Hafta letters: India's education system, frustrations of a PG medical student, NL's piece on Gavaskar

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: India's education system, frustrations of a PG medical student, NL's piece on Gavaskar

Oh my god, I wanted to chime in and give you guys a 101 on modern CBD and marijuana culture 😀...

Also, we have forgotten our past so well. Throughout the 19th century, we as Indians played a role of drug producers (often reluctant and coerced in a lot of cases) while the East India Company made millions of £s (the original cartel), turning generations of Chinese into hopeless addicts. Indians on the Raj payroll helped the British fight the Canton when they tried to stop the incoming shipments of opium, and businessmen from Kolkata and Mumbai lobbied the queen to send in the Royal Navy to keep the supply routes open...

Reference:

Anonymous

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Hello NL Team,

Shankar here! I am really curious about whether you are considering doing an episode with a health expert to discuss important scientific aspects of the ongoing pandemic, especially takeaways from some of the most recent SARS-CoV-2 related research. As a microbiologist (not a humble brag but a desperate attempt for you guys to see where this is coming from), I am amazed that key aspects of the pandemic — such as secondary bacterial infections that the virus makes people in the hospital more prone to, herd immunity, and even key details regarding vaccinations — are not discussed at great length. Yes, these are not incredibly glamorous topics but given where we are right now, I think it is more pressing than ever?

I would love to hear the thoughts of a leading health expert in India or a Covid-related researcher in the country, if that's something that you think is feasible.

Regarding the last episode's discussion on the current education system in India (Manisha's anarchist rant made my day), I actually expected a little bit of context on how the system has changed over the years (or has not) before delving into individual comments of the panelists. As someone who has not been part of the Indian education system for nine years now, I am very curious to hear your thoughts on the then/now of the education system and if there is a difference at all.

While we are on the subject of the last episode, I found a lot of what Chetan Bhagat said strange and hypocritical: His suggestion that people should be made to critically think about things from various angles (feminist, for instance, he suggested) in schools was something I found truly hypocritical given his wrongful mansplaining of feminism various times in the past. This is not to say that I don't agree with his suggestion (or that I am cancelling him) but for someone who also discusses credibility of the famous later on, I couldn't help but wonder at the hypocrisy of that suggestion. Also, I expected a stronger argument from the panelists when he said rather nonchalantly that the Bollywood industry should for now just sit and listen (and consequently, be examined through the authoritative lens of the current government) and let things be QUIETLY INVESTIGATED.

I am hoping that I did not take the aforementioned statements grossly out of context but if I did, I apologise in advance. Please keep the great work that you do going and I will continue doing my part.

Lots of love,

Shankar

***

Dear Abhinandan and Hafta team,

Thanks for an outstanding Episode 295 of Hafta. I hope Jayashree is a permanent addition to the panel — more women voices please!

I was also glad to hear Chetan Bhagat on the podcast. Chetan seems to be one those people who is traversing a line with Modi, similar to the Gartner hype cycle. One of Modi's cheerleaders in the early days, he now seems to be in the trough of disillusionment. The issue is that our democracy has become so presidential in nature that most well-meaning people don't see an alternative. I suspect that despite his criticism, Chetan and other such commentators won't help bring in an alternative, hence the rest of the diagram applies too.

I have a couple of points I want to make about the discussion on education:

I heard Anand saying that creative thinking and other such "newfangled ideas" can't be taught in the classroom. I think Anand has the same misconception of "creative thinking" that most of us have. We equate the creative process with "genius". Yes, you can't teach "genius", but you can teach the creative process which is not dependent on a moment of brilliance. Creativity is about putting the hard yards of framing a hypothesis, proving or disproving it, testing ideas with real consumers and iterating till you get it right. This is what design schools teach, but it's a literacy worth introducing in schools.

About genius: In many, if not all cases, genius comes from years of deliberate practice. So creativity or genius isn't really exclusive of the rigour that Anand advocates for.

