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Regressive ideas in textbooks, like this story Ranga's Marriage, need to be weeded out, if the next generation is to grow up with a progressive mindset.
Regressive ideas in textbooks, like this story Ranga’s Marriage, need to be weeded out, if the next generation is to grow up with a progressive mindset.
Textbook information is the very backbone of the education system. It dictates our knowledge, and in the long haul, even our perceptions. So, at the very least, we can expect our textbooks to be progressive, if not always politically correct, right? That’s why I thought so too, until last year.
I think all school students can agree that we all have read the stories in our English textbook way before we would even begin the term. I too found myself immersed in these stories when I got my textbook. I had only read a few stories when I came across a story, ‘Ranga’s Marriage’, by Masti Venkatesha Iyengar. Maybe it was the sheer size of the story, or some other sentiment to put me off, which caused me to never read the story by myself.
Alas, the day came when our teacher asked us to turn to this very story, and I, unaware of its content, plunged myself wholly into it.
The story obviously started out fine, with a vivid (and a two page) description of a fictional village, set way back in time, with a young fictional man returning after attaining his degree from the city. As it is, the elder folk (including the narrator himself) pushed him with questions for marriage, and he responded to all such questions saying that he wasn’t interested in marrying a girl child, and would rather marry a young learned woman. His reply resonated with our class of girls, as we whispered our excitement over finally reading a progressive story.
However, all good hopes fall, and ours fell quickly, with the introduction of the female character, who the man immediately liked, described as a charismatic girl with a beautiful voice. Oh, and by the way, she was also just eleven years old.
Amongst the class, we whipped our heads up together as we shared a look of mutual shock and utter disappointment. What started out as a liberal plot soon took a conservative turn as the narrator himself tries to put the two together. As the story obnoxiously continued, we couldn’t help but feel disgusted by such primitive ideologies, and no amount of metaphors and symbolism was going to bag me in with the story. Pressurising the man to believe she is the right one, and making an innocent eleven year old believe she is too, just didn’t set right with any of us.
By the end, I realized what I hadn’t even thought of before, that this is a school textbook, an Indian School textbook, approved by the CBSE, with a story filled with blatant romanticism of child marriage and an obnoxious ‘win’ for the narrator, as he successfully marries the two together.
I agree that this piece of writing may not have sounded so disturbing back in some day, but today, in a world where our country needs to break free from orthodox thinking, and step into a righter path, where ideals of liberty and progressive theologies mark a politically correct person, such a story sets back us by generations, idealizing a long gone ritual, which we can intellectually understand as problematic at the very least.
I think, its high time a more vigorous revision of stories in our textbooks is done, and our education system tries to understand the implications any content can give.
Image source: youtube
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In the last few days I was having a conversation with my younger sister about relationships, and she said something which hit me hard.
I have seen a lot of people feel uncomfortable sharing their age, but I have no such hesitations. I am 32 years old and my younger cousins tell me that I belong to the ‘old generation’. If you are born in the year 1990, you are still considered among them, but if a year less – 1989, you are from the old school.
Being an elder sister, my cousins come to me seeking advice about studies, career and relationships, but when I try to help in the way I understand, the only reply I get is, “Didi, leave it, you’ll not understand it. Aapki generation aur hamari generation mein bahut fark hai. (There’s a lot of difference between your and my generation).”
In the last few days I was having a conversation with my younger sister about relationships, and she said something which hit me hard. Though she is from the new generation and I am from the so-called old generation, we share a lot of mutual thoughts and interests. We spoke about love, how the generation born after the year 2000 perceives love.
You ask any SATC fan. We all wanted a friendship like the one that the 4 girls shared. A friendship that was a rock. A friendship that seemed to withstand the tests of time and in general, life.
I confess that SATC (Sex and the City) has a special place in my heart. I must have watched the 6 seasons and every single episode at that, countless times. Seriously, there was nothing like sitting back with a glass of wine, a bar of dark chocolate and an episode of SATC, after a hard day at work. It renewed me. Made me laugh.
So much so, that I even ended up going for the special SATC bus tour when I visited New York in 2019.
Now some may call the show frivolous but for me, it was pure, honest entertainment. I was in love with the fashion, the ‘fabulousness’, the fun! And it had its moments as well. Moments that were truly thought-provoking, moments that made its viewers take a good, candid look at their own relationships, particularly their female friendships.