incident in Chennai. During a parent-teacher meeting, a former colleague of mine told a child’s parents that it was their responsibility to help their grade 2 child learn English at home. Very helpfully, she also suggested that the parents could begin by watching English programs/films and speak to each other in English. There was a problem though — the child was a first generation learner and the parents were vegetable vendors who were working hard to give their child a decent shot at education. In this regard, our prinicipal stated a simple fact to all the teachers - when the kid is in the school 8 hours a day and five days a week, what business does the school have to shove the responsibility of learning onto the parents? That hit a nerve. 

That man was Mr.G.Neelakantan, who was the principal of Sir Sivaswami Kalalaya in 2005. Having worked under his guidance for two years, I have seen him as a true educationist. He would have considered parents as equal stake holders with the school assuming primary responsibility for learning. He would have seen schools as spaces promoting happy learning, not profit-making entities. He would have understood the emotional quotient of children and made sure that they had enough learning experiences to last a lifetime. And he would have done all this without providing an international cuisine or an AC bus. Today, as my children attend school, I wish people like him were around, more particularly in Hyderabad. Then, this tragedy waiting to happen would be nipped in the bud.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Five Reasons on Why I can Relate to 'He Just Sued the Education System'! 

Over the time, I have become a social media recluse for various reasons. Call it the perils of multiple-tasking or whatever, but most of the videos, links, photos and motivational messages sent  to me end up getting cleanly ignored. And that is why on one early morning, many days after a well-meaning friend had shared it with me, seeing the video He just sued the school system turned out to be a revelatory experience.

I could relate to the video at various levels, because personally, it is an affirmation of what I had been experiencing/believing in. The education system in our country is something like the theatre of the absurd. People who matter know what is wrong, but various factors inhibit them from confronting the realities. In other words, we know what the problem is, because refuse to acknowledge and do something about it. Such a 'policy paralysis' often leads to the 'my way is the highway' approach on  various critical aspects regarding educational policy.

For instance, schools do not always encourage inputs/feedback from the parents. In fact, any intervention is seen as being antithetical to the school's 'vision'. For reasons related to privacy, I would not want to dwell into details, but the fact remains that schools do not encourage conversations across the stakeholders regarding syllabi, methodology of teaching etc, and so on. Statements like 'our teachers are trained by international boards' or 'have attended workshops' are enough to bully the them into 'wilful submission'. There was this rather frustrating conversation I once had with a teacher who kept  insisting that a kindergarten child should know how to pronounce the word 'embarrass' and other such complicated words even without comprehending the contextual meaning. This was because the 'other children in the class' are apparently 'able to' and she also darkly hinted at the possibility that if a child is not able to pronounce such words, probably the mother is not taking enough interest in the child's education. The teacher in question had clearly not heard of the concept of 'learning indicators' at various levels and 'differential learning', or her institution was encouraging her to restrict it to the fancy settings of 'workshops' and 'conferences'.

There is one more instance where schools discourage conversations. Processes and procedures are often opaque; this becomes very significant especially when parents are being made to shell out higher amounts of money for accessories like textbooks. I remember an email conversation that I had with a policy maker who was firmly convinced that the expensive foreign publications that they had chosen for their students was the best possible choice given the current scenario. What struck me the most was that the conversation did not acknowledge that they might be willing to reconsider/reevaluate/review their choices based on their experiences. My maid, who is fighting an almost losing battle to educate her children, tells me of instances when she has been issued threats that her children will not be able to write their exams if the 'exam fees' are not paid. And such information is not provided at the beginning of the academic year.

Very often, the teacher is held responsible for the failure of the system. However, as the video points out, much like the children, the teacher is also a victim. In our country, 'teaching' is seen as a convenient vocation for anybody who is not otherwise professionally competent.This may come across as a sweeping generalisation, but most of us who have had experience with the so-called 'international' and 'elite' schools who promise 'child-centered' learning methodologies, and a ' differentiated curriculum' in line with 'global standards' do not have teachers with even basic qualifications in education. How would such teachers understand various aspects involved in 'assessments', 'evaluation' and more importantly 'child psychology'? And this explains their treatment of children. More often than not, the child is seen as a 'client' who needs to be kept happy (parents must also be kept happy), or a 'product' that needs to be churned out from a factory. ('Poultry farm' would have been a more apt metaphor, but I fear to run into areas where angels fear to tread'!) Once,  I was trying to 'crowdsource' the content for an issue-based essay on the validity of praising positive actions as a strategy for teaching. Very astutely, my students pointed out how a false sense of achievement can actually prove to be a impediment on their journey of learning. (Thank heavens that their sense of perceptive insights are still intact!). While catering to learners as 'clients', schools almost inevitably adopt a strategy wherein all the stakeholders are kept happy. Or, depending on the kind of their 'philosophy' or 'vision', they go to the other extreme of treating children like 'robots' who successfully internalise procedures related to processing different sets of instructions with limited scope for innovative or lateral thinking.

