Friday, 24 July 2015

Is Griffin to be blamed entirely for the death of Mr. Wicksteed?

The 26th chapter of the invisible man is written in a rather graphic and clinical style of writing, rather like a thesis paper which is a plea for leniency on the part of author in labelling Griffin as a downright psychopath who had planned to attack and kill Mr. Wicksteed. Some how, it appears as if Wells’ is deliberately trying to create sympathy for Griffin in the reader’s mind so close to the end of the book. This could in many ways be because Wells wanted to make Griffin as human as possible, before the then so that his readers could be much  more touched by his tragic end.
Griffin’s lack of sensitivity towards the “little child playing near Kemp’s gateway” resulting in “its ankle” getting broken is somehow because of the emotional state of mind that he was in, after getting betrayed by Kemp. He had rushed out of “Kemp’s house in a state of blind fury” and in his blindness dealt the child a cruel blow. Wells’ use of the pronoun “its” is rather strange as it doesn’t indicate the gender of the child. The author was probably trying to create a neutral and detached style of writing so as to be as accurate as possible in what might be an unemotional write-up prepared by a defence lawyer, or a research student.
The fact of the matter is that after the failed attempt of the arrest, Griffin becomes a fugitive, a cornered rat, “a hunted man,” somewhere who has nowhere to go and tend his wounded ego. The incident of the murder of Mr Wicksteed is horrible enough and Wells doesn’t hesitate to describe the smashing up of the middle aged man in graphic detail, but then he also suggests that  it was unpremeditated and unplanned.The writer suggests that Mr. Wicksteed had come across the strange sight of an iron rod (presumably held by Griffin) waving in the air and decided to investigate it. After this it was a matter of his following the iron rod, and attempting to hit it with his walking stick. This is supported by the eye-witness account of a little girl who saw him “trotting” towards the gravel pit. Wells very clearly states that the circumstances  in which the body was found and the position in which it was, “lifts the murder out of the realm of the absolutely wanton.”  The unlucky possibility was that Griffin had nowhere to run because he was trapped between Mr. Wicksteed and a “drift of stinging nettles and the gravel pit.” It was probably a case better expressed the the proverb, “Curiosity killed the cat” or that it was all bout Mr. Wicksteed being at the wrong place at the wrong time!
Wells doesn’t hesitate to go ahead and suggest, although as “pure hypothesis” that the “sight of his victim…bloody and pitiful at his feet, may have released some long pent fountain of remorse”. So it seems as if Wells is indeed pitching for the benefit of doubt for Griffin, suggesting perhaps that he is also a human being remorselessly  being hunted by men and packs of dogs, and that he had not intended to kill Mr. Wicksteed in cold blood.
The fact of the matter is that Griffin is in any case guilty of Manslaughter, and whatever the argument might be, Griffin in a more humane garb in order to make his death in chapter 28 all the more tragic. It is true that there is a little of a Griffin in everyone’s heart. He was definitely a brilliant scientist, alas, it was something that the society had never recognised. The monster inside Griffin’s heart is in many ways a creation of the society, a society that had not risen to the challenge of including him into its fold. Perhaps some good use could have been made of his brilliant mind. We see Griffin towards the end of the novel as someone against whom the tables have been turned, fate has ditched him, and even the plot has ditched him by showing him as a social outcast, a vagabond with no home to go to. One should not bee too sorry for Griffin however since the next “morning he was himself again, active, powerful, angry, and malignant, prepared for his last great struggle against the world.” Here is a one man army all ready to take on the world by himself. The poignancy in the above words brings out the futility of believing that he can take on the world all by himself. He is doomed to be a failure, fate has ditched him and so has his only friend. There is a sense of finality in the words, “last great struggle” a sense of foreboding, a feeling that he is about to end his life because of his foolish beliefs.

