Flippety Flop

There was a video in which the interviewer asked “What comes to your mind when I tell you the word Red Tube?” and the interviewer measured their response – which could be anything. It’s all about how infected your mind is, what information you give priority to. A big red tube? My niece’s toy? The website?

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IE&CV: Game Plan

From a lousy introduction to tense moments if I will get 10 students, it was a roller coaster ride already. Since then I have been planning to write and organise my thoughts on how I can take this coursework forward. I chose this particular day because I am fairly low.

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Annoying Grandpa

Al’s been peacefully enjoying (or ignoring) her breakfast with Thor on TV in backdrop, when her Appacha (grandpa) walked in. after watching for while, Appacha, who’s a mater story teller, decided to register his protest.

Appacha: These stories are foolish!

(After my sister and I registered protest – appealing to how it boosts imagination, how it’s superhit etc.)

Al: He’s not foolish, he defeats bad people – like I defeat you everyday!

Appacha eventually gave up.

Undignified

How dignified is teaching job, anymore?

You’re not really hired to teach. You’re hired to teach, with a subtle note that “You must be ready to work for college, when needed”.

In last two years, there were moments, days, weeks – when I was told to leave my class since I was “needed” for the college.

I have not seen home for last one half years, more than three-four days. A whole May was stolen from me last year, in account of the fact that college “needed” me. I worked tirelessly, deprived of sleep, ignoring the pain, knowing that I’m pushing myself way too far away. And a December, in pain, thanks to my sincere attempt to work for the college.

I remember the night when I walked in home, around 12, with a worried family shouting at me from the second I entered, though they know that I am in unbearable pain – and I was called “One of the worse” and “a huge negative energy destroying the college” in less than two months – because I had to retire from those works due to sickness.

I never went for the morning prayer in Anderson Hall, not because I can’t or I wish not to – the only reason, from a pastor to least of students, wanted me to attend it is to please principal, who’d be watching all our movements closely. Same goes for all inaugurations in college, all other events.

And then I realised something: Apart from all loyalty to the admin and to the college, which they later claimed that I do not have, I was, all these while begging for my job, or may be overdoing it myself.

That’s what I was told to do – “You better do as they say, just to safeguard your job”, “Last year there was a boy who kept away from all these and they didn’t renew his contract” and the stories goes on.

In short, I can compromise on my teaching, but need to be good at begging for my job.

What made me think about all these? Two reasons: a gentleman I men recently, Dr. Rajagopalan of English department, the grace with which he treated me, the conversation we had about dignity of this job back in his junior days and how it is not now. And then, the incident last day at gate. My message to TR, the head of the department summarises it all:

Sir, the new security is fairly harsh with us: we don’t know what to do with it! Today when we (Abhishek and I) were coming in, they demanded ID. Usually when we tell them we’re staff, they let us in. They still blocked us, so I showed them my ID, to avoid issues, he grabs it, and was asking me questions like “aren’t you a Thomas hall student” and all, fairly harshly. We tried to walk past, he pulls back Abhishek demanding his ID, even that, he was dissatisfied and let us pass grumbling. It’s true that we don’t quite look like staff, but at least with the ID, I feel they could’ve avoided the comments! It’s getting rougher day by day with the new security! Can something be done about it, sir?

In other words, do we mean nothing to the college that they themselves and their friends tread on us like we are just “expendables”?

I am denied of my rightful salary – in the name of “upcoming” confirmed posts, we have been made to work on temporary contract all these while. That just means I am paid one third of what we are supposed to get, with just empty promises last two years.

I’m also supposed to perform crazy good in academics, if you don’t want to be criticized. A professor works day through night to catch up with all clerical work assigned to him, along with teaching, and he’s still got to publish papers, if he wants to survive! Thankfully, that’s secondary to the other reason I stated above, followed by teaching.

I know great people like Vivek, who are born academicians, passionate teacher – but his research is sidelined, his teaching takes a backseat, my story is not any different, just to keep his job!

I am not allowed to be critical either – any of these things I said now, if a person other than my confidantes come to know, I’m out of my job, too. Critical thinking, criticism has been deemed to be hazardous and any comment in those lines must be met with harsh replies, as I experienced in recent past (even without a reason, I was accused of the same and pretty badly shouted at!).

