Thursday, May 5, 2011

Of Apples and Potatoes

(The article that The Shillong Times did not carry but find space in some other English dailies of the state of Meghalaya)
The statement of my friend Dr Richard Ford of Clark University, New York that ‘all politicians in world are the same, it looks like they all graduate from the same school’ is once again prove right. No matter how highly educated or how refine the person is, he will surely one day show his true colour - that he is politician. The statement made by non-other than a respectable member of the house bah Manas Chaudhury comparing teachers and legislators as potatoes and apples is one such instances that brought to the fore the true colours of a politician.  
I respect bah Manas not because he owns the Shillong Times but because he is one of the most outspoken members of the house and he is also one who speaks sense in the floor of the house, but I fail to understand why he has to justify the enhancement of legislators pay and pension by comparing the politicians as apple and the teachers as potatoes. The question is why comparing them with teachers; why not comparing politicians with engineers, doctors or accountants? I personally do not see the relevance. It is wrong in the first place for bah Manas to rate himself and his comrade in the house. In the interest of justice and fairness he should let somebody else to rate the legislators, how can he ascribe marks in his own report card. Of course there is nothing wrong with the self-aggrandizement; but it is only fair if someone else did the rating let somebody else decide whether politicians are apples, allu or ullu.
The fact that the disparaging comparison between the legislators and the teacher was made by non-other than the former minister of education; also speaks volume about the attitude of the legislators towards the teachers. It reflect our leaders collective attitude towards the teachers, perhaps it is because of this attitude that the legislators have towards the teaching fraternity that teachers has to take to the street even to get the salary which is rightfully theirs- because they are just cheap potatoes. One seldom sees engineers, doctors, accountants or people of other profession having to hit the street to demand their rights, but one sees teacher association of every hues and colours from lower primary level to college level having to hit the street every now and then.
‘Respect cannot be acquired; it has to be earned’ so goes the saying, do the general public respect the politicians? Well; one only has to look back at the recent Anna Hazare movement and the kind of placards or slogans the people carried to arrive at the conclusion whether people in this country respect their politician or not. The most popular placards are those which condemn every politician as corrupt, it is the kind of image people have of their politicians. Although I do not subscribe to the idea that all politicians are corrupt but since majority of them are, I don’t think it is over generalization either. Few good apples will never be able to change the basketful of bad apples, in fact the other way round will happen and in no time we will have a basketful of rotten apples, if I may use bah Manas own analogy. I think it is basically because our politicians has huge respect-deficit that they rely on the artificial factors to impress people of their status by having their vehicle attached with beacon lights, big security presence and a long motorcade to follow them. In fact the longer the convoy of cars that follows the politician, the more the importance is given to the person. As a matter of fact the respect that politicians have is short-lived, and to some extend is artificial, people respect politicians as long as they are in power, once they are defeated, people’s respect for them also fade away.
On the other hand, teachers have the respect of their students as long as they live. On many occasion one can still see elder people; well placed in the society, and if they happened to meet their former teachers they would bow in respect and if one is a smoker one would immediately extinguish his cigarette as a mark of respect.  If I wore a hat, I would immediately remove it from my head if I meet my former teacher, similarly I will remove my hands from my pockets if I am to speak to my teachers. Till now I wish I can repay for what my teachers had done for me but that is not what our teachers expect from us. Like the famous poet I feel, ‘I have a promise to keep and miles to go before I sleep.’ It is said that we cannot compare the trouble our parents has to undergo for our upbringing with our care for them when they are old. When our parents nurture us to grow they raise us to grow and bloom like a flower; they prepare us for the future, but our care for them when they are old is our effort to help them journey towards the end. There is a big different here, the former is the journey of hope and the later is the journey of hopelessness. Like our parent our teachers too; spend their lives to see us grow and become success in our lives and that is their reward. Most of the teachers are not wealthy, but they are happy because they consider the success of their students as their wealth. They smile when the meet their old students and you know that is a genuine smile a smile that says I am happy for you. I don’t think they call teaching a noble profession for nothing, so bah Manas; not only the analogy is wrong but the two professions are incomparable.
I happen to know quite a few former politicians; I was fortunate to live in the same neighbourhood with some of them. I admire late ma Edwinson Bareh, late ma H.E.Pohshna, late ma B.B.Challam and most of all late ma Larsingh Khyriem but I am sorry they did not get the same respect I give my teachers. The present generation of politician needs to work harder to get even close to the respect we gave to the former politicians. Going back to bah Manas analogy how can we compare teachers with politicians from Jaintia hills and call them apples? Some of the MLA have not even graduate ‘kot sim rit’, another is not even matriculate, while one is a mere matriculate and still one only passed his twelve class. Of the 7 MLA representing the district only two hold a bachelor degree and another MLA hold a PhD. Now look at the list of the recently appointed government LP school teachers and one will find that the list not only comprises of majority of teachers with bachelor degree but even few with postgraduate degree. I am sorry bah Manas I beg to disagree, giving a choice; if I have to compare politicians with teachers; I will still hold teachers in high esteem nobody can take that away from them. They are the mother of all the precious stones.
Well as for apple and allu, in Meghalaya apple is the fruit of the rich and a potato not only goes with everything but it is one of the important items in the stable diet of everybody- rich or poor.

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