Ankhon Dekhi and Philosophy

Ankhon Dekhi

“Medicine should be sweet, truth beautiful,and man has had this foolish habit since the days of Adam . . . though, indeed, perhaps it is all natural, and ought to be so. . . . There are many deceptions and delusions in nature that serve a purpose.” – Anton Chekhov

The simple reason why Ankhon Dekhi is a unique movie is because of its honesty. It remains true to its Old Delhi setting, true to the quirks and motivations of its characters and above all, the movie does justice to the subject which underlies every aspect of life – Philosophy. The dose of philosophy this movies provides is anything but light. There are dialogues which are not differentiable from passages from a philosophy term paper. However, in that mix there is just enough comedy and drama to keep that inevitable academic yawn at bay. By the end of the movie, I was amazed by the number of philosophical references made in the movie and I just had to list them out.

  1. The protagonist, Bauji(Sanjay Misra), decides one day to take a step back(or forward?) and look at the bigger picture in life. He sets out on a pursuit of Truth. To be precise, the movie is about him seeking his Truth, which he deftly defines as the sum of his own experiences and nothing else. The first step to do this would be do abandon any knowledge he did not gain first hand. Our very own Bauji just rephrased Socrates.

    I know one thing: that I know nothing.

  2. But Bauji goes one step further. He attacks people calling him a frog in a well(a popular phrase in Hindi for someone whose worldly knowledge is limited) by saying that he is at least aware that he is in a well and is attempting to understand his environment. Bauji is like the prisoner in Plato’s Cave who is set free. Bauji finds himself questioning universal truths and that creates tension between him and his friends and family. According to the allegory, the difference in their Truths will lead to conflict between a prisoner set free(called the Philosopher) and the laymen. “Wouldn’t they all laugh at the Philosopher and tell that his eye-sight is spoilt?” True to the parable, there is a scene in the movie where Bauji is the butt of many a joke cracked by his prisoned friends.
    Allegory of the Cave

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2afuTvUzBQ

  3. He refers to language as a “man-made construct to simplify life”/”suvidha ke liye banaya gaya ek saadhan”.  The scene where Bauji so simply states that a fruit is called a fruit only by co-incidence and for the convenience of communication, brings to mind the Symbol Grounding Problem.

    Symbol Grounding Problem is related to the problem of how words (symbols) get their meanings, and hence to the problem of what meaning itself really is.

    Without going into too much detail, the symbol grounding problem raises questions like how does a robot, that only knows zeroes and ones is able to recognize apples in an image, the way we see it(and call it). The model of an apple that we have(a red fruit) and the one that a robot has(matrix of numbers) are very different. Yet they refer to the same thing in reality. This is probably one of the deepest questions ever raised in philosophy and cognition with its answer impacting fields like neuroscience, robotics and psychology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TryOC83PH1g

  4. There is an argument in the movie on whether parallel lines meet at infinity. The teacher is our typical Indian middle-school teacher who says “They don’t meet at all. That is why they meet at infinity.” So do they meet or not? Or is it a paraadox? Well, in Euclidean geometry parallel lines don’t meet at infinity. However, in non-Euclidean geometry parallel lines meet at infinity. Of course this is not a topic for a more academic discussion in a movie. But its motivation is simple enough. Consider projective geometry where you draw things as you see them. In case of humans, we project our 3d world onto a 2d paper. How would a set of parallel lines appear to us? Something like this:
    Parallel train tracks meeting at the horizon

    From experience, you know these tracks are parallel. They appear to meet at some point in the horizon called the vanishing point. But would you be able to reach this point if you kept following the tracks? Certainly, not. More theory on that here.

5. This is a late addition. I missed out on the most obvious philosophical conundrum that is essentially the theme of the movie – the rationalism v/s empiricism debate.

Rationalists claim that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience. Empiricists claim that sense experience is the ultimate source of all our concepts and knowledge.