Oh, how that photo of Vivek with a girl in his DP caused tonnes of “hushes” in department – how can he be in a picture with a girl? You wear a round neck t-shirt? That’s bad. Keep a distance from students. Never trust anyone. Words of wisdom from wise men and women of our college. Aka, we ought to fit all of their stereotypes or inferiority complexes, if you want to stay in the job. I feel judged each second I am in campus. I feel like, they are just planning my doom, for pleasure, and no other joy.

In short:

  1. Denied of rightful salary.
  2. Made to beg for job.
  3. You got to show your loyalty to admin, and live among fakers who just do it for survival.
  4. Made to compromise on teaching, which is my primary duty, to “safeguard” my job.
  5. Treated with no dignity, admin and the world sees us only as a commodity to squeeze every penny they give us out of.
  6. Doublethink is a sin.
  7. Got to stick to the stereotype and limits set for you by people around you.
  8. Perform academically, publish papers every night, else you are out of the league.
  9. Hierarchy of threat to job goes this way: 1. Your deinal to involve in clerical job 2. Display of your loyalty 3. your inability to perform academically, despite other works and teaching showered on you. 4. Your character must match society’s stereotypes about you. 5. Least of these, your poor/horrible classes.

Then why did I keep myself away from all the corporate jobs, which I could’ve easily got myself into?

On the other side, at least the ones I came across – those students are just the opposite – friends, who taught me more life lessons than my colleagues themselves. But I ought to keep a distance from them, just to safeguard my job.

After a point, as described in previous post, I started defying all these rules, and I even sounded my dissatisfaction in these lines to my HOD, one of the few sensible beings we have left in campus, I have no hopes of getting a contract letter next June.

But I am at peace to a great extend with that fact. First of all, TR won’t let such a thing happen without a fight. Rather than making me fall in love with the job, these people just made me hate it further, live in fear. I’ve less peace in my heart, more restless – you must have read the change of tone in my posts over two years. I used to console myself at the end of the day saying “At least I get to teach”, but now I feel even that’s not coming to my rescue.

As someone said recently – it’s much worse elsewhere – sure you want to move out? A point worth considering.

Talking about contract letter next June. They never tell you if you’re continuing until the last second, in fact, they never tell you that you’re not going to get one – You get no call asking you to collect your appointment order a day or two before last singing day, you must realise not to embarrass yourself going there and asking if they forgot to call.

That reinforces the fact that you mean nothing to them.

I’m more tempted to the decision to quit, to be frank. If not for the promise I made to the upcoming 2MSc, and the expectation on me with which TR has bet high on next semester, above all, family’s urge to get settled in life, I’d be out of their way, already. Something must change. Soon.

Here’s a line from V for Vendetta that’s been echoing in my head last few days:

Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.’

…and it spreads like a wildfire. Now, can you guess why I don’t publicize my posts? It’s personal. It’s my anguish. It’s my cry, the tears that cannot be shed in public.

To Mask or to Unmask.

If I didn’t understand I was being asked to be best man, it’s because I never thought I would be anyone’s best friend.

Sherlock (TV Series)

If I did not expect to be the best friend, it’s because I never thought I would even make it to anyone’s friend list. But things that happened last few days were just too overwhelming. Read for yourself.

First one
Second one.
Third.

And they were all from my students, apart from their kind words in person. In middle of all these came this from Ajlene, unwarranted;

You might have read about the dance performance by 2MSc in more than one of the chats above, in which, they called me “macha”. They read that I am low, they saw that they must speak to me – they felt that beyond a teacher-student relationship, there’s a friend in need – and that meant the world to me!

My sister’s reaction reading few of these was never to let students speak to me like that – while I always took her advices as golden gems, this time, I protested – saying “Each person has their own view point, and it suffocates me to push them aside, it suffocates me to let them know that I’m here, if you need a big brother”. She didn’t like it much, but she chose not to respond.

But that triggered questions in my mind, and while I was watching them re-perform the dance for those faculty who missed their performance (which was me), it kept nagging me.

