Friday, 28 December 2012

Meaning of Christmas and its Traditions - Ngutoli Swu HOD History



''Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeer  but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a Teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas'' - Ronald Reagan









Meaning of Christmas and its Traditions


Every year, the month of December is eagerly awaited by the young and old alike all over the world especially among the Christians because of one very important day - 25th December, a day that is celebrated as the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ. This day is known all over the world by names like Christmas, Noel, Xmas, Yule and Nativity. we celebrate Christmas every year and this tradition has been practiced ever since our birth but have we ever stopped to ponder on why it was called Christmas and it is celebrated on 25th December leaving aside all the other days and months? how did the various symbols like Santa Claus, Christmas tree, Poinsettias, to name a few become synonymous with Christmas celebration? This Christmas, why don't we take a fresh look at the literal aspect of Christmas and its traditions and make our Christmas celebration even more meaningful?

The word Christmas is taken from old English - christes maesse which means Christ's Mass. The Bible contains many accounts about the birth of Jesus Christ but the exact date of His birth is not recorded. According to ancient documents, it was the Christians living in Rome who started celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on 25th December from the year AD 336 on-wards. The most commonly explanation about the Christians in Rome choosing 25th December as the birthday of Jesus Christ is that, the Pagans used to celebrate a popular festival known as Natalis Solis Invicti or 'birth of the unconquered sun'
honoring the pagan sun god - mithras on 25th December. Therefore, to turn the people away from the pagan sun god Mithras, this day was chosen. It replaced the significant pagan festival with the passage of time.
      
When we look at the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ, it seems incomplete without decking up our houses, streets and churches with decorations like Santa  Christmas trees and the common practice of planting poinsettias. lets take a look at how all these originated. the origin of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas who is believed to have been born sometime around 280 AD in Patara, near Myra in Turkey. He was very famous for his kindness and generosity which ultimately resulted in many legends about him. He became well known as the protector of children and sailors. The name Santa Claus as known in America and to the rest of the modern world evolved from St Nicholas' Dutch nickname - Sinter Klass. By 1841, images of Santa Claus became very popular especially among children in america. Clement Moore's poem - ''an account of a visit from St. Nichols'' was largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus. The 18th century Americans' Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas- inspired-gift-given to make an appearance during Christmas time. In other parts of the world too, different versions became famous like Khris Kringle who delivered gifts to good Swiss and German children, the jolly elf named Jultomten in Scandinavia, father Christmas in England, Pere Noel in France, Babouschka in Russia, La Befana in Italy, etc.

The next common tradition is that of the beautiful Christmas tree that stands tall in our living rooms every Christmas  There are many theories about the origin of Christmas tree and it has been connected with the Egyptian and Roman customs, early Christians and Victorian practices. But most scholars regard Germany as being the place of its origin. In the 14th and 15th centuries, people in Europe performed miracle or mystery plays in front of the cathedrals during the advent season using the evergreen fir as a prop representing the tree of life as well as of sin. The German born Prince Albert and Queen Victoria popularized the custom of erecting Christmas tree. By early 20th century, the custom of decorating Christmas tree was adopted and this has become a cherished tradition of celebrating Christ's birth.

Another significant symbol of Christmas is the beautiful Poinsettias which starts blooming during the month of December and is locally and popularly known as ''Christmas flower'' by young and old alike in our state. According to legends, there lived a boy named Mario in Mexico who was poor. In Mexico, it was a Christmas tradition to carry flower to the church on Christmas eve. Every Christmas eve he would watch the villagers carrying on the tradition but he could not afford to buy flowers, therefore he used to search for wildflowers to take to church.on one such venture, as he was searching for the wildflower, a voice called out to him and told him to pick up the weeds and take it to the church. When Mario refused, the voice gently told him that the simplest gift, when given with love would be the most beautiful to the Christ child. Mario obeyed the voice and placed the weeds near the manger, inspite of being laughed at by other children. To the astonishment of everyone, the weeds turned into a beautiful red flower with bright green leaves. Mario then understood that the most important gift to the Christ child was the gift of love.

