Sunday, November 18, 2012

Analogy : education and love

Advice to educators: The assumption that fancy methods, classroom management techniques, more worksheets, high technology, scientific tracking, attention-grabbing stories, rhymes, charts and toys will help you to teach an objective better to a class..

is as flawed and as short-sighted...

as the thinking that using expensive gifts, pick-up lines, mind games, flamboyance, false promises and preten
ces can get a person to fall in love with you.

In both cases they will respond only if they themselves inherently wanted to, regardless of the efforts you put in. At best you'll only get a partner pretending love for the sake of the money, or a class pretending to learn for the sake of the marks. At worst you'll only end up giving false hopes of a great future and set them up for a big disappointment.

A friend asked me to elaborate upon this. I shared my recent video. Then he asked to elaborate upon it more. So I wrote him this:

Well, it's as I shared in the post. Children are human beings first. The International convention on human rights is supposed to be applied to all human beings. The magic number of 18 (and the assumption that below that, these rights don't apply) is a lie. We are not supposed to hold any human being against their will, no matter how convinced we are that it's for their own good. If any compromise on this stand is to be made for practical reasons, then only parents/family reserve this right. Outsourcing it leads to human rights violations aka the present state of pedagogy.

The 9-year-olds in my class, every last one of them, was capable of learning everything we wanted of them at their own pace. They were all capable of learning non-linearly (like mastering years worth of learning in a few weeks when they really want to - everything on this planet except the education system is non-linear!), there was no need of worrying if one of them can't master adding double-digit numbers right now.  But I held them against their will and tried forcing things on them, in whichever way. That had a net negative effect on them. I witnessed the spark of genius being extinguished in front of my eyes. It harms the natural tendency of the child to like something, pursue it and master it themselves. The outcome of this forced schooling is everything that we find wrong in the people around us today. Most of what we pass off as normal just because everyone else is doing it, is actually abnormal and unnatural, and everyone is suffering.
Adding a moral science subject or one on democracy is bullshit if we're violating their rights and practising dictatorship on them at the same time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Video: My Experiences with Education and TFI

My Experiences with Education and TFI

Dedicated to all the beautiful, amazing, wonderful kids who, at their personal expense, defied all attempts at psychological conditioning and showed me and so many others the ugly truth of what we were doing to them in their names.

Check out the documentary movie "The Forbidden Education" , it sums up most of the elements of the education conundrum that I've mentioned here with clarity and connection. I'll recommend it as a must-watch for all parents as well as teachers.
To download the movie and to read more about their research, go here:

No offence meant here, but since it's about systemic issues, it's bound to be difficult for many who are comfortably settled deep inside the system, and whose jobs and way of life depends on it. Well, there will always be a child who stands out and says "Look! The Emperor has no clothes!"
To dear TFI Fellows : you're amazing people, you're my mates, I love you. We've wondered so many times about why it's so darn difficult -- here's why. Question everything, go back to the drawing board.

If you can't watch the movie linked above here are pointers to the literature:

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto -

Lots of amazing essays on schooling at :

Where you can get books in this sector :
To see what schools can actually be if we just let go of the urge to control child development, to get a glimpse of the unlimited potential in store for our children, check out:

The Sudbury Valley school,

Why does a Sudbury Valley School work?

Why force Reading?

And Rithmetic


Great thanks to for the technological breakthrough that enabled emailing massive amounts of documentation in a single private attachment in a way that anyone could read through it easily. The management never saw it coming ;)

Trickle down corruption

Where corruption begins :: the trickle down effect

A common statement I see nowadays in the news media: "we all knew corruption was rife at the lower levels, but how could we have ever imagined that the rot extended all the way to the top!!"

I started thinking about this recently while pondering about the origins of corruption and dishonest behaviour. Rather than saying babus do this, do that, I asked some simple questions by first putting myself in the shoes of a babu/public servant (crap, they imply totally opposite meanings yet stand for the same thing!).

So, let me suppose I'm a babu at the frontlines - I deal directly with people in some or the other govt department. Not a clerk; just some falaana (meaning this or that) officer at a falaana desk in a falaana department. Above me there's a whole hierarchy and below me there's a few people, mostly clerks. My job is.. well, something relating to forms and files. People of all sorts keep coming in all day clutching their lives in their hands for getting something that's actually supposed to be theirs without asking, and I have to inspect, approve, send, transfer, whatever. If I'm trying to do something sneaky and make a quick buck on the side that would contribute to my child's college education savings or that would pay towards the down-payment on that new flat so my family is guaranteed a roof over their heads, I'll probably watch out, scared that I might get caught. Now, who would I be most afraid of?

(side note : Education of children? Home and security for the family? Our babu doesn't sound so evil now, does he? NOW do you get my problem with the whole anti-corruption movement? We're all human beings, dude. Anything that dehumanizes anyone, even a bribe-taker, is simply not addressing the roots of the problem.)

Would I be afraid of anyone working below my level in the office hierarchy? Nah, if any of them dares to say anything against me, I'll teach them a lesson by getting them fired or inconveniently transferred or whatever. My equals? Well, the hierarchy is such that there's typically one or just a few persons at a level. And those guys are my colleagues. We share our lunch everyday, our families and kids know each other. They would understand. They certainly wouldn't get me screwed without talking it over with me first.

That leaves just one category : my superiors. My immediate boss, as well as his equals in other departments. Now, they call the shots. One thing out of line they find and it's GAME OVER!

I'd be really scared of a superior at work finding out about me taking a bribe. REALLY scared. If there's even the slightest chance that I might get caught, I won't do it; I won't take the bribe. So if I assume all the public servants in the nation are in a similar position as me, wouldn't this fear of the superior automatically keep corruption levels down?

After all, that's what the purpose of hierarchical organisation is, right? One guys keeps his subordinates in check, they keep theirs in check, and so on up and down the whole chain, from the lowest clerk to the highest position in the state. The entire point of having a top-down heirarchial power structure is to keep things clean and efficient. This should be the last place for corruption to happen. So why is corruption rampant?

