Monday, 30 June 2014

Isn't it high time educators revisited their roles as ‘teachers’?

Today, during an informal discussion with a retired Principal and a couple of other educators, the matter of calling oneself a teacher and its implications cropped up. The idea was that for an educator to claim that he or she was a teacher came with riders and implications that literally shook us up a great deal. To claim that one was a teacher meant one was ready to accept the responsibilities of being a teacher. What came up in the discussion was that the role of a teacher entailed within it the responsibility of ‘judging’ others in a way that dealt with the inherent demands of meeting the standards of the role which is in a way full of responsibilities and duties that demand stringent requirements of being neutral, fair, unbiased, and a person holding the highest possible qualities found in some of the best teachers that the world has seen till date. Some of the best known teachers that the world has known include people like Jesus Christ, Gautama Buddha, Dronacharya and so on, people who were exemplary giants in their own ways. The argument was that to call oneself a teacher meant that one  had the abilities and qualities of the famous people mentioned above! So then what are the alternatives that would best define our roles of educating others? Do we, as teachers have the same qualities of Christ, or Dronacharya or perhaps even Buddha? The answer is probably a hesitant, ‘No!’
If to be a teacher entails imbibing the qualities of neutrality, and great wisdom, where do we as professionals stand? The answer is probably that very few of us probably even meet one fifth of the qualities of the great personalities that have guided us down the ages! This brought us to the question of the other job titles that we can use to define our roles as educators. These included job titles such as, facilitator, guru, instructor or, perhaps educator. Which is the best title that suits those who have taken up the profession of conducting instruction in a controlled environment? Looking at things as they are, it is very difficult to claim that we are teachers, more so if we are doing a job for emoluments rather than a passion or a desire to be the source of change and enlightenment in a society that is increasingly dependent on material rewards. If to be a teacher means doing a job for a pay, then I guess we fail the very tenets that the great teachers of the world have stood for.
This brings me to the need to define the roles of a teacher, facilitator, instructor or even educator! The Collins COBUILD Student’s Dictionary 2006 edition defines the role of teaching as, ‘The teachings of a particular person, school of thought, or religion are all ideas and principles that they teach.’ The question is, do we as teachers really teach schools of thought, ideas and principles? Kahlil Gibran, in one of his Twelve Books titled, The Prophet, writes ‘How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay without a wound in the spirit…Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.’ Do we, as so called ‘teachers’ have a heart ‘made sweet with hunger and thirst’? Or, for that effect can we meet the brilliance of Jesus as a teacher, or for that effect the dedication of Dronacharya? I doubt if the answer would be a ‘yes!’ These questions bring me to the descriptions of Jesus as a teacher in the New Testament. The book of John, chapter 3, verse 2 reads, ‘The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.’- A Rabbi, according to the Collins COBUILD dictionary ‘is a Jewish religious leader. Now the question is, do we as professionals perform the miracles that come from a strong conviction in God? In the Book of Mark, chapter 9, verse 17, John the disciple says to Jesus, ‘Master, I have brought unto thee, my son, which hath a dumb spirit.’ – It is the expectation of the parent that the ‘Master’ or the teacher will be able to handle a child with special needs. The same book of Mark, chapter 6, describes how Jesus went about, ‘villages teaching.’ In the book of Mark, chapter 4, verse 1, Mark describes how, ‘he began to teach by the sea and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea’. Are we as so called ‘teachers’ able to initiate hunger in our learners for teachings that deal with life and all its complications? I guess the answer will be a no!
If we fall short of the requirements of a teacher, can we not then take up the role of a Guru? In order to understand this better, we need to define the meaning of a Guru. The Pocket English Dictionary defines the Guru as, ‘A Hindu spiritual teacher, an influential teacher or an expert on a particular subject.’ Do we as ‘teachers’ offer spiritual learning to our students today, or for that effect can we call ourselves experts in our subject areas? The answer to both questions would be yet another ‘No!’ We as teachers today cannot label ourselves as gurus for the basic reason that Spirituality rarely finds its way into the day to day pedagogy of today, and moreover, we cannot claim to be masters in our subjects in times when our learners are often better informed than us. How many of us are interested in updating our knowledge in our subject areas in times when information and new facts keep challenging our knowledge and expertise? Again looking at the answers to the questions it is clear that we, as educators fail in meeting up to the requirements of being true Gurus. This in itself brings me to the story of Eklavia giving his thumb to Guru Dronacharya. What was it that convinced him to part with his thumb, when asked to give the Guru Guru Dakshina, or for that effect the fees that was the dues that the Guru was entitled to? In the days when the Guru –Shishya tradition existed in India, the Guru Dakshina was often in form of services and donations in the form of provisions and goods that the Guru in the Ashram would require in order to carry on with life. The giving away of his thumb by Eklavia should not be seen as a wilful sacrifice of one’s body part, or for that effect self-induced mutilation. Rather, it was all about recognising the services of a dedicated teacher. It might also be seen as Eklavia’s recognition of his teacher’s qualities as a master of his subject area. How many of our students would today readily part with their thumbs to acknowledge their teachers? The answer would probably be yet another, ‘No.’
What then, can  professional educators claim to be if not to be teachers in a world of technological advancement? The least that  might be claimed is that they are only facilitators, guides, and supervisors who  supervise and conduct the daily routine of promoting an instruction that might at the very least, equip the learners for exam skills and probably groom them to answer all the questions in a written exam to the best of their abilities. In such a context, to call oneself a   ‘teacher’ would be a great travesty in that a person calling himself or herself  a ‘teacher’ falls short of the qualities of a teacher which include the spiritual uplift of the student, to be a healer of hurt feelings, a performer of miracles, a master of the subject, and to have an emotive, empathetic quality. How many of those who claim to be ‘teachers’ can claim to perform even the least duties of a ‘teacher’?
Looking at the demands of being a ‘teacher’ and not being able to perform all the roles of a teacher, (what with the pecuniary liabilities and and demands of living a demanding life in today’s times) would it not be perhaps relevant to identify a better an more suitable job title than that of a ‘teacher’? With the changing demands down the ages, and a changing job profile, it would perhaps be more pertinent for educationists to  claim to be ‘facilitators’ rather than ‘teachers’! That would bring us to identify the  role of a facilitator. The Pocket Oxford English Dictionary explains the meaning of ‘Facilitate’ as, ‘make something easy or easier’. Is time perhaps, that we revisit our roles as ‘teachers’? Perhaps we need to redefine our roles today, and take up the more achievable role of  a ‘facilitator’ rather than  that of a ‘teacher’ in today’s  context! It is clear that to call our selves, ‘teachers’, or ‘gurus’, might not be  an accurate indication of  the challenges  and the job roles  that we have today as educators. In view of all the arguments and examples provided in this article, it is perhaps high time educators redefined their role as that of ‘facilitators’ rather than ‘teachers’ or ‘gurus’! It is apparently high time educators revisited their roles as teachers!

