Saturday, January 16, 2010

Education as Gang Rape: The Dark Tropes in 3 Idiots

You don't have to be Rancho to tell  that Aaal eez Naat Well with the Big Bad Indian education system, which boasts of being one of the biggest in the world. Some Hindi films have dealt with this monster in an interesting way : I can think of Gulzar's Parichay (1972), Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par (2007) and Rajkumar Hirani's Munnabhai MBBS(2003) and 3 Idiots (2009). All these films are extremely funny, sensitive and are critical of the very idea of education in India. The attack is on coercive aspects of mass education system and how it murders the student's instinctive curiosity, spontaneity, creativity and individuality.

The films are  also critical of the undue emphasis on examination which only tests information retention capacity instead of thinking skills, creative problem solving skills and knowledge.The chargesheet against education system is well known. However, the films also take into account the fact that education system is a social institution and hence it reflects the widespread social values of success and failure in life. The cut-throat competitiveness either produces cut throats or people with deep inferiority complex. A society which believes in rat race produces mice. The films also try to persuade parents against imposing their expectations on their children .All these charges, of course are well-known.  3 Idiots, too, tries to persuade people about rethinking the whole idea of success in contemporary Indian context. It argues against measuring success in terms of marks, wealth and fame and sex. The film is not intended to be profound or artistic, but deliver its message in an entertaining and contemporary way and needless to say it succeeds in its objectives.

Though very glossy and hilarious, it has its sinister undertones. It talks about suicidal tendencies among todays youth which are abetted by the educational system and society's notions of success and failure.The media is hasty in making connection between the film and a wave of suicides among students in Maharashtra. Media also accuses the film of encouraging ragging. It is like blaming Sholay for the rise in dacoity.The films like 3 Idiots are sugar-coated comedies which are really tragedies.

The education system is an integral part of society. The roots of the problems of education system lie in the social values. If society defines success as acquisition  of Fame, Fortune and Fuck (though not necessarily in that order-Freud, I think, talked about Fame-Female-Fortune as three basic motives behind man's actions) either by a crooked hook or a crook-with-a hook using all the shortcuts possible, then education is reduced to the function of ladder in the brutal game of social snakes-and-ladders. If it fails to be a ladder, it is perceived to be a snake. Education, however, is neither a snake nor a ladder.

Though lot of idealistic bullshit is parroted by the mikephiliac educationists regarding the basic purpose of education, when it comes to implementation of educational programmes,  it is seen as  more of a mass-producing factory for producing low quality skilled labourers for an underdeveloped economy. Though it is widely accepted that education is about development of ability to think and behave critically and creatively, the success in educational system is measured in a small minded way of measuring one's ability for information retention. Hence the outcome of the examination, is obviously no indicator of one's intelligence.And though there is lot of blah blah regarding `examination reforms', hardly anything is done on the front and no genuine alternative to the present system has gained wide acceptance. Consequently, what goes under the name of `education' in India is actually a monstrous machinery which has brutal impact on the child's sensitive mind. However, most of us are forced by the society to feed our children to this Rakshasa.I feel that what we do to our children is similar to marital rape in India. Just like marital rape is not seen as a rape because its done by socially accepted partner, education is not seen as a form of torture just because it is seen as `doing what everybody is doing' and hence legitimate.

Hidden beneath the banter of 3 Idiots is the dark trope of rape. In the famous Speech scene, Rancho replaces the word ` chamatkar' with `balatkar' and `dhan' with `stan' in a speech which Chatur Ramalingam- a student who wants to use education to get Lamborghini and Green Card by mindless mugging- is going to deliver in the convocation and in a language he does not know  , simply by rote learning it. Chatur delivers the speech without any knowledge of distinction between ` balatkar' ( rape) and ` chamatkar' ( miracle)  and between `dhan' (wealth) and `stan' ( breasts). What needs to be emphasized is that today's society, including students, teachers and parents have lost the ability to make the crucial distinctions between `miracle'( of becoming successful) and `rape', and between wealth and breasts. Males, the film just hints, seem to think of wealth as if it is woman's tits or mother's breasts from which they have been weaned.

Hidden underneath the hilarity is another dark trope of sodomy or anal rape. In the famous ragging scene, the juniors are supposed to undress and tell their seniors pointing to their own bottoms, `Jahapanah, Tohfa Kabool Karo' or `O Mighty Emperor, please accept this gift'. Ragging which is seen as an `initiation ceremony' is also an initiation ceremony of the novices to the Big Bad Darwinian World of Survival of Cutthroats. Initiation into the World which only worships the Winners-- Prof Viru Sahasrabuddhe or Virus ( played brilliantly as ever by Boman Irani) points out the no one knows the name of the second person on the moon--is traumatic and extremely humiliating experience. People who participate in this ragging and gang rape of the young minds are Parents, Employers,Teachers, Senior Students (PETS)- in short, the entire society. Growing up in society such as ours amounts to mental, emotional and even physical rape by the perverted societal arrangement.Education seems to be one of modes of violation and torture. The only way to change it is by EDUCATING Parents-Employers-Teachers(PETs).

It is very fashionable and so very easy to blame Our Big Bad Politicians for all the Evils of the Society from Terrorism to Tuberculosis. It is very difficult to accept our own responsibility and act with integrity. We want to impart `morals and ethics' to our kids without we ourselves having it in the first place. We feel we have to `find out' role models for youth and like everything else we expect OTHERS to be the role models. We feel that teaching moral amounts to PREACHING, when in fact, it is about ACTING honestly and responsibly. Corrupt, dishonest, inefficient, and ignorant parents, employers and teachers produce a society which is corrupt, dishonest, inefficient and ignorant. We are the serial killers of the dozens of students committing suicide.
We have become rapists by allowing ourselves to be raped -we offered it our assholes, didn't we, saying ` Tohfa Kabool Karo'. It is a vicious circle.

