Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Independence - Kahor Raleng, Asst. Professor, Dept. of English, HoD



The recent incident where a young student bravely spoke out for her right to a seat in a prestigious university reflects a refreshing independent boldness to take on established institutions. However, in a society which is very close-nit and one that thrives on family ties or other common denominators like tribe, village etc, are we ever truly free to act independently or voice out our true feelings? 

Independence

Nagaland had just celebrated its 68th Independence Day on 15th Aug along with the rest of India, with fervor, ironically making it compulsory for the Government servants to attend the function. They were supposed to be celebrating Independence Day, so why weren’t they given a choice to decide independently whether to attend or not to. Anyways, to answer that or to comprehend it is beyond me. The question here is what is Independence?

The Oxford Dictionary defines Independence as ‘the state of being independent’ and the word independent is defined as ‘free from outside control or influence’. Are we truly independent?
Recently, I came across an article in Nagaland Post with the title ‘The Voice of the people, the strongest voice in the universe’. What is the voice of the people or do we even have a voice as such? Isn’t it true that today our voices are determined by many factors? Let us look at the present scenario. We dread to raise our voices or be different. It is almost next to impossible to stand out in the crowd, independently. Either we are too concerned with the public opinion or we are too scared of forces unseen that we prefer to remain complacent with what comes our way. It is always easier to follow the crowd then to lead a multitude. Now, can we confidently say that we are independent?

When I asked a group of about 90 students to give me their opinions on whether the poor get justice, their participation was quite dismal. Sad but true, a group of matured individuals, who were supposed to have had 12 or more years of education behind them, turned out to be individuals who could not think for themselves independently. So why do we celebrate Independence Day when we don’t even think or try to live independently? What does independence mean to you and to me? I believe that an independent person is one who is wise enough to take the right counsel and make the right decision based on his own wisdom without any outside influence.

The essence of life is lost on us, many a times, because we are too dependent on somebody else’s experience and knowledge. Maybe it is because of the fear of the unknown. But we will never comprehend the beauty of life unless we overcome that fear and explore life for ourselves. Take for instance, we are dependent on others opinion on how we dress. We restrict ourselves to a dress code and in the process we lose our identity and compromise our personality. We behave in a certain manner based on someone’s mood, we dress in a certain way based on someone’s opinion, we eat certain food based on someone’s taste buds or research, and sometimes we choose a career based on our parents dreams, and it goes on.
In an educational system, students are too dependent on the teachers and the notes since they fear getting fewer marks. Parents are too dependent on teachers to produce an Einstein out of their child. Teachers are increasingly becoming too dependent on technology, guidebooks, etc. what has happened to originality and creativity? What has happened to experiments and explorations? I believe it will be right to say that we are churning out robots in terms of thousands, every year. The most important factor of our examinations today is to produce students with the highest pass percentage. Are numbers more important than the quality of individuals? Is the next generation going to prosper only through numbers? What has happened to the values, principles and to right thinking, free individuals? If we have to bring about change in the society, than numbers should certainly be undervalued.

 As an educator I have had the opportunity to meet some interesting individuals and it has given me immense pleasure. Individuals who were not scared to speak out their minds and explore their talents, but too few, nonetheless, there are brave minds out there. Since when has the world been kind to a beautiful mind? It is up to us whether we forego that kindness and live our dreams or be conformed to the expected norms of the world and be satisfied with a mediocre life. A matured, exemplary citizen is one who has the courage to seek the truth and live by it.

Of course, it is not possible to say that we can be totally independent; physically, emotionally or financially. We are intertwined in a complex phenomenon of relationships of one kind or the other. But our spirits can always be independent if we choose to be. We are on our way to becoming an independent person when we learn to live wisely and responsibly, taking into account our lives and living fearlessly without any quilt. Ultimately, at the end, we are alone, answerable only to God and nobody else

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Making Lemon Juice from Limes - Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Director – Student Services



Life is not always a bed of roses. Sometimes you work really hard only to find yourself sidelined. Sometimes you do not always get to choose what you want for yourself. But we do get to choose one thing, and that is, how we deal with life. As Babe Ruth put it “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up”.