Coming back to the babu's shoes... So I'm afraid of my superior. However, what if I know that my superior is also indulging in bribe-taking? After all, he plans to send his son for MS in US by next year.. even for taking a student loan, one needs to show a good enough account balance! And what's my small bunch in front of his big pile? Right, so since the boss is doing it, so can I! And heck, if someone tries to get me screwed for it, he'll cover my ass. Coz if he doesn't and I get the shaft, then Oh Boy, I ain't going down alone!!

Try to observe the immense psychological difference made by the knowledge that even the boss is cheating.
Bribery went from "watch out! be careful!" to "who gives a shit!"

So, Theory: Corruption at lower level becomes rampant when the higher levels are in on it too.
Corollary 1: If you see corruption being rampant at the lower levels, it signifies a high probability that the higher levels are corrupt as well.
Corollary 2: The direction of adoption of corrupt practices travels downward. aka, Trickle-down effect. Superiors practice corruption and then their juniors follow suit.

Extend this to all levels, all departments of government. What this would indicate is that if you find corruption being rampant at the lowest levels of a sector, it means that there's rampant corruption happening at the TOP. And the one at the top, preceded and CAUSED the one at the bottom; not the other way around.

On the other hand, this theory severely reduces the probability that if the junior level officers are messing around, then the boss is blissfully unaware of it. Duh, they're not that stupid.
And this totally screws the long-held advice that if you find an officer doing something corrupt then you should report it to his superior. Because you'll only be reporting to someone who's even more corrupt, and that'll only land you in trouble! SHIT!

So, I'd like to blow the whistle on the long-held assumptions about the top-down hierarchical power structure: This a system designed for the Gods, not for human beings. It doesn't make society clean and efficient as it claims. Rather, this pyramidal structure makes an environment conducive to corruption, red tape, misdirection, vested interests, ego, slowness, disrespect, exploitation... everything that it claimed it would keep out. Any normal person put into this system, has a much greater probability of doing the wrong things because that's what this system is DESIGNED to produce. The benefits it provides at the expense of morality then attracts only those people best suited to it.

So, when a news reporter talking on some newly dug-up scam exclaims "we all knew corruption was rife at the lower levels, but how could we have ever imagined that the rot extended all the way to the top!!"
--> Bazinga! It started FROM the top and THEN came down to where you could see it.

Taking this theory to its logical conclusion, here goes...
If you're finding corruption rampant at the bottom levels of government everywhere in your country,
then use the trickle-down theory and trace it up, up, up...

This leads to some unsolicited advice for anti-corruption movements everywhere: If you really want to do anything about corruption in the long run, keep in mind that even if you manage to wipe out every corrupt official, your most sincere efforts are useless as long as you don't destroy this top-down hierarchical structure which will quickly repopulate itself after the purge and bring forth corruption once again. It is this misguided philosophy of managing things, and not the people doing it, that is the real enemy. And if you're too scared to consider an alternative; if you prefer the security and comfort of control through power structures and fear the imagined chaos that you've been trained to think will come in the absence of these structures, if you have no faith in the power of people to truly govern themselves and sort their own problems without need of authority, then learn to live with corruption and all the evils it brings.

How To watch subtitles on VLC better

If you're watching movies with subtitle files on VLC player, chances are you'll find it a bit difficult to read.
So here's a quick way to change the subtitle display to make it better. I'll explain through screenshots:

You'll have to stop playing the movie (not pause; stop) so the changes can take effect.
Then sit back and enjoy the show. Here's what it'll look like:

And in case you're curious, the video is a paradigm-shifting documentary on education from:
It's in Spanish, but google-translate does a good job :

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Any Other Girl"

Found this shared on facebook:

The sad love story.
Heart breaking Love Story"
Two Lovers Decided to Broke up..
After Few Years When the Boy got Married with Any Other Girl..
His X-Gf Approached him & said..
"How dare you to select my favourite colour as your wedding theme?"
"How dare you to...
use my favourite flowers as your decoration?"
"How dare you to Fix the date on Which I proposed of your marriage ceremony?"
"How dare you to use our song in ur wedding?"
Boy cried and replied..
"This is the only way I can pretend to my heart that I am marrying you"

My reply:
Apparently he's perfectly fine with making a guinea pig out of the wife and she has no right to live a full-fledged life of her own. So what if he's heart-broken, he still needs to make someone else's life useless in order to complete some societal formalities. Hats off to this caring person. Let's print a photo of his ex so he can stick it on the wife's face at night. After all, he does need to placate his poor innocent little broken heart AND meet his bodily needs at the same time.

This story symbolises a lot of what is wrong with the present and past male population (and many of their mothers) : Their utter inability to treat ALL women as full-fledged human beings. Sorry heartborken guys and sorry to their parents, but there is no such thing as "Any Other Girl" that you can marry. You're much better off doing things that lead to a better world where heartbreaks like yours will not happen again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Knowledge Traditions and Practices of India - CBSE's new elective course for 11th

As written by Michel Danino from Coimbatore:
Namaste. The CBSE has taken the pioneering initiative of introducing an elective course on "Knowledge Traditions and Practices of India". The course, introduced in class XI (to be extended to class XII from next academic year), is an attempt to reintegrate India's best intellectual, literary, artistic and scientific traditions in the classroom. The material for the course was developed under the general guidance of Dr Jagbir Singh and the editorship of Prof Kapil Kapoor.
The CBSE's recent circular on the course can be read at
The 10 modules developed this year for class XI can be seen on the CBSE website: click on and scroll down to Acad-68/2012 of September; the box on the right shows the links to the modules. Each module consists in (1) a survey write-up; (2) selections from primary sources; (3) activities; (4) further resources.
For convenience, I list below all the modules in the order given in the textbook. (You may click on any of them to start a download of the module in pdf format; please keep in mind that the files are heavy, often 10 to 20 MB each.)
Ø  Module 1: Astronomy in India
Ø  Module 2: Chemistry in India
Ø  Module 7: Mathematics in India
Ø  Module 8: Metallurgy in India
Ø  Module 9: Music in India
Each module begins with a preface by the CBSE chairman, Shri Vineet Joshi, and a Convenor's Note by Prof Jagbir Singh.
Please note that the material is © CBSE. It may be viewed privately, but for any public use, the CBSE's permission will have to be sought. In particular, if you know any CBSE school with a management genuinely interested in Indian culture and heritage, please ask them to contact the CBSE and enrol for the course from next year.