Well, during my initial days, I was told to keep a safe distance from students, which I did, since I knew I’m in an unfamiliar ground. I would restrict my interaction to classes alone in first semester, and by the time reached second semester, I started questioning these limits, based on my own experience.

Being a teacher is one thing, and I knew that I am getting better at it. But I saw that I am not making a personal impact in their lives. I am unable to reach out the young lady in whom I clearly saw signs of clinical depression, that guy who needed an extra push to try make the best of his talents, that little fight between them.

I had a master plan, and I cut myself lose eventually – by then I was confident and comfortable in department as well. I started being myself – let go of more reservations I was holding on to, in my interaction with other staff and students, and the rest of the world slowly synced in.

Was it effective? The lady whose marriage was fixed without her consent, a lady who felt their classmate is undergoing tremendous pressure and that he was at the verge of breaking, a young lady with no self confidence, another who was at the verge of losing it all owing to a breakup, a guy who felt like a failure, a guy who was worried about his arrears – they had the confidence to speak up to me, and I could intervene or direct them to right people at the right time.

I realised that it’s gone beyond that point when I saw that those young lives were making an impact in my life, with their willingness to stand by me during my toughest times, like any friends do, not be silent when you’re low, rather, ignore all boundaries, step in, speak up, crack a joke, drop a word of encouragement – prophesy for God, and the list goes on!

But still I kept my distance, and I would credit those reservations in speaking to them to risk factor of losing my job. That’s when the recent criticisms came, that I am a negative impact on students and staff – made me rethink what exactly is the risk factor involved in job. That’s when, God miraculously brought in Prakash uncle, through whom he told me “If God opens a door, no one can shut it, if God shuts the door, no one can open it”.

That was the final call for me – I cut all my reservations down and decided to me “myself” to them. But even that is a drastic change for my world to bear, though I feel a lot comfortable being around everyone now.

Only problem is, unlike previous changes in policies, this is unmeasured. Before changing my policy each time, I thought through it, I carefully measured its pros and cons, and minimised the risk factor. This time, it was not so – no, no reservations. I will just be myself, and no mask in front of other teachers, or students – I would interact with them equally, spend time with them. And that’s scary!

But that seems to be speaking to 1BSc Physics students better, whom I met only recently. I am way attached to 2MSc Mathematics and 3rd BSc Mathematics, and 1MSc is growing into one of my comfort zones, and I see strands of jealousy each time I praise 2MSc to them.

Unless people around decides to make a mess out of it, the mess that may follow (including loss of job) doesn’t sound like a huge con to me as opposed to the pros of it – vaguely speaking, the peace of mind that I have, and I get to see a lot of my impulsive, curious explorer I lost with my old self these days. My only aim is to make friends, irrespective of their status, and be available to them in need.

I must also note that Vivek and Abhishek are watching me, and I do see that I am influencing their life a lot, much as they do in mine. Hope it all brings about a good culture at least in our department, even if I lose the fight to keep my job in the process – and I’m well aware of the possibilities.

This turned out to be a nonsensical writing, but some good might come out of it in future, once I organise my thoughts about all these. Till them, Hakuna Matata! Let me go to my student’s room, Vivek’s waiting for me there!

Dumb Ways to Die

Fact that I am fairly heavily depressed these days (and Vivek is aware of it, though he never knew the reason till today evening), Vivek was quite disturbed when I asked him “How do you wish to die?”

The following article features one of the worst writing and grammerlessness accompanied by rubbish, just like this line. Read, only if you’re brave enough.

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The Fear of Pain

I’m scared.

I have been scared.

I’ve been rejected.

I’ve been shouted at unjustly.

I’ve been called the worse man around.

I’ve been told that I’m negative; a negative, destructive energy, while I thought I was just the opposite to ones who knew me.

I’ve been reminded of the lines I mustn’t cross.

I’ve had pain, like never before, for months together.

I can’t cry. Where will I? In the class? In the bus? At home, with kids around?

I’ve been cursed with a face, that mirror of truth the myths talk about. Everyone saw me walk around defeated.

I lied. I told it’s the pain. Who cares if it was not?

I was taken advantage of. As they said, Adolf sir died, because he valued his responsibility over his life, and they replaced him, in less than a month.