Making Lemon Juice from Limes


Actor and comedian Robin Williams’ death left the world stunned as he chose to end his life on 11th August 2014. It was shocking for many who found it surprising that for someone who made a living by making people laugh had to resort to taking his own life. It is really unfortunate and sad, and as the world continues to speculate, even ridicule and troll endlessly on the internet about his life, we may probably never know what was going on inside his mind. But what incidents like this also make us realise is that the pressure of life is immense - the pressure to perform well, the pressure to survive, the pressure not to fail and be happy or the pressure to be the best that one can be.
Life is brief, and everyone everywhere is trying to do something concrete with their lives. Some fail while some succeed. Some cope while some don’t.  The truth is that there are some things beyond our control in life too. Life has its own way of working out and sometimes we do not always get to choose what we want for ourselves. But we do get to choose how we deal with life.

Chen Zemin’s story is a reminder of this. Chen is the world’s first and only frozen-dumpling billionaire from China. But the interesting fact is that he never got to choose his profession. He was actually a ‘gadget guy’ who loved working with circuits and building radios, so he applied to study semiconductor electronics, but instead he was chosen by the state to be a surgeon. Chen became a good surgeon, but he found his day job boring. So in his free time he learnt how to cook dishes such as Sichuan pickles, kung pao chicken and, of course, dumplings. It was obvious that he was a great cook as his home-made New Year rice balls became famous amongst his friends and neighbours.

Then, Chen started to think of ways to turn his rice ball hobby into something bigger. The only problem with rice balls was that they could stay fresh for only one day. They had no shelf life. This is where Chen’s medical background came in handy. As a surgeon, Chen had to preserve things like organs or blood in a cold environment. He decided to apply this knowledge to his rice balls. He collected old mechanical parts from the hospital junk pile (remember, Chen’s first love was gadgets) and built a two stage freezer especially meant for preserving rice balls. The freezer chilled the rice balls in such a way that large ice crystals did not form in the filling and ruin the texture, allowing it to stay fresh and yummy.

When I first read Chen’s story, it made me realise that there are probably many of us like him who may not always get to choose what we want in our lives because of the circumstances around us. Nagaland’s unemployment problems lead many to resort to applying for any kind of decent job that one can secure. Civil service exams determine the kind of jobs we can acquire based on our performance, whether it’s IPS, IFS or IAS etc. Eventually, it boils down to how we choose to deal with the circumstances around us. Life takes us in different directions from what we sometimes want or expect. While some thrive and adapt, some also give up. But Chen did not, and this is why his story is significant. Chen’s story of success is not only about how he turns his cooking passion into a billion dollar business, but more importantly how he managed to do it with the knowledge and resources he had. Chen’s love for cooking, his medical expertise and his mechanical knowledge together led to the establishment of China’s largest frozen-food business. It is how he put the pieces of his life together, applied the knowledge that he had and directed it in the way that he wanted, to go on to do something greater than what he was already doing. Little did he know that his interests no matter how completely at odds they seemed with each other would one day help him connect the puzzles of his life together.  

We cannot keep on waiting for that lucky break in life or go on blaming our circumstances for the way our lives have turned out. Yet, it is how we choose to approach our life from here that defines and differentiates our future from our past. Nagaland and India as a whole may be considered a third world country because of our colonial past, but that must not be the reason for us to keep on building excuses or attempt to justify our failures and weaknesses, rather it should motivate us to work all the more harder and push ourselves to become better. Use the education we receive, the skills and interests we have to find the right opportunities, upgrade our abilities and apply them in our lives. In this globalized world the limits are now endless, but our opportunities can only take us to how far we are willing to reach for them.

Reference:
Twilley, Nicola. “What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?”. The New York Times.  25th July 2014.
“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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College.  For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org”.  

