Monday, January 07, 2008

Taare Zameen Par

[I wrote many articles on this blog- most of them criticize India and Indians. Beauty is hard to find in India. There is ugliness everywhere. But, once in a while I get a glimpse of something beautiful. And when I see something beautiful and excellent, I do not fail to celebrate it.]

Few days ago, I saw the movie Taare Zameen Par. It is one of those rare moments when you can really celebrate excellence right here in India. It is a very well made movie. Kudos to Amir Khan, Darsheel Safary and other very good artists who have made this movie worth watching! Photography was excellent, cinematography superb, and screenplay outstanding. Great direction! It moved me, it swayed me. And most important of all, it had a great message!

There were so many great moments in this movie and each moment was captured so well.

The movie is about a kid who just wants to have fun and grow up at his own pace. The movie captures so well each of those glimpses where a kid enjoys the world around him, innocently, and so childishly. The joy of that paint drop landing on Ishaan’s cheek, the urge to jump into the water puddles, dreaming dragons and monsters, are what the kid’s life is made up of. The present day parents, who are keen on pushing their kids to join their rat race, are robbing their kids from enjoying those beautiful moments. Nowadays, I don’t see kids (in cities and towns) playing in the evening. I see them coming home, and then going off to tuition or straight to homework.

The movie shows travails of a young lad who is just being himself, a kid, trying to cope with this ever competitive world. He wants to learn at his own pace. He wants to enjoy the finer things of life, waking up late, dreaming, and just having fun. Ishaan (the protagonist) is a fine artist but suffers from dyslexia. I still believe that this movie could have been made without using dyslexia as an excuse. It could have been any kid who just wanted to enjoy the life around him. The parents are frustrated with Ishaan, who never seems to learn to write or read. He is thrown into a boarding school because he does not conform to the expectations of his parents, his teachers, and his society.

Though it highlights the problem of one kid who stubbornly refuses to conform, there are millions of kids in India who are being told to give up their childhood. The kid’s life is now reduced to a drudgery of learning by rote. In one instance, when the Ishaan explains a Hindi poem in his own way, the teacher urges the students to ‘interpret’ it in exact same words he prescribed. There goes another kid’s creativity and originality down the drain.

Ishaan’s father wants his kid to conform, learn, and succeed. In this world and society, there is no room for deviating from the norms. The parents see their success through the accomplishments of their kids. Parents want their kid to be top engineer, a top doctor, a CEO, or a top sports player. Everybody wants child geniuses; nobody wants a nice human being.

Children tend to grow at different rates, taking their own times, not necessarily confined to the orderliness and timeliness of a curriculum of a school. A kid can grow the necessary skills to enter the mainstream at any age. What he does at a certain age does not determine his performance for the rest of his life. That’s why I keep saying that just because a kid got into a top school does not mean much. It only means that he was good at that age. To assume he would be good for the rest of his life, and to assume that a kid who has gone to an ordinary college would remain ordinary for the rest of his life is quite foolish- but that’s how most Indians measure themselves.

One of the important messages of the movie is that you need to care for your kid. It does not mean you provide food, good school, books, toys, and video games. What it means is that you need to be there and assure the kid that he is quite OK in whatever he does. Every kid needs to be treated special. And kids should end up feeling they are special.


What is important is how the kid pe
rceives this world. Caring parents who encourage, motivate, and applaud everything the kid does while ignoring his many ‘foibles’, ‘mistakes’, ‘flaws’, ‘guffaws’ and ‘inadequacies’, make kids life better. Hopefully, they make better human beings.

This movie conveys some important messages.

# Every kid is unique.

# Care for your kid and encourage him in whatever he does.

# Parents should not measure their kids only by their marks and scores in the exams.

And remember this:

Each kid grows differently at different rates at different ages. A kid who is completely uninterested in studying the alphabet, math or language at certain age may grow to like them at a later age and that’s when he will move at a rapid pace.

Then, there was a strong message from Amir Khan, about some islands where the tree just dies out because people around it curse it. Of course, it must be an allegory, but it has a good message. It’s so easy to kill a soul by constantly discouraging it.

