Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thoughts on a Roosting Crow

One day during my post dinner walk through the campus, I saw a solitary crow roosting on a rather low branch. There was no other crow on that tree or any of the trees nearby. I checked the tree once more to make sure. Yes, there it was – a single crow probably fast asleep in a world of crowish dreams. I found that rather strange for I thought crows generally gather together for night roosts, mostly on the same tree night after night. 
I was reminded of my days in Mercy campus. A small campus comfortably settled little outside the hustle and bustle of Palakkad town. Those of you who have had an opportunity to live in that campus would remember the crows. By around five in the evening they’ll start coming on ones and twos and by six the whole place is drowned in the cacophony. There is a lot of noise, so much of moving around –  fighting for a favourite place, may be for a seat next to a particular lady, sharing notes on how good or bad the day had been, settling family quarrels, the list goes on. By the time the party finally settles down, it’s dark. Then it is all quiet, time to sleep. Come early morning, the crows are up much before any of us in the hostels. Without much ado these early birds depart to different places to catch the proverbial worm. Nobody lingers in the hostel premises. May be experience taught them too that mess food is not really worth it. By evening they are back! Those huge trees in our campus have been favourite roosting sites for generations of crows.
Well, so that is how I thought crows generally behave. Even if they forage alone or in small groups, roosting time was when they believed in strength in numbers. And there was this crow, all alone. Maybe he was a rebel, and did not believe in following the norm. Perhaps the crow believed in staying far from the madding crowd. :P It could have been an old crow that did not feel like it could make to the roosting site that may be far away. There is a possibility of the crow being a social outcast and hence unable to join the others. Did the crow feel lonely? Do crows also have the urge like humans, to be socially acceptable, to do things that are ‘cool’ so that they can stay in a group? Did this crow brave all such temptations and decided to make a statement by staying alone?
The next day when I went for my walk I looked for the crow, it was not there. It is more than a week since I saw my crow, all alone on a low branch. I do not know if it had gone back to its group or if it had chosen a roosting site, all for itself, far away from the prying eyes of nosey research scholars. But every day when I pass that tree, I look up, to check whether my lonely crow is there.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Father goes to work. Mother cooks food.

So now I am a research scholar. Don't ask me researching on what, I don't have much of an idea other than the broad area. All you need to do is attend a few mandatory courses, read up a little bit and then generally loaf around. One of the mandatory courses involved a session on communication. The session deals basically with how you speak, how you write, and how you present your information.
There is a male professor, a room full of students, three fourth of whom are students, AC lecture hall, projector, and a PPT to be projected. The class begins. This professor was teaching us how placing stress on different words in a sentence makes a difference to the meaning. Of all the sentences that he could use, the one the man could think of was: "A woman without her man is nothing."
1. A woman without her man is nothing.
2. A woman without her man is nothing.
3. A woman without her man is nothing.
4. A woman without her man is nothing.
5. A woman without her man is nothing.
I surprised me that a professor who has been teaching in a reputed institute, like an IIT, could not think of a better sentence. A sentence that was not demeaning or disturbing to at least 25 per cent of the class, a sentence that did not hurt. It was not a discussion on gender. There was no need to use a sentence like this. A simple "The sun rises in the east" or "Take the dog for a walk." would have served the purpose. But no; irrespective of what subject you are teaching, which kind of audience you are teaching, you need to make a point that women are nothing without the men. Are men this insecure?
All this while I thought it was the school text books which told us "Father goes to work." and "Mother cooks food." were the worst culprits. Your teacher then told you boys help father in the garden and girls help mother in the kitchen. I thought once you grow up and go to colleges, universities, IITs, things will change. I am wrong. In humanities departments we boast of being more aware, more sensitive to the issues of gender, caste etc. We consider ourselves to be liberal, progressive, sensitive and what not. And then we do things like this. It is one thing to preach equality and gender sensitivity and another thing to think of what you say and do in your classrooms.
I learnt my lesson. There is no point in growing up and leaving school and going to fancy institutes. They still give you the same crap.