Monday 28 November 2011

Encouragement as opposed to giving a false sense of self-worth

Being a teacher and a human being with an acute sense of observation, some points just cannot be missed. Increasingly, in my profession I have observed fellow colleagues who for gaining popularity and fan-fare feed the students with a false sense of self-worth in the form of encouragement. This led me to look into the nuances of encouraging an individual. How does one define encouragement?

Instead of looking at the meaning, I thought I will look into some of the synonyms of the word encouragement: boost, goad, spur, instigate and so on. Well, all the listed synonyms give a sense of pushing the individual to perform to the utmost of their abilities. But there is a catch here, sometimes there is a fine line that divided words of encouragement and empty words which instill a sense of false self-worth. If a student x is lazy and not focussed, I could encourage x to dig deep into herself and bring out her true qualities. But I could also do something else: I could attribute the feeling that inspite of not doing well, x is the best. By doing the second, I would lead x to believe that x is the best, inspite of knowing that x is not.

Well, sometimes in the pretext of encouraging a student, one should not attempt to destroy the knowledge that a student has limitations. Limitations are part of every individual and overcoming those limitations and moving ahead is a challenge everyone faces on a day-to-day basis. But to feed thoughts into a student's head that says that there are no limitation, leads to a very fatal outcome.

A teacher's greatest killjoy is when a student challenges the teacher that she/he is not respecting the student's worth. A teacher/individual ought to respect each person for what he/she is and strive to encourage in order to stimulate the students but sometimes this encouragement is done in several neagative ways by some individuals, who are gradually engaging in instilling a false sense of self-worth in a student. And I for one, cannot tolerate empty words of false self-worth.

What are your thoughts on this subject? I hope you get what I mean.

Image: Internet

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Incest, imprisonment and revenge

When I last did a post on a Japanese film, a reader, A. J. Poliquit commented: "Films from the Far East are slow and calming with memorable music." Having AJ's comment in mind and the backdrop of the movies that I have already watched, I sat down to watch the Korean film, Oldboy. The film was definitely slow (in the beginning) but not calming.

The protagonist is locked up in a cell for 15 years, without knowing why he is locked up. I had tremendous difficulty in following those parts as I was completely oblivious to what was going on with him. It almost seemed that along with the protagonist, even I was perplexed and confused. The film's narrative was also a bit confusing as it went back and forth between what happened before, during and after the 15 years of imprisonment. In fact, one had to pause, go ahead and then resume the movie, in order to understand the narrative scheme and the plot. Movies like this one, though keep me glued, exasperate me.

It is after some time that one realises that the imprisonment is an act of revenge for something that happened in the past involving the protagonist and two other individuals who were students of the same school. When I came to this part, I understood the title of the film (Ahhhhhhhhhhh. A long sigh). It is after this part that the movie gets exciting. What's next? What's next?

Then the story rapidly moves forward with shots of the past cradling the present. A tale of incest is revealed. After sitting through all this, one is left wondering about the different nuances of life, relationship, crime and emotions. The film is definitely a thriller and it thrills you in different ways sometimes leaving you with a bitter taste.

The film has some distasteful scenes. Let me mention two. In one scene, the protagonist eats a live octopus and in another he chops off his own tongue. 

This film from the Eastern world shook my sensibilities and I am short of words when it comes to praising the craft of the director, Park Chan-wook.

Watch the film if you can digest incest, imprisonment and revenge sprinkled with some gory scenes.

So, what kind of films do you like watching? Will you watch Oldboy, if given a chance?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Monday 14 November 2011

This thing, that thing, which thing

The word thing, I guess, should be the winner of the contest "One word for all." It is much easier for anyone to say 'that thing' rather than the actual word that should be used in a particular context. Take this example:

X: I like that thing in your T-shirt

Y: Which thing?

X: That yellow thing

Y: You mean that smiley?

X: Yes, that smiley thing

Well, every object, emotion, idea is reduced to a 'thing' or 'thingy.' Lets's see another example,

A: I think I have a thing for Josh Groban

B: Same here. Even I have a thing for him. Do you think we should write a thing for him?

And, it is not only young people who use the word 'thing' as a substitute for words but also adults. And, I must hasten to add that yours truly is also found guilty of using the T word for lack of memory of the original word.

The usage of the word in certain contexts almost ends up in double meaning. For example, the T word is used as a euphemism for sexual organs and sex itself. People saying, 'my thing is itching' or 'we did the thing' is not quite uncommon. But it does get hilarious when people say, 'My book is on your thing' (here, thing refers to bed). But the beauty of this kind of 'thing' communication is that the speakers who are part of the conversation perfectly understand the connotation of the word 'thing.'