We set our standards based on false assumptions, misconceived values, lofty morals and hypocritical ethics, and try to impose them on our kids, making their lives miserable. Here’s a speech from Lt. Col. Frank Slade from the movie Scent of a Woman. [This is one of my favorite movies – I have seen it more than 20 times].

And I have seen, boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there is nothin' like the sight of an amputated spirit, there is no prosthetic for that. You think you're merely sending this splendid foot-soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say that you are executing his soul! And why? Because he's not a Baird man. Baird men, you hurt this boy, you're going to be Baird Bums, the lot of ya.

I really liked many aspects of Tare Zameen Par. Thank you Amir Khan, for giving me a piece of excellence to celebrate!

[I actually wrote a longer post interlaced with accounts from my childhood, but then I went on hold myself against posting it for obvious reasons].

Related Posts: Guide to Indian Idiocy I, Bad Parenting- Insensitivity and Indecency, Trying to find beauty in India, Apotheosis of IITs and myth of merit, My Stand on Reservations IV;

25 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed the movie.

    It’s so easy to kill a soul by constantly discouraging it.

    I think instead of "discouraging," a more appropriate word would be "criticizing" (or "discourage by criticizing"). ;) :D
    -chirkut

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  2. Look Chirkut, criticism is not same as discouragement, no matter what kind of sophistry you want to apply. Ask someone around you who is a bit mature what the difference is.

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  3. Caring parents who encourage, motivate, and applaud everything the kid does while ignoring his many ‘foibles’, ‘mistakes’, ‘flaws’, ‘guffaws’ and ‘inadequacies’, make kids life better.

    Sujai: I am so happy that you watched it and liked it. I loved the movie as well. Replace parents with Blog Writers and kid with India and see how good things would come out of your pen (or keyboard).

    Here is a comment I posted earlier on your Blog. May be you could appreciate it more now having watched the movie.

    There is a very nice dialogue in the movie "Tare Zameen Par" - where the parents who just see all the ugly things in the dyslexic kid and not see and enhance the creative side are told by Amir (the teacher) Khan about this "tree curse island".

    In this tree curse island if the people have to get rid of a tree they just crowd around the tree and start cursing and telling all bad things about the tree - and the tree dies down just with those curses.

    India is like that tree where a lot of good needs to be pointed out and enhanced. Agree, there are deficiencies that we all need to work on (e.g. the flying and dancing words for a dyslexic kid) but there are other capabilities e.g. the imaginative, creative brain of this kid that need to be told, admired and nurtured. This is one of the fundamental differnces between "this side" and "that side".


    - Bodhiswaha.

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  4. I'm looking Sujai.
    Sophistry is your game, not mine, as I didn't say or imply that criticism is the same as discouragement. What I said was that criticism is a more valid word to be used in that sentence than discouragement. I saw the movie too.

    Ask someone around you who is a bit mature what the difference is.
    Sahi bole, duniya ki saari maturity to aap apne paas leke baithe huye hain, so it's obvious ki aur logon ke paas maturity thodi kam hogi. Looks like someone can't handle the criticism when it's directed at him. Don't get discouraged though. ;) :p
    -chirkut

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  5. Bodhiswaha-

    Sujai: I am so happy that you watched it and liked it. I loved the movie as well. Replace parents with Blog Writers and kid with India and see how good things would come out of your pen (or keyboard).

    Chirkut and you are confusing criticism with discouragement. You both opine that criticizing a country and its people is equivalent to discouraging it. I am not sure where you get this opinion from.

    Criticizing Bush on his Iraq’s policies or his support for anti-abortion movement is not same as ‘discouraging Bush’ (as if he is a kid whose soul will be killed). Criticizing growth of fascism during Pre-WWII Germany is not same as ‘discouraging Germans’ (as if they are kids whose souls will be killed). Criticizing India’s policies in Kashmir or its growing intolerance towards its minorities, or its apathy towards its downtrodden, or its indulgence in choking their cities, is not same as ‘discouraging Indians’ (as if they are kids whose souls will be killed). [In all these cases, a consequence of actions of these ‘targets of criticism’ is death of millions, losing the rights of many people, and suppression of many people.]

    I have had to encounter all kinds of people on this blog. It made me more concerned that so many fellow beings misunderstand such basic concepts – one such set believes criticism is same as discouragement.