Acknowledging the Success of our students in the Boards

It goes without saying that when the board results for grade twelve were announced this year, it gave me a great high as a teacher. The previous year had been a difficult year as constantly we had to convince the Science Stream students to work hard in English, and this came as no easy task since most of them wanted to join Engineering or Medicine. A common answer that I got was, ‘Why Sir, we don’t need very high marks in English, after all, what matters is our getting the minimum pass marks, and anyway, our passing the entrance exams is what matters after all! Such answers from my Science students drove me towards a feeling of despair, and I wondered what I was doing with students who were not even interested in English! True, they spoke fluently enough, but when they wrote their answers in the various tests, they just didn’t stick to the accepted norms, formats, and conventions. They just wanted to do there own thing!
The case with my Humanities stream students was different, however. They responded well, and took notes meticulously, they entered into debates on social issues, and, often the discussions on themes, plots, and characters lead us into other subject areas like Sociology and Psychology. I often wondered whether this was anything but an English class! Yes, the Humanities stream students maintained notebooks so well that they were in great demand with the students of the other sections. I had great expectations from the Humanities section and they did not let me down! What made teaching a joy in the Humanities Section was that there were fewer disruptions, fewer interruptions, and yes those ubiquitous Physics and Maths refreshers were not to be seen anywhere on the desks! It seemed as if they were completely focussed on their tasks and they even had set down their goals and aims for life after school.
It came as a great surprise, however while taking classes with the Science stream students, it became very clear that some of the students had a better inclination for  English, but then, parental pressure, peer pressure, and the glamour associated with Engineering and Medicine had swayed them into choosing those subjects even if they didn’t have an inclination for the same. It wouldn’t surprise me to see many of the Science Stream students switching over to Humanities streams at the graduate level, after all, the student who scored the highest marks of a whopping 98 marks out of a total of 100 belonged to the Science Section! Surely some of the best colleges in the capital would have offered her a seat in the B.A. (Hons) programme if she had shown interest. Towards the end of the session and right before the exams, another student of mine who belonged to the Science stream began meeting me in school for tutorials that would help him in the exams. He took away most of the time, but then I guess it had been worth it for him as well as myself, because at the end of the day he was able to come up with a whopping 95 marks out of 100. Well, he did call me up after the exams to express his gratitude, and I told him that he had deserved those marks because of his dedication during the last days. Maybe, if students like him had paid more attention throughout the year, who knows, the results might have gone up by more points!
Ultimately, they say, there is no gain without pain, and the pain of reminding the students to pay more attention, and convincing them to follow specified conventions and formats, and the explanation of the fact that it was not about knowing the answers to all the questions that mattered but the ability to complete the task in two hours and thirty minutes with thirty minutes to spare did not go waste! Ultimately the remarkably high marks that students from all the three sections got has been a re-affirmation on their part that they had been the best students we could ever have had. It has been a testimony that the students had been after all very hard working and that they had the desire to prove to their parents and their teachers, that yes, they could do it!
Nothing can beat the feeling of greatness that an educator feels when his or her students achieve success of the greatest levels. No money, no reward can be greater than when your student comes to you to tell you that he or she has finally done it! The credit for the amazing results that the students of my school have achieved goes to the students entirely, it has been thanks to their hard work, their patience, and of course their readiness to trust in their educators, their promptness in turning in assignments, notebooks, and any other tasks assigned to them. I guess, last but not last, the credit goes to those parents who stood by their children at all times. I have known of mothers who took leave from work in order to be around when their children were studying. I have known of parents who would stay awake all night while their children were studying. There have been fathers who would take their children to the coaching centre and back home. There have been parents who would go to the Photocopy shop to photocopy notebooks and other study materials while their children studied at home. How great these lucky parents must have felt to hear about the results of their children. The success that the students achieved in the boards was all because of a partnership that existed between the students, their parents and the educators! Finally, I would like to thank Alankrita Chikkara, my colleague for all the support provided by her, in spite of the fact that she had been keeping busy with students' services. Her dedication and hard work, her guidance and readiness to listen to the students meant that they simply could not fail her, and so this is how they thanked her, by giving her a wonderful result!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Cornerstone – A Suggested Ponderable for a Sermon on Faith