The movie showcases beautifully how Bauji chooses empiricism over rationalism and ingrains that philosophy in his life to the extent that he doesn’t believe that a tiger can roar till he has listened to it himself. More on that debate, here.

(Thanks to Pratyush for pointing that out.)

But all said and done, Bauji is not a true philosopher. He touches upon very deep questions and is satisfied with being confused and curious. He does not attempt to break the shackles of his fellow prisoners mostly due to his own admission that he is still a foolish pupil and not a master. The thrill of gambling and his attachment to his family derails him from his philosophical quest. Towards the end, I felt Bauji was seeking new experiences and excitement in life under the label of “Truth”. If the movie got you thinking, you should probably read more, stand of the shoulders of giants who have thought a lot on the questions the movie raises and think some more. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy would be a good place to start. And the following is always a good thing to remember:

Supposing that Truth is a woman—what then? Is there not ground for suspecting that all philosophers, in so far as they have been dogmatists, have failed to understand women—that the terrible seriousness and clumsy importunity with which they have usually paid their addresses to Truth, have been unskilled and unseemly methods for winning a woman? – Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil.

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One

The mathematician sat at his desk – bearded, unkempt, exhausted and exhilarated. His eyes were focused on the proof he had just scribbled. They betrayed excitement. His fingers trembled as he went over each line of his proof again. They betrayed fear.  He put out his lamp in an uncharacteristic swift motion, drowning himself in absolute darkness.

“Do you see what you are about to do? Actually, the question is ‘Do you see what you are about to undo?’ ” He chuckled at his own joke. “And they thought I was wasting my time. This will change everything. It must. I am closer to the Truth now. We have suffered in the darkness long enough. We have been soiled by rote -”

His monologue was interrupted by a call for dinner.  It was time to interact with his family or as he called them, people who will love him, but not his thoughts. Oft times he had pondered on this question. How do you love someone without understanding his beliefs? When his body would be no more, will they be indifferent to him. If they did not understand his ideas while he was alive, they wouldn’t after his death. He had solved this dilemma by believing his family did not love him. They loved the image of him  they have in their heads. It didn’t matter to them if he wrote 2 + 2 = 5 and called himself a mathematician. They were still going to love him. That was the ultimate truth about love. It existed only inside the heads of people like characters from fairy tales or numbers. You wouldn’t have these god- forsaken numbers if you did not have a human mind to make them up.

But, what would he be if not for these imaginary devices? He wouldn’t question them if he did not know they existed and had not studied them for years together. And today, he was going to disprove the validity of those very numbers. Wouldn’t it have saved a lot of time if he had not been introduced to them years ago? After all, he was simply going to prove to the world that the foundation of mathematics was on very flimsy grounds. He did not have an alternative to give to the world. Merely, a proof of how everything was wrong if you cared to look very closely. May be the best thing he could do now was save someone else’s time. May be that someone else will provide the world with a solution. His peers would obviously be the first to gauge the repercussions of his work. But they were already biased. His work won’t be accepted without resistance. In fact, it would be offensive to him if it was. He needed an untainted mind, a tabula rasa. His grandson. He didn’t need to know that mathematics behind the truth of the shaky foundations of mathematics. All he needed to know was that the foundation was flimsy. Surely, as he grew up this inception would accelerate him closer to the Truth. He had to begin somewhere. He resolved to begin at the beginning. He decided to teach his grandson about one.

The two equations he needed to teach his grandson were:

0 = {}

1 = {0} = {{}}

He rose from his seat and dashed to his grandson, who was drawing in his notebook.

“What is one?” he demanded of the boy.

The almost three-year old lifted up his index finger and shouted out “one.”

“Why did normal people have to borrow one  from mathematicians? Or was it the other way round? They do have the word a.  That is one finger or a finger,” he kept blabbering as he lifted him up into his lap. “There is only one you and one me. But what is one? What does one mean?”

The boy simply stared blankly at him.

The mathematician showed him two fingers this time and asks him to describe what he saw again.

“Two,” said the boy.