    One commenter went as far as equating ‘criticism of groups’ to ‘insulting him personally’ (since he assumed he was part of that group). Another commenter went as far as equating criticism and expression of displeasure to rape, plunder, terrorism, and suicide killing.

    Here is a comment I posted earlier on your Blog. May be you could appreciate it more now having watched the movie.

    I had already watched that movie by the time I read that comment. But I did not agree with your analogy. I don’t think I need to comment on each of the comments I receive. However, since you repeat your comment, let me try to explain.

    India is like that tree where a lot of good needs to be pointed out and enhanced. Agree, there are deficiencies that we all need to work on (e.g. the flying and dancing words for a dyslexic kid) but there are other capabilities e.g. the imaginative, creative brain of this kid that need to be told, admired and nurtured. This is one of the fundamental differnces between "this side" and "that side".

    I do not think India is like that kid. When a kid does not do his homework, the society around him does not suffer. But when India fumbles on its most important and cherished values, people suffer, lives get lost, people lose their dreams and hope. India is not like that kid, instead it is like that school system which needs to be corrected. It is like that father who needs to be told.

    The kid here is the one who gets lost out when the adults and the society do not take proper care of him – they are the women who get molested in Mumbai, they are the downtrodden who get kicked out of a village because they drank water from a well, they are the minority religions who get targeted because of their identity, they are the cities and towns which get filled with garbage and filth, they are the kids who lose their childhood like in this movie.

    I tend to ignore the inadequacies, flaws and other weaknesses of such kids. Instead I concentrate on the adults and society which tend to affect such kids.

    So many commenters here keep asking me, how come you don’t write about Islamic extremism, how come you don’t write about excesses of domestic laws, how come you don’t write about negative of reservations, etc. They want me to write about the flaws in these kids, which I do not believe makes sense. First the adults and the society need to be addressed. In my opinion those adults and the society is India and Indians represented by the rulers, the governments, the majority and the privileged.

    If you do not understand what I wrote, don’t fret, or act like you understand. Instead, mull over it, think about it, and may be after few years, hopefully, like the father in the movie (which happens only in the movies) you will realize and see sense in what I am talking about in this blog.

    To understand where I come from, you may want to read, ‘Duties of the Majority and the Privileged’ on this blog.

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  6. Chirkut and you are confusing criticism with discouragement. You both opine that criticizing a country and its people is equivalent to discouraging it. I am not sure where you get this opinion from.

    Actually, I'm not confusing anything. And that's bit of a mischaracterization on your part, though I can see how the last part of my first comment could contribute to that - ignore it please. And I doubt that any of the readers of this blog are discouraged - more like incensed, given by the comments that they leave. :)
    -chirkut

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  7. And I doubt that any of the readers of this blog are discouraged - more like incensed,

    Yup.

    This is covered under 'Peevish Indians', 'Our sentiments are hurt', 'Where do I stand?'

    All these and more describe those 'incensed' commenters (and Indians in general).

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  8. Of late, some of you commenters are spending more time trying to discredit me instead of concentrating on the topic under hand.

    May be, I should write one article where you can write 'against me', while we leave the rest of the blog for discussing or commenting the topic at hand.

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  9. Sujai,

    Good Post.But I am afraid, our parenting is not gonna change. Just look at Korea's and Japan's schools.It is the same crap everywhere. Parents force the kids to conform, kill the creativity, study for about 10-12 hours.

    This is due to the mindless rat race for capturing few top and cushy positions the economy provides.

    Unless our society evolves into an egalitarian one, this is gonna continue.

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  10. they are the women who get molested in Mumbai
    They were molested by "drunk" people. Drinking is one of the virtues propagated by this Blog. Look at the quote at the top of this Blog.

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  11. Criticizing Bush on his Iraq’s policies or his support for anti-abortion movement is not same as ‘discouraging Bush’

    Agreed. Saying Americans are idiotic and peevish is beyond criticism. Talking specifics is criticism, generalizing is equivalent to cursing. Hope you are able to see the difference. If not, that's perfectly fine. It's your Blog. Keep rocking.

    - Bodhiswaha.

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  12. So, Is 'Stupid White Men' by Michael Moore a criticism, 'beyond criticism', or 'cursing'?
    ;-)

    Have fun!