When the good Presbyter, Revd. Ghazan, delivered a sermon about how it was on the basis of the faith of his disciple, that the Lord, built his Church, it set me wondering about how relevant the possession of Faith is to each one of us, especially if one has to maintain sanity while living in the midst of people whom we trust, but turn out to be backstabbers in the end! In a world where for some there might be a dearth of noble natures, one wonders whether one should not attempt to temper one’s Faith in human beings with one’s Faith in The Lord. Perhaps, the greatest challenge today is to be cheated by people who claim to be of the Lord and yet maintain Faith in the God they serve! I guess, the words, ‘Forgive them, O Lord, for they know not what they do!’ would serve to remind us that Jesus too,was aware of the presence of the dearth of noble natures and although He had been betrayed by one of his own disciples and others, probably known to him, He prayed for their forgiveness.  Does it mean then, that being betrayed and backstabbed and cheated by people we know should affect our Faith in God? Perhaps, the greatest challenge to Faith is being let down by those who are considered to be the anointed ones, the true messengers of the message of Faith, but who are themselves so bereft of the Grace and blessings of the Lord that they have no scruples in treading under their feet, the Faith, hopes, and expectations of the flock that they lead.
It is said that where one door is shut down, God opens two more, and I have strongly sensed this fact to be true. After a long stint in a Government School, in Delhi, I was requested to head a Mission School in the interiors of Haryana by someone I had known. When it became clear that I would not be a rubber-stamp or a mere chattel in the hands of an unscrupulous organization of like-minded fickle minded ‘Gentlemen of the Word,’ I had to somehow escape the clutches of this  group of people. The first two months were probably the worst that I have ever felt in all my years, but what upheld me was Faith in The Good Lord. Whatever happened, I just didn’t stop praying, and didn’t stop going to Church. After a good two months, I was able to land up a job in a prestigious organisation, and since then there has been no looking back for me. I often question my decision for trusting the Gentleman whom I had known for more than a decade, but little had I realised that the same person who had once adopted a mantle of humbleness and simplicity would himself become a shark with a bottomless pit for a stomach. If my Faith in this person was broken, did it mean that I should severe my ties with the Lord? The answer, when I think of it today, was and is a strict no!
When God shuts down one door, He opens two, and when a person you once trusted shuts down one door, he traps himself inside a room whish has no doors, and God Himself opens a thousand doors for you. Having served for a couple of years in a new institution, I finally got the interest and courage to collect all of the poems that I had written and get them published, that too by a well known international publisher. It was a heady feeling when I held that book in my hands, and there were tears in my parents’ eyes, and my children wept,  my wife wept,and my sister wept, they wept tears of joy! I, didn’t weep rather I wondered if the existence of that book in my hands, wasn’t a message from God, never to lose Faith? My parents had seen me go into depression, my sister, my children, my wife, all because of the betrayal that I had faced at the hands of someone we all knew. So, what the, what was it that made me go on with full positive energy, to take life head on and proceed in life in spite of all the tumbles I had taken? Was it just positive attitude? Was it that I had a better grasp of life skills, or perhaps even that I had been wired differently? The answer to all those questions is a single No! It was clearly Faith, Faith in my Maker that had given me the strength to forge ahead in life, and I hope that God will continue to strengthen my Faith in the goodness of my Maker!
An important take away for me, and something that I would like to share with all of my friends, is that no matter what you might be going through in live, never loser faith in God! Your beloved might have betrayed you, your close friend might have ridden roughshod over you, or the person you once admired for his or her so called spiritual strengths might have turned out to be a sham after all, remember, the cornerstone of your life, that keystone that you build your life on, that foundation on which you build your life on should be none other than Faith, unflinching Faith, unconditional Faith, Faith that knows no rewards, Faith that cannot be bought, Faith that can only built upon! I often think a bout Job from the Old Testament. If Job symbolizes patience, then Peter symbolizes Faith, while Judas symbolizes treachery and betrayal. Today, in everyday life we come across all three of them. We might come across more Judases than Jobs, but then when you have a dearth of Peters in life, then might it not be a good idea to build up a Peter in your own hearts?
This brings me to the Pastors and leaders who are themselves so bereft of Faith that they are ready to lead their flock astray, for thus it is written, “ Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord God of Israel…Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them : behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.” – Jeremiah, 23:1-2. Harsh words indeed, but then it is clear that those who have been given the responsibility of upholding the Faith of their flock in The Lord, and do not do so will face dire consequences. Faith, clearly is something that one feels, one holds on to, and it is something to be nurtured with the help of the anointed people whose have been appointed to spread the word of the Lord.To this effect, I would like to reaffirm in very strong words, that it was thanks to the Pastor of my church that I was able to strengthen my Faith in the face of so much depression and dejection. He, God Bless him kept involving me in Church Activities, he took time to talk to me, he prepared some of the best sermons I have ever come across, and this is what I would call a true follower of the Lord, a nurturer of Faith and hope in his flock! Of the person who would call himself, ‘The Anointed One,’ well, I can only hope that he rediscovers the Faith that he had lost in The Lord, and may God forgive him for he knows not what he does! The whole issue faced by many of us today, and those who have been given the responsibility of leading the flock and strengthening Faith may be summed up in the words, “ The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ,, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” – 1 Peter, 5:1-2. For those shepherds, who neglect the requirements of their flocks those shepherds whose acts of commission or omissions might lead to a dilution of Faith, the warning is clear!
The actual power and strength of one’s Faith, might however help the person to surf over his or her disappointments and losses. Ultimately, one’s Faith is the result of one’s convictions, beliefs, and being aware of the Word of The Lord. When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? and Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Mathew 16:13-19. This is what Faith is about, a strong belief that Jesus is “the son of the living God!” The name “Peter” is the Greek word for “rock” (Petra) and translates an Aramaic nickname (Cepas) that also means “rock”. All the Gospels agree that Peter had promised that he would follow Jesus even unto death, only to be answered with Jesus’ prophecy that he would in fact deny him three times. In spite of the occasion when he denied knowing Jesus, before Jesus was led away to the Crucifix, Peter continued to be the rock on which the entire Christian religion was built. What was it then that convinced Peter to leave material joys, a comfortable married life, and a house that he had in Capernaum? Simon – Peter had been a successful fisherman, and yet what was it that drew him towards Jesus Christ? What was it that made him “The Rock”? Well I guess the single word that come to mind is Faith. We as evangelists, and presbyters, and “Anointed Ones” have the divine responsibility of building up Faith in our flock, and woe betide those who wear the gowns of piety and commit acts that are meant to undermine the Faith of their flock! Ultimately, I can only add that Faith is an important cornerstone - it holds the two sides of a square, and prevents them from falling apart! The cornerstone has the ability to hold the structure together - no building worth its name can be built without a cornerstone. If our lives might be compared to buildings which are structurally strong, then I guess it would be because of that cornerstone tucked away somewhere, something called Faith!  My only Prayer to the Good Lord would be to never let my Faith  reduce in strength and instead to make it stronger than ever before, that, I might have the conviction that in spite of being surrounded by all kinds of people I have someone up there who will mend things for me. Amen!

Technorati Tags:

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Janpath, the ultimate flea market in Delhi, and a Shopping Paradise for window shoppers!

