going going gone!

Going going gone are the proverbial words that mark the end of any auction. The latest auction on the block is that of medical seats. It happens for the time being in Bangalore but God only knows how long it will take to start happening elsewhere. So it does not matter how hard you study, how well you do in school, what you need is a lot of money in the bank if you want to one day be a doctor! Now if that is the case should surprised at the astronomical fees we are asked to pay for a minor throat ache!

I was appalled when my doctor told me that one of his peers asked for 500 rs in case you called him up on the phone to ask for some advise. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have called Dr P not just for myself or my family but for pwhy children and sought precious advise. But then if you need to pay huge amounts for a medical seat then I guess the man was justified. Well not quite so as he was of Dr P's age, and in those days you paid a mere 125 Rs a month as tuition fee in a state run medical college where you got admission on merit. Dr P felt that at least his vintage should not stoop so low!

Where are we going. There I was just a week back jumping with joy at the wonderful results my kids had got me. What good is Vivek's 97%. His family has barely enough to make ends meet. In our days a first division (a paltry 60% and plus) got you to a good college. The the equation changed and you need 90% and more to secure the coveted seat. Now it seems the equation has changed 90% and plus + a hefty back balance = a college of your choice.

Now you may ask what happens to those who are unable to meet these new requirements, those who still get old times marks. Well they can aspire to studying abroad, something that was not an option in our times. Many countries have opened their portals to the ever increasing number of Indian students who now often leave their homeland after school. True money is required but sometimes it is easier to get a seat in Australia then in India. Loans or simply liquidating assets allows many students to go and study in other lands. But all is not glitter and gold there as we have seen lately. In Australia lately students from India have been subjected to brutal racial attacks. In all probability, the matter will be resolved at least for now but it is something we cannot wish away.

My first encounter with racism was when I was around 12 or 13. It was in a newly independent Algeria. I had gone to the local grocery shop to buy some tomatoes. A young boy of my age was serving customers. He gave me a kilo of tomatoes but over half of them were rotten. When i brought this to his attention he looked at me with anger and said: If you are not happy, go back to your home! I have never forgotten this incident. At that time I was angry and humiliated, today I understand what the child meant. Anyone outsider was a potential danger that could take away what was rightfully his.

I do not want to end this post on a gloomy or fatalistic note. There are lessons to be learnt and the first one is that of looking at our education system with honesty and candor and seeing what ails it. One of the first comment of our new Minister of Education was to say that he wished to invite Ivy League colleges to India so that students could get the best at affordable prices. I wish he had also stated that he would look into state run schools and ensure that they become the best option available to all. We have to put an end to the caste system that exists in education and ensure that every child in India gets access to the best available. Yes I am again making a pitch for the common school. Is anyone listening or should I rather say who will bell the cat?