What really causes cancer?

In this talk, Mina demonstrates how it was the environment around the cells (the Extra-Cellular-Matrix or ECM) that caused them to go malignant and start tumours. By placing the tumorous cells in better, calmer, more nurturing environments, the cells started behaving normally again and the cancer receded!

Skip to 9 mins 50 secs in the video to jump to the most revelatory part.

With this she's delivered a deadly blow to the "cancer gene" argument. If we really had cancer-causing genes, why does tumour only happen at one place?

It took me back to the Nature Vs Nurture explanation in ZMF. Lock a child in a classroom all day, restrict and monitor her every move, have someone else decide what's good for them and what's not, rule with an iron fist, and voila, you'll get agitated, violent children. Then find one gene that happens to be common among them, and voila, the "violent gene" has been found! Bullshit. Context matters.

Edit : This video on Cancer's forbidden cures blew my mind : So much has been deliberately hidden from the people by the pharmaceutical industry! This is criminal.
At the same time, this give a big leg-up to the traditional, herbal cures schools for healing cancer.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dhirendra - Smita : family living sustainably on 2.5 acres land near Vadodara, Gujarat

Two Thoreaus of Sakwa County (click to read the article)

Dhirendra and Smita were both PhD professors of engineering who traded in their classroom careers for a life of living naturally. In 1983, the couple bought and moved to a two and a half acres path of land in a small tribal village in Gujarat, India and built a new house and lifestyle. No electricity, no vehicles, no running water. Instead they would work on farms, eat fresh, pesticide-free produce, drink their own cow's milk, and live with the rhythms of nature. Eventually they would find solutions for several community problems: digging wells, installing a bio-gas plant to utilize cow-dung for basic electricity, experimenting with a wind mill, and solar cooking. Their's is a remarkable story of two people who, in a small corner of the world, are redefining what it means to live consciously, one day at a time.

Today, they are a family of five producing over 200 kilograms of crop annually: oilseeds, pulses, spice and over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables, all grown with organic manure. "Each month we have different fruits and vegetables," Dhirendra proudly smiles, as he gives us a tour of their farm. Walking through the two and a half acres, you can spot everything from mangoes, papayas, lemongrass, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet tamarind, eggplant, to vanilla right here in their own backyard.

What about money and other expenses? "Our yearly budget averages to about 12,000 rupees (less than $300)," says Smita, "that comes from selling a sweet-sour cold drink powder made from a plant in our farm, some Ayurvedic medicine, and hand-made organic soap from a Neem plant." That budget is not just for the two of them; it also includes their two adult sons and one daughter-in-law! More than half of their expenses go toward travel and books and the rest are used for clothes, shoes, some food items that they don't grow, like salt or jaggery. To keep all the wheels moving, everyone averages about 4 hours of work daily.

Please click the link at top to read the whole article. Excerpts from
[category Alternative Living, organic farming]

Sunday, October 28, 2012

GMO field trials explained

"Why are they opposed to even GMO field trials?"
Let me explain what happens in a crop's field trial, by comparing it to human measures.
Suppose you take a patient who's infected with the AIDS virus, and inject him with a recently developed experimental medicine that you CLAIM will cure him. Now to test this, imagine taking his blood and semen samples, multiplying them and injecting 10,000 regular civilians with them.
Imagine not informing those 10,000 civilians about it and letting them go about their business - for several years.
And then after a whole new generation has been born, suppose we can only NOW, after a long term, really measure whether the medicine was actually effective or not.

If it turned out to be effective, then FINE, no damage. Yay.
But what if it didn't? Then by the time this comes to light, those 10,000 people will have spread the un-cured AIDS virus it to their partners and further on to the children that they concieve.
Would you be able to contain the outbreak you caused while experimenting?

This sounds freakishly mad-science, doesn't it? Well, now do some replacements:
Replace all the people with individual brinjal plants, and the initial test patient with a BT-Brinjal plant.

This is how plants procreate. Each plant makes and releases thousands of pollen, and the wind and the bees and flies and birds and animals and occasionally humans take them at random to other brinjal plants in the vicinity. Pollination happens, and then the next generation, the seed, is formed.

One field growing an experimental batch of BT Brinjal, will, within one harvest, spread its pollen to neighbouring fields, and get into their gene pool by the next season. When it comes to field trials with plants, there's no such thing as inoculation, there is no such thing as control.

BT Cotton... was released without telling anybody and has spread across the country. The "field trial" that Monsanto started without bothering to ask anybody's permission, has now mixed in with the mainstream in the way I described above. Whether there are harmful effects or not -- was it really upto Monsanto to play with our eco-system without telling us about it? At least we're not eating the cotton. But many animals are. These organisations - Monsanto or the government - aren't doing any monitoring. It's still too early to tell about any long term effects. It's something we all have to live with now.

But even keeping potential health effects aside, there's the economic angle. The GM seeds' DNA have been patented by Monsanto. Any crop sample you take, a simple DNA test will reveal if it's got Monsanto's GM strain or not. And Monsanto has no intentions whatsoever to open-source their seeds' DNA. Look up the suits it's filed against family farms in the US for growing GM Soy without paying Monsanto any royalties. Those farmers didn't steal anything : the GM strains entered their crops' gene pool by natural cross-pollination from neighboring fields that were growing GM Soy. Even if it's out of their control, their government is forcing them to pay Monsanto. This is pure profiteering.

