Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Bolly Good History Class

A priest interviewed at the Live Aid venue back in the mid 80s had this to say about the intersect of his chosen life and a concert featuring anarchic music.

“Just because you’re doing something serious, doesn’t mean can’t do it with a sense of fun” (or something to that effect).

That resonated. Short term, it justified the wilder side of my student life. Longer term it has stayed with me as an approach to life.

A couple of days ago it just occured to me that yet another  reason why children hate school is boring text books. There’s stuff you can’t duck - like maths. There’s other stuff that’s a battle of attrition - does the book run out or the student’s patience? Normally Sopor wins.

Let’s take an example:

Climax of Bollywood film. Hero is beating the sxxt out of the villain (of course he won’t use his gun on a guy who’s raped and killed his whole village etc). At some point, the film’s scheduled time runs out, the hero has displayed his mastery over kung-fu, swordplay and stunts - and the director wants the “kill” sequence rolling.

Villain : “Tum mujhe nahi mar sakte, Vijay*. Tumhari behen mere ko rakhi bandti hai!”
Hero  :  “Arre gadhe, rakhee ki parampara pandrah sau ke bad hi hau tha. Yeh picture to gyarah sau ka time ka hai”.
…..and plunges the sword in where it matters, to thunderous whistles and applause from the audience. Jhakaas picture, bhidu!
(Ok, ignore all factual veracity of that bit).

* alter “Vijay” to suit your vintage to “Rahul” or “Chitraakh” - these days the exotic Sanskrit names are popular.

Translation :
Villain : “You can’t kill me. I’m a rakhi brother to your sister”
Hero : “ You got the dates wrong, buddy. Rakhi didn’t mainstream till 1500 AD, and this plot is a 1100 AD plot!”

Watchers instantly pick up the original date of “rakhi”, and the fact that “rakhi” is a significant cultural thing. Its more likely to stick. The way Munnabhai shifted October 2 recall from “dry dry” to the great man’s Birth Anniversary. (“Lage Raho Munnabhai”).

At pre-University college in Bangalore, we had political science as a subject. A lot of the stuff was boring civil laws, constitution etc. Luckily we had a suit wearing, smoking, (and occasional beer) drinking Brahmin teacher. He’d just crank up the nautanki to counter the high Yawn Quotient of the course content.

Our children suffer immensely from the sheer volume of stuff to be read and remembered. Boring text books add to the pain. India has a natural cultural strength of “nautanki” - theatrics. Its why our movie industry has churned out at least 400-500 theatric movies every year for decades - way ahead of Hollywood.

We are emotional folks who relate easily to such feelings. Bringing this to text books could be a win-win.

Students will still be killing themselves to compete - they’re all smart and capable. But at least they’ll die laughing. Anyone got a problem with laughing children?


  1. Nice one, Pras; quite a lot of folks are doing this (making learning interesting), esp. in Bangalore, such as

    Also, we have IB curricula to make learning more fun, such as the IB at international schools.

    No more clerks for the British Raj!

  2. Fortunately, we had a teacher who made Geography and Civics a bit more interesting with his stories and examples.

  3. nirmala Gopinath4:01 PM

    yes, we a history teacher in school who did what SPI did for us at Political science.