From the very early days, I still remember, we were punished if we dared to even rephrase the sentence that the teacher had taught. Remembering the content was not enough, it had to be remembered the way it was delivered. I had my doubts on the teacher’s ability to understand the rephrased sentence. Not answering was a better way out then giving out your version as the latter was considered as some sort of misbehavior. And misbehavior, without fail, called for punishment. Whatever, “Follow the things as has been said” had become the rule. The kids who crammed line by line what had been taught were called the brilliant kids of the section. I too once or twice got rewarded when I crammed an answer to a question. I knew that I could not understand anything that I “learned”, but still the reward was big, appreciation in front of whole class. Till that time, the treatment I received was totally opposite as my memory has not been very sharp and memorizing something is a difficult task for me. Anyway, now I knew how to impress my teachers and get good marks.
Talking about some 30 years back, generally Indian parents had very high hopes from their kids. The success of their kids could bring them out of the financial constraints they had lived through all their lives. And their failure meant losing all hopes of a good standing in the society. They even deprived themselves of certain basic necessities to ensure that the kids went to the right school to get the best education. No doubt they had to have high hopes as they had seen very difficult times for giving their kids the best. At that time, there were only two options available for earning money. One was to become a small time businessman and the other was to compete against other fellow Indians to enter into the government jobs. Business was uncertain. One never had that kind of money to experiment in the market. There was no concept of venture capitalists and the interest rates that banks used to charge were discouraging. The only one who could be a venture capitalist was the father. And if the father also didn’t have the resources, government jobs were the only option. Even though the government jobs were less paying, they ensured a regular stream of income and lots of other benefits. But these jobs were hard to get into. Each candidate had to fight against perhaps 100 others to get through. There were only one or two successful persons in the neighborhood those who cleared the entrance examination for getting through the government jobs. If the neighbor’s son got through it, probability of own kid getting though would automatically become negligible. So right from the beginning, there was a competition going on between the neighborhood kids. Actually the kids were not competing against each other; it was their parents who did. Good marks were something that parents used to boast of in front of others. It was also an indication that the probability of becoming successful in the future was higher for the kids who scored better in the neighborhood. So one thing was very clear, Good Marks were definitely needed. I think parents never checked whether the understanding level of the kids was good enough or not. Probably because good marks meant no symptoms and no symptoms meant no disease. They were quite content if the marks were good.
As a kid, I loved to try something new. I always found the flame of a candle very interesting. It used to dance and I wanted to hold it. I was warned lot many times by my mother not to go close to the flame or I would be hurt. As I touched it, I came to know why I should not go close. Similarly, my teachers warned me not to remember the lessons any other way apart from the way it was taught. As I did abide by their words, I got the rewards. The thought process thus got developed to do the things as were being told to get good rewards.
In the Indian society, questioning one above you has been considered to be misbehavior. In the family setup, the kids did not have the right to ask “WHY” to the things the parents did or asked them to do. It was parent’s discretion whether to explain the purpose behind it. The same held true for the teachers. If the kid did not understand, then it was the kid’s problem and not the teacher’s. The same thing I saw happening in the organizations. No body asked the managers the purpose or end use of the activity we were asked to do. The same thing held true for the manager. They never enquired about the purpose from their seniors and latter from the management. Clarity of the situation flows from the top at the discretion of the person on top and probably cannot be sought from the bottom was the way of working that I had learned when I started. In any case, we had to do what ever we were asked to do as we were being paid for that only.
It was only when I was learning the Japanese Language in AOTS centre in Nagoya, Japan that I realized that the teachers there worked very hard to know whether we understood the things that were being taught or not. They used different ways and examples to teach us one concept. They knew English language but hardly used it. Instead they tried to teach us Japanese in Japanese by showing us different objects, different situations etc. Most importantly was, they encouraged a “Why” to be asked to them. Similarly when I entered the Automobile company office in Japan, my manager had given me orders not to begin with any activity till I ask him the purpose and end use of that activity. I obeyed him. I definitely did a better job having the clarity on the purpose of doing the task that I did. Before submitting my work, I ensured that it met the purpose it was required for. End result was, I had to do very less of repeat work.
This was a new learning for me. Something I was never asked to do all my life – “Use my own brain”. I did start to use it and the end result came out to be good and most of all highly satisfying. When I look at people above me in the Indian setup, I feel they are still suffering from the same problem that I was suffering with. I don’t blame them. We all have been “trained” this way only!!