When a few days back my family and I visited Janpath,  a flea market behind the LIC Building in in Connaught place, it  was enough to revive memories of my college days in the middle eighties and early nineties. The only difference that I noticed on entering the lane was the presence of dysfunctional metal detectors, otherwise everything seemed to be the same. The hawkers shouting each other down, extolling the virtues of their wares, and the throwaway prices. As usual, the garments on sale have remained the same, shorts, sports shoes bearing well known brand names, Tee Shirts, track suits, skirts, and tops for women, sandals, pumps, midis, oxidized jewellery, and well almost everything in terms of garments and footwear for women and men. If you walk across to the main road adjacent to the lane selling garments then you will come to the permanent shops selling souvenirs, leather goods, decoration pieces, and paintings on cloth a veritable tourists’ paradise. Everything was the same as it had been twenty-five to thirty years ago! When I asked a vendor who was selling some of the most skimpy of skirts, where he had got the stuff from, he told me that it was export material that had been rejected and returned to the manufacturer. Well this was good enough for me!
In the days when I was doing my graduation, Janpath was a favoured destination, and I remember my friends provenance of the dresses that our female classmates were wearing and we arrived most often at the same conclusion that they had bought their clothes from Janpath. In those days as is true today, everything on that lane behind the LIC building can be had at a throwaway price. My brother wanted to buy a cap and  a pair of shorts which he did for a couple of hundred rupees each. Of course, in those days of college as of now, you never advertised the fact that your purchase of that colourful wrap around or tee shirt was from Janpath!
It seems time has reached a standstill in some of the popular shopping destinations in Delhi, some of them being, Tank Road  near Prasad Nagar for jeans where you can buy your favourite pair of jeans and get brand tags to go with them, or for that effect Sarojini Market in South Delhi, or perhaps even Lajpat Nagar Market. Bargaining plays an important role in all of these markets that is if you have the courage to bargain for half the price that is quoted by the shop keepers. Yes, the clothes that you buy from Janpath or Sarojini Market may not last a lifetime, but then they do present a good option if you plan to purchase the items at a throwaway price and don’t plan to use them too often! The idea, I guess is not to shop for expensive and durable items, but rather for the experience of bargaining, having a day out, and perhaps the chance of purchasing a garment that is latest in fashion! Well I guess the greatest draw that the lane behind the LIC building in Connaught place has is in its huge range of garments and oxidized jewellery items that are on offer there. So while you sip on your ‘Banta’, a sweetened Soda sweetened with fresh lime and condiments, you can humor your lady companion as she gloats over the stuff on offer. A market that offers value for money, considering the amount of fabric contained in that skimpy denim shorts ( that would cost you the earth in a shopping Mall) you might consider visiting Janpath, to humor your friend!
Janpath continues to be a popular shopping destination among young people, especially college going students, and other young people. A flea market that continues to be popular even today, after at least twenty-five years since I last visited it, I would recommend my readers to consider visiting it albeit with the advice to bargain to one’s heart’s level. If you want to buy that rather colourful skirt, or that colourful tee shirt, hey did I not see something of that kind in the Mall, the Janpath is the place to visit! And, if the visitor finds the stuff not to one’s liking then one can consider the visit as an outing and perhaps even savour some of the wonderful snacks on offer in some of the eating joints there. When I was courting the woman who is now my wife, I remember taking her to the Maharaja Restaurant for some wonderfully prepared Idlis and Dosas! But then that was eighteen years ago!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Dew Drops – A Collection of Poems By Rodrick Rajive Lal (A Preview)

This is my first published collection of poems,  written by me over a period of four years. It will shortly be available in both soft cover format and hard cover format. The book celebrates life in all its aspects, sweet, magical, bitter, and spiritual. Although it contains an assortment of various poems, I decided to name the collection ‘Dew Drops’ because of the symbolism represented by the very Dew Drops that can be found on the grass early in the morning.

Drawing inspiration from life, I have drawn richly from my memories of life till my mid teens in Ethiopia, and then my experiences in India. This collection of poems is therefore rich in imagery and symbolism from two different countries and their varied and rich cultures.
Here are a few excerpts from the collection of poems:

On seeking to drink from The Golden Chalice
And so sought I the Golden Chalice to assuage my thirst for
Knowledge and I flipped through the pages of Plato and Socrates,
But found I nought what I wanted! And then from Homer, did I seek the
Secret resting place of the Chalice that I might drink my fill.
A traveller of Life
Yes, I am a traveller of life,
And the journey is long; the twists and turns are many,
And the road never so plain.  The ups and downs are heady,
But they promise an eventful journey!
Saba, Queen of Axum
Was this the face that tugged the heart-strings of a great King?
Limpid pools for eyes like those of a Gazelle, lips so full, and hair
Bound in a Shiruba? A face so lovely might never be seen again,
For she was the pride of Axum, beloved of a great Emperor!
The lonely journey of a Ras
Astride  a  Horse, he  gazes at the distant horizon,
His  faithful sword  in a  scabbard  fastened to his
Waist, spear  held in his hand. His  round leather-
Satchel  filled with  the precious  bread, Ambasha,
Horn   topped   with   the   bitter-sweet  tej  to last!
The Above poem is a description that took place early in the life of Tefari Mekonen who was later to become, Haile Selassie, the Lion of Judah and the Emperor of Ethiopia.
…To read more from the collection of poems please feel free to order the book from :
Partridge India
000 800 10062 62

The E-Book Version is available on :

For autographed copies and inquiries, please feel free to drop a line in the comments section of my blog: http//

Last but not least, I would like to thank Partridge Publications, especially, Antoniet Saints and Joe Anderson, for convincing me to go ahead with the publication of my collection of poems! Antoniet's persistence, and Joe's professional patience all helped me fulfill my dream of publishing this book.My next project is to publish my collection of short stories, very soon! It is titled, The Andromeda Connection, A Journey in Time.

Happy Reading….
Rodrick Rajive lal

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A lock in period of twenty years on a Government post might be a deterrent for aspiring and talented workforce!