Dr.Kemp’s concern for the people of Port Burdock is seen in the active role he plays in the arrest of Griffin

What comes up in chapter 25 as a portrayal of Dr. Kemp might be a contrast to how we saw him in the 15th chapter as  an ambitious man who wanted to earn a fellowship in the Royal Society, but in this chapter we see him as someone who is concerned about the welfare of the citizens of the town. One might say that initially he wanted Colonel Adye to help him get rid of a potentially dangerous man from his house, but in this chapter we can see that this concern extends to the other people too. In his own words, “He has wounded men. He will kill them unless we can prevent them.”
Dr. Kemp’s suggestions to Colonel Adye on how to arrest Griffin are pertinent and filled with good advice. He suggests that they must prevent him from leaving the district, they must set a watch on trains and roads and shipping. He must be prevented from eating or sleeping; as such the entire district should be alert and watchful,gangs of men should be hunting him, houses should be barred against him, dogs should be put into use, and powdered glass should be spread on the roads. These measures will have the ability to flush Griffin out, out into the open where he can be caught. Dr. Kemp goes further to help Colonel Adye arrest Griffin by actually accompanying the police officer on his rounds.
It is clear from a reading of the 24th chapter that Kemp has risen above the need to think only of himself. As a contrast to Griffin who in Kemp’s words,“has cut himself off from his kind ” Dr. Kemp is getting more and more attached to the society. In chapter 27 is ready offer himself as “bait” so that Griffin might be apprehended even if it leads to his own death.In chapter 28 we see Kemp acting as a live bait, running on the hill-road after Mr. Heelas refused to give him a sanctuary in his own house.
The chapter highlights the fact that Dr. Kemp stands in total contrast to Griffin. While Griffin turns out to be a through and through misanthrope, Dr. Kemp shows his concern for the society by ensuring that Griffin is apprehended in the soonest possible time. By the 25th chapter it becomes clear that Griffin “has cut himself off from his kind,” and that, “His blood be upon his own head.”

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Other Side Of Love, Beyond A Shadow Of Doubt-A book release

I finally received my bulk consignment of my latest book, The Other Side Of Love, Beyond A Shadow Of Doubt on the Eighteenth, and what an auspicious day it was, to receive the books on the eighteenth  birthday of my daughter. If that was not enough, the date eighteenth matched the number of years that she has been pestering me! Pardon me for using the word, ‘pestering’ for it is meant as a fond word of endearment!
“The Other Side Of Love, Beyond A Shadow Of Doubt,” is my third book, and my debut novel that Partridge Publications graciously agreed to publish, humouring the many changes that I requested them to make to what I at first thought was a perfect manuscript, and then after I had mailed it to my publishers, I saw the gaping holes in it and struck my forehead with my hands thinking, “Rodrick, what silly mistakes have you made,” and then grabbing hold of my IPad, shot mails to them, (Joe Anderson especially).

It has always been like this, my father was the one who received each one of the Author’s copies, and then he would call me up with the good news. Everyone waited for me before asking my father to open the book, but then for the second book and this one, I told him to go ahead and open the packet. This year too, I was away on a retreat out there in the mountains with my colleagues when the message came that the book had arrived.

One thing became clear, that I would start selling my special copies only after having gotten the books released by my Pastor, Revd. Sunil Solomon Ghazan, who is himself an experienced author and has published his book titled, “When The Earth Shall Melt…” so this time too, it was understood that I would be getting it released by him. A late night dinner party for my daughter’s birthday meant that we went of to sleep at midnight and then it was all about getting up early in the morning to be prepared for Church. Fortunately enough we were all ready for church.
Everything went on as planned and somehow my daughter had the good sense to overcome her shyness and step to the front pew so as to get a better view of the Good Pastor and me. As usual there was a prayer, the curious, smiling faces from amongst the congregation, those who knew me well probably wondering what my next book would be all about. The usual fumbling with the tightly wrapped book and then the release, of course with me hastily taking the proffered wrapping paper, and then the book was held aloft for all to see. When I did get to speak, there was a slight tremble and then of I went, requesting the gathering for their prayers and best wishes for the success of the book. After the service there was the usual round of congratulations, not just to me but also to my mother and my wife. The hasty round of signing the copies, another round of photo-sessions, and then that was it – I was raring to hand over signed copies to all of my friends and acquaintances!
And then yes, how could I forget my parents who were the proudest of parents the day they saw the first book, I guess the tears in their eyes might have been more valuable than their weight in gold! It was after the first one came out and then the second and then the  third that they had probably realised that I would be writing for some time as yet. The tears of happiness have now changed to beams unspoken words, guess he’ll be coming out with another one in a few months time, let’s save some of our smiles for then. My wife and kids now take it for granted that another one will come out soon, but then I would like to assure all of them that books are not churned out like mass produced pens or plastic trinkets, a lot of thought goes into each book. A lot of soul searching, hard work, trying to figure out the best expression, trying to find the word that best expresses the emotion, moments of doubt, unsaved edits, late nights and early mornings are some of the things that go into a book; and whether it turns out to be a success or not, more often than not depends on how the readers take to it.