I’ve got tears bruising my cheeks.

Yet a Gentle Voice, telling me, “Hold on! Trust God, and relax!”

I thought I will be free of pain in a month. It got two. Then three. I thought I’ll fly free, yesterday, and look at me, still in scared to take a step ahead, in fear of pain.

I failed. Yet I tried to laugh.

I fear of being left alone, with no one to talk to, no one to just sit around and while away time with.

Is that why I tried to convince him of his decision to marry otherwise? That’s selfish.

I doubted the man who cared for me a lot. A man I trusted blindly. A man, reverence for whom I turned down much higher offers than ones he placed on the table.o I feared that he hated me.

I tried to act brave, only to find me shivering the next second.

I cursed the men who cursed me, a thousand times in my mind, and be pricked by guilt that I’m sinning.

What harm have I done to you that you dig a trap for me?

I smile at you, you ignore me and walk away. I never stopped greeting you, you wouldn’t even look at my face. And you think you can bully forever? By the Living Voice I believe in, I call for justice. Am I not punished enough, Lord?

I’m no good even an enemy, all I can do is speak junk in the panic, just to hate myself a moment later for doing so. Must I keep feeding your joy of watching me, with my face cast down?

Have I thought of taking my life? Many times, only to conclude that it’s never mine to take.

I must stop thinking. I must stop listening. I must stop trusting. They all mean harm, and death.

I’m scared to talk to you. I’m scared to talk to anyone.

I feel I must just run away. Never turn back. Leave everything but a pair of cloths.

Walk. Walk until my legs give up.

Shout like a mad man, be cursed with sickness.

Be shooed away, like a street beggar.

Yet there’s a Man in whom I trust – who’s once spoken to me and miracles through me.

Here I am, facing my childishness, childlike fears and momentary excitements, yet He told me that I’m grown enough to face the world. I wish He spoke to me like that again. I wish, I saw rainbow in the sky, I wish I saw Him, just this moment, riding on the clouds!

And those curious eyes, who laughs with me, tolerates me if I am disturbed, manages to put a smile back on my face in less than an hour, even if they see me struggling to catch my breath or take a step forward. I’d like to die, die teaching them.

I don[t know how to relax, Abba! I am outspoken, I am pressed down, I am misread and trampled. No one stood up, when I needed, though words of comfort ran down everyone’s mouth.

Curse God, and die.

I’m talking like a foolish man. Are all things I said till now justified, that I am in agony?

Yet You keep reminding me, “Trust Me, and relax”.

Trust God and relax

-Flora, my student

That’s the crux of 13-point list which I just deleted – 13 things I was confident that I can achieve over next year. Let me KISS the year welcome, in another 8 hours!

Reviewing: Dieses Jahr

…was fairly funny, happening – extremes of good and bad alike!

As for resolutions;

  1. Read more. ✓ (Read 6 books and 4 ongoing – bought Kindle.)
  2. Program something. ✓ (Programming: Centipede and BASH Certificate Generator and Mailer.)
  3. Redefine Teaching. ✓ (Explored two new teaching styles.)
  4. Build contacts inside college. ✓ (From Caesar to Students)
  5. Own Signature. ✓ (Techie, Programmer, Trainer for SCL.)
  6. Start solid research. ✘ (Well, partially – convinced myself and TR that Image Processing is no longer a hot shot.)
  7. Rediscovering Faith out of Traditional Framework. Ongoing.

Re-viewing Semester 3

Topology

I wished to implement the same strategy that worked well for 2BSc in 2MSc class – parameters for the subject fit, plus there was a much smaller class – much less to teach. But I missed a major factor – the students’ attitude.

This is how I treated the subject in 2BSc a semester before – I started very slow – two months for a unit, one half for second unit, half a month for third, a week for fourth and 3-4 days for fifth. It was fairly successful there – as there was more than 50% of the class above 75% marks, of which a great deal was above 90% marks.

But in 2MSc – you have already learned a lot that you are reluctant to change your ways – compared to 2BSc, for whom it was the first course in Analysis. They were headstrong. I started slow, and eventually found myself pleading them to read at least once a week and follow what is being taught. They did not. I decided to tighten the grip, contrary to my decision not to mind if they study or not, embossed in tears in one of the previous posts.