“Great! You already know one plus one is equal to two like the rest of the world but you don’t know what one is? Rote learning will drive more people away from true mathematics than anything else. And they won’t even know what they are missing out on. Doesn’t it matter to you what one is? Listen carefully to what one is. What do you have in your right hand?”

“Nothing.”

“Make a fist of your right hand and put it in your left hand. Now make a fist of your left hand. What do you have in your left hand?”

“A hand with nothing”

“Wait! Did you just say ‘a’? You mean one. That was easier than I thought. It is strange how easily you interchange a and one. That is one right there. Beautif-”

“But a hand, that has a hand, that has nothing, has nothing,” blurted out the boy.

The mathematician was stunned. He placed his grandson at arm’s length. He looked at him with utmost suspicion.

“Damn it! You are going to be a realist! You will not care for what I am going to do. In fact, you are going to mock me. And I thought we could be co-conspirators. Not likely.”

He doodled a dragon eating its own tail in his grandson’s sketchbook before leaving.

Ouroboros

 

Irked by the lack of mathematics above? Read more:
Foundational Crisis of Mathematics
Set-theoretic_definition_of_natural_numbers
Russell’s_paradox
Hilbert’s_problems
Godel’s_incompleteness_theorems

Another Shade of Gray

Neha loved the rain. One of her many indulgences was to take her yellow umbrella, go outside and stand still as the rains poured down. It trapped her in a bubble, that alienated her from all the chaos in life. And that, she found, was a very liberating feeling. It captivated all her senses – the earthy petrichor was perfume to her, the pitter-patter sounds were like beats, the wetness of a ricocheted raindrop sent tingles down her spine and the silhouettes of people and dogs finding the nearest dry spot amused her and in her drunken stupors she has admitted to tasting the rain too. When questioned, she always replied these moments spent in the rain were quintessential  to her creative process and that was cue for people to not pry into the aspiring writer’s oddities.

It had drizzled today and Neha had spent a good half an hour outside in the rain. She knew she had to get it written today anyhow. There was a deadline she had to adhere to and that is almost always a good thing for a writer with writer’s block. Of late she had become certain that the weird combination of beer and Mozart was the only sure-shot way to come up with new storylines. But her mother was visiting her today and she couldn’t risk giving her a stroke. That was the reason she had reverted to her more innocent method of getting ideas.

The cursor on her Macbook kept blinking, mocking her more with every blink. She just couldn’t start typing. There was nothing on her mind. And her mother shuffling through her closet was not helping either.

“Is this your new laptop?” asked her mother.

“Yes.”

“It seems really expensive. And shiny. What’s this? This handbag seems expensive. It doesn’t seem to be from India either,” she said.

“No. It is from Paris,” replied Neha with a tone of finality.

“And how did you buy something from Paris?”

“You can order everything online nowadays. They will ship anything you want from any corner of the wor-”

“What is this? Where are the shoulders on this dress? It is like the ones you see actresses wearing. How do you have this? Why do you have this?”

“Sometimes we go for parties and you need to dress up like this. But I wear a jacket with this dress always,” she lied.

“So your roommate also wears-”

“Yes she does. We all do. Can you stop disturbing me?”

“I didn’t mean to. Only the clothes and handbags you have seem so expensive. You don’t ask us for money all that much. How come – ”

“I told you I had that writing job. It pays me a lot. I just need to write some stories and send them to this online magazine. They pay me by the number of words I write. And I need to write one such story today. So, can you stop disturbing me?”

“Wow. People read my daughter’s stories online. What do you write about?”

“This and that. Not about lawyers and criminals. Just boring things for which some people are willing to pay me lots.”

“That is what is bugging me. I asked Priya. She also has a online magazine for which she writes. She said she got Rs.2000 for three months work and she works harder than you.”

“What do you mean by “harder than me”? She writes questions for students, not stories. Can you stop investigating my life?”

“I am just worried that you might be doing something wrong.”