Therefore, due to this institutions failure, the teacher almost always becomes the victim. Technological companies hire people with the minimum level of expertise (depending on their requirements) and then train them, as necessary. However, the minimum qualification for the teacher, as it exists in reality, is the ability to communicate. At lower levels of learning, where critical learning skills have to be built and consolidated, specialised qualifications are not even considered. In our system, anyone with a basic degree qualification and the ability to speak good English (maybe, throw in one or two unrecognised and unvalidated training courses) are considered to be good enough to teach. Once they join, teachers find that there there are limited incentives to at least try and enhance their skill set. I was speaking to this former teacher of an elite school a few weeks ago. Based on her personal experience, she had a rather interesting take on the situation - she is earning more from tuitions (one hour in the evening everyday, and she teachers kindergarten learners) than the eight-hour-a-day job that she had been doing. When the pay is low, and the working conditions are close to 'pathetic', there is limited motivation to think and strategise learning sessions from a different, more wholistic and a more relevant perspective. This outlook percolates into everyday modalities like creating materials (worksheets ridden with errors), lack of communication with the stakeholders, the tendency to form quick judgements about learner performance and of course, the lack of motivation to consider each learner as a unique individual.

Further,  in their efforts to fulfil the tag of a 'progressive approach to education', most schools invest in technology related aids and 'smart' classrooms. However, as any experienced educator would point out, such contraptions become effective only if the teacher perceptively understands how to utilise them. Otherwise, they remain emblematic symbols of 'futuristic schools'. Only that schools would be willing to invest in training their teachers in more effective methods of teaching.

So, in my opinion, it is a sense of obduracy and the unwillingness to accept a different point of view which is making educational institutions adopt their 'own' and often 'regressive' strategies to justify their existence. And we, as stakeholders, seem to be content. How else do we explain the fact that we continue to pay ridiculously astronomical amounts for  school education, with minimal intervention by the governments or the policy makers? How else do we explain the fact that today, education is becoming a corporate business with the primary goal being that of achievement in terms of marks and percentages rather than actual practical skills related to the subject(s)? Of late, while returning from work, I see two billboards of a prominent school which shows two blurbs. One blurb has 'London School of Economics' and the other has 'Tata Institute of Social Sciences'. And the message says something to the effect of whether we would want our children to go to the former or the latter institution. Implicit in this question is a challenge thrown - a challenge of standards that nobody will check or verify. And we seem to be buying such a specious argument just because the school's hoarding declares so.

Having said this, have I become cynical about our school education system? Strictly speaking, no. We may not be living in an alternative universe where we can actually put 'school education', as a person, into the witness box. Nevertheless, all around me, I see small changes in the air - people giving up their jobs to pursue full-time degrees in education, volunteering for educational initiatives etc. The other day I was speaking to a parent who was totally invested in her child's education. She was firmly convinced that she needed to distinguish between different types of critical reading skills before she attempted to teach her child reading comprehension. Such instances may be small signs, but significant nevertheless. They keep assuring me that while there are larger battles to be fought in a larger court, indeed there are smaller ones that can be won!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Sting and the Slap

This is one incident which will never fade away from my memory...I was told about this by a friend of mine. This was her experience. She verbalised it and contextualised it. But I remained troubled by it. Many a time in the past couple of years, I had to prevent myself from writing about it. But somehow, the pain of the child and the mother felt very real to me. The best way I could deal with it was by writing about it. I often wondered however - what was preventing me from doing so? Is it because, we never acknowledge this? Do we choose to look the other way? Or, do we dress it up in words that dismiss the true significance of such things? A child running towards a kite was stopped by a famous person. He had felt slighted that the child had not responded to his hugs and wanted to 'discipline' him. My friend could not reach immediately because this was a family gathering. But before she realised, things had happened. Whatever, in the midst of an otherwise mundane day, with me achieving practically nothing of value, I found my release.

His tiny mind,
Only five and a half,
Had never felt ever,
A stinging slap.

So, he was surprised
For a split second,
Coz he hadn't seen
That slap coming.