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nagas and Music - Jiyoung Oh Grace, Music Instructor




Meet any Naga family and most likely you will find that at least one of them sings or knows how to play a musical instrument. Yes, we are a musically gifted bunch of people, and we already have renowned Naga musicians such as Nise Meruno, Alobo Naga, Purple Fusion etc. making it big at the international level, including many more upcoming artists. Our love for music goes a long way back from the time when our forefathers started singing folk songs. Today, it has expanded to include a range of genres from rock, alternative, classical, pop and many more. This week, we explore more ways we can help music in Nagaland grow.       

Nagas and Music


I am a Korean, and I have been staying in Nagaland for about five years. I found that the Nagas are very fond of music, and Nagaland is probably the only State in India to have a Music Task Force to promote musicians. However, we still have a lot to do to cultivate musical interest in our children.


In Korea, music is a compulsory subject for elementary, middle and high school syllabus. They focus not only on western classical music but on traditional music too. So when Korean kids start learning music theory at a very young age, they learn to play the recorder, melodeon or accordion which we also call mouth organ. These kinds of musical instruments are found in almost every stationery shop in Korea and they are very affordable. As such, Korean kids can buy the musical instruments and go to school as part of their learning activity. Korea has a lot of places where one can learn how to play musical instruments such as violin, viola, cello, piano, drums etc. Every holiday, Korean parents go to musical concerts or orchestra with their children where they avail opportunities to learn and hear different kinds of music. The Korean Government also encourages its citizens to listen to music, especially when mothers are pregnant, and to play music when the kids are studying in order to help the children to concentrate on their studies.

Why then do many Koreans send their children to music institutions when they learn the basics from school?
1. Those who learn music are good in studies and sports: We can see that medical doctors and some mathematicians are good in music. This is because the way one learns about music and the pattern of music arrangements and the way mathematical solutions are placed or arranged are very similar. Thus, the music knowledge helps the students in solving mathematical problem or solutions, because music stimulates the brain and helps the mind to concentrate. A lot of scientists and doctors by profession are good musicians. For example, Dr. Limawati of Naga Chamber Choir is a doctor by profession but he is also a very good musician. In Korea, most medical doctors turn on classical music during surgeries.

2. Music builds patience: In order to learn music, we need a lot of patience and time, so when children start to learn music, they have to understand that learning processes take time. As a result, they learn that practice is a way to perfection. Through this, they learn the value of time and practice; and in course of learning they also develop patience in them.

3. Music controls emotions: When children are growing up, they go through different phases or stages of life. As they approach the age of 17-18, they become fearless. They think they are the best! They want to try out everything and think they can do anything. As such, we see a lot of unguided or misguided children becoming rebellious in society, and they go against the rules, their parents, teachers etc, but when children learn music, they also learn how to control and be intact with their emotions.

4. Music provides social exposure: When children learn music, they also get the opportunity to participate in musical activities. They get to interact with other musicians, as such they develop social skills and also learn to co-operate with other musicians.

How About Our Naga Kids?
I find that Naga children are very curious, inquisitive, receptive in mind, and very eager to learn new things, especially music. But many children at the grassroot level do not get opportunities to expose themselves to the various opportunities the society offers. As such, it is pitiful to see that many children live in pathetic conditions without availing exposure opportunities. At the same time, many parents are handicapped, without proper knowledge of their environment for obvious simple reasons. I found that Nagas have great musical talents and they do have many traditional musical instruments, but they are not making much headway due to some very simple reasons. 

1.      Less access to musical instruments: After I came to Nagaland, especially beyond Kohima and Dimapur, I visited some villages. When I went to these places, I showed my mouth organ to the kids and they were so surprised to see it because they saw it for the first time. Nagaland has a lot of good musicians and singers but it is sad to say they have very less access to various kinds of music. When children in Kohima and Dimapur do not have much opportunity to access music, those who are in the villages definitely have no access or very little access to music.

2.      Ignorance of parents about the importance of music: Most parents do not think of sending their children to learn music because they have no knowledge or little knowledge about the importance of music.