Using the word 'thing' for almost every object or feeling, the literal meaning of the word is forgotten. But, that is secondary because communication is what matters and so anything is fine!

Now, let me leave you with the video of the song That Thing You do! from the movie of the same name. And why did I choose this song? Well, you guessed that one, quite right.

What do you think about thing and do you do the thing thing (winks) always?

Image: Internet

Tuesday 8 November 2011

What's your worth?

Clothes maketh a man says a popular adage but sometimes this adage is taken a bit too seriously by many merchandise sellers. Sales personnel at many retail outlets literally try to guess the worth of the customer by the way he/she is dressed. Now, don't get me wrong here. I am not propagating shabby dressing sense or pleading the cause of people dressed carelessly. I am just trying to say that a person should not always be judged by the manner of dressing. Some people just don't care about their dressing. Period. Take this professor who is my colleague. He is an intelligent academic scholar who is well read and quite quirky as well. He has his own eccentricities like we all do and can be a perfect illustration of an 'absent-minded professor.' Once he happened to visit a popular upmarket book-store and at the entrance, he was warned, All the books here are very expensive. Well, the security would have no idea that the person in question holds a PhD from one of the most prestigious institution in the country. All that mattered was that the professor was dressed quite shabbily.

A person's worth is determined by his/her clothes. And, if one is not well dressed then it is assumed that the person cannot afford 'decent' clothes and hence a poor man. Well, if that that is the case then is monetary worth determined only by the appearance? History records that many geniuses never cared about their presentation in public: unkempt hair, dirt-filled nails, different footwear for each leg, button-less shirts and an open fly.

Having said all this, I would also hasten to add that it is quite impossible to blame the security as he with his limited knowledge of the world matches the outward appearance and the monetary worth. His world is limited to the equation: money=well-dressed and poverty=shabby clothes. He cannot estimate that sometimes there are also individuals who do not care about how they look for their mind is preoccupied with things that are far more important to then than smart dressing.

And, I also don't negate the fact that well-dressed people do have an edge in this world which gives importance to sheen and outward looks. Afterall, Clothes maketh a man in the world and Bacon's Reading maketh a full man is only limited to certain circles.

So, what is your take on this. Do you make first impressions based on clothes or do you wait before arriving at a conclusion?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Saturday 5 November 2011

When the graduates protested

Yesterday I was at one of the oldest Universitys of the country, University of Madras, to attend a convocation. The governor, Dr. K. Rosaiah was there and the guest of honour was the UGC chairman, Prof. Ved Prakash. Normally in a convocation the degree certificates are given and then we come back home. But this time there was some extra zing to the whole affair. There was a fight and a resolution along with a promise.

First, it was announced that only one student from each department would come to the dais and receive the doctorate degree, as the programme had to wind up within an hour. For some time there was no much flutter and then it came. A PhD graduate who had come to receive his doctorate protested that he didn't want the degree just handed to him. He wanted to receive it from the governor. His point was valid. One comes from afar off to only find that the degree would be handed over to him not on the dais but where he is seated, will definitely cause irritation. When that man rose in protest, many graduates joined him and protested the plan. But through all this, there were many graduates who were just seated. For them it did not make any difference. If I was there in their place, it wouldn't have mattered to me. For me, my degree would matter and not whom or where I got it from.

 In the picture L to R: Registrar and Controller of Examinations (in yellow) Dr. Leo. T. Alexander, Vice-chancellor (in purple) Col. Prof. G. Thiruvasagam,  Governor and Chancellor of the University (seated) Dr. K. Rosaiah and a graduate receiving his PhD degree.

The Vice-chancellor and Registrar came into the picture. They pleaded with the graduates to return to their seats. Their plea fell on deaf ears. Phone calls were made and there was visible tension in the eyes of many officials. Finally the VC announced: All of you will receive your degrees from the governor. There was an applause and peace had descended on the faces of the protesting PhD graduates.

Seeing all this, I wondered that many times we are quite content with whatever is thrust upon us. Sometimes it is assumed that people will accept whatever is doled out to them quite willingly. Even in the convocation, if one man hadn't started that protest, none of them would have. This goes for everything. I think of Auden's poem, The Unknown Citizen. A citizen who is quite invisible and does not have his/her individual voice. How many years we have been so and will continue to be so, I imagine. And, having said all this, even I am like that citizen who accepts and conforms. After all, life goes on.

Image: Internet


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