Pink Floyd’s double negative lyrics puts me in mind of the levels of absurdity to which some of our apparently learned politicians and pretend academicians can go. I have had occasion in the not-too-distant past, to comment on the side-splittingly laughable claims made by some of our leaders, hilariously attempting to lay waste to the time-honoured tenets of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species and Issac Newton’s Law of Gravity. They could have been taking the mickey, but I wouldn’t give them credit for such subtle, mock-serious leg-pulling.
The general view purported to be communicated to the world at large being that anything worth inventing or discovering was achieved right here in Bharat Mata. Anyone tells you anything different is a fraudulent charlatan. Columbus first spied the Americas? Bah, humbug! Louis Pasteur (vaccine), Alexander Graham Bell (the telephone), Alexander Fleming (penicillin), those Germans who supposedly invented the Internal Combustion Engine and the Printing Press, all a bunch of clever fabrications put about by those crafty Europeans, purely because they ruled half the world and could stifle the voices of the ruled. At least nowadays, most of the world is prepared to accept that the Zero was discovered by Indian scientists and mathematicians, Aryabhata and Brahmagupta. As to which of the two got there first is neither here nor there.
My attention was drawn to these strongly, if ridiculously held shibboleths, when I read in the newspapers (thank God we still have them), that a couple of dramatic announcements were made at the esteemed Indian Science Congress (ISC), which concluded its deliberations a few weeks ago. Evidently, Andhra University vice-chancellor G. Nageshwara Rao, claimed proudly to an audience of children and teachers at the Children’s Science Congress, presumably an offshoot of the ISC that the Kauravas from our revered legend of the Mahabharat, were born through the medium of stem cell technology! He did not stop there. In fact, he was just warming to his task.
Switching deftly from the Mahabharat to its alter-ego, that other great Indian epic the Ramayana, our learned scholar went on to dazzle the wide-eyed children. He spouted forth that the hydra-headed Ravana had 24 types of aircraft, and Sri Lanka was equipped with a state-of-the art airport to house these flying marvels. Small wonder Rahul Gandhi fulminates against importing the Rafale aircraft at enormous cost to the national exchequer, when they can all be made at HAL. Or did he mean BHEL? He certainly claimed that we can make mobile phones at BHEL, twice in the same speech, not bothering to correct himself. He probably meant BEL, but then, what’s in a name?
I had referred earlier to Darwin and Newton. At the same conference, a scientist from Tamil Nadu made the bold assertion that the foreign scientists’ theories would be disproved, and that gravitational waves would shortly be renamed ‘Modi waves.’ Imagine that. Some cynics from those opposed to the BJP dispensation are wondering if all this is not some clever marketing ploy to turn the minds of India’s gullible masses at a time when the Modi wave has not exactly been crashing forcefully against India’s rock-bound coast, and the general elections just round the corner. Who knows? We are just common folk, who apply common sense to arrive at everyday solutions. We do not have the learning to overturn age-old, well-proven theories that have held the rest of the world in good stead.
Meanwhile various scientific bodies in the country have, quite rightly, raised their sane voices against what is clearly an insane state of affairs. To subject vulnerable children to this kind of hogwash, which could have been better suited to the pages of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, would have been comic were it not for the fact that it is alarming. It is even more alarming that so many of our leaders and teachers are not really alarmed by it. Chew on this. A professor at Jadavpur University in Kolkata declared recently that a virgin is like a sealed bottle. Her value diminishes if ‘opened’ before her wedding. Excuse me!? ‘Would you buy a cold drink with a broken seal?’ he asks clinchingly. Heaven preserve us!
Instead, as happened recently in Karnataka, rival politicians are warring over whether English or Kannada should be the medium of instruction. To give him credit, the present Chief Minister has plumped for English, without ignoring the local language. Which is how it should be. High time the Ministry of Education wakes up and involves the best brains in the country to come up with a blueprint on education. After all the finest brains have put their heads together to launch Aadhaar, not without heated opposition, but at least the pros and cons were, and continue to be, debated threadbare. Clearly this is not happening in the case of education, else we would not be witnessing these farcical pronouncements.Given the present state of affairs, I foresee high comedy of a rare vintage in the offing. I visualise myself as a fly on the wall in a classroom witnessing the following exchange between teacher and students:-
‘Good morning children, yesterday I had given you all notes pertaining to the great discoveries and inventions of the world. I hope you’ve memorised it by heart, as I am about to test you. Right, first question to you, Nandan. Who invented the Internet?’ Mr. Narayan Murthy, Sir. ‘Excellent. Next, Smita. Who conducted the world’s first open heart surgery?’ Dr. Devi Shetty, Sir. ‘Well done. Now Irfan. Who invented the pneumatic tyre?’ Mr. Mammen Mappillai, the founder of MRF, Sir. ‘Terrific. Who gave us E = mc2?’ Shakuntala Devi, Sir. ‘Wonderful. Last question to Ragini. Who discovered the sea route to India, landing in Kozhikode in 1498?’ Vasco Da Tharoor, Sir, Shashi Tharoor’s ancestor. ‘Brilliant. Class dismissed.’ Unlike Shashi Tharoor, I am lost for words.
(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket, humour and satire)...