So it's a loss of food sovereignty - switching over to GM practically means of all the money farmers make, a part will go to Monsanto. Already they've been increasing the price of their BT Cotton seed they sell to farmers - one major factor driving the farmer suicide rate in our country at 1 every 30 minutes. Something that used to be freely available and abundant, is now owned by a foreign company.

This makes it in the best interests of Monsanto to SPREAD their GM varieties. And just starting field "trials" will do the trick.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Say What??

I just stumbled across, and...

 there's more!

Conflict of Interest - credit cards

A lot of people know of this term, yet many don't seem to really notice it happening around them. So I want to illustrate an example here, and it's quite pertinent to a lot of people of my generation.

A conflict of interest arises when a person or organization that you have trusted to behave in a certain way, have their best interests in behaving in another way that you may not be aware of.

So let me explain with an example. Credit Cards.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Story of Change :: from the makers of the Story of Stuff

Latest movie in the award-winning Story of Stuff series:

Inline image 1
The link will take you to their website where you can watch the short film online, listen to podcasts, read up more on it, join the community and host or attend screenings in your locality.

Click here to go directly to the download page.
[category films]

Video compression and clipping tools (made by me!)

Three new programs.. created using the amazing AutoHotKey automation tool to make a quick, easy interface to the awesome ffmpeg video encoding/decoding library

Video compression program
Batch-convert all the video files in a folder to practically youtube video quality... good quality with small file sizes.
This can be very handy if you want a quick, easy way to compress all the videos in your camera.

Video clipper
Extract a clip from a larger video file.
It even works with mp3 audio files.

Video to mp3 converter
Turn any video file into an audio mp3.

Save the .zip file to your computer, extract them to a folder. Then run the respective program.
Make sure the ffmpeg.exe program file is present. It's there in both the zip files... don't remove it, it's needed.

Programming enthusiasts, you can find the source code included with the zip files; or see them here.
Note: this is for Windows OS.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Open Letter to Open Source enthusiasts

I have an Ubuntu OS, installed with:
  • VLC
  • lots of educational tools and games
  • Virtualbox
  • Kiwix - a program that reads offline wikipedia archives (ZIM files) without needing to unzip them
  • and a ton of small utilities. Like ffmpeg that I used to compress videos. And imagemagik. And pdfinfo.

I'm looking for an easy way to proliferate my OS to another machine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Transcript of Many Securities talk by P Sainath

P Sainath - Many Securities

I found this talk revelatory and eye-opening. I couldn't find the transcript of it anywhere, so I wrote it myself. (mind, it took a very long time, phew!)

This needs to be shared. And internalised. It covers a lot of topics and shows exceptional insight into the reasons behind and the consequences of the distorted way in which India the State treats its citizenry.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Education: On charters and privatisation

Quick-posting.. a fwd from a friend working with Teach for India:

Jeff Faux writes about the American wall street's sudden interest in charter schools. While most would consider this interest to be rooted in the philanthropic pursuit of wall street magnates, Faux notes that probing the story tells a different tale. He feels that the charter school 'movement' is being driven by a motive of profit that wall street is determined to extract through the privatisation of education. He cites research that has disproved the myth that charter schools are 'better' than public schools and critically unravels the intricacies of the debate. The article holds relevance in the Indian context as the PPP model is being argued for by several advocacy groups.

Read the article at -
Faux, J. (2012, October 15). Education Profiteering: Wall Street's Next Big Thing? Truthout.

Monday, October 15, 2012

We live in a multiplayer world

We do not live in a world where there is just one bad guy / organisation / collective / country.

We do not live in a world where there is just one good guy / organisation / collective / country.

We live in a multiplayer world, where all the players are interacting with each other in multiple ways.
We can have good people fighting with bad people.
We can have good people in conflict with other good people over some differences.
And we can have bad people conflicting with other bad people as well.

Even in the collaborating side, we can have multiple parties - good and bad, good and good, bad and bad - working together.

It's simple to state, but very difficult to actually implement that in our perceptions when we come across any discussions on politics, world affairs these days.

On one such group in FB, I recently found a string of posts in praise for Adolph Hitler and advocating that all we apparently know about him is a conspiracy by the imperialist powers - that he was actually a really great leader and seriously cared for his people and wanted to liberate the world from these imperialist powers.
Seen similar arguments at various different places, extolling the virtues, the moral uprightness, the righteousness of Saddam Hussein, the Iranian government, for Gaddafi, for Milosevic, for Mugabe, for Assad... a lot of guys.
Now, I do not want to pass any judgements on the case itself (for now). However, I want to raise some questions on the intentions behind these posts.

By what logic does everyone who has ever crossed swords with the bad guy, automatically become a good guy?

Friday, October 12, 2012

'Good kids' Vs 'Troublemakers'

Dedicated to Aman, Kaif, Khalid, Alisha, Afsha, Kusum, Abhay and all
of you... if you ever read this, please know that I'm sorry for having
been part of the problem during my time with you; I'm sorry I wasn't
able to fight for you.
Yukta, Ashraf, Kauseen, Ismail and all, this goes out to you as well.

Page 156 from "Free At Last : The Sudbury Valley School"

Perhaps the most extreme example we ever had was Stella, who by
fourteen was such a hellion in her school that the School Committee of
her home town voted to pay for her tuition to attend Sudbury Valley,
even though this was against state law. They couldn't get rid of her
fast enough. Every year a delegation would come up from the town to
see whether we were still in existence, and whether she was still

I took a little while, but before long she confronted herself. By the
time she was ready to leave, she was on her way to becoming an honors
student in college, an MA in Psychology, and a prolific writer of

For us, the Stellas and the Roberts and the Sams are part of a
pattern. I remember the very earliest days at school, during a School
Meeting, when a bunch of the "A" student types began complaining
bitterly about the others, saying they were poor citizens who
shouldn't be at the school. "We come to School Meetings, help in every
way possible; we are the kind of students you want. The others are
misbehaving by lounging around all day and staying away from all civic
duties." I remember taking a deep breath, and telling them with some
feeling: "Those 'bad guys' know more about the school than you do.
They are grappling with their lives, and, right now, that's work
enough for them. You guys are so busy trying to please everyone else
that you haven't even started to know yourselves."