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  13. So, Is 'Stupid White Men' by Michael Moore a criticism, 'beyond criticism', or 'cursing'?

    ;-) What Barack Obama is doing with a clear call for change is the wonderful form of criticism that we need in our country as well.

    www.barackobama.com
    "Change We Can Belive In"

    If all our creatives start becoming Moore, I am not sure what to say - what our future would be. ;-). BTW, Moore also creates artifacts like Sicko that talk about specific issues (e.g. healthcare) and not continuously rants about religion, ugliness and peevishness.

    You are happy being a Moore - keep doing the good work - I guess that is required too. But, my path is more inspired by Obama than Moore. Different paths, similar goal - Change. Let's keep rocking ;-)

    - Bodhiswaha.

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  14. So the fact that Michael Moor ALSO talks about SPECIFIC issues somehow allows him to use 'STUPID' for describing white men. But if he didn't talk about those SPECIFIC issues, he would become a ranter? Is that right?

    So, only because Michael Jordan ALSO contributes to charity, he is a good player. Otherwise, he is not!

    ;-)

    [My commenters continue to amaze me]

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  15. You are missing the big picture Sujai ;-)

    I like Moore's sense of humor also. I am just saying you are ispired by Moores of the world, while I enjoy watching Moore's movies, I get inspired by the Obamas.

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  16. The style of upbringing kids in the sub-continent is still 'old school'. Parents think that they have to shout, yell, push, and beat kids, in short, instill fear in their kids to make them disciplined! I am not saying all parents are like that, but there are many including someone close to me. What parents are doing unwittingly is create citizens of the future who react emotionally (with physical or verbal intimidation). As with education, religion and rituals is another area where children are not allowed to question. Parents blindly indoctrinate their children with customs and traditions that were taught to them by their parents instead of teaching them real values like honesty, empathy, respect for other living creatures, respect for rules and regulations etc. Sorry, my grammar is bad. Also, sorry, I am using your comment box to express my frustrations!
    By the way, I have yet to see the movie completely. I started to see the movie with my little kids, but they said they were scared when they saw the bullying.
    I wish India would produce movies that were completely child friendly and enjoyable.
    CO

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  17. I would have liked to post the comment here itself, but here it is anyway [link]

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  18. /blog:
    I invite you to post your comment here.

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  19. Bodhiswaha:

    Our discussion is a perfect example of the kind of debates I get to see here in India, on TV, in parties, in corporate meetings. And that’s one of the reasons I get to form such low opinion of fellow Indians – which I keep expressing on this blog.

    Look at the train of the discussion above. First, there was an attempt to equate discouragement with criticism (with an intention to prove a point stated earlier). When confronted with examples which clearly differentiate discouragement from criticism, the topic then got moved to discredit the criticism itself by equating it with cursing (because I use the term ‘idiotic Indians’). When confronted with an example where a famous critic uses the term ‘Stupid white men’, the topic moves onto defining different types of critics – to say how this critic is better just because he talks on specific issues (and also because he is humorous). Then, a new character is introduced, called Obama, to say how this new guy is even better than Michael Moore.

    And how is Obama related to original discussion of whether discouragement is same as criticism. Nobody knows. What is the point of all this discussion? Actually, there is no point. It is only to keep baiting the author till he get vexed to stop the discussion – so that baiter can now go home happy – feeling victorious.

    So, what happened to the original contention that spawned it all? Whether criticism is same as discouragement? Enough dust has been raised to cloud the whole matter.

    That’s how most discussions go in India, making the whole discussion pointless. Even the discussions on TV keep turning this way.

    Industry is no exception. I have attended many such corporate meetings- where no outcome comes even after two hours of pointless discussion. The original agenda is pushed out of the door in the first ten minutes, and soon it is a fight to prove who has a bigger penis. Everyone starts disproving the other. The original point gets lost in the din. I have sat through meetings in a telecom company, where after an hour the managers were discussing some arcane formula from 12th Class Physics trying to outdo the other. After two hours, the original agenda doesn’t get addressed at all. The only result is that one manager has gone happy just because he disproved the other in proving the formulae of Simple Harmonic Motion.