This plant was taken to America in 1836 by Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first American Minister to Mexico. Today, the Poinsettia flower has become a part and parcel of the holiday decor and tradition.

Apart from these, there are many symbols and traditions connected with Christmas  In our state, along with the Christmas tree, Santa  Poinsettias, the use and sale of different colored balloons has become synonymous with the holiday season. another very common symbol of Christmas celebration especially in the countryside is putting up of a huge star mostly in red color on a tall bamboo pole that is found on the front yard of every home. Christmas season is also the time when families visit the grave of their close relatives to clean and decorate it in order to show that even though they are no more, they are still remembered and loved.

But whatever maybe the tradition and meanings of Christmas that may have been accorded by many people, one should never get lost in all these traditions and forget the real meaning of Christmas which is God loving us so much that He gave us His son  who gave up His life for us - the ultimate symbol of love. As John 3:16 says ''for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have an ever lasting life''.

This holiday season may we rejoice and be blessed as said by Hamilton Wright Mabu ''blessed is the season which engage the whole world in a conspiracy of love''.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Shining Star and the Dawning of 2013 - Dr. P. S. Lorin

Educational institutions in Nagaland have now closed for the winter holidays and our students from different parts of Nagaland have all returned back home to their families to celebrate the festive season. Christmas and New Year are however, more than just fun and frolic. They can also be about how we can make a difference as agents of positive change. The Tetso College Community wishes all a  Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2013!

The Shining Star and the Dawning of 2013



I wonder how each of us is planning to spend Christmas and the New Year. I see stars shining on hill tops, rooftops of houses, Churches, retail stores, almost everywhere. Many will agree with me that Christmas and New Year are the two most popular holidays of the year. Celebrations of the two are therefore more extravagant all over the world, not only among Christians but everyone, irrespective of religion. So how do we celebrate these special occasions? While I am not one to point fingers at the way individuals celebrate such occasions, I believe this is a significant time to not only celebrate but also think about how we have been celebrating the two.

No doubt we all have our own individual preferences about how we celebrate. What’s important though is that we celebrate, without crossing the limit. Nagas have been termed one of the ‘friendliest’ groups of people from the time of our forefathers. I do not disagree with that. We are friendly, hospitable and entertain our guests very well. And I hear we love to party too. It’s great that we know how to be happy, but only so long as we know what we’re doing and our limits too. 

At this time of the year especially, let’s not forget why we’re celebrating Christmas or continue to celebrate it the whole year round on different pretexts. There is a time for everything and realistically we need to know how to balance our lives.
We all know that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. For Christians the conspicuous announcement was made in the book of Isaiah 9:6 which says “For unto us a Child is born…His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. Another significant announcement was made by the Angel Gabriel that Mary the betrothed wife of Joseph will conceive and bring forth a son named Jesus  (Luke 1:26-33). The birth of Christ in Bethlehem was witnessed, and the shining star led the wise men of the East to the baby. The Bible is written testimony that serves as a reminder for those of us who forget who we are, how and where we came from.  

Ultimately, the believers are assured of salvation through Jesus Christ. Christians are thus expected to observe Christmas in a significant way. I think the point is not merely to attend church services, wear good outfits and new dresses, exchange gifts, or throw lavish parties, but, are we ready to celebrate Christmas with a difference? And by difference I mean, do we truly acknowledge the begotten son, the greatest gift of God to strengthen our love and friendship through forgiveness and reconciliation? Christmas is a time of forgiving one another, reconciliation amongst family and friends and efforts to try to make our wrongs right and most important of all to spread the spirit of love and happiness.

It is also during this time that we tend to reflect on the passing year. We start thinking about the year’s activities – our successes and failures. These are the things that make the passing year memorable. It is a great time to reflect and reassess what we have done and what more we can do.

