What was wrong with the system - I

I have been meaning to start this series of posts on what I believe has been wrong with various educational institutions which I've studied in. I might stir up a hornet's nest by posting these, and therefore I need to ask you to go and read the disclaimer before you start suing anybody else. Also, the reason this dirty linen needs to be washed in public is that it will get enough attention. In systems where accountability is almost zero, external pressure can sometimes work wonders. Let me clarify at the very outset as well, that each of these places have been very valuable in my life: I've learned a lot in each of these. But sometimes you need to call a spade a spade, and the time is ripe that I should give up pretensions and get public what the scene behind the goody-goody curtain was.

Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith, Purulia. Set in a very remote place almost without good city comforts and very poor road/rail access (as opposed to a major city), it was an ideal setting for reinforcing the ideals taught by (in fact, lived out by) the likes of Swami Vivekananda. Most of us passing out of there were and still are very well versed in his quotations, but I really doubt how much we all could put to practice.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bengali culture, it is a great honour reserved exclusively for Brahmin couples to be the godfather and godmother during a child's sacred thread ceremony. Typically, the first woman to give him alms is called the "Bhikkhemaa", and she almost becomes like a second mother to you. Sri Ramakrishna insisted, in order to break caste boundaries, that an sudra ("untouchable") woman be granted the honour, who had been the midwife during His birth. We at Purulia were supposed to live by this code: of equality and humanity. Guess what... unless you were a Brahmin, you weren't allowed to be the priest in the temple in the campus. Just in case you are wondering, a friend of mine from our batch who wasn't a Brahmin did go to ask our chief hostel warden (a monk), and he was turned down. During Kali Puja, during certain ceremonies all the non-Brahmins were asked to leave: they apparently were not too "pure" to be present there. Says who? I have carried the news once myself to my non-Brahmin friends.

It was a place where we, as students of Class 7, were lightly caned on our palms if we admitted to mixing with girls during vacations or watching any TV. Of course most of us watched the TV at home, but the culture demanded that we lie to the monk who administered this discipline. From Class 4-10, it was blasphemy to speak of any film stars to anyone. To store any posters or cut-outs of these people from newspapers?! Blah.. you were better off dead. I was convinced during Class 9-10 that watching any movie of any kind was as good as poisoning myself. You watched a woman dance on the screen? Oh my god... you were opening the doorway to hell! It was deemed poison, and that we should protect ourselves against all the evil influences of the world outside the campus by being a complete mantra-spelling gospel-spreading teenager. No movies, no songs from them either. Never mind that Swami Vivekananda had himself ran back to apologize to a court nautchni and singer at the Maharaja of Khetri's palace, after he had condemned her and left the court: he came back and worshipped the Holy Mother in her. We spoke with awe of the seniors and some monks, who, when they were young, walked on the other side of the road if a woman was walking on that side. I still wonder how they believed that we would stick to this mindset after passing out of there.

I can go on, but maybe in another post. The point is that a lot of things have been plaguing the organization from within. I may be a weak instrument, and the Mission at Purulia might be doing a great deal of good work, but I still don't think they are excuses enough to leave some of the best minds of the state burdened with a mentality and crippled with an apologetic mindset that would take us years to shake off the yoke.


  1. Sudipta, I'm not sure that they were far wrong when they discouraged overtly sexual behaviour during studies in those days. I believe that the purpose was to keep young minds concentrated on studies and not at anything else.

    You see, Swami Vivekananda could look at the "Mother" within the woman, but how many of us have the spiritual development to completely keep our minds pure?

    No doubt they went a bit far at times, but such rules were put in place for society to stay disciplined and I'm not sure they were so bad considering today's degeneration.

    Of course, you shouldn't mix the modern politics of caste (which is a terrible disease) with the ancient traditions of religion.

    Unfortunately people who bash Hinduism do this kind of thing not knowing or fully understanding the deeper issues.

  2. I feel that the biggest lacunae with the education system is that they try to enforce 'right' behaviour and that is where they go wrong. Their basic flaw lies in their belief of being the righteous. No school promotes its children to discover the truth rather than blindly following.