“The Other Side Of Love” is about unconditional love, love that transcends time, ages and generations, such as is depicted in the snap of both my parents holding the book in their hands!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Sleeping Under The Star Studded Sky

I lay myself inside a sleeping bag out in the open,
Gazing at a star studded sky, a roof with all the lights on.
Above me, the Milky Way with her dusting of stars stretched on!
The Big Dipper brimming with a serving of magic potion
Of wonder and miracles ready to serve all and one.

I gathered my sleeping bag around me as I snuggled against 
The cold but peeped at the heavens above as they danced past.
The constellations above did march, e'en as the night wind did twist
And turn, the merry fire crackled and a flame streaked past,
Even as our guides added wood to make it last!

I woke up in the middle of the night and saw that all did sleep,
Snuggled close to each other lest the bad wolf did take a peep
At them. But then heard I also the snoring of those in deep sleep!
And even as the fire burned bright and loud, the twinkling lights did peep
At those that slept, a night bejewelled with a dusting of lights so deep!

And the night did speak in a whisper so soft, "Why wake when they
Do sleep?" And I answered in a voice not so sure even as they
Did snore, "To find the mystery of what drives a machine so well!"
A tremulous  voice then whispered, "Well pick up your bags and follow
Me to the heavens that blaze for you!" But I covered myself for I'd not follow!

I borrowed deeper  into my bag against the chill and voices
Only to wake an hour later, to see the firmament looking, down,whispers
Floating down, caressing, with smiles so deep that mocked my fear
Even as the stars did twinkle with smiles so broad that I did laugh at my
Friends who tossed and snored even as complex tune played in the sky!

The fire was lit anon by those who woke while others
Did sleep, partaking in a snoring match that shamed the stars.
That danced their divine steps across the dark canvass, a message
For those that would wake up and observe, but then perhaps,
They were tired and lost to a celestial tune playing above!  

And as sparks from the fire did ascend the night sky so to greet
The morn, they spoke of the wind that blows, and the stream that flows fleet
 Footed, tinkling like bells down the slopes, of  all things  wild, Strawberries 
  We had eaten on the way up sweet and rich, munching on the fresh pine needles
 To quench our thirst, sour a rich fare, all laid for us!

Thus, when sol did turn the dark into light, bathing the hills and trees
With warmth and love, my friends the stars had gone! And there before me was
 A golden Dawn, golden leaves,golden trees, golden sky for so enriched was 
I  that everything I touched turned golden - while my friends did sleep,
Tossing, turning, snoring and smiling at jokes that  through tents did peep!

Looking at the golden light bathing the ground, We wondered how lucky
We had been to be gifted with so much fortune, to be bathed by the Lord's
Golden light, His mercy smiled upon us from stars that danced in the firmament,
And all my friends did bask in the Glory of the Golden light, so what
If they slept, surely they too were the recipients of the golden gift, the Lord's own!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Searching for relevance in Education at the School level

