Children’s Words are Birds; Let Them Fly

The image on this post is doing the rounds on WhatsApp. I thought it was time to come out on the side of the student and put the ignoramus teacher on the well-deserved backbench:

Oscar Wilde had said famously, “In examinations, the foolish ask questions that the wise cannot answer.” Irrespective of the wisdom, or lack of it, in the question, I exhort this student: “Assume that your examiner is ignorant of the simplest bits of knowledge. Hence, explain everything as you would to a toddler. Be patient. If need be, repeat. Maybe, he will grasp it when he reads it the second time ” To be charitable to the teacher in the present case, maybe the student was summoned because the teacher wanted to apologise for asking a silly, non-specific question. The student cannot divine whether it is electricity conductor, heat conductor, orchestra conductor – the physics involved in the design of the magic wand, which the uninitiated call a baton, (baton reminds more of a policeman than a symphony) is mind boggling.
Why, even the bus conductor, that the teacher appears to so despise as to exclude him from the list of conductors, cannot perform his duties to the satisfaction of the humanity inside and outside (to be specific, just outside) the bus, if he is not an expert in fluid dynamics. The mass of humanity flows into the bus, some get selected by the “Brownian” forces to become temporarily stationary at some fixed points called seats. The rest of the fluid has to execute a mellifluous flow towards the grand exit where the fluid, once again beyond the power of the conductor, chaotically spills out on a part of the pavement, or sidewalk, as an Americans will say, even as more fluid enters the bus from the rear. The conductor, waving his invisible baton, conducts this beautiful symphony for eight hours! He ensures that the flow, from a moment before the actual entry to the moment of involuntary exit, is streamlined and laminar with no turbulence.
As any expert on fluid dynamics knows and many a pilot too to his peril, turbulence is a function of externalities, not prone to obey the magic wand. In a bus, turbulence may be caused by ego, anxiety, greed, impatience and such other baggage that is carried by each of us bipeds in our backpacks. From the point of inflow, when the conductor raises his finger to command “no more!” after which not an additional drop can flow in, to the continuous momentum imparted to the fluid by his booming audio force (remember Newton’s Second Law – the rate of change of momentum is proportional to the force applied), the universe inside a bus would be as chaotic as the primordial plasma soup but for the divine entity called conductor being omnipresent in the bus.
In this thick fluid, where an atom cannot squeeze past the next, he passes continuously back and forth having discovered the great secret of physics that dense matter is an illusion, that most of the matter is empty space with atoms distributed thinly in that space. What we see as an insurmountable obstacle in front, he sees as a hole, much as electrons see, in materials named semi-conductors, perhaps in celebration of the bus conductor. The name appears to imply that they conduct the flow of electrons only half as efficiently as a bus conductor. To belittle the real bus conductor, there are myths called superconductors, which are a bunch of cold, brazen, hood-winks because we know that there is no perfect superconductor while we have actually heard of super bus conductors.
The bus conductor, whose profession involves knowledge from the Euclidian (manging the optimal geometric configuration of the mass, to the Newtonian (calculating the force required to ensure the necessary momentum), to the Einsteinian (to ensure that the egoistic radioactivity in the mass is kept low enough to prevent a chain reaction and uncontrolled fission where mass is converted into annihilating energy), to quantum wave mechanics (you can only state the probability of his being somewhere at a particular time, he can be in two places at the same time – remember the divine omnipresence).
Only by giving a zero score the teacher has, perhaps unwittingly, somewhat redeemed himself. It is the highest possible score. After all, the ouroboros, the snake in the shape of a circle eating its own tail, represents both zero and the infinite. All the wise ancients in India, Egypt and even China (yes, there were wise Chinese in ancient times), affirmed this identity of zero and infinity. Though the Vedas and the Upanishads are replete with this thought, ancient Indian wisdom is enunciated better when regurgitated in the words of a Western scholar. Wolf-Dieter Storl says, “When Shakti is united with Shiva, she is a radiant, gentle goddess; but when she is separated from him, she turns into a terrible, destructive fury. She is the endless Ouroboros, the dragon biting its own tail, symbolizing the cycle of samsara.” Even in his fury, the teacher has elevated the student to the level not reached in the Veda’s quest as they say “neti, neti”, implying that to get to the truth, you have to discount everything else till you are left with the divine zero, which was there even before the creation. The teacher said “neti, neti – not this, not this” to all the answers and awarded the grand zero to the student. Maybe, we are being too kind to the teacher. He may have agreed with Storl and condemned the student to “Samsara”, never-ending, infinite cycle of birth and death, in this case, in the same class year after year.
The Samsara is characterised by pain and misery, even the long-eared (Was a teacher the cause?) Buddha affirmed that. As if bringing children in this world of pain and misery was not enough, we invented teachers with their stock of zeros. That is why I spent time on this post: to hail and assure this student – “You are not alone; this eternal student is your comrade, to stand by you against the tyranny of those who failed to learn and are good enough only for the lazy professions of teaching, evaluating and judging.”
I am waiting to hear from the teacher after he has finished apologising to the student.

The writer RN Prasher is a retired IAS officer of Haryana cadre | Personal Opinions

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