While I agree with Manisha's tirade against schools, I think a good school system levels the playing field. I know speaking of the Finnish system is almost clichéd, but there's something to be said about creating a free and compulsory education system that actually works. I know that I've had the controlling "loser" type teachers who I've hated as well, but at the same time there are a large number of passionate teachers working in very resource constrained environments who need facilities, good remuneration and regular training. Projects like Arvind Gupta's science centre and CCL Gandhinagar need to find their way into mainstream education so we enrich teachers' and children's lives at school, instead of being overly harsh to the system.

Thanks again for the great content!

Sumeet

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Dear NL Hafta Team,

Greetings. This is Daman. I finally caved in and am no longer a mufatkhor.

The brief mention of farm bills in the most recent Hafta was saddening considering that its impact and ramifications are huge to the Indian economy. Here are my few thoughts. My focus will only be on protests in Punjab and Haryana.

The farmers, especially from Haryana and Punjab, are not devoid of new technologies or knowledge about the procurement of produce, but it is rather the small land holdings and their consequent small buying power which limits the farmer from seeking independent harvest, post-harvest, and procurement budget. The solution lies with the local and state level partners who want to operate independently from the APMC system while keeping the APMC system going for big land holders.

Here is an example. If I own two acres of land in Punjab, then I can perhaps go into a wheat/tomato crop rotation. This rotation provides a fixed income from my spring harvest with wheat from APMC and additional income from a tie-up with a local business (that makes things like tomato chutney or ketchup or whatever…you get the idea) for my summer/fall crop, ie tomato. This will also ensure a gradual decline from paddy and a slow relief from its stubble burning.

I realise that this is a simplified version of what actually is a complicated issue such as crop rotations, ie diversification, will bring a new host of challenges as well such as emergence of new pests, disease resistant varieties, labour management, soil health problems, and many more. The point is that this government is bulldozing these farm bills only to provide a smoother pavement for big corporations to roll into fertile lands while converting them from owners to contractors. Let’s not forget that the hard work, patience and grit that is required of the local and state level entrepreneurs and entities for the current system to be successful if they want to keep the big magarmachs (Ambani or Adani) out of their land.

Also, I really felt Manisha’s pain when she was talking about the school system and the conduct of teachers. I have had the fortune of experiencing two education systems. I studied in India (Ludhiana, Punjab) until Class 8 and then finished my Classes 9-12 in America. I can go on and on and on and on….with a rant about teachers and schools in India. I’ll reserve it for some other day. By the way, I work as a plant breeder in a vegetable breeding company.

Keep up the good work. Thanks.

Daman

***

Hi Team NL,

I am regular subscriber for years, sometimes on and off. Thought of writing but always held back by the intellectual quality of the mails you receive. I don't even have iota of that much clarity in thoughts, language skills, etc.

My educational background does not include any great university nor does my professional career include something outstanding. I am part of the mainstream of average/below average software engineers who is currently working in the US (through one of our so-called top Indian technology services companies, aka body shops).

I want congratulate all of you for the great work NL is doing, I love Hafta and eagerly wait for it every weekend. I want to share its impact on myself and presumably on listeners like me. It made me react to news more objectively rather than emotionally based on my bias. I never liked the Modi government and was hence more inclined towards NDTV and similar others, but NL educates me to see issues not in black and white but rather in grey mode.

I would like to suggest that NL uploads more content on YouTube in order to extend your reach. I follow the Print content on a regular basis (mostly like it). I feel NL should do the same. Having said that, I want to emphasis that I love Newsence, Charcha and Tippani but shows like them should be more frequent and regular.

And last, my favorite is Manisha on Hafta. I find my views aligned with hers more often than not. I find Mehraj's opinion biased but still like to hear them in order to understand the mindset of people from the valley which a Hindi heartland guy like me can never understand or relate to. Anand's views are often more inclined towards procedural/bureaucratic in nature.

Abhinandan, always love your passion towards discussions related to some topics.

I don't expect you to read my mail during discussion as it has nothing to offer to enrich it, but please acknowledge it, as it will motivate me to write more.

Good luck.

Thanks,

Abhishek Gupta

***

Hi,

I have been a subscriber for years now. You can look it up. I stumbled over this article and I am honestly disappointed by the journalist's analysis of this scenario and the support for someone I have watched and admired for years for his batting skills.

I really do not care how the rest of the media houses cover the news and their outrage. I pay you to keep news free. So, I found this article appalling.