With New Year just a week after Christmas, it is a double celebration for us Christians. For us, New Year is somehow closely associated with Christmas and considered a part and parcel of Jesus’ birth. Christmas decorations are normally removed only after 1st January.  However, the essence of New Year celebration is worldwide. Midnight celebrations followed with picnicking and get togethers are most common features of New Year celebrations. 

Each year we hope for a brighter future. Truth be told, the succeeding year will be equally successful and terrible, in the sense that many promises might also go unfulfilled. But that does not mean we give up. Recollecting the New Year column in the local paper on 2012 New Year resolutions, I wonder if the published commitments have been fulfilled. One person said “I will quit smoking, not for me but for my family”.  I hope this individual has not failed. 

Now with just a few weeks left to welcome the New Year, let us welcome it with a positive difference. We are the agents of change and we will be responsible for negative or positive outcomes. Come 2013, our State with its unique political history and culture, requires a positive and stronger, united outlook. We can either emerge stronger in solidarity amongst tribes, organizations and groups or weaker divided into groups and tribes. 2013 is going to be a milestone year for us with lots of important decisions to be taken about the future of our Nagas and Nagaland. We need to prepare ourselves for the outcome.

As I see it, Nagas are excellent critiques. We waste no time in critiquing the conduct of festivals, functions, decisions and policies, which is a good thing if we want to continue improving and learning. But there is also a major difference between positive critique and destructive criticism. While it is important to be critical, we also need to believe in being positive.

Traits such as negativity and positivity are influential emotions that are contagious in a society. Like a virus they rapidly spread from person to person and later to larger masses. This is why, positivity needs to grow from the public upwards and prevail amongst our leaders even. Negativity breeds discontent, misunderstanding, wrong assumptions and opposition. I believe nothing works as well as positivity and constructive criticism, and if we want a stronger, better society, we can only succeed if we usher in a wave of positivism. It is my hope that we will welcome 2013 as agents of positive change.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org”

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Extortion and Unauthorised Taxation in Nagaland: When Will It Stop? - Dr. P. S. Lorin


If you notice, right about this time of the year (probably at its most rampant), besides the cultural and season’s festivities, we also read in the papers news related to crimes of extortion, kidnapping, unauthorized taxation and more. What we are experiencing is not a new phenomenon. We raise our voice against extortion, kidnapping and illegal taxation, because we find every other person or member(s) of an organization, a union or government department taking equal participation in extortion and unauthorized taxation. These crimes however, cannot be completely alienated from other crimes, which only aid to increase them. 




Extortion and Unauthorised Taxation in Nagaland:
When Will It Stop? 


According to the crime statistics of 2009, in Nagaland Post, Dimapur topped the list in the total number of registered crimes among all the major police stations in Nagaland. Six police stations in Dimapur revealed that a total of 695 criminal cases were registered during 2009.  

In 2011, amongst the registered cases of crimes as stated by the Nagaland Police, from January to May, extortion remains one of the highest with a total of 24 cases registered and the arrest of 44 people. As per the Dimapur Police crime record from June to September 2011, out of 4 registered kidnap cases, 3 were arrested and forwarded to Court; 30 extortion cases were registered, 41 were arrested and forwarded to court. (S.P Office, Dimapur). 

These events take into account statistical records of only registered cases, which leave out the significant majority of unregistered and successful extortion attempts. It is also disconcerting to know that despite the total number of arrests (85 arrests) from 2009 to September 2011, give or take a few, the number of extortion cases have increased from 24 to 30. What does this tell us? We are failing in two primary issues:
1. Failure to catch the remaining culprits
2.  Failure of the existing form of punishment/reform measures 

In the first issue, “Who are these culprits?” Our society cannot tolerate crimes committed by alcoholics and drug addicts. We readily vindicate them. But what about other members of the society? My point is that whether our social offenders are from a political organization, a union or a government department, anyone who commits extortion, takes part in any form of unauthorized taxation or organizes a kidnapping must not be exempt from the rules of law and order. Exceptions in law and order have often been the case in our society, which has only led to disguised forms of extortion and unauthorized taxation. Until and unless a uniform law is implemented as binding on every member of society, there will never be an end to these forms of varied forms of malpractice.  