The fact is, the 'troublemakers' have done marvelously at Sudbury
Valley, almost without exception, and _always_ if their parents have
supported them. The reason is relatively simple: the very fact of
being a troublemaker is a sign that they haven't given up the fight.
Try as people might to break these kids, to reform them, to make them
fit the common mold, they have kept up a struggle and not given in.
They have spunk, moxie. True, their energies are often directed into
self-destructive activities; but these same energies, once released
from battling an oppressive world, can be swiftly turned to building
their own inner world, and even to building a better society. One
after another, these students have contributed much to improving the
quality of life at school.

Alas, the "A" students have a harder time. They are so used to
pleasing their teachers that they are at sea when they first arrive.
"Who is there to please?" they wonder. Often they try the staff, whom
they see as similar to their former schoolteachers. No dice. The staff
here doesn't hand out gold stars. Where to go from there?

It's a painful adjustment. It's not made easier by the discovery that
everyone else at school is smart, alert, quick-witted. The struggle to
get to the "head of the class" has no meaning as Sudbury Valley, no

These kids, not the "troublemakers", are the real victims of society.
After years of conforming to outside authority, they have lost touch
with themselves. The spark is gone from their eyes, the laughter from
their souls. If they do not destroy, neither do they know how to
build. To them, freedom is terrifying. There is no one to tell them
what to do.

The "cure" is hard, and takes time. It doesn't always work. Often the
best medicine is a heavy dose of boredom. With no program director to
organize their activities, these students often lapse into a state of
deep inactivity. Invariably, we tell them that when the boredom
becomes intolerable, they will rouse themselves, out of sheer
desperation, to create their own framework. It happens, sooner or
later, but what a cost these poor "good children" have to pay for
their former acquiescence !

Monday, October 8, 2012

Story : the Parrot's Training

I would like to share a story that I adapted from the nobel prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore, in which he warned us of the dangers of McEducation for All almost 75 years ago.

In The Parrot's Training, we are told of a golden cage that is built to imprison the wild and uncivilized parrot so that she can be properly educated by the king's pundits. In addition to the 3Rs, she should also learn who is the Boss as well as be familiar with all the latest global brands.

First, the teachers tried stuffing the bird with pages of the official textbooks. That didn't work. Then a UNICEF project came with all kinds of child-friendly and joyful techniques. They also taught the parrot about child rights.

No improvement.

Then the World Bank gave a loan to the king (with austerity conditionalities of course) to build a bigger cage with a nice toliet.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Guides to help with typing in and publishing in Indian languages

Recently I've created a few step by step walkthroughs to help with Indian languages, check them out:

Display Indian language fonts properly in your PDF (In Hindi and English language)

Typing in Gujarati in your computer (in Gujarati and English language)

Have hosted both of these on ISSUU - it renders your documents into a beautiful page-flipping book.

Installers for languages other than Gujarati:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Must-read books on education system and its hidden agendas

In case you're interested in finding out more about the present-day mainstream education system...


If you're new to this topic, you can start with Dumbing us Down. I'll recommend all parents of school-going children to read this, skip to the first chapter if you have less time. (the link is a google books preview and the main chapter can be read there)

Next, for data and references to back up the theories, Weapons of Mass Instruction is best (it's also his latest book so most updated)

You can buy the books here:
Dumbing us Down, Rs.156 on Infibeam
Weapons of Mass Instruction, Rs.195 on Infibeam

Some background: The present-day schooling system, with age segregation, subjects division, periods, top-down control, compulsory seating, divide-and-rule, standardized curriculum, grading human beings by irrelevant marks, etc was first set up in Germany, with the intent to create a more obedient and efficient population. Adolph Hitler passed a law banning homeschooling or unschooling in Germany before WW2, and that ban remains in place to this day.

Many scholars and authors over the past century have credited this system to having created the environment that made the First and Second World War possible -- little to no domestic opposition, loss of independent and critical thinking among citizenry, high obedience to authority, and loss of community responsibility among others.

It has also been credited with, in partnership with TV, for creating a consumerist culture and hogging up precious time that an individual could otherwise have used to ponder upon the deeper aspects of life.

Lastly, with the industry rigged to favour these arbitrary qualifications instead of actual competence, there was practically no free choice left for people who even knew that they were better off on their own.

As a result we today have a world where, from doctors to tax collectors to the upper levels of major companies, critical decision-making powers are vested mostly in the hands of persons who were able to best crack certain exams and courses, but who might not be so well-placed for the job in real terms (added of course the enormous egos and disconnect from the people they are supposed to serve); whereas the people who could have really made a significant contribution, are locked out due to being under-qualified just because they listened to their innate instincts a little more in childhood/youth and didn't score as well as they were ordered to.

Does that ring a bell? Then do read! Pls email me on nikhil.js [at] if you want to know how o get digital copies of the books.

OK, so is there a better way to raise our kids? I don't want to keep them locked up in home all the time.

If you want to see the potential of a REAL education and what a true school ought to look like, I highly recommend you check out Free at Last - the Sudbury Valley school.

No age segregation, no compulsory curriculum, no fractured time division, no treating children as dumb, no grading or discrimination between students. The link above leads to a google books preview and most of the book is available for reading. You can also buy it at:

Free At Last the Sudbury Valley School, Rs.234 on Infibeam

Here's an excerpt: And-Rithmetic-by-Daniel-Greenberg which shows that it's possible for a kid to learn all basic math, from 1+1 to square roots in 20 hours (1 hour per week), not six years as assumed in mainstream schooling.

Update: Got a freely distributed ebook by Sudbury Valley School, 58 pages, that includes all the most important and awesome details! Highly recommend this to anyone who's got an interest in exploring how children ACTUALLY learn.