An archaic law formulated in 1972, which governs the dispensation on Gratuity and pension states that the benefits entailed in a Government job can be claimed only after completing twenty years of qualifying service which is absurd in all senses, since most of our creative and talented teachers would opt out of Government services after a mere ten years! The years of repetitive stultifying service under straight jacked norms would cause most talented teachers to fall into a state of depression as a result of not being able to showcase talent and ingenuity. Unfortunately, when such teachers opt for a better job in the private sector, they are told that they don’t deserve to get their gratuity and pension benefits if they resign before their twenty years of service have been completed.  This is exactly what someone I know learned to his peril after having served in a Government Aided School in Delhi for more than seventeen years and then being told that he was not eligible to get his Gratuity since he had resigned before completing the mandatory twenty years of service. In this case, I would like to add that he was fed up working within the  constricted norms of Government Schools and Aided Schools in Delhi which is  why he wanted to opt out because he wanted to progress professionally. My friend  learned to my dismay that he had forfeited all the benefits that were due to him because of deciding to leave before the mandatory twenty years under rule 26 of the CCS Pension Rules 1972. The irony is that a person serving in a private organization will receive his  gratuity after serving for a minimum of five years, while his friend serving in a Government organization gets nothing! What makes matters even more ironical is that  there is a Central Government Gratuity Act that  clearly states that under rule 4 that an employee can get his gratuity  even if he resigns from service after serving for at least five years of continuous service. This rule however not applicable when serving under a State Government job or a Central Government Job! So we continue to have dual standards and dual rules that are meant to discriminate between privates employees and government employees!
My advice to all those aspiring teachers who want to join a Government Job as teachers is not to do so especially if they plan to leave before the mandatory twenty years. Many of the teachers would have lost their energy and their dynamism much before the twenty years are out! In many cases, jobs in Government Schools offer no scope for intellectual and professional development!
The very norm of completing twenty years in a Government school in order to be eligible to gain benefits of pension and gratuity is dictatorial and constricting in nature and it prevents free enterprise in teachers who are desirous of opting out of a rather constricting system which prevents experimentation and research. What the department of education in Delhi is doing is that it is following archaic laws which are in fact meant to clip the wings of those talented teachers who want to opt out. Moreover, in today’s times when talent is appreciated over sycophancy and nepotism, I very strongly believe that talented teachers should never join a Government Job because of the adage that once in, you are never out!
While the whole world advances, we are still stuck to the norms of rule number 26 of CCS (Pension) rules which are constrictive and meant in essence to prevent upward and lateral mobility of teachers working in Government schools.If working in a Government school entails twenty years of bonded labour, as per the norms of Rule 26 of CCS pension rules which forfeit pension benefits and gratuity benefits, then I would advise all aspiring educationists to not even think of joining a Government as a teacher! If this is my experience of having worked in a Government Aided school for seventeen years, then I would continuously advise all aspiring teachers to never even think of joining a Government school as a teacher. It is better to join a private school  where you can at least get your gratuity after working for a minimum of five years.
It simply is not worth joining a government school in India if you intend to leave before the mandatory twenty years of service! My advice to all young aspiring teachers in to thing of better opportunities in private schools where at least you have opportunity for growth , and you can at least earn your gratuity after a minimum of five years of continuous service!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Can effective Education be imparted without effective Assessment and Testing?