The second issue - failure of the existing form of punishment – requires that we take a closer look at the consequences that follow registered cases forwarded to court.
What happens to the convict after the court hearings? How long are they convicted? And why are they allowed a bail? Our law and order proceedings have shown an abject lack of commitment towards resolving the issue permanently and quickly. 

Registering cases and capturing a handful of culprits are only temporary solutions to the problem. Subsequently, providing early bail or brief confinement cannot bring about any effectual change in the culprits. Unless effective forms of punishment or reform measures are implemented, no one, not even the general public will ever take our laws seriously. 
Besides this, another problem that exists is the economic divide. The society has been divided into haves and have-nots, mostly because of rampant corruption, bribery and nepotism. Securing employment is not always on the basis of merit but through greater monetary value or political connection.  In such cases, forms of extortion and unauthorized taxation take place, through individuals, sometimes under the guise of a union or organisation. 

How can we make a difference?
1. Learning the Value of Hard-Earned Money
I believe it is our private entrepreneurs today who can best understand the value of hard work and well-deserved money. The private sector, as opposed to the Government sector has always had the added advantage of having a greater sense of responsibility, list of checks and follow-ups with its employees and greater dedicated commitment towards producing profitable returns. Although they too have not been left out by extortionists, unauthorised taxations and kidnappings, there is a noticeable difference of profitable returns and quality, between the Government and private sector. What are the reasons for this? It is the employees. 
Learning the true value of money is crucial within a community. To improve economic disparity we need to feel “responsible” for the money that is being generated around us, especially within the Government sectors. It is only when we feel a sense of responsibility to our jobs, to our hard-earned money, can we stand up and fight back against our extortionists and our illegal tax-takers.

2.  Administrative Cleansing
We hear about cases of unauthorized collection of money or taxes by "public organizations and government agencies" at various points and check gates on state and national highways. Illegal taxations are not only from the underground factions and unions, but often collected by the excise department and, most shockingly, the police even! Foremost, we need to cleanse our police force. If the law protectors are the ones committing the offense we cannot expect protection from them. Checking of malpractices, laying down of ethical policies and orders more stringently need to be implemented.

3. Education
Our society is unique. Our problems and history set us apart from other societies. Educational institutes need to start educating the students about what extortion and corruption really are, in context to our Naga history. Churches need to step up and address these difficult questions from a Christian perspective. It’s very possible that the people involved in extorting money are the children of parents who themselves extort money, and are used to pursuing easy money. The child might just follow the parent’s footsteps unless society educates the younger generation. I strongly urge everyone to not let our children grow up, experiencing corruption, extortion and illegal taxation as the standard norm that defines our society.
Abridged from of a paper, “Extortion, Unauthorised Taxation, Kidnapping, Law & Order Problems Plaguing Dimapur : Causes, Preventive Measures and Laws to Stem the Menace”, presented at a Public Seminar organized under the aegis of Naga Council in coordination with Woman Hoho, GB Union, DCCI(Chamber of Commerce), Tribal Hohos, NMDA, Business Community, Students & all Dimapur Civil Societies on 1st October, 2011)
References:
Crime Details. http://nagapol.gov.in/csdimapur.html. 
Govt. of Nagaland. n.d. Web.24 Sept 2011
“Crime statistics of Nagaland 2009; Dimapur tops list.” 
Nagaland Post [Dimapur] 15 Feb 2010.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.or

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Mathematics in Nagaland -- G.M.Nair, Asst.Professor,Tetso College


What makes a subject easy and what makes it difficult? A lot of students usually find mathematics to be a tough subject. Is it really so difficult or are we making it harder than it should be?


Mathematics in Nagaland 

This piece is probably the result of my consternation at the appalling state of the study of such an important science in the state of Nagaland. Study of science in general is itself not popular here as can be inferred from the fact that out of 54 colleges in the state, only 7 offer science courses. Among all the sciences, I found Maths to be least preferred, with only a handful of  students at the degree level. The pass percentage at the higher secondary level hovers around 53,probably with a liberal dose of moderation. No college offers PG degree in Maths in Nagaland. One wonders where all the thousands of arts graduates would find employment in or outside the state.