According to your piece you say Mr Gavaskar said "Ab jab lockdown tha toh sirf Anushka ki bowling ki practice ki unhone, wo video dekhiye. Us se toh kuch nahi ban na hai." How can you not see a problem with that?

The reasons I have a problem are as follows:

"What Gavaskar likely meant". Really? We are reading in a person's mind on what he maybe meant? He has not commented yet. Is that what one is paying for? To guess what he meant when he said whatever?

For years on end, we have been hearing stuff like "since his girlfriend or wife is in the stands" the cricketer is lucky or unlucky.

What kind of practice did the cricketer, who made 130 odd runs in 60+ balls, have? Was he practicing with someone else in these Covid times?

He has his game, he sometimes has his misses, why is the wife involved? Talk about his game. Tell him he needed more practice.

It was a private scenario, a couple was playing together. Why would you want to make a joke about their private moment?

He is a commentator. Not a comedian. He should've stuck to Virat Kohli's cricket on that particular day.

"Tongue-in-cheek humour" is extremely funny, right? You can say anything behind that excuse to ridicule a woman, when she has nothing to do with that scenario.

As a person who is a former cricketer, I am completely appalled by the way he says in your said comment. Do we know how well she can play cricket? Has she had a history with it? Why is she not good enough? Is he playing with someone that is not good enough because she is his wife?

I am sorry, I was disappointed with this piece. As a woman, a former cricketer, and a follower of cricket.

People like Gavaskar are some of the reasons I started to play cricket. However, it doesn't always make them right. We have to separate their talent from their words. I have heard too many comments on how the women in male cricketers' lives are affecting their game. Srikanth also I remember once said women should play easier games like tennis. You may have the sources to look it up, I do not.

This is not cool. That your page carries this kind of behaviour as okay and thinking how to defend a legend in his right, not necessarily because he said something that was okay, is disturbing.

There are many things that I align with on your channel. This is certainly not one of those. As a long-time subscriber, I believed I should share my thoughts about this.

Whoever it is, it is important to know that some jokes are not required to be said. Also, that some jokes are just not funny for the oppressed.

Thank you if you have read this. I look forward to any response you might have to this mail.

A loyal subscriber,

Amita

***

Hi guys,

My name is Vipul Horo (a subscriber) from Mungeli, Chhattisgarh, running a start-up which is on the verge of closure. As a result, it's providing me the free time to write to you. Great work by one and all in your team. I can feel the pain in Abhinandan’s voice when he reads out the subscriber letters to find everyone praising Manisha. So, here I am not mentioning the insanely hilarious work done by her in the Newsance report.

Coming to the reason why I wrote, I understand that at times the discussions on Hafta get frustrating with the kind of events happening in the country, so I just wanted to share a short story for your amusement and to lighten the mood.

So, one Sunday morning, the Mumbai police were playing cricket among themselves. Moments later, a small crowd gathered and watched them play, soon to realise that Mumbai police is just a gully-level cricketer and is not playing that well. They ran to the CBI office and told them about this. CBI reached the field and with authority told the Mumbai police, "You don't know how to play cricket. Let me show it to you," and started playing instead.

After a while, the ED came to the field with their hockey sticks, only to find that CBI was already playing cricket. ED laughed at CBI and told them that the field they are playing in is not a cricket field but a hockey field. CBI, too embarrassed by this revelation, quietly went to the small corner of the field and continued playing there. After an hour or so, the star team of the NCB reached the field. They told the ED that the ball that they were playing with is not a hockey ball but a football. They chased them away from the field and started their football match.

It's been four months now and the football match is still on which now seems like a WWE Royal Rumble match where, every couple of weeks, a new wrestler enters the ring.

By the way, sources tell me the CBI is still playing cricket in some small corner of the football field, invisible to everyone's eyes.

Am I the only one confused???

Regards

Vipul Sonal Singh Horo

***

Hi guys and the one awesome girl,

Loved your latest Hafta, even Bagla Bhagat couldn’t ruin it. Totally agree with Manisha, school sucks. My joy knew no bounds [if] a nun was transferred or, better still, dropped dead! Keep up the good work

Kamal Murthy

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Hello Newslaundry team,

I am a new subscriber to Newslaundry and I would first like to applaud all of you for the great work you are doing. I got introduced to Newslaundry through TV Newsance and now I cannot miss even a single episode of it. Manisha and the team are doing a wonderful job on the show but I also feel a bit sorry for them for having to consume all the nonsense of the mainstream media.