The Sudbury Valley School
More Addendum:
The paragraph below (excerpt from Free at Last) is dedicated to all the amazing, brilliant and incredibly hard-working Teach for India Fellows, along with the message : You've all been barking up the wrong tree.

 Not long ago, in 1968, Sudbury Valley School decided to take a fresh look at reading. Children were left alone and never forced to learn how to read. The result was stunning. During the years that have elapsed since the school was founded, all the children learned how to read, but at widely different ages. Some learned at 4, others at 6, others at 8 or 9 or even later. By the time they were teenagers, you couldn't tell the difference between early readers and late readers. No one hated reading, all did it quite well, and there have been no observed functional disorders at all.
-- from

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

moving on to Swaraj

Something about Swaraj I wrote on FB recently in reply to a friend's
very good queries.
Maybe this might tell you a few in-depth things about what I'm up to nowadays.

ya, it's vague. Actually if you look at Swaraj from a professional
angle, a lot of things are unclear. But that's the point : In a world
where there are no real guarantees, is it smart to judge anything by
the guarantees it gives? What did TFI promise, showcase, and what did
it turn out to be? And btw, a line from John Gatto : I've found that
good teachers are more dangerous than bad teachers.

Finance: Rs.45,000 a year. Through the year, when we're not at the
campus, our transport and food expenses are re-imbursed, but with
Internships - payment or non-payment depends on our mutual
arrangements. Since we're so much into gift culture, even this part is
usually addressed like that. Usually we eat and sleep at the same
places, so food and lodging is taken care of.

For the most part, in Swaraj we're looking for ways to enrich our
heart and soul rather than our pockets. In the outgoing batch, the one
common current I found was that they had moved on from living in fear
of this or that. On the way, needs for expensive lifestyles vanished,
they got simpler, and needs for survival worked themselves out
organically. So yeah, it's way more spiritual than professional. And
no weekly DEADLINES, thank God!

To answer your questions, first of all, there's no THEY. There's no
real upper authority or system or staff that plans this and decides
that. We decide the whole plan of what we want to do during our meets
(a month long) on the first day by sitting together and coming to a
consensus. And if something comes up we sit together and discuss
again. Recall what we heard at Manav Sadhana? Pretty much the same
thing. At most there's about 5~6 ppl who have had lots of experience
in these sectors over the course of their lives and who share them

"Partner organisations" mostly translates to lots of phone numbers,
email addresses, facebook friends and websites gathered and which keep
getting added to. (Btw that was the deal in TFI too) The way Swaraj
helps is by being a resource of contacts and credibility - it's still
easier to visit ppl as part of a group than going it alone. And then
everyone shares whatever they found so one person can benefit from 20
ppl's experiences.

I've found the sessions, dialogues, support VERY good... am generally
feeling quite happier and sturdier than I was in TFI. Most importantly
we get time and space to really get to know ourselves and shed the
outer masks and address our inner feelings. There's no fear of being
ostracized and no "directives" from the top. There's way more humour.
There's no compulsion to always be 'in' with the crowd. Of course,
there have been issues in interactions with others, and I'm glad they
came up rather than being suppressed because they helped me.

There's no Mandatory. Even in TFI, there's actually no mandatory, you
just don't get the paycheck and the certificate. There's no paycheck
nor certificate in Swaraj, so there. (Btw, I've decided NOT to take
any experience letter from TFI)

The campus tech is basic (Well, it's an ashram, not a campus). There
is minimal internet connectivity, you share it with the group so that
limits the time. It actually helped me a lot in de-addicting from
techy life. There's a lot of focus on healthy living.

There is a LOT of interest in rural life, organic and natural farming.
We've talked, visited people doing it, some of us are trying it now.
Living at the ashram the last 1.5 months was lovely. We take part in
the day-to-day activities. I ploughed, dug, weeded, mixed cowdung and
mud with my legs and hands, and helped out in the kitchen every few
days, with cooking and cleaning.

All our illusions about the importance of schooling get wiped out when
we meet kids and adults who've consciously never been to school, and
when we really spend time with people in the village.

Lastly, no more assessments, no more tracking, no more controlling
other human beings, no more being controlled by other human beings.
Thank God I walked out (of TFI) when the time came.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Maa Baap ka Ehsaan

Warning: If this article seems offensive, please be assured that it only means that it is having the intended effect on the people it intended to have an effect on.

We come across a lot of stories and advice on the immeasurable, un-repayable debt we owe to our parents.
A favorite is the story of the giving tree. The brat comes along and takes the fruits, branches and finally chops the whole trunk off and the whole time our dear tree is supposedly just happily giving of itself for the sake of the brat. The author of that bogus tear-jerker ought to get sued for taking undue advantage of the fact that trees can't talk. Just because they can't talk, it's suddenly o.k. to imagine that they're oh-so-giving-and-sacrificial. My Ass.
Anyways, this story then gets magically metamorphosed into telling us that our parents are just like the tree. (actually, wouldn't it be so awesome if they couldn't yell or move around...). Forget about the lessons in sustainability that they didn't teach their kid. (Like, plant 10 more trees for every one you chop, you blathering idiot)

I'd like to punch a few holes into this "we-are-indebted" philosophy.
Now, it would seem rude to directly point fingers at my parents and state that they haven't done any ehsaan (aka favors) on me. So let me take it a generation forward.
Suppose that I have a baby and I am raising it as its parent.
During the whole time that I'm caring for her, feeding her, loving her, nurturing her... for even one single second am I going to think that I am doing some major Ehsaan on the baby?
Suppose that she's adopted.
Even then, should I be thinking for even one second that I'm doing the baby an enormous, unpayable, immeasurable favor?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pedal powered devices by Hiren Jayesh, Gujrat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad India

Where: Alternative Energy Department, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad

Who: Hiren Jayesh (one person) , Contact:

When: Swaraj K3 batch’s Ahmedabad Learning Journey, August 22, 2012

1. Hand operated Blender / mixie

A hand operated drill attached; there are about 4~5 gear connections including one horizontal-to-vertical axis conversion. Results in very high number of rotations of the final blender end upon slow rotation of the handle.