“Wrong? What does that word even mean? Right and wrong are constructs humans came up with to keep their kids safe long enough till they start understanding the world around them. Once you grow up nothing is just right or wrong. There are just shades of gray. Isn’t that the definition of growing up? Realizing not everything is either black or white.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“In simple words, there is nothing to worry about. Can you stop disturbing me now?”

Her mother was worried that she might be on the verge of a fight with her daughter. That was not the way she had imagined her visit to start. Setting aside all her doubts for the night, she made her way to the bed to sleep. But Neha couldn’t focus with her mother in the same room as her. She kept staring blankly at the blank screen.

Just then she received an email.

I am eagerly waiting for today’s story. Your words have begun replacing certain needs in my life. The stories you write evoke more passion than the other stories I publish. There is a certain rawness and fearlessness in your writing. May be it is the anonymity. But if you weren’t anonymous I would gladly publish your first book myself. Obviously, the book will have to be about something else. I hope you liked the handbag I sent you. May be today’s story will be worth the shoes you picked out. No pressures!

Neha felt a lot of pressure now. She needed to start writing this erotica. Those shoes weren’t going to magically appear in her closet. But she couldn’t type a word. The same old question cornered her again. Was all of this wrong? A voice in her head said,”The object of any writing is to impact a person’s mind. You are a philanthropist because you give people pleasure. And …” The voice went on. The other voice was silent today. She began typing.

The Viva

The final “practical and viva” for a notorious subject called Physical Education was supposed to be a mundane affair. High school students needed to show up, jog(or at worst, walk) a couple of kilometres, jump a few metres, throw the shot-put, answer some questions about your favourite sport and go home richer by a few marks. That was it. There was no scope for lateral entertainment that day.

Somehow I had managed to finish the first part of the practical. I remember dragging my feet to reach the finish line. In the words of the Wolf of Wall Street: “I had seen jello move faster.” I took my position for the long jump. I had no idea of the proper technique to do one. So I just ran as fast as I could and took a literal leap of faith.

[cartoon from here]

Yup. That was exactly how my face was. Smug and relieved. I had jumped whatever was required to pass. I felt like Jesse Owens as I dusted myself. But I didn’t hear the applause of the crowd. Instead, a shrill sound pierced my ears. I had touched the white line while jumping which voided this Herculean attempt of mine. The instructor with the whistle gestured me to go back for another attempt. Damnit! The walk of shame is how I remember that. But I resolved to jump before I crossed the line this time and took my position at the start of the track.

Distance from the white line – What I felt
50m – Focus on the ground below. Look for the evil white line. 
30m – All set for the big jump. May be this time I’ll outjump myself!
10m – This is it! Your moment of shining glory is finally here!
0m – I am here , White Line. Do what you gotta do but this time I ain’t gonna touch you.

And partially true to my resolve I didn’t touch it. Also, I forgot I had to jump. I kept on running into the sandbox. The whole situation was so tragically comical, I blurted out laughing. Everyone else also found it funny. Everyone except the instructor. He did not find it funny. He thought I was mocking him.

“You can take one more final attempt. But you have got to do a proper long jump this time,” he said grimly.

“That is probabilistic, sir,” is what I said. In hindsight, I should have just kept my mouth shut.

Pro-Bab-Il-Is-Tic,” he said, emphasizing each and every syllable as he spoke. “We will see what is probabilistic and what is not during the viva. May be whether you will get any marks or not is probabilistic.”

After finishing the rest of the activities and waiting for what seemed an eternity, my turn for the viva came.

“Which sport have you chosen?” he asked somberly.

“My name is De -,” is what I was saying when he interrupted me.

“I know what your name is. Which sport?”

“Cricket,” I replied.

He chuckled. It wasn’t the chuckle of a guy who had heard something funny. It was an evil chuckle of a guy who knows that he is going to screw someone.

“Cricket is my favourite sport. Not because I enjoy it. God! It is such a boring sport! Only because you people think,you know cricket but you don’t. First question. Who makes the laws of cricket?”