His eyes started filling,
As one tear trickled down.
But the boy in him,
Stood his ground.

Fighting back the tears he
Searched as far as he could see.
Only to notice his mother
As stunned as he'd been.

He felt the slap,
She felt the sting,
How, he didn't know but
They were both crying.

He could feel himself,
Being picked up by his mother.
And heard an angry retort,
Being given to that famous doctor.

He had seen a kite
And wanted to see it fly,
So he'd been running
Towards the terrace all excited.

But this man so famous,
Had held him back,
Had wanted to hug him
To show him he was the boss.

He had resisted,
And wanted to break free.
But the man had felt insulted
And slapped him on his cheek.

Was it wrong to run,
Behind a kite, he wondered
Why wouldn't his aunt
Or his grandmother tell?

The man had indeed slapped.
But more devastating,
Was the silence of the people,
Continuing with their 'pretending'.

The mother held the child
And silently exited the place.
Suffering all the while
The hurt they had to face.

Almost two years hence
The child forgot the slap.
But the mother remembers
The sting of that hostile act.

That day she lost
Her trust in her family
That day she started
Distrusting everybody.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Of Bards more than one - An evening with Tagore and Gulzar

Recently, I read an article regarding research conducted on reading habits of people sent across by a well-meaning individual. The title of the article was pretty incidental I suppose: What you read matters more than what you might think. One observation that caught my fancy was the following statement: 'When volunteers read their favourite poems, areas of the brain associated with memory were stimulated more strongly than "reading areas," indicating that reading poems you love is the kind of recollection that evokes strong emotions - and strong emotions are always good for creative writing.'

Where do Tagore and Gulzar fit into all this?

I had always felt that poetry just...happens! Poetry is a single arresting thought, or a combination of thoughts, which searches for the apt words. I must admit that due to geographical and language-related factors, my knowledge of Tagore was mostly restricted to The Gitanjali and the short story The Cabuliwallah. Selections from his magnum opus and the quintessential story would always appear in English textbooks and supplementary readers and hence, I was 'too familiar' with them. However, every single time I went back to the story of the Cabuliwallah I had often wondered about the genius of a story-teller who could fill a simple narrative with such poignancy and emotion. I had often wondered, how he would have made Mini narrate this same story.

My knowledge of Gulzar was even more less. I faintly remembered that he had something to do with Bollywood cinema, and felt woefully ignorant. While waiting for the traffic jam to clear up, I quickly googled him, only to realise that the corpus of creative work done by this man beats anybody's imagination.

Listening to Gulzar only confirmed my assessment about poetry. He delved into his memories to recollect the incident that had led him towards an exploration of Tagore's works. And throughout the conversation during the book launch, his emphasis was on how Tagore was much more than the Nobel prize winning work, or the ubiquitous short story. Tagore was a poet who spoke to generations. And where better to find this Tagore, than in his poetry?

As I heard Gulzar reciting selections from Tagore's poetry, through the rhythm of sound, the depth of imagery and the precision of detailing, I felt myself being transported into very specific worlds quintessentially arrested in the stillness of time: the worlds of a bride who is being exhorted by her mother-in-law to answer the door and invite the 'guest', the child who brings alive a gripping tale of adventure and bravery, or a child who fancies himself to be a grown-up, like his Dada. . Yet, they were communicating a volume of meaning. They were almost like touchstones of human perceptions of everyday life.

While Tagore's achievement had been to arrest such moments and preserve them for an eternity, Gulzar's feat has been to render the translations in such a precise manner without sacrificing the rhythm for the meaning. His recitation managed to evoke pretty strong emotions; so much that I clapped with great gusto when Gulzar concluded a poem on a child's conversation with his mother with a sweet, ironic twist, suggesting that the child was aware about his make-believe world. 

For me, the greatest takeaway of the evening was the realisation that there is more to Tagore than The Gitanjali and his novels. And there is more to Gulzar than his movies. Further, I found myself nodding in agreement to his suggestion that Tagore's poems, especially those on children, have to be made accessible to children. These poems which foreground children and their narratives offer us precise but pertinent perspectives on how children think and imagine. A quick look at our current system (s) of education will show that the odds are stacked against the development of EQ (emotional quotient) as opposed to IQ. And where better to begin the process of change than with poetry. These are the readings that would trigger strong emotions and hence better creativity.

As Gulzar, in his sonorous voice transported us into lands and time far removed from the cold comfort of the air-conditioned hall that we were sitting in, I could not help but reflect that this was an evening well-spent with bards more than one!