First reminder for them was 1CA – the question paper was stupidly simple. Every word there, I had taught in the class – to score 50/50, all you had to do is read tiny things I discussed in class and that’s it! And as expected, most of the class came back with a score less than 25 – I thought your eyes will open after the confession all of you made in private to me that “For your paper, we should start studying early!”

Ugh. No. Two weeks of grace period finished, and no sign of change. And I was forced to take the next blow – deny them of notes, so that they realise that they can’t afford to open the book only the day before exam. Who cares if we fail?

All these had already taken me off my pace – aim was to take all time to teach unit 1, then I have to spend less time on unit 2, which is the generalisation of unit 1. Unit 1 was ignored, forced me to spend more time on unit 2, making things slow down a lot.

Apart from that, the focus of my training was to teach them to read and comprehend definitions and theorems themselves, and to write theorems themselves. Steps and care was taken to present things slowly, but you ignored it from first day onwards – and how can I teach you to master it the day before exam, when you come and ask me for it?

I knew I am late – by the time it was 2 CA. 2 of 39 students were in the league, a plus one, goes without saying. Having closely observed their skill in subject, I had already identified 4 who are exceptionally brilliant (trust me, one of them failed in end semester!), another 20 who could do magic with the subject given a bit of sharpening.

Fact that as a mass, they are declined my appeal to them, I decided to attempt convincing them personally – of 24 I mentioned above, I approached all 22 (two of them, without any intervention, had it under control), of which nearly 10 promised to come, never turned up. The heart to heart sessions with rest 12, were infinitely effective, but most of them failed to take it forward, except two or three of them. I would end the sessions with a request to sit and work harder for next two weeks before semester exams, but the fruits of it, I saw it only in the paper of a handful of them

Then came the next surprise. Since they were going for “educational” tour, I am going to lose 3 of 5 last classes I had designated for 3rd unit, which came in as a bombshell – I was already running late given the tantrums they put me in, and I lost all interest to teach them – had they learned the way I wanted them to, 2 days were more than enough to cover whole unit!

Original plan for unit 3 was to make them explore it themselves – reading and comprehending definitions themselves, writing theorems themselves. But it’s too late already, plus, time’s restricted.

I forced myself through it, giving focus to main theorems and explaining it in and out. Not to do injustice, I shared the notes well in ahead, asked them to read through, prepare and come – I need not mention that only one of 39 read through it at least once.

End semester, as I expected, betrayed me as well. Setter asked questions in my section justly (but ignored the injustice in favour of students previous years), and that gave a prefect ending to it all.

To refute their claims against me, which goes four fold far as I see:

  1. We don’t want to understand the subject this much: Don’t! But I don’t want you to go out there and tell anyone that I taught you this subject and you don’t know a jack about it.
  2. You should have given us the notes: First of all, it was my plan to. You forced me out of it. Secondly – same paper, Ruby gave you notes for every word she taught. Then why did you not write her portions, which asked exact repeat questions?
  3. Why should we know to read and understand definitions and write theorems ourselves? Just talk to some BSc students, from any good institute – they will make you faint. That’s your level – in other words, these are skills you should have developed in your UG, you’re struggling with it in your PG! Shame on you.
  4. Maaarkkkss! Sorry, you’re talking to a wrong person.

I must confess that I was busy and unavailable to you outside classrooms until mid semester, given the admin work in college which kept me busy till midnight everyday – which, on your request, I dropped it risking all possible consequences. There’s been days in which I was forced to cancel the class moments before I walked in – but I believe I made up to it by making sure I’m available to you last two months, whenever you asked me to.

Then those unprepared classes – mostly because I was jam packed with works and more kept showering in – is no excuse for it. But eventually I reoriented myself to give teaching my first priority.

The days I lost my temper since you didn’t come prepared – sorry for that as well. It was the frustration of being denied, which doubled, tripled, and an attempt to avoid what happened at the end – that I lose interest in teaching the subject.