Paper and Pen
The idea of doing away with testing, the removal of a single Board exam at the grade tenth level,  the idea of tests as being more harmful than good, are all highly debated topics today!  Educationists, policy makers, bureaucrats, and even parents will never reach a consensus on this matter! A fine line exists, however ,between testing that is relevant and testing that is irrelevant! In an earlier article written by my, I had talked about how, despite all of this brouhaha about doing away with testing (in view of its being stressful and harmful),  our children today  are madly obsessed with  tests of all kinds! Many of them are going for  tests that their forefathers had never even heard of (talk about SAT, GMAT, CLAT, NET, TET, and so on)! The Adults too undergo various kinds of  psychometric tests in-service which include, Calliper, the Mills Briggs Test, and so on. So why  then, are we so obsessed about tests in an age that professes to be totally anti - testing? Is it not so ironical that today, we have done away with the single test per subject that we had at the tenth boards and have instead opted for a continuous battery of tests in the form of the Continuous Comprehensive Assessments from grade eight to grade ten? Isn’t the replacement of the single annual exam with continuous testing an affirmation that we can’t do without tests today? Surely, we are living in a highly complicated and paradoxical society today – if not so,  then why are we into so much  double talk about the importance and relevance of testing?
My argument is not about doing away with testing, rather, it is about the importance of testing; testing that is relevant, efficient and valid. It is about having fewer tests which are less stressful than a large number of tests that have little or no validity at all! I would like to support my claim by putting before the reader a few questions: 1. Would you like to go under the scalpel of a surgeon who has never been through tests? 2.Would you like to sit in a car driven by your son,who has never been tested before getting his licence, on a busy highway? 3.Would you fly in an airliner that is being flown by a pilot who has never had any kind of a test? 4.Would you send your children to a school which has teachers who have never sat or even passed their tests to get their licence to teach? The answer to all the questions would invariably be a very emphatic, ‘No.’ – Filial attachments aside!
In our desire to make a point and then just stick to it rather fastidiously, we have forgotten that tests have always been part of our lives, albeit tests that have had great relevance and validity. These tests have measured  a good deal what they set out to do. If Eklavia gave away his thumb to Guru Dronacharya as Guru Dakshina or a token fee to the teacher, then perhaps it might have been to prove his dedication towards his teacher and  resolve towards  his mission in life. The same might be said about the forty days of intense fasting and self denial that Christ had to undergo in the desert. It was a self assessment that Jesus Christ underwent to prove that he could resist temptation. If Gautama Buddha could sit in self denial under a tree before attaining Moksha, then wasn’t this period of self denial a test that he had to pass before achieving Moksha or release from the shackles of materialism? What about the reasons behind evolution? Don’t we evolve according to necessities and circumstances, thus building up on those qualities (and organs) that help us survive better in this world and toning down on those that are not required? Thus, the appendage that we call the appendix, which we have inside our abdomens failed the test and so has no role to play in our existence except perhaps to cause discomfort when it becomes inflamed!
In our haste for doing away with a standardized board exam at the grade ten level we have unfortunately introduced a slew of tests and activities in the form of formative assessments across schools. Most of these formative assessments fail miserably in testing what they claim to have been designed for! Take for example, a group activity, a power point presentation, or for that effect a chart on  environmental protection in which students are divided into groups of five. What happens is that not all of the students contribute equally to the project. It will be noticed that one student will always lead and contribute the most! The marks that the group gets will be based almost entirely on the efforts of this one, committed and hardworking student, unless of course the test comes with a rubric containing a criteria on differential testing, a criteria that takes into consideration the amount of work put in by each of the five members of the group! Looking at the very subjectivity of the activity and the flaws it is bound to have, it would be very difficult to standardize the activity for use across schools all over the country. Different teachers will always give different marks to the same group for the same activity. So then, what is the solution? Well, I guess the most important step would be to identify the different skills that are  to be assessed. The next most important step would be to prepare a standardized rubric that would assess different skills on a five point scale. The reason why I suggest a five point scale is that having a larger scale might detract or confuse the assessor. Each scale should have the markers or identifying evidences of skills clearly mentioned. It is only after  the  preparation of a standardized rubric that one can plan for the next  important phase which is about orienting the students about the objectives of the activity, and the rubric.
If we claim that we can’t do without good quality testing,  or for that effect any testing at all then probably, the  very purpose of this article is lost! But then if we do plan to test our students in some way or the other to check how much they have grasped, and to know how well we have taught them, then we  need, also to ensure that all the tests are standardized, and scientifically and statistically  proven  to be effective. To claim that the teaching – learning process  has nothing to do with testing is to suggest that setting out on a marathon on one leg, that too without any supporting prop! Learning is a continuous process of listening, seeing, doing, and assessing. The quantum of learning - a rather subjective quantity has to be measured and somehow converted into a more subjective  magical number. It is this magical number that matters most to all those learners and teachers alike, who really want to do well in life! It is the marks or grades that students achieve which in the end determine how effective the teaching and learning process has been! Somehow, the clichéd phrase, ‘There is no gain without pain’ rings true as far the matter of assessments is concerned. The pain of failing a test, or for that effect, the fear of scoring less marks in a test, might, for many, be the best inducement or motivation for doing better next time! Tests that are effective and standardized are perhaps the only instruments that  can provide a tangible feedback to both the students and their teachers!
If then, you would be happy enough to be piloted by someone who has never been tested or maybe even operated on by a surgeon who never been tested, then what would differentiate the writer from the surgeon, or the reader from the pilot of an airliner? The roads are already full of idiots who have no road sense, they cut across you with élan, press on the horn with the hope perhaps that they could zap all that obstructing traffic with their sound guns. How much more crazy would the situation become on the roads if everyone was given a licence to drive, that too without having had to undergo a driving test? If everyone could become surgeons and fly planes, then surely the whole world would degenerate into a state of chaos. I guess tests are here to stay, if we are to maintain good order and discipline in the society.
Fables, fairy tales, folk tales, and folk epics have often described  tests in the form of  ordeals, the solving of riddles, and trials that the protagonist has had to undergo in order to achieve success.Our very culture has dealt with tests and assessments since time,immemorial  and perhaps some of the most ingenuous tests can be found in our Ancient folk tales. In the Fairy Tale, The Princess on the Pea, the old Queen was able to identify the real Princess by putting her to the ingenuous test of making her sleep on a bed which had a pea on the bottom mattress. The Princess did not have a comfortable sleep because she could feel the pea that was so many mattresses below! Another fairy tale that presents us with a test of love is  Beauty and the Beast. In this story, it is when the tears from the girl fall on to the Beast’s face that the transformation takes place. The moral, beauty is not  about the beauty of the skin rather it is about  what you are inside, a true love is not about being obsessed with  skin deep beauty rather it is about loving the beauty of the soul! In the fable about King Arthur, the very extraction of the sword, Excalibur was a test of strength which only King Arthur could manage to draw out of the rock that held it. If the test had not been so difficult, who knows what would have happened if a person other than King Arthur had managed to extract the sword! Take for example the story about the Intricate knot that King Gordius  of Phrygia had tied (Gordian Knot) that Alexander cut Legend had it that whoever untied the knot would rule the whole of Asia! Well what if Alexander split the knot apart with his sword, did it not speak of a better understanding of the situation? The cutting of the Gordian knot should be seen as a metaphor for learning and the ability to make a quick decision. Let us say that the problem of the Gordian Knot was meant to test the decisiveness of the candidate, this would include abilities in problem solving, and the ability to think out of the box! What would have happened if the Gordian knot had been so easy to untie, perhaps, a lesser, less capable person would have been sitting on the throne of Phrygia! It is amazing how those people were doing all sorts of testing  those many years ago! Paper and pen tests are a form of testing, the indoor equivalent of the elaborate tests of ancient times!
It is clear from all the above examples that the acid test of purity is a requirement that cannot be done away with at any time in life. We, as living human beings are constantly being tested in real life situations. it could be a situation requiring problem solving skills, or it could be about memorizing landmarks in order to find our way to a friend’s house in a new city.  We are all tested in times of sorrow and times of suffering, we are tested in times of danger and times of fear, we are tested when we are in a state of turmoil and a state of weariness. Temptation, indifference, and incarceration are all testing times. How we respond to them depends on the life-skills we have imbibed in life, whether at school or the world out there! Life is one big lesson, and the iniquities that we face are the tests that we need to face from time to time. The tests we face in life are like the cleansing  or purifying fire which will bring out the purity that exists within us.To stop responding to tests means the end of learning, and the end of learning mean death, for all human being learn till their last moments! To stop testing students in schools is the end of education, for the moment we take away the chance for evaluation then we are teaching our children to grope blindly even when they have eyes to see and it is still daylight!
P1090281 (2)

Thursday, 12 June 2014

To Kiss the Stars – A poem

The Morning Star
If I could slow down time and beat the stars at their game, I’d
  Be the brightest  one  in the sky!   To hold  Time by her hand
  Would please me!  So grab hold of the moment before it slips
Away, and plant a kiss  square on her lips ere she slips away.

‘You get only one chance and ‘poof,’ it’s gone before you know,
Leaving you to live a life of regret so great, so  grab hold oh,
The moment, dear, and plant a kiss,  on her lips before she
Turns away,’ would be my advice to all those friends out there!

As life goes by, a never ending stream, you sit by the shore,
Attempting to arrest some of the waters that flow with your
Fingers! But life being so ever changing, so never the same,
Grab hold her hand and kiss her on the lips before she  goes!
Thus do lovers sere and sad,  wreck their hearts and  livers;
As they lament a moment lost, with panting sighs and ears
That twitch, for a sound of beloved’s returning feet. But, Alas!
Has the moment passed, and they are left twiddling their thumbs!