“The MCC.” I knew this one.

“And how many laws are there?” he asked.

I was stumped. I had no clue whatsoever.

“I don’t know, sir.”

“What did you just say?! You don’t know. You gave up so easily. Couldn’t you take a guess? Say any number you think that is cute enough. This is the problem with you. You lack sportsmanship. Let me show you what sportsmanship is.”

The instructor called a fellow student who was playing on the ground. He ran to us and was out of breath.

“Tell this boy how much does a ball in kho-kho weigh?” asked the instructor.

I almost laughed. For those who don’t know this is what a typical kho-kho match looks like.

As is evident, there is no ball in kho-kho.

The boy stretched out his hands and tossed an imaginary ball up and caught it and gestured as if he was actually measuring a kho-kho ball right there. After weighing for ten long seconds, he confidently shouts out “20 grams, sir.”

“Nice job. Now go away,” said the instructor shooing the boy away. “Didn’t you just witness the best example of sportsmanship there is? There is no ball in kho-kho. But look at the guy’s confidence and style. He is a true sportsman. Do you want to try again? How many laws are there in cricket?”

Wait! What just happened there? May be we owned different dictionaries but that was not what sportsmanship meant. But I was beyond arguing with the instructor. I prayed a silent prayer to Douglas Adams and said,

“42.”

And that should be the answer to life, the universe and everything because I was goddamn right. I decided to add more sportsmanship to my life. At least for the reminder of the viva.

The instructor looked stunned. But he suppressed that emotion in a jiffy. “Do you know the size of the boundary in cricket?”

This I knew and I replied correctly in no time.

The instructor however said,”I did not mean the length of the straight boundary. You know the boundary rope?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me the width of the cross section of the boundary rope.”

Are you kidding me? No one knows that. Nowadays, the rope is even hidden with the ad banners and this person was curious about how wide that insignificant rope is. But I had not forgotten my recent lesson in sportsmanship and meekly replied, “May be 1.5 inches.”

“Really? This is what happens when you don’t prepare for the exam. You may leave.”

A couple of months later I found out that the instructor had not been a miser while giving marks. All’s well that ends well. Even more so, if you get a crash-course in sportsmanship for free.

What Cognition-as-a-Service should mean?

I first came across the term Cognition-as-a-Service(CaaS.) here[1] and boy, was I excited! For a moment, I was like, “That will take a cognitive load off my mind.” Much to my disappointment, the article talked about:

The cognitive operating system will reach out and connect our bodies and even REACH into them via augmented reality devices like Google Glass, and the quantified self movement.

Everything is going to get smarter. Your phone, your calendar, your watch, your radio, your TV, your car, your refrigerator, your house, your glasses, your briefcase and clothing.

While there is no problem with this vision in itself, what bugged me is the use of the word cognition.  It is a group of mental processes that includes the attention of working memory, producing and comprehending language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making[2]

Watson, Siri etc don’t involve all these processes. For example, IBM Watson[3] is amazing at answering questions in natural language – a very complex problem. At the risk of angering computer scientists, in a gist the IBM Watson retrieves information from a knowledge base after having understood what the person is asking. Siri roughly does the same thing although it has to do that in a more location-aware manner. There is a lot of cognition that is left out.

Soon, your TV,car, radio etc. all will be smart – learning your patterns of daily use, predicting things for you and in some cases, even carrying out the tasks for you like driving.

But what about something that makes YOU smarter? Or at least more rational and logical. Something that helps you make decisions free from certain biases and outsmart others by augmenting your thinking process with logic, statistics, game theory etc. That is what I want CaaS to do.

Let me a expand a little more on the above claim.