    Sorry, but I am not ready to get into those pointless discussions. You have already dragged me for a while. I usually entertain a new commenter giving him all the benefit of doubt. But when I realize that he is one of those baiters, I stop responding.

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  20. First, there was an attempt to equate discouragement with criticism (with an intention to prove a point stated earlier).

    Ah, sophistry. Replacement is not the same as equating, as I mentioned earlier. But you will twist facts to suit your purpose. :)
    -chirkut

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  21. And how is Obama related to original discussion of whether discouragement is same as criticism. Nobody knows.

    And how is Moore related to original discussion of whether cursing kills child's personality. Nobody knows.

    Obama stands for hope, optimism and change . Obama is what the fear mongers fear the most. I do not blame your ignorance. You would soon know about Obama when the Moores (the really "well-known") of the world start following this leader and he becomes the president of the US. Fear mongers are those who base all their opinions on all the bad things that could happen to a nation. Obamas of the world look at it from another perspective and find and enhance all the good things while bringing about a meaningful change. It is okay if you do not publish this comment. I do not want to get into a debate where all your senses are completely closed as well. I am just giving you a benefit of the doubt since Blogs, comments are not the perfect way to get the point across. May be, you need time, and I got plenty of patience.

    Let's not talk about discouragement. Let's not spread fear as there are already plenty of those. Let's ignite hope and encouragement.

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  22. And how is Obama related to original discussion of whether discouragement is same as criticism. Nobody knows.

    And how is Moore related to original discussion of whether cursing kills child's personality. Nobody knows.

    Obama stands for hope, optimism and change . Obama is what the fear mongers fear the most. I do not blame your ignorance. You would soon know about Obama when the Moores (the really "well-known") of the world start following this leader and he becomes the president of the US. Fear mongers are those who base all their opinions on all the bad things that could happen to a nation. Obamas of the world look at it from another perspective and find and enhance all the good things while bringing about a meaningful change. It is okay if you do not publish this comment. I do not want to get into a debate where all your senses are completely closed as well. I am just giving you a benefit of the doubt since Blogs, comments are not the perfect way to get the point across. May be, you need time, and I got plenty of patience.

    Let's not talk about discouragement. Let's not spread fear as there are already plenty of those. Let's ignite hope and encouragement.

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  23. I started writing the comment here itself. But later on, I realized that it outgrew - and ceased to be a comment and became a post in its own right. That is why I posted it where it is and instead posted a link. I think the situation hasn't changed in any way since then. If you feel that I am using your blog to promote - you need not post the link. I felt that I should write after reading your post. And if anybody should read it is least of my worries (if at all). You might mod out this comment as well.

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  24. When confronted with an example where a famous critic uses the term ‘Stupid white men’, the topic moves onto defining different types of critics – to say how this critic is better just because he talks on specific issues

    1. I never said I like what Moore does with all his dirty tricks. I never said he is better than the other critics.
    2. Obama is a much more famous man than Moore. Both are democrats that is why I used Obama's example to give you a better similar example.

    Obama exudes hope and encouragement while Moore spits fear, discouragement and cursing. I am not sure if you will put this comment also out there on your Blog. You selectively could filter whatever facts/comments suit you. I am also giving up on you.

    Here is an article where your famous example Moore discusses unknown "this guys" Obama. This is what he says about him -

    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.php

    What an amazing night, not just for Barack Obama, but for America. I know that Senator Obama is so much more than simply the color of his skin,

    --- I was proud to sit in my living room tonight and see you and your family up on that stage. We became a bit better tonight

    - Michael Moore.



    It's time to practice googling I guess.

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  25. Hi Sujai..I like your writing and analysis. I first read your blog accidentally when I saw your views on the Lead India campaign - with whi I agree to a good extent. Have been miserably busy so couldnt comment then. I came back after long and saw the debate about criticism and discouragement and thought I will lend you some support..I unfortunately again dont have time so will read in detail later! But yes in India we are so used to praise about our false bravado and glory (like in cricket..which is my pet whipping horse) that we take too harshly to criticism. There is no reason why criticism should become discouragement unless there is something fundamentally amiss. Also being objective about our state is something we as a culture are just not used to. You look at the Western world and they are continuously looking for holes in their arguments and cultures to fix. Anyways more later!

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