Impact of this coursework in my professional life also matters:

  1. I quit most of the admin work in college, risking my job itself.
  2. I went out of my way to convince you to do it, and I failed.
  3. Most of you hate me now, because I apparently didn’t make life easier for you, give you notes, didn’t give you easy questions, shouted at you multiple times, even after you all stating that you don’t care, I kept pressurising you.
  4. All job security I had till date – involvement in college, in department, in other departments, a little favour in eyes of HOD – dropped it all the second I said “I need to focus on my students and classes – I am not ready to do it until sem break”. Add to the wound to different people, I was unable to keep my word as I fell sick soon after the semester. I’m at the dawn of my job.

Anyway – y’all are done with me for lifetime, so, let’s keep all these hard feelings aside and move on, forget each other.

IE&CV

Was not my focus for the semester – but some good came out of it. IE went well, but class did not take full advantage of it – notes were prepared, but no one cared to get it from each other, less practice lead to confusion on paper. Since it’s the first time with the paper for me, that did reflect in teaching. CV was mostly lectures, but there were rough ends as well – mainly me getting bored and losing all interest to teach any further, partially influenced by Topology above. That’s it about this paper – we had some fun. Also, I could consider your request for more teaching opportunities with 3CA – which focussed on making you better students, better teachers and better critiques of teaching-learning system.

Mechanics

Not the best, but better than last time. Realisation that minute details irrelevant to exam could be skipped in class struck me late – which also contributed to their disinterest in the subject. Lectures didn’t work with them; as they had their reaction to near zero. But partial SCL did the magic! I had them with me in classes where I made them explore it rather than lectures, hence eventually spend all energy on it.

I learned that each class is a whole different world – and need to measure them properly before I take a step forward. But lovely papers for end semester!

Allied Mathematics

Though it started off at the bottom of the list, this class had all my attention, through the semester. I never solved a problem for them, they lived up to the challenge – the whole class, soon made it into my favourite list. The pace I told you about for 2MSc – worked perfect with this class – and they experimented, came up with their own methods which I personally never knew – it was fun.

I noticed that 1BSc is more open to changes, more open to work harder (and I wish they make it a habit!) compared to 2MSc, who acts as if they know it all, dead set not to change. Made me rethink my wish for all-PG semester. May be next time on, I’d prefer 2-3 UG and 1 PG instead of all three PG!

Professional Life

IQAC was at its prime, with odd jobs from The Caesar himself, and then from General of the Army kept me busy – a lot busy – that made me compromise a bit on teaching, leading to boring, unprepared lectures every now and then. Wherever I laid my hands on, came out pretty well and neat – to get good comments from high up-s and future high up-s. But dropped it all in a second when I realised that teaching has been forced to take a backseat, promising to get right back soon after the semester. But by then I fell sick. Sickness robbed life itself from me – both teaching and other works. Fact that it was a consequence of my own irresponsibility of past, I have no one to blame, than me myself. But lesson learned, with least damages than painful two months (and one or two more expected).

Personal Life

Relationships were at its best.With students, with colleagues, with friends. I recovered the forgotten personal life, which I had downplayed to accomodate more of professional life. Chip’s death was a shocker – spend hours crying, though the world never saw even a drop of tear. Made me rethink, rework my work philosophy. A foreigner, who had nothing to do with me or my life – loved me like his own son (in fact, he used to say, “I feel like Niko’s home when you’re around!”), earned that love back, too. He made me coin the ultimate scale for freelance jobs: “The one I am working for, are they “Chip-worhty”?” Aka, are they as innocent as, genuine as, a person worth respecting as Chip? If so, no matter how Himalayan the task is, it’s a yes from me. But unfortunately, I never found anyone Chipworthy yet, in my life so far, than my dad and may be TR is close enough.

Sickness made me mature a lot – learn to put my energy under control, avoid getting over excited et al. Also, made me health conscious. Before it peaked, by September end, after one such review posts which I later deleted, I had decided and started to exercise, drink water regularly, join a gym, fix food situation by starting to cook, look more into restricting work to department, till 5 in evening, wake up early enough, meditation and warm up, list goes on. All spoiled in a month by a tiny fever, later transcribed into back pain and all drama followed. As I write, it’s spiking again, forcing me to restrict this post to a semester review, instead of a yearly review.

Tata.