C.F Gauss, a renowned mathematician, referred to Maths as the Queen of Sciences. It is a powerful tool in many fields like engineering, natural sciences, economics, medicine, commerce, etc. Applied Mathematics has led to the discovery of new disciplines such as game theory and statistics. Maths when studied for its own sake is called Pure Maths, which is a science with fast expanding horizons: so fast that securing a doctorate is more difficult than climbing Mount Everest, requiring one to be abreast of the latest research on the selected subject, failing which one’s work would have been pre-empted by someone else! Pure Maths, however, is not purely in the realm of the grey cells. Many theories of pure Maths have later found surprisingly useful applications in other fields,  including mundane life. Thus Maths is one of the most useful of all sciences, without which other sciences cannot progress and develop.
Let me recount some (perhaps) unpalatable truths relating to the study and teaching of Maths in Nagaland as also observations made during my teaching career in Nagaland

I know of schools in interior places where all subjects are taught by the same teacher! Often his presence is indicated only by his absence. I was told (cannot confirm this of course) that in some cases the appointed teacher does not teach; he entrusts the work to another for a lesser salary! Infrastructure like safe classrooms, clean toilets, etc. is woefully absent. Some private schools appear to run more on commercial lines than as centres of learning. The policy makers seem to have forgotten that without a solid foundation laid at the primary and high school levels, Maths at the higher levels becomes  a nightmare for the students, as it indeed has. Study of Maths, unlike other arts subjects, is like construction of a building. The brickwork can stand only on a solid foundation. Every brick is placed on the one below it. In fact, this lack of proper foundation is one of the major causes of the weakness and dread of the subject prevalent among Naga students.

The quality of teachers at the primary and middle school levels is also a matter of concern. Qualified Maths teachers are hard to find. The accent in schools seems to be to finish the syllabus on time, often sacrificing detailed exposition of the subject. For some time, I used to tutor one class VII student from a very expensive school in Dimapur, who was very weak in Maths. One day he made a stunning statement: he said that his school teacher only gives the answers-he does not explain anything!! I may add that the boy did not know how to add / subtract positive and negative numbers!

There seems to be another atrocious practice in some schools, as  gathered from one student. Upto class X, students are promoted to the next class even if they fail in one subject. Usually they take advantage of this and totally ignore Maths, the dreaded subject. Thus, they reach class X without having the faintest idea of  Maths! Helplessly, they then  run around looking for tuition, that too at the end of the academic year. What can the tuition master do?

Lastly, in many schools either Maths or Biology are offered as the main subject at higher secondary level  alongwith Physics and Chemistry, which are compulsory for science stream. Most of the students choose Biology ,with Maths as the sixth subject. This means that even if a student fails in Maths, he/ she will pass the Board examination if he/she passes in other subjects!  With such a lopsided policy, students do not take the subject seriously, particularly when the normal mindset of an average Naga student seems to be to just secure a pass in the exams. To my mind, this policy is one of the root causes of the apathy towards Maths.Yes-importance of Maths is confined to speeches.

If  all the aforesaid factors are corrected by urgent measures and policy changes, there is no reason why Naga students cannot do well at Maths at least till  class 12 level. Let us not create Maths phobia in young minds and teachers should aim to make the study of the subject as interesting as possible. Terms like ‘discaculia’ should be erased from the psyche of the children, parents and teachers.Applied Maths can offer a variety of job opportunities and enhance the employability of graduates. This would greatly help the unemployment problem of the state. Let us hope that policy makers wake up to this reality  and initiate necessary measures to streamline and promote study of Maths in Nagaland.

The Reality of Primary Schools - Inaholi Aye, BA 5th Semester, English Honours

Image credits- morungexpress.com Charles Dickens in his famed novel Hard Times critiqued M’Choakumchild, a Victorian era school te...