3.      Lack of orchestra and musical concerts suitable for families: Sometime back, I happened to witness an interesting Handel Messiah's Concert at Ao Baptist Church in Dimapur. They did an amazing performance. I think we should encourage more of such concerts to open the minds of the people to have a broader view of music. This can also help children to appreciate music, and parents too can help their children in developing their potential.
These days, there are a lot of popular musicians such as the Chinese musician Lang Lang or Korean composer Yiruma, the composer of "Autumn in My Heart" which many young people are crazy about. These great personalities have not made their achievements overnight. They started when they were still young. While some Naga musicians have made it to the top, and taken up music as a profession, there are still a lot of people and especially children who have no idea about who Beethoven or Mozart or Handel are. When I asked some of our Naga kids who these people were, they were clueless. The world is not so much concerned about who Mr. Narendra Modi is or who Mr. Neiphiu Rio is! But the world knows who Mozart is, who Beethoven is, and who Handel is; and even after several decades people will continue to play their pieces and talk about them.

Music has a wide scope and we need to discover and unveil it. Some parents may say, "Oh, my child is too busy with academics and has no time." While academics is important, it is neither the only thing nor the most important thing.  What is important is the all round development of the child. Nagas are gifted with musical talents which need to be developed at a young age to build the interest of the learner. I wish and hope that the Government and different institutions and organisations of Nagaland will see the importance of music and encourage music as part of a learning activity and incorporate it in teaching and learning, not just in the towns and affluent places but also in the villages as well. I am sure we can see great wonders once music is incorporated in the school syllabus in Nagaland. It will not only be a big step, but certainly it will be a big leap. And within the span of a decade, we shall see a big change in Nagaland; Change in knowledge, change in mindset, change in attitude, and change in outlook.  The Nagas should also organise more orchestras and musical concerts, give opportunities to schools and churches and also provide aspiring musicians a platform to unveil their talents and abilities.

In Korea, we use upright or grand piano to learn. We do not use much of keyboard even though we do not have electricity problem. Even if there is a problem with the piano we can avail servicing easily but it is not the same here in Nagaland. It is very difficult to get pianos repaired, for instance, if my upright piano string is broken, then I have to call up the company in Kolkata or get it from Korea which causes a lot of inconvenience. Musical books are available in some music stores but if they have no stock, then we have to order from Bangalore or other places. In Korea, music is part and parcel of the school curriculum and also of the society, and we have easy access to music instruments and music books. Moreover, the pianos are very risky and costly but I think we should develop our facilities and not just use the piano alone to teach but also provide accordion, or melodeon and different musical instruments. I would also like to encourage the interested people to take up Music Technician Courses.
Surely something must be done in Nagaland too in order to equip our people and institutions with proper facilities for learning.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Love Thy Job! - Loina Shohe, Asst Professor, Department of Sociology




You might be a housewife, a driver, a civil servant or a business man. The common thing among all of them is that they are doing some work. A busy life makes the holidays more enjoyable and the vacations that much more valuable. While there might be many who only view work as a pay cheque, work is also a pathway to happiness and feeling useful in today’s world.

Love Thy Job!


Did you ever notice how one’s profession seems to be a part of one’s entire lifetime? When we were born, people wondered what we would turn out to be. When we were young they asked us what we wanted to be when we grow up. When we grow up they want to know what we are doing, and when we die they would be talking about what we were doing. The role of our profession in our life seems to be right there from the beginning till the end. “We spent most of our lives working .So why do so few people have a good time doing it”. Isn’t it too sad for someone to be doing a job one dislikes? Imagine, one spends so much time and effort in it- it would just be plain torture to not find happiness in one’s own work.