Recall WH Auden's 1 Sept 1939

" I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. "

In fact, this has been going on in India since ages- think of caste-system, feudalism (the Palace Paradigm in Prof Handoo's words), dowry related violence, the convention of Sati ( both literal and symbolic),colonialism and what not. All these things were systems of rape. No doubt our education system is as bad as our society: it is casteist ( Rancho says that marking is creation of new caste system, but it is casteist in many more ways), feudal, patriarchal, and colonial. It will be modernized only if the society is truly modernized ( not in superficial sense of modernity as fashion, but in terms of critical and creative thinking).

Here in lies our Paradox for Today: education will be modernized only if society will be modernized and society will be modernized only if education is modernized.We have to go in circles to break this vicious circle. But we HAVE to break it, if we want to save our children and grandchildren from abuse. There is very little choice in this matter.


griglani said...

very well said sachin.

Sneha said...

A truly INSPIRING article

Chetan said...

Hi Sir,

All the issues You have talked about are really appreciative. It really needs a lot to think upon this issues regarding our Education System.

Anonymous said...

A very good criticism on the theme of the film. It is really sugar coated, the way u have told .Ajit Thosar

eternal bliss said...

I am not so pessimistic/ critical of our education system. If it had so many flaws, why is that our students score better than others when they go outside India. Why is that even an average rated student from India is a star in the US of A? There are flaws and every system has it. Its just that we dont know so very well about the British/ American or European system.
Yes, maybe they give more freedom of thought/ choices / expression but then aren't there as many poets and artists coming out of this system also.Their system will never have the cutthroat competition we face as they would never have to fight for place like us (( thanks to our forefathers who wanted to increase the population so much and others who tormented their own brethren ( for caste, etc) that we pay the price by the name of QUOTA AND RESERVATIONS.))
Why do we think that only muggers and rotters are toppers?? Why are we not ready to accept that the brilliant only can reach the top- may it be any educational system. Its true that our system does stress more on mugging and roting and vomiting out the same thing in exam - but I dont believe that it can make geniuses out of "no-ones".
but then what other way to get to the creme-de-le-creme??( not sure of the french there!)
AND why blame the system always--I think it is THE responsibility of the parents to not impose their views on their children. To let them live their lives and have the freedom to choose... anything.

The teachers in India ( I can only talk about those who taught me) are never teachers by choice. I know you are an exception to the case, knowing you from your blogs and the comments from your students, I can say as much. But honestly, though I greatly respect all my teachers; except for a couple of my professors during MD, none were inspiring. They were all a frustrated lot, who had to take up the profession as they couldnt get anything better. None even half like AK in TZP, So how do u expect them to cater to the needs of so many fresh, naive minds who come to them every year.They even dont want anybody to look upto them. The teachers of secondary and higher sec are so engrossed in collecting tuition fees, I doubt they would even be aware of their own student's ideology/ dreams.

About ragging, I am totally against it but then there is subtle ragging everywhere. Our seniors asked us to do things all through the year/s, which would easily be labelled as ragging but never was. and they told us that their seniors were even worse.
Eventhough I personally never took any favours or made them do things I had done for my seniors, I am sure my juniors would have something to say against me.
Ragging is a part and parcel of the game and most of us have learned to accept and live with it.Its like the same saas-bahu problem. Only thing it should not go on the extreme that it drives anyone to death.

P.S.- I have yet to see the movie so some of my comments maybe out of sync

sixthmonth said...

WoW! Terrific. I see now why the adage: ignorance is bliss! :P

The crux, mentioned clearly by you:society defines success as acquisition of three Fs.

The grounds instead can be giving up the imprisoning of the singular'I' that leads to internalizing of some shit, like performing according to the expectations of others, fulfilling the dreams of others, and carrying loads of burden (read causes) on your back like an Ass from a place that is ruled by economic considerations. It'd bound to take its toll on the social unit, micro/macro.

Remember, the Francisco Goya's iconic painting: The donkey.

The arrangements have to be overhauled mercilessly to overcome this misery.And here I must stop to escape the didactism.

Excellent blogspost. Tou⋅ché.


sixthmonth said...

Aww...a typo!

read: didacticism.

Soumi said...

Well written, as usual. I particularly liked this comparison...blaming '3 Idiots' for increase in ragging is like blaming 'Sholay' for increase in cases of robbery! As for our society, pathetic generalisations are made right from school days. Once you cross that first hurdle (Class x Board Exams), people ask in all eagerness....So, opting for 'Science'? Dare to say 'no'? TOO BAD, wait for the stream of criticism that pours in! As Madhavan's character says, "Main kya banna chahta tha, koi pucha hi nahin!"

Chaitali PAthak said...

Very minute critical dissection!
It's a fact that most of us who are involved in teaching profession tend to give a lot of importance to the student's 'expression power'( reproduction of the learnt stuff). And it is tested either in form of viva, written examination or practical performance. But what we fail to consider is whether the input was provided to the student in an interesting, matter-of-fact way or the teacher only vomited out his crammed lesson (of course, he has dealt with the SAME syllabus for together!). In such a scenario, it's nearly impossible for the student to search for and survive his unique talents the way Fungsukh Vangdu does in the movie.
Remember the first lesson on 'machine' attended by Aamir's character in 3 Idiots.

Anonymous said...

3 idiots plays ironical game with the viewers. On one hand Ranchho is used to 'question' the unquestionalbe... and on the other, it challenges viewers to question Ranchho. But most of the viewers accepted Ranchho as the centre, and thus unquestionable - whereas the centre (if there was any) was in Virus.