Humans are not good intuitive statisticians or logicians. Our hunches of what might be logically correct or statistically relevant are not as often right as we might expect them to be. But we are good intuitive grammarians. Even children who are 4 years old conform to rules of grammar while talking, although they are not really good at identifying the rules.[4]

A glance at List of cognitive biases or List of fallacies should give an idea of the number of ways we can stray from making “perfect” decisions. For example, sometime or the other we have done something because a voice in our heads went, “Everyone you know is doing it. It must be right.” Right there, you just committed argumentum ad populum or appeal to the people. Politicians and public speakers use such fallacies to their advantage all the time.

Our cognitive system is far from perfect and it is affected by factors that would surprise most people.

For example, consider this experiment demonstrating the anchoring effect: People were divided into two groups and asked whether Mahatma Gandhi died before or after age 9, or before or after age 140 and also the age at which he died. But the two groups still guessed significantly differently (average age of 50 vs. average age of 67). [5][6] This is because we tend to fixate on the number at hand and make our approximations sometimes biased by numbers that might not have anything to do with the question. But does this happen in our daily lives? Remember the last time you bargained. You got shoes for the price of Rs. 800 while the price on the tag said Rs. 1000 and you were feeling pretty smug about yourself. But consider for a moment that the shopkeeper cleverly “anchored” the upper bound at an ridiculously high number and you did all your haggling keeping that high number in mind(like the 140 yrs anchor for Gandhi’s death).

We suck at intuitive probability too. Suppose we flipped a coin 7 times. The probability of the sequence of HHHHHHH is the same as HTTHTHH. But people bet more on the latter sequence because it “looks more like” a random sequence. People don’t expect 7 consecutive heads and would start wondering if the coin is biased if that happens.

We have developed some great concepts in logic, probability, game theory and decision theory and it would be awesome if we could include these in our intuitive thinking process. Imagine pointing out the logical inconsistencies in the speech of a politician or not falling for the tricks of advertisers and marketeers. But in life we don’t get opportunities to sit down with a notebook and calculate the probabilities or deduce the logic. This is where CaaS comes in.

What I would love is a system that gives red flags when there is a chance of us committing a logical fallacy or falling prey to a cognitive bias, a system that helps us interpret data correctly and intuitively or a system that  helps us base some of our key decisions on statistics and not mere conjecture, a system that gives us game theoretic strategies based on our real-life scenario. A perfect CaaS would not only require our speech and vision as inputs but also an idea of what is important to us and not and that is never really quantifiable. People would obviously be concerned about privacy if such a system did exist but I expect such services to be used only in situations where we know going in we need to be careful about the logic other people are going to use(lawyers, judges) or specious stats people might lure us with(advertisements).

Technologically, such a CaaS is a distant dream. Till then, it is a good idea to keep in mind the biases we might harbor and the fallacies we might commit.

X-as-a-Service(XaaS) refers to the growing number of services delivered over the internet like Software-as-a-Service(SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service(PaaS) etc. Google Docs is an example of a SaaS – a software which is hosted on the cloud , not on your computer.

[1] Why Cognition-as-a-Service is the next operating system battlefield 
[2] Cognition
[3] Watson (computer)
[4] ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman
[5]

[6] Anchoring

Visualizing Repetition in Lyrics

Today I stumbled upon Visualizing Repetition in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets . Will Kurt  devised a simple and brilliant method to visualize repetition structure in poems and lyrics. And that got me wondering, how would lyrics of Hindi songs look in this visualization?

They  have so much repetition and so many different repeating patterns in the lyrics I was pretty sure I  would find something interesting. So, I coded a similar and  simpler version (visualize-lyrics).

What will the visualization look like?
You’ll be seeing a grid for each song. Each square in the grid visually  represents the similarity between two lines of the song. The bluer the  square is, the more similar the two lines are. Maroon means the lines  are dissimilar. A color legend is attached with each image for  clarification.

What patterns can you look for?
Repeating  patterns in blue correspond to repeating patterns in the song. More  maroon means the lyricist used lots of different words and did not  adhere to a lyrical structure. Remember the grid will be symmetric about  the diagonal. So, don’t look for that.

Let’s get started.