I am currently working as a scientist in Germany, living here for almost three years, before which I lived in Japan for six years. In Germany, we need to pay separate fees for public broadcasting so as to limit the commercial outlets, similar to the Newslaundry model. I was a bit annoyed by it in the beginning but now I understand how important it is.

Having lived in Japan and Germany, I always wondered how the people of these countries could have ever supported the fascist regimes. Based on the little that I have read on the rise of Nazism in Germany and the discussions with my colleagues, one of the good indicators of “trouble” is the loss of the freedom of the press. Hence, the current situation of media and governance in India scares me a lot. We just need to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.

Having said that, I do not agree with Chetan Bhagat when he said in the last Hafta that it is the fault of the people of India who look for entertainment even when consuming the news. I don’t think there is anything wrong with mixing entertainment with the news. I myself prefer watching American late-night shows by Trevor Noah, John Oliver, etc or Newslaundry’s TV Newsance, to the news channels. These shows sometimes make it easier to digest the news. The problem is not with mixing entertainment with news but providing false news, sensationalism, etc and I think the onus of that is entirely on the news channels.

Again, kudos to you guys for your efforts and I also like how sometimes you even disagree amongst yourselves. This only shows that even liberal ideas are not as homogeneous as people would like to think. I hope you carry on the debate and the discussion and keep up the good work!

Best,

Neha Mishra

***

Hi NL team,

I am a postgraduate student in a teaching hospital, that’s been catering to Covid patients for the better part of this year. And mortality and job losses aside, we are a silent casualty of this entire spectacle; our academic loss, a total blind spot in media, and otherwise.

All the postgraduate residents are exclusively "seeing" only Covid patients, which we don’t have a problem with, but missing out on attending to patients of our chosen specialty. The regular OPD and OT services have been shut since March.

Seeing the world slowly trudge back to normalcy makes us half-joke on whether the only ones left to resume any semblance of a normal life are us and the multiplex owners (a frivolous point, I know :)).

But seriously, the three years of a post-graduation is where the academic and the clinical skills of a specialisation are learnt. The undergraduate medical students are totally devoid of any real clinical exposure too, but they have years to make up for it. Some will say that the other disciplines are going through the same lull, but I can say with some confidence that that’s not really true.

The last batch of postgraduates had their degree exams with virtual patients, as in images or videos in a PPT type format. That’s where it’s at!

I am not sure if there’s a story here worthy for a follow-up, or if we would even like to take this out in the open as we are basically students in the want of a degree at this stage

So, yes, basically this letter was just to crib and let our frustration be known. But then I am only kidding myself, who even listens to Hafta! :)

Been a subscriber for more than a year now, and a follower since 2014.

Keep doing the good work!

Shoutout to under appreciated Anand V ,

N (anonymity please!)

PS: When is the NL merch coming back?

***

Hello guys,

I have been following your work for the past 4-5 months and have been a disruptor for about two months now. I work in a BPO in Mumbai, currently working from home due to Covid.

I listen to your podcasts while working, especially Hafta. I eagerly wait for each episode of Hafta. Not only do I find it informative, but also sets a benchmark for how discussions should be conducted, in my opinion.

Special thanks to :

1. Manisha for diving into the toxicity of our news channels to bring us the gem of TV Newsance.

2. Atul for NL Tippani, which is the only place where I have heard such pure Hindi and make me like the language.

3. Meghnad for Consti-tution which was insanely better, humorous and informative than the civics lectures I got in school time.

4. Abhinandan, for of course, "Karare Channe" and the various interviews and shows you host.

And also to Raman, Anand and Mehraj for their well-read comments and observations on the topics of discussion.

I know that you guys would be discussing on the Hathras rape case, and would like you guys to emphasise on what should be actually be done by the government in such cases besides swift action on the ones who did this and how we as a society can do better for the safety of women in our country.

Keep up the good work.

Warm regards,

Abhijith Nair

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