(Published on April 30, 2016 in Business Standard)
It became clear, the other day, that age is stupidifying me even more than nature already has. I woke up and realised that the feminine hygiene product introduced into my lady bits the previous evening had now been there for fourteen hours. I tend to be on the psychotic side of careful about removing those things, because of the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), so this was an emergency. Bolted to the bathroom. Scrabble for string, no string. Manual probe, can’t reach. Anxiety levels, Defcon 1.
I screeched into the emergency room. My panicked gabbling got me waved through reception, billing, and the nurses’ station, to the emergency intern, who made me wait ten life-threatening minutes for the gynaecologist. ‘If I die of TSS it’ll be your fault,’ I snarled.
In the doctor’s office I tore off my clothes and leapt upon the table. ‘Calm down, dear,’ said the doctor. She examined me. She frowned. ‘You put it in at 6pm, dear?’ she asked. (Gynaecs think that saying ‘dear’ a lot makes the speculum less speculumy.) ‘Yes, yes, it’s been 14.5 hours and I’m going to die of TSS, take it OUT!’ I shouted. ‘Nothing there, dear,’ she said. I made her look again, now worried that maybe my hoohoo had eaten it. She probed with wiggling fingers (though not in a good way). ‘See? There’s nothing, dear.’ Sweet relief, I was not going to die of TSS. I skipped home and inspected the trash, and there it was, neatly wrapped up. Boy, did I feel stupid.
But I’m not alone—it feels like the whole country is getting stupider every day.
For example, the Gujarat government wants PhD students to reach for the stars by picking their research topics from a list of research topics provided by the government, consisting of state and central government schemes and projects. Students will monitor and evaluate these, and voila, PhD. Cool, huh? The government outsources its work for free, keeps scholarship relevant, and ensures that students develop nationalist chops by getting their data and conclusions right if they want their degrees.
But who needs degrees in the republic of stupid? We have already shown, via a secret dossier at Jawaharlal Nehru University, that scholarship is measured only by moral virtue. Some patriotic teachers backed by the administration spied on empty bottles and used condoms and concluded, among other things, that the place is a huge sex racket, that students drink, and that the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment is in fact promoting sex work.
Even the Prime Minister’s MA degree from Gujarat University has been wiped off his website. Was it retrospectively revoked because he didn’t survey the right project? Has it just been misplaced? Is it being withheld for national security reasons? Nobody’s getting back to the RTI activist who requested to see it.
But honestly, that’s just a storm in a very small teacup, because we’ve decided that education is overrated—except MBAs. The only thing the nation needs is MBAs and a hailstorm of other acronyms, godmen, ancient texts, and flagpoles that can be seen from Beijing and Kabul. Especially ancient texts. HRD minister Smriti Irani wants the Indian Institute of Technology to offer Sanskrit, so that students can research all the rich science available in Sanskrit texts. That seems like a reasonable allocation of resources if you think about it while drinking cow urine.
So really, let’s stop banging on about education, when what we really do well is stupidity—it’s better to set an achievable goal. At least in that world, I know I’ve made it.