Technorati Tags:

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Word as the Image – An Experiment in using the word rather than the letter to promote functional adult literacy

Just a few days ago, as I was going through some old papers lying in my possession, I came across some of the reports and that I had prepared detailing a project that I had undertaken in the Dhanpatmal Virmani Sr. Sec School to try a Hindi Language module prepared by TCS which it was claimed  could be used to train an illiterate adult to be ‘functionally literate’ in a mere forty hours! Mr. Anil Virmani had already told me about this module and he wondered if I was up to the challenge of trying it on some illiterate women working the Virmani Public School and the surrounding areas of Roop Nagar, Kamla Nagar and even Bharat Nagar. It was in the month of April, 2003 that I started a trial programme at the behest of Mr. Anil Virmani (who is presently, the Chairman of the Dhanpatmal Virmani Education Trust and Management Society) and Lt. Gen. D.V. Kalra. After about forty hours of training, by the end of May, sixteen illiterate women did become functionally literate! Functional Literacy here refers to the the ability of the person to read hoardings, newspaper headlines, the signs on buses indicating their routes, and so on. We went  on further to incorporate  cut out written letters in Hindi, and some times, even newspapers from which we asked women to identify letters.
Now the reader might be wondering what the Hindi ALP module was all about! Well, to acquaint the reader further, I would like to take the reader to an  up dated article that appeared in the BBC on Saturday, Third January, 2004. In this article Richard Black reported about the progress being made by researchers in India in using a module that would help train illiterate people to be functionally literate:
India tackles adult illiteracy
By Richard Black
BBC Science correspondent in Chandigarh

India set a target of reducing illiteracy to 5% by 2020
Researchers in India have been giving details of a novel scheme aimed at increasing adult literacy.
It works by teaching people whole words rather than individual letters, and the scientists who developed it say it costs about $2 for each adult.
So far some 40,000 adults have learned to read this way, researchers say.
About 35% of Indians are illiterate, which has a significant impact on the national economy, as well as on the lives of individual people.
The new method has been developed by researchers at the company Tata Consultancy Services.
The results have been presented at the Indian Science Congress in Chandigarh.
Word as image
Conventional literacy programmes which work from the letters of the alphabet upwards can take several years to run and need trained teachers.
Researchers from the Tata Consultancy Services set the goal of teaching people to the level where they could read a newspaper in their own language. They also say the new method is fast and cheap.
"Counting the salary of a supervisor, everything else, the cost of making a person literate is less than 100 Rupees ($2.2)," Dr FC Kohli told the congress.
Dr Kohli said that it took on average 10 weeks before they could read a paper.
The key is that humans are good at recognizing pictures and images, so each word is taught as a picture.
India's literacy targets
Once they have reached this level they start spontaneously to identify and use individual letters.
The programmes run on computer and do not need trained teachers.
Five Indian languages have so far been included, with a further 13 planned, and the software has been given to Indian state governments.
The training package runs on obsolete computers which have been adapted to run local language software. If they go wrong they are thrown away.
"What we recognise, or what we look at, are images. You look at a painting, it's an image, the face is an image.
"So if we can teach them to recognise words in their own language, with these sound 'patterns', then they will be able to recognise the words," said Dr Kohli.
The national government has set a target of reducing illiteracy to 5% by 2020.
In plain words, the Hindi ALP Module is a computer based software that is run on a computer. The Prerak or the trainer advances or pauses each frame in the module and asks the learners to to repeat what they are seeing on the pane. The module also has an audio support which can be repeated by the learners. The advantage of this module lies in the ability of the trainer to change the pace of the learning. You can always go back a few frames, or skip a few frames according to the situation. The module itself is very easy to use and run and is divided into three parts. The module can be run on computers with very basic configurations! In many cases, companies had donated their old computers for the programme, rather than sending them to the junkyard!
This Educational  article that Mr. Anil Virmani had sent to me and it interested me a great deal. What was novel about the TCS ALP Hindi module was that it was that as opposed to conventional pedagogy, it deals with teaching the learner whole words, rather than letters! The idea of K.V. Nori and others who developed this  computer based Hindi literacy module was that conventional literacy programmes which start with letters and then move up take years to reach functional literacy targets. The targets before the developers of the TCS, Computer based Hindi Literacy module were modest though achievable. They had as their objective making  illiterate adults functionally literate so that they could sign their names, read the signs on buses and also what was written on hoardings and banners in the town. This article excited me a great deal and sure I wanted to put it to the test! This is how we did it:
How we taught them to read
  • The ALP module provided by TCS was played on the computer.
  • The learners were encouraged to repeat the letters and words orally according to the module.
  • Flash cards were used to repeat this process to aid recognition of alphabets.
  • The learners were encouraged to write the letters in their copies
  • The next time the learners came to the learning centre, the previous module was run without the sound and the learners were encouraged to repeat the letters and words orally.
  • Judicious use was made of a blackboard to aid recognition of alphabets.
  • By the third module,the learners were able to repeat Kabir’s sayings by reading them from the third section of the ALP Module.
  • From time to time, the learners were encouraged to identify letters in flash cards.
  • Learners were encouraged identify words, and then sentences in printed material like newspapers.
  • A mark of successful learning was their ability to read sentences from Hindi newspapers.
How the Module Worked According to Dr. F.C.Kohli
It works by teaching people whole words rather than individual letters. The key is that humans are good at recognizing pictures and images, so each word is taught as a picture.
Once they have reached this level they start spontaneously to identify and use individual letters. "What we recognize, or what we look at, are images. You look at a painting, it's an image, the face is an image.
"So if we can teach them to recognise words in their own language, with these sound 'patterns', then they will be able to recognise the words," according to Dr. F.C. Kohli.
Audio Visual Resources used by us:
          1.A multi-media computer with speakers and a Cd. Rom drive an obsolete   
            computer can be used (Pentium II, 64 mb RAM, Colour Monitor, Sound card,)
          2. Flash Cards of Hindi alphabets
          3. Pencils and note-books
          4.Newspapers & story books
          5.A Black board
Other resources required to run the programme
1.Dedicated (full-time)  support staff members to help with the programme
2.Trained Teachers
3.The TCS computer based functional literacy module.
4.Relevant funds for cost of electricity and miscellaneous expenses.
5.Further funding for incentives to people coming in for the programme.
Problems and Concerns faced during the Programme
Initially, problems were faced in getting the illiterate learners to come to the E-Literacy centre because it was very difficult to convince them to leave their work for an odd hour or two.Most of the illiterate learners are employed as skilled or unskilled workers.Since most of the adults who came for the programme were women, they spoke about how difficult it was for them to leave their household chores and come to the adult literacy centre.
How we tried to solve the problem rewards (to pay for travelling expenses to the learning centre)
2.Literate women attending computer literacy classes in another programme were encouraged to sponsor or bring with them one or two illiterate women.
3. The Programme that is being run with great success by the Dhanpatmal Virmani Education Trust and Management Society has overcome this problem by taking the centres to the residential localities of the illiterate women. What happens is that one of the women assumes responsibility for running the centre, she is given training on how to run the TCS ALP Module on the computer, she takes the responsibility of  taking care of the computer and whenever there are problems, she calls up the resource person at the head office. This model has proved to be very successful.
What we learned after running the programme
Ultimate goals of project:
  • To prove the hypothesis that computers can be used as an effective tool to provide literacy and vocational training.
  • To provide functional literacy to women
  • To teach illiterate women to read in Hindi
  • To provide awareness about Health concerns (AIDS,Hepatitis,Hygiene)
  • To provide the target sample vocational skills
  • To raise the standard of living of illiterate women
  • Relationship to other projects
  • To be part of the community development programme
  • High-level timing goals
  • To achieve the desired results in the shortest time
Effective Use of Technology:
  • New technology being used:  Computers can be used as an efficient means for providing training in various skills.
  • Standards being adopted:Basic language skills will be taught to the target sample.The learners will be taught as per the modules provided by TCS.
  • target specific, targets will be achieved swiftly.The learner will not have to undergo a long period of training.It will be cost effective.
  • Standards specifically being ignored: Higher order skills(Comprehensive reading skills, note-making, report writing, essay writing…etc)
Drawbacks: The target audience will not achieve the skills of students trained under standards of formal education. The learners may not be able to achieve proficiency in writing since the focus is on reading.
Benefits: - Vocation specific. The target audience can be trained more efficiently in a chosen vocation along with the literacy programme. Some of the vocational fields could be stitching, embroidering, assembling of products, cottage industry skills, food preservation, making of semi-processed food products…etc.
Assumptions about resources allocated to this project:
  1. It is assumed that a suitable target audience of illiterate women will be available.Each batch will consist of ten women.
  2. There will be a team leader preferably a dedicated trainer who has been trained to run the programme.
  3. There will be teams made up of teachers and students who can visit community leaders, and the target audience directly.This team will motivate people to enrol for the project.
  4. There will be at least two trainers, preferably women for this project.
  5. Equipment: availability of a fully functional computer lab. With proper software(Hindi fonts)
  6. Location: The centres should be accessible to the target audience.
  7. Support : The support of an N.G.O. will be required for the vocational training& outside services
  8. Preparation: Proper training modules for teaching basic language skills. Selection of target audience.
Suggested Procedures for the Adult Hindi E-Literacy Programme:
  1. Procedural differences from regular projects of this type:
Since this project targets illiterate women and attempts to train them with the help of computers,the procedure of training them will not be supported by a formal syllabus. The procedure, methodology, and syllabus will have to be modified and adapted constantly according to the entry-level characteristics of the learner.
      2.Requirements, benefits, and issues of using new procedures:
We need to frame a loosely structured framework on what language concepts should be taught. A list of basic computer skills should be prepared as also a list of vocational skills.The benefits of a loosely structured syllabus will be ease of adaptability and flexibility.
1. Adult Literacy – A  TCS PowerPoint presentation made by Kesav V. Nori to CII
2. Functional Literacy Programme Using Information Technology to Accelerate Literacy Process in India, a PowerPoint presentation made to  Her Excelency, Mrs. Zanella Mbeki, the then First Lady of South Africa and Chairman of the WDB Trust on 27 May 2002
3.B.B.C. article Titled: India Tackles Adult Illiteracy by Mr. Richard Black on 3rd January 2004.
4. A Copy of the TCS Hindi ALP Module

Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Visit to the Railway Museum at Chanaky Puri, New Delhi

When I decided to take my kids to the Railway Museum at Chanakya Puri, Delhi, it was out of a desire to meet the old beauties there. I wanted also to show my kids how royalty travelled all those days ago. Imagine, most of the Maharajas travelling in their own coaches drawn by their own trains! Another reason for deciding on a visit to the Museum was based on the fact that it is very close to Gurgaon. 
One of the star attractions at the railway museum is the ride around the outer extremities on the toy train. What is good about the Railway Museum is the reasonable entry fees, a nominal Rs. 10/- for children, and a nominal Rs. 20/- for Adults. What is bad, however is the parking! The attendant told us that  the cost of parking would be Rs. 10/- but then when we got out of the Museum after about two hours and fifteen minutes, we were told that we would have to pay double the amount since we had exceeded the one hour limit. What left me wondering was why have a one hour slot for a visit that would in any case last longer than an hour? I would like to mention here that a visit to the Railway Museum will in any case last much more than an hour, that is if you decide to visit the indoor museum, the souvenir shop, go on a toy-train ride, and go visiting the outdoor exhibits. The exhibits are spread over a wide area in a campus that is large by all means!
The National Railway Museum is a must visit for all those who are visiting New Delhi for a short period of time, and moreover, it is accessible from Gurgaon and the surrounding towns. It is situated in the Moti Bagh area, close to all those foreign embassies and is never very crowded. The only warning to visitors is to wear protective gear to prevent sun burn, and to carry lots of drinking water, or for that effect even empty water bottles which can be refilled from the water taps that supply chilled and purified drinking water all over the place.
It might also be a good idea to carry some money in your purse if you want to buy souvenirs from the souvenir shop. Some of the products on offer are tee-shirts, stamps, models of Railway engines (which, incidentally are of very good quality) and some really good books on The Indian Railways, and the History thereof.
Once we entered the premises of the Railway Museum, we proceeded to the indoor museum where we were treated to a display of railway equipment like electronic monitoring  displays, signal lamps, models, and photographs. It would however have been a better experience if the models had been working, the air-conditioning had been more effective, and the lighting more pervasive. After visiting the indoor museum, we all went for a joy ride on the toy train, grown ups and children. It was a rather exciting ride, replete with the train whistle, the characteristic clanking of the wheels over the rail joints, and the tunnel where everyone started to whistle and shout. All the while we passed stationary exhibits of Steam Engines, Diesel Locomotives, Electric Locomotives, and coaches of different kinds and in different states of maintenance.
After the toy train ride came to an end, we proceeded on foot to have a look at the stationary exhibits, some of which had been covered with a tall shade, while the others had been left to face the elements, the sun, and rain and the wind. We were in any way transported to another world, a fairy tale and romantic world of  magnificent steam engines idling at the railway stations, royalty travelling in luxurious coaches with all the facilities, an entire living room, or a bedroom with an attached water closet,  a mobile state room for deciding the running of the state, or perhaps the Viceroy’s own coach? Well did I see it? I don’t know,  you see, there were so many exhibits to see.
It was an altogether wonderful time that we had at the Railway museum, and if you asked us whether we’d like to go back another time, then all of us would concur that definitely we would surely love to visit those ancient ladies any time!