Advantage vis-a-vis cycle-operated device: This is smaller, can fit easily inside a kitchen, close to where the cooking is happening. Doesn’t need legs, so more suitable for kids, senior citizens and people in sarees/lungis.

2. Pedal powered washing machine

A circular metal cage with holes is fitted inside a standard metal grain-storage box.

Advantage vis-a-vis another simpler model where a drum is directly attached to the shaft:
This takes care of the issue of leakage of water. The clothes and detergent are put inside the drum via a hinged hatch on the curved side (hence loading/unloading clothes is also easier than the model we have). The whole box is filled with water upto half the drum’s height. Thanks to the several holes, water enters the drum too. And then the drum is spun, making the clothes slosh in and out of the water. The only watch-out places for leakage of water are two small circular holes made on 2 sides of the box for fitting the shaft. And those spots are non-moving.
Since the drum is smaller, and not holding the bullk of the water, there is comparatively lesser inertia during rotation, making it easier for the user to halt and reverse direction.

3. Pedal powered car battery charger

A rubber belt tied around the bicycle wheel’s rim drives the dynamo. A normal cycling speed input generates 1100RPM at the dynamo end. Hiren has tested that an average user can run this for about 15 minutes before needing a break.

The dynamo generates DC (direct current) electric power. This is connected to a small voltage regulator that stabilizes the voltage at 14 volts. If the cycle speed (and hence output voltage) drops below a certain limit, the power supplied to the battery is automatically cut off by the regulator. If the cycle speed is excessive (due to an over-enthusiastic cyclist), then too the regulator limits the voltage to the battery at 14V (or something like that). This is done to prevent damage to the battery.

To use this stored energy, a separate DC circuit is connected to the car battery (when not charging) that would have some voltage-varying mechanism to supply power to any DC electronic devices like LEDs, mobile and laptop chargers. Simplest being a potentiometer, could use a chopper circuit to supply higher than 12V, or can connect two car batteries in series to make a 24V source. (We did not see/explore this part in our visit).

Note: It is not practical to invert this to 230V AC power (too much energy is wasted in storage then inversion to AC and then stepping up). Better in the longer run to re-design the devices we use to work around low voltage DC.


Dynamo : A permanent magnet DC motor/generator manufactured by Pranshu motors,

14 volt, 1100 RPM (revolutions per minute), 3.7 Ah (Ampere hour)

Manufacturer: Pranshu servo motors,

Battery : 26 Ah (Ampere-hour), 12v standard car battery (Amaron)

Poem: Swaraj Milan 2012 invite

आयें हम सब अलग जहां से
दिल में अनेक ख्वाइशें लिए
कुछ नया करने की चाह से
खुद को और जानने के लिए

Aayein hum sab alag jahaan se
Dil mein anek khwaishein liye
Kuch naya karne ki chaah se
Khud ko aur jaanne ke liye

स्व -जीवन और सह -जीवन
इन दोनों को एक साथ लाया
तपोवन की खुली वादियों में
जीने का नया नजरिया पाया

Swa-jeevan aur sah-jeevan
In dono ko ek saath laaya
Tapovan ki khuli vaadiyon mein
Jeene ka naya nazariya paaya

एक दूसरे का साथ देते
किये कितने नये खोज
नए उठे सवालों पर
किये कितने नए प्रयोग

Ek doosre ka saath dete
Kiye kitne naye khoj
Naye uthe sawaalon par
Kiye kitne naye prayog


चलो एक बार फिर एक हो जाते हैं
वहीँ जहां हमने की थी शुरुवात
पुराने और नए यार सब मिलके
आगे बधातें हैं बात !

Chalo ek baar phir ek ho jaate hain
Wahin jahaan humne ki the shuruwaat
Puraane aur naye yaar sab milke
Aagey badhaate hain baat

बहुत सारा SHARING, बहुत सारा FUN
शुरू करते हैं खोजियों का...
मिलन !

Bahut sara sharing, bahut sara fun
Shuru karte hain khojiyon ka...

This is a poem I wrote in an invitation to all the batches of Swaraj University (me being in the 3rd batch) for a one-week get-together that we've named "Milan" which means "get-together". Not related to the football club ;)
Learn more about Swaraj over here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Koondankulum and the power junkies

Ain't it weird how of all the people ostensibly voicing support for Koondankulam's nuke power plant, no one actually lives there nor are they willing to have their own families located anywhere near a nuclear plant; and most of the people on the ground risking their lives (one just got killed btw), continuously campaigning since months against it, standing up despite repeated intimidation by the e
ntire police force, happen to actually LIVE over there, have families settled there since generations?

Ain't it weird how with over 1 million people located in the immediate impact zone of the plant in case of any sudden or slow disaster, with absolutely no sound evacuation plan in place -- a situation that goes against all international nuclear safety regulations and which would never be permitted by any other country on Earth, it's being vouched that there can NEVER EVER EVER be any slightest possibility of anything going wrong? (Didn't we last hear something like that being said and proved wrong before, and aren't we supposed to be one of the most terrorism-hit countries in the world?) Ain't it weird how none of the people who stand to make big bucks from the plant are willing to live anywhere near it?

Ain't it weird how all this hulabaloo is being done for the sake of generating 9.2GW of power (with a permanent, recurring high import and high maintenance bill that will exceed the full cost of any renewable alternative in a 50-yr calculation exercise), when India's projected electric demand will cross 300GW in under 10 yrs time? So something that's only going to chip in 3% of the country's total power needs, which won't even satisfy its own state's power needs, is suddenly so critical for the "progress of India" that it's ok to put all concerns aside?

When did Indians become a bunch of short-sighted, impatient little power-junkies? Sigh.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Story: The Peacemonger's advice

A short story (ie, short compared to novels!)