    I feel your title is a misnomer, I actually expected to read something about the 'system' but it turned out to be only your school :)

  3. Hey Sudipta. I've posted your blog entry to my website.....Chris

  4. Ki Kando - tumi Vidyapith er passout!!! Hari_da, perumal_da, Swapan_da, subhas maharaj!!!!! Kon batch er? ami 84 te madhyamik. wow 24 bachor hoye gelo....
    - supratik

  5. Well this explains a bit into all your one tracked jokes! Seriously speaking, very few can preach and practice the same tune, hypocrisy is a part of human nature as well. But I never could understand the need to 'enforce' a certain set of rules on another person. One can argue that banning sexuality or making it seem bad goes against nature too.


  6. This is interesting... I think it should be noted that while the students grow up to be intelligent individuals they also question the 'system' at some point in their lives.
    How much of their present is carved by the education of their past and why does the mind resist it today...?
    On another note, am catching up after ages and I see a lot has been happening... the sister post was touching and poignant.
    - Anumita

  7. Hari, discouraging sexual behaviour and asking people to never watch any movies are completely different things: never talk to a girl?! I agree with your point of the deeper issues, but I still cannot agree with their policy.

    Anurag, some things need to be forced into a child... they cannot know right from wrong all the time. But you must know when to stop. About the title, we all know a lot about the system or society, which are intangible entities. I thought I'd start small.

    Chris, hey, thanks a lot! I saw it. And welcome, anyway.

    Supratikda, haan, 1998 batch. Prothom 3 jonke peyechhi, kintu subhas maharaj ke dekhini. It is indeed a long time -- 10 years for me.

    Sky, like I said above, some things need to be enforced: you need to put a fence around a sapling... once it is a tree, you don't need to. What you need to be careful about is that the fence shouldn't be so narrow that the plant itself cannot grow.

    Anumita, yeah you raise a valid point... but I believe that as long as you are a part of a system, it forms a part of your greater identity. Hence you cannot (or at least it takes a lot) to break free and see things in black and white. After you're out, things can be seen in perspective.

    By the way, thanks for the comments about the other posts. My sister's incident revealed a new me to myself.

  8. That's one thing I always have found confusing...who decides how much to enforce, when to enforce and where to stop? What might be moral to you might be immoral to the next guy and vice versa...who then decides my path of virtue?


  9. this brahmin, non-brahmin stuff has come even into my life, more specifically into my love!
    1 thing that keeps haunting me.. the caste!! almost at every aspect of society. juz that among software its hidden, however it still exists.. looks like it will continue to :(

  10. This conservative approach to education has lost is charm, meddled with superstitions and false customs. I hope they realize that everything changes with time.

  11. Sky, whatever it be, I don't think asking boys never to make any friends with girls is going to be of any use at any time.

    Janum, I'm sorry to hear that. But the fact that you're married is nice to know: well done! :)

    Whathappenedwas, yes, and in fact it is there in one of Swami Vivekananda's talks that everything will decay with time, including the Ramakrishna Mission. I hope, sincerely hope that what I write here isn't the beginning of the end.

  12. There were a few more. In our school, in case you did bad in an exam or two, you used to be tagged as a duffer, a worthless.

    If you failed in an exam, instead of helping you to get better, your name would be put up in an "under-achievers' list" at the entrance of each hostel and office!

    There had been overnight meetings like till 2 am in the morning. Then people needed to resume from 5 am. It was quite natural to have sleepy heads during the class and study time. That was better than getting a nap during those meetings and be literally thrashed!

    Saying all these, I still admit those 7 years of my life to be the best 7 years so far. I'd be born again and again to be a student of RKMV Purulia :-). I really miss those days!

  13. Blue Dreams, you added to the list and reminded me of more. And yes, even though you might feel that they were the best years of your life, I don't.

    Welcome onboard, by the way!

  14. Hey, I'm none other than your old friend, Swapnoneel :-).

  15. Blue Dreamz, of course I know that! I visited your blog as well! :) And once again, I don't think they were the best years of my life so far.


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