The surest way to be happy in our job is to be in love with it. But falling in love with our job like most good things in life is not easy to come by. One has to work for it. In order for us to find happiness in our profession (whatever it may be), I feel there are some common factors, after excluding certain peculiar circumstances and situations, applicable to all, towards which we can all work to help us find happiness in our profession. Before hand let us keep in mind that whether we work for someone else or we are our own boss every work is in fact directly or indirectly related to providing service to others and hence happiness with our work significantly depends on our ability to please others. So the factors can be:

# Working in areas of one’s interest – For one to be happy with one’s job, one has to enjoy the work and one can enjoy the work only when one has a deep interest in it. Personal interest in many fields has been responsible for producing genius work, exhibiting intense devotion and the like. Likewise, one should identify the area of one’s interest and pursue a profession in it.
Because when we occupy a position or get involved in a profession where we have no interest, our creativity would be subdued, our commitment won’t be strong, and every working hour would be painfully boring.

# Exercising Freedom of choice – In Walt Whitman’s poem, “I hear America singing” we will come across mention of “mechanics, carpenter, mason, boatman, shoemaker, wood cutter…each singing what belongs to him…and to none else”. “The poem presents the picture of a happy and strong America. The individuals are all happy and proud of their various occupations”. I have never been to America but what I can make of it through what I see in movies and books I read is that  Americans seem to have the freedom to take up any job they want or can without having to worry about who is looking down on them. Probably “this freedom gives them reason to be happy and proud of their occupation.”

It is good to seek counsel from seniors and kinsmen but the final decision should rest with the person who is going to be doing the job.

There have been instances in our Naga society where parents have forced their children to take up theological studies and this has done more harm than good, when the children themselves were not so committed to taking up such a course. We will also find a lot of our youths under pressure by expectations of family, kin and society itself to achieve certain positions which sometimes we will find are beyond their interest and even their abilities.

# Making others believe in us through our quality workmanship- In using services or buying products, have you ever noticed that consciously we all prefer the best. Usually, I like to use our local people’s services or buy their products but the other day I wanted to refit one of my favorite pants and I went to the tailors for that, I made my way towards a local lady tailor whose service I normally use, but after nearly reaching her shop I made a full turn and went to a non-local tailor instead. My thought was that since it’s my favorite pant I cannot afford to have something go wrong with it. The quality of work we do actually determines the degree of happiness we will have with our work, and vice versa. Whether we work for others or for ourselves, bad workmanship will never satisfy.

#Making our work indispensable to others- This is I feel closely connected with the quality of our work. One of my inspiring quotes is “ If a man writes a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor though he builds his house in the woods , the world will make a beaten path to his door”. The highest degree of honor we can achieve in our work is when our work is indispensable to others.

#Specialization is crucial. Whereas having a natural knack of doing some thing is a big pay off, ultimately it is consistently working on a thing through which one becomes a master. And to consistently work on a thing one has to focus on one trade.

# Know how to market – There was this uncle of mine who, back in the days, had a brainwave to sell pears. So he loaded a truckload of pears and made his way down to Dimapur from Zunheboto district passing through Assam. After taxes and days of looking for buyers to buy his pears which were starting to rot then, he managed to sell some at a meager amount. He went back home wiser but poorer and with a strong dislike of pears. Even after many years had passed by, it seemed he could not stand to even hear the word ‘pear’, his daughter told me. Doing work we are interested in is good, doing it exceptionally well is better but being able to identify people’s need and then finding the best ways to meet them is the best pay off.

# Practice Professionalism – Sometimes in our line of work we may come across people with whom we are acquainted with. When such happens, as a professional, it is best that one impresses the other with one’s professionalism.

When we make it lenient, because we are familiar with them, sometimes they may end up shirking their work or even feel comfortable with not paying the dues. Still more they may feel hurt, if we don’t keep up with such treatment.

Another instance may be when we feel we know each other and hence can make some adjustment like turning up late when they need our service, they may not put their trust in our ability and opt for other’s services instead.

If we are to retain people’s trust in us then it is only fair we exhibit professionalism when it comes to providing our services, that way there would be no unnecessary expectations or disappointments and of course awkward situations and we can happily look forward to catering them way into the future.


Of course there are still more areas one can explore but we will leave that perhaps for another time. As for now I wish to conclude but not before wishing you all happiness with your work - as you stay in love with your job!

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...