1. Rim Jhim Gire Saawan

A short and melancholic song. It returned the following:

The lyrics Rim jhim gire saawan, Sulag sulag jaaye mann is shown by the repeating blues. I daresay the grid resembles falling raindrops which is also the visual imagery created by the lyrics. Most probably just a coincidence.

2. Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si

Here’s another song set against the backdrop of rain. And its visualization:

Again falling raindrops! Am I onto something here? On a more serious note (Inserted music pun. Score!),  this is a longer song and the lyrical structures are very evident.  Heck, the structures are almost symmetric about themselves too. That’s  sheer brilliance.

3. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh

I chose this song on purpose. It has too many repetitions.

So  many that maroon can’t be assigned as the background color. And the  number of big squares formed shows how this song’s music is also  structured.

4. Emotional Atyachar

I included this because the repeating structure in this song develops around the middle and by the end we are only left with Tauba tera jalwa… emotional atyachar. So the visualization gives us this:

5. Husna

This is a very powerful song whose lyrics don’t give in to direct repetition to get lyrical structure.

The  lack of blue squares and increased number of yellow squares shows how  the lyricist follows a certain structure but does not repeat lines  altogether.

Speaking  of repeating lines altogether, one cannot ignore the contribution of a  certain Mr. Himesh Reshammiya and his lyricists. As an apt ending to  anything about repeating lyrics, I attach this masterpiece.

And its cosine-similarity graph.

The  repeating pattern is so damn beautiful. Lots of descending electric  rays, seeking the deepest crevices on earth, in the hope that the ocean  will muffle the song that created them.

ESCAPE ROUTES of TEACHERS

I must admit being a teacher is one of the most difficult jobs today. But in the secondary level I have seen, have heard about and have been taught also by some weird teachers. And what I have noticed is that these guys have their own pre-planned escape routes if their present knowledge is not good enough to answer a doubt.

Q:Sir, I have a doubt in Q3.

Here are some unique situations:

1.The teacher stares hard at the question and finally is enlightened to the fact that he is not enlightened enough to enlighten the student and lightens himself of the book.

And looks around the class and starts a lecture like this :

“You students will study…. Before asking such questions you all must realise whether you deserve to know the answer, whether you are capable to know the answer. Just ask yourselves that… The answer will obviously be NO. It is all the fault of …”

The student was thinking that it must be the fault of sir himself as it is he who taught. But it is the fault of..

“..Co-education. Make pairs and sit in classroom. How can you all concentrate in such a situation. End up in cyber-cafes God knows doing what. Sit in front of TV…”

And the lecture ends with the bell and the doubt still remains.

2.”Ram will answer the question. He is my favourite student and I know I have given him enough training to be able to answer the question.So Ram..”

Two cases:

(1) If Ram is present he solves the question most of the time and if he is not able to he is at the receiving end and poor chap he is also thrown out of the class.

(2)If Ram is absent then sir expresses his sadness and tells that he is really sad that the only kid who makes his teaching an enjoyable experience is absent and in that ocean of despondency the doubt is drowned.

3. “Stupid very stupid. I must say last year’s teachers were so lineant upon you. Do this one first and show me.”

And he starts off with elementary examples that are easy to solve.

4.”See…my friends Newton had a similar story…” Saying so hhe narrates a story which I think he must have mugged up from 101 Great Lives and ensures the expansion of the story is long enough and interesting enough for the doubt to be cleared off the kiddo’s mind.

5.(And the most-cliched trick teachers all around India use and this had happened with me in school.)

“It is not in the syllabus”

“Ma’m, but you only had told to underline and I have a doubt nevertheless…”

“I can explain it to you but I don’t think the class will understand.”

I was expecting others in the class to retaliate this thinly-veiled insult but no one did.

I insisted,”OK Ma’m I will come to the staff-room in the break to understand.”

And next we have an absconding teacher who when caught gives you a book from a senior class to be read that has no relevance with the topic in hand.

That is the way things work around here.