The unfortunate fact is that today, little of what we teach in schools is relevant to the daily life of a student. This was a complaint made by a renowned educationist and philanthropist, Mr. Anil Virmani, chairman of the Dhanpatmal Virmani Education Trust and Management Society (a Trust under which I served for no less than seventeen years). Mr. Virmani’s pain was that  when he interviewed some of the science students of the school, it became apparent that they couldn’t explain the principles associated with the working of an electronic motor! Mr. Virmani, himself, a product of one of the prestigious IIT’s of India and an ex-student of the Doon Public school expressed grief that little of what we teach in schools today is really relevant to the everyday life of  students. His observation was that if we can’t build relevance in what we teach in schools today, then we might as well discard or put an end to such courses! If the working knowledge of a student who takes up science is limited to the bare working knowledge not even fit for a motor mechanic, then we might as well do a re-think of the viability of conducting such a course!
All this insight  was the result of my calling him up to request him  to reconsider the idea of  discontinuing the science stream in a school that has produced renowned doctors and engineers. The painful decision had been taken as a result of the poor performance of the students graduating from the school. During a period of five years only one female student had been able to get admission into medicine; none of the other students had really found their way into a good Engineering college. Somehow or the other, the teachers who taught science  in grade eleven and twelve had become complacent and when asked why their students were obsessed with tuitions, they replied that it was the norm for all  students in different schools! This response was perplexing and disturbing.  If what we are teaching in schools is not good enough and students need to go for tuitions, then it is clear that we are not doing a good enough job as teachers.
This brings me to the topic of relevance. If students taking up science are studying science merely for the sake of passing the board exams and not for preparing themselves for life ahead, then according to Mr Virmani we might as well re-consider the need to continue such courses. He spoke to me and said, “where is the need of teaching a subject which will have no relevance two years after the student has graduated from school?” I couldn’t help but agree with him! What he said to me forced me to re-consider his decision  to close the science stream in the school.
From the conversation that I had with my former employer, it became very clear to me that there is a great need to create relevance in what we teach in schools, we need to equip students for life, develop, as it is twenty-first century skills in students! The unfortunate fact is that curriculum framers and teachers have not as yet built contextual relevance in what they teach. If I, as a teacher of English have not been able to convince students about the relevance of reading literature or for that effect the  importance of sticking to conventions, formats and the need to communicate information logically and rationally, in higher order writing skills, then I have failed as a teacher! The greatest need of the hour is to be able to build relevance and value in what is being taught in class. It is true that the CBSE Board has come a long way in making the syllabus more relevant to everyday life, what with the introduction of HOTS based questions and the introduction of case studies in Commerce and other subjects, but then the fact is that we are all partners in building a culture of crammers and rote memorisers who might achieve distinctions in the board exams but forget what they have learned in a matter of days.
Where then, is the relevance of teaching students the laws of gravity, or centripetal and centrifugal force if we can’t tell them about why we need to slow down the speed of the vehicle before entering a tight turn! Similarly where is the relevance of teaching a student that a letter to the editor is aimed at connecting to a wider reader base than the authorities themselves, or that a poster is meant to convey a maximum of information in a most effective manner? If a student who graduates from school is not able to explain the principles behind the working of an electric motor, or if the same student is not able to explain the rationale behind the elements of a good article, then we might as well go back to the drawing board and reframe our pedagogy and syllabus! What about the concept of dominant and recessive traits in Biology, what is the point of teaching the concept of genetics if the student is not able to figure out why he or she has an RH negative blood group while the parents have an RH positive blood group? If the purpose of teaching Physics or Chemistry is merely to score marks in the board exams, then why not tell the student to take up some other subject, say for example Political Science, or History, (not that these subjects are not good enough) these subjects if studied well enough can reward the student with good enough marks!
This brings me to the question of why one should study Physics or Chemistry or for that effect  Biology, if one is to pursue a career in marketing or any other field not related to the stream of learning taken up by the student at the school level! A large number of science students take up Economics in college and they are given preference over even those who have studied the subject at the school level. Why, then does this switch in stream take place post school when the student joins college? Why did the student study science if he had to take up  Economics at the college level? One of the reasons perhaps is that colleges offering the Economics course favour students who have pursued science at the school level because they probably feel that science students are more rational and level headed than students who have followed the Commerce stream! I don’t in any case want to disparage students of science who want to take up Economics at the college level, but the fact of the matter is that they have not apparently understood the relevance of studying science if they are not able to follow it up in further studies. If the purpose of studying chemical reactions and vectors was in any way to pave the way for an understanding of micro economics then I guess the there is a lot of twisted logic behind taking up a stream just for the sake of gaining an added advantage in getting admissions to a course of study in no way associated with what they have learned in school.
Why then, should a school offer the science stream to students if it were not for preparing students for a career in dynamics or bio-technology? If students who offer science are not able to become doctors or engineers, then what a waste it is to have spent all that time in the lab doing salt analyses and titrations. What about  all those dissections of flowers and earthworms? How would they have helped a student understand the  power of market forces? If relevance is the prime reason behind students taking up a particular stream, then I am sorry to say that we have surely failed in convincing our students to stick to the particular stream. There is no purpose in forcing a student to follow a particular stream unless we make him or her realise  the relevance of that particular stream to his or her everyday life.
So then the question is, should we allow the school to continue with a stream that doesn’t develop skills that equip students for a particular career in life? Why spend so much time and money on subjects that will be dropped at the college level? Why have a particular stream if it doesn’t equip students for a subject specific career in life? Mr Vrimani’s pain is evident in the context of the fact that the purpose of studying science is defeated if students are not able to take up courses and thereafter careers that are built up on subjects they have studied in school.