Once upon a time, a person once was witness to a crime. Let it be any crime... theft, murder, rape, beating, harassment, fraud, cheating, usurping... whatever. The main thing was, there was an aggressor who committed the crime within full control of his actions and fully knowing what he was doing, and the crime was planned in advance. And there was a victim and she was put through severe trouble and faced a bleak future as a direct result of this crime.

The aggressor, upon being confronted over the incident by the witness, showed neither any viable defense for his actions, nor any hint of remorse, nor any willingness to reconsider his actions. Instead, the aggressor then started to make moves to cover up the crime, including making attempts to land the witness, who'd had nothing to do with the whole thing except to witness it, into trouble. It did not help that the aggressor happened to be the witness's and the victim's boss and used his position to have things his way.

So the witness naturally had his task cut out. The only way to undo that trouble caused to the victim was by exposing the crime and the aggressor's actions to all. This was unfortunate, but the aggressor had put himself clearly in a position that would have to be overturned if there was to be any hope for the victim.

But then the witness was advised by a beloved friend.

This friend told our witness that every time he points a finger at someone, there are 3 fingers pointing back at him.
By some twist of logic, that was supposed to mean that if the witness points out the criminal, the witness himself magically becomes 3 times more guilty that the actual criminal. ( I know, LOL )

He said that this wasn't the witness's fight, so by even trying to help someone he must be committing some grave crime. (Must be!)

The friend told him that by exposing the crime, the aggressor isn't going to change his ways so what is the point, it will only increase the net negativity and spoil relations for a long time to come.

The friend extolled the noblest and most peaceful thinkers of our times, quoted them to justify not taking any action. (whilst conveniently ignoring all their activist sides)

The witness found it hard to put through to his friend that his objective did not even concern the aggressor. The victim's distress and the need for putting an end to that misery was far more important. Everything else... including the aggressor's feelings or his perspective or his relations with anyone -- were irrelevant. The act was done, the evidence was there, plenty of investigation had been done already. There was no room left for speculation of whether the crime had been committed or not - it had.

When he told this to the friend, the friend immediately said that he "does not know" whether the crime actually took place or not (despite all the evidence staring him in the face). And so the friend could not take any position on whether or not the aggressor was guilty, Apparently since his body wasn't glued to the aggressor's during each and every second of the crime and since he wasn't in the room (aka, he wasn't a DIRECT eyewitness), he could not even consider the faintest possibility that the aggressor may be in the wrong. He grandiosely gestured that the aggressor be given "the benefit of the doubt".

AT THE SAME TIME, this friend never bothered to apply this benefit-of-the-doubt theory to the one suffering as a result of all of this, the victim. As far as this friend's perspective went, the victim might as well have never even existed on this planet. Taking the same yardstick of neutrality that he had used for the aggressor, he could have at least pitched in some of his energy to help remove the suffering of the victim, to undo the adverse action that had been done upon her. The same way this friend refused to accept the aggressor as guilty, he indirectly refused the accept that the victim was innocent and something unjust had been done to her. Instead of practising benefit of doubt, he practised curse-of-doubt upon her. Just because HE was not in the same place or glued to the victim's body when the act took place. There were times when he even mentioned that he "did not know if that was true and so cannot comment on this", even when the witness as talking in the victim's defense -- hence directly casting aspersions on the characters of both the victim, and his friend the witness!

In addition to this, the friend exhibited a total lack of big picure or long term thinking. If it indeed turned out that the aggressor did do wrong, was there any merit in giving him a free hand, in the name of non-violence, non-intervention etc etc? Wouldn't that make him more aggressive and hurt others too? Wouldn't inaction at this point increase the net suffering and negativity for everyone in the long run?

The witness saw through this double standard. When he tried to persuade his friend to abandon the double standards and at least give the facts on the ground, the physical evidence some credit, the friend told him he was being too aggressive / biased, taking sides, that he was getting too negative, too aggressive, going into a downward spiral, etc etc etc.

And all this time what our friend the adviser was ACTUALLY doing, in the name of the noblest ideals around, was finding an excuse to not act, to not stand up against an obvious wrong, to not do the right thing. It was also politically convenient, seeing that the aggressor happened to be the authority. He also wanted to prevent others as well (particularly the witness) from doing it, for if that happened, wouldn't he have been exposed for what HE truly was - a coward, a charlatan? In the process, without fully comprehending it, he ended up giving blind, unconditional support to the aggressor and became a party to the crime wreaked upon the victim.

Luckily, the witness had other more sensible friends and a stronger internal compass. And he learned, the hard way, that this fence-sitting friend of his couldn't be trusted or consulted henceforth. It wasn't worth debating the facts with someone who respects people's perspectives and assumptions more than facts, someone who differentiates credibility solely based on hierarchy ("the aggressor is the boss so he must be right, while the victim was just an employee so she could be wrong"), someone for whom the words "Satyamev Jayate" do not have any real meaning. Such people can be a serious waste of time and mental energy.

He soldiered on, stuck to the facts on the ground and ignored the speculations, dug deeper, found the evidence required, exposed the aggressor's actions, got the whole community to acknowledge the facts and admit that a wrong had been committed, and got the harm to the victim undone. Sure, he committed a few minor faux pas, pissed some (irrelevant and highly over-rated) people off, and had to face some consequences of his own due to a large number of the crowd being of this fence-sitting mindset. But all that was trivial compared to the several more real friends and tons of goodwill and credo from across the board he earned on the way, and the lessons in leadership and systems of operating he learned at a much higher level of cognition than any passive spectator could have.

The friend had assumed that his "neutral" position gave him immunity from all responsibility or consequences relating to the matter. Had his "neutral" advice been heeded, the victim would never have seen the light of justice. So he ultimately ended up losing his own credibility, created a totally negative image for himself in the eyes of the victim and her loved ones especially, and lost his friendship with the witness forever.

Something we must keep in mind : Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the presence of justice.

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