Tamil Nadu: Production of Unskilled Graduates


Arts and Science colleges in Tamil Nadu follow a marking system that allows the students to be marked throughout the semester.  The students write their end semester exams for 75 marks. The rest of the 25 marks is awarded internally based on three cycle tests (the best out of the three is considered for 10 marks), a seminar (5), and an assignment (5). Another 5 marks is given to their attendance. The system resembles that of CBSCE schools. It records the performance of the students over a period of time. A single bad performance doesn’t cost them dear. And they cannot afford to waste the entire semester and bleed at the end. The system is promising for the students as more number of students can hope to pass despite being moderately talented. All they have to do is work consecutively.

However, the system is not without any flaws. The system relies too much on the memory of the students. Instead of the students requiring to do critical analysis, they just have to memorize just like olden days. It does not teach the students any other valuable skills especially writing. For example the students are not trained to write essays, articles, or research papers. This comes at a great cost for the students when they go in for higher studies and in positions which require them to write a lot. The students are virtually at a loss in producing anything of standard in terms of writing. In this respect, the education that they have received has only failed them at the critical moment of their lives. As a result many of the students do not have the confidence to even apply for posts that would require them to produce good write ups.

This system needs to be changed because at its present form it just aims at passing more students. A good education should prepare the students for their future life; at the least it should produce skilled individuals. However, the education system and examination pattern now does neither. Instead of developing the skills and preparing students for the tough competitive market, it merely gives them good grades to show as if they are skilled. In truth the system does little to bring out the latent talents in the students. The situation is worse in rural areas where the students come from poor backgrounds with the hopes of taking a bite in the growing economy. But this system prepares them only for jobs as old as three generations ago. It is only those who have natural talents or influence that can land in good jobs. The rest end up doing what their parents did or ends up in jobs that pay them very less. So the education system instead of being a leveler is only maintaining the status quo.

பெண் பயணம்


எனக்கென விசேடமாய் செய்ததொரு சிலுவை!

சிப்பாய்கள் புடைசூழ மிக கர்வமாய்

அதை நான் சுமந்துச் செல்கிறேன்.


லாயத்தில் சிக்குண்ட குதிரையென‌

மிகநேர் பார்வையுடன், சவுக்கிசை

தாளத்திற்கேர்ப்ப பயணிக்கிறேன்.


குருதி குப்பிகளை மேலெறியும்

நட்புமைகள் நிறைந்த தெருக்களில்

வெண்ணிற ஆடையுடுத்தி நடக்கிறேன்.


நான்முனை தாக்குதல் கொண்ட

நேர்க்கோட்டு பயணத்தில் துளைக்கும்

தோட்டாக்கள் அனைத்தும் என் தவறே!


The Absurdity of the “Dark is Beautiful” Campaign



In the Vijay starrer blockbuster Gilli, the hero’s teenage sister comes back home dark and sweating after a failed search mission of Aiswarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar in the hot sun. Her mother asks her: “Nee ennadi enginukku kari alli potava maari vanthuirukka?” (Why do you look like one who has been feeding coal to the rail engine?)

In a much recent horror movie Kanchana, the hero falls in love with the sister of his highly Brahminical accented Tamil speaking sister-in-law. As the hero tells his sister-in-law of his liking to her sister, she tells him, “Ava unna vida colour da” (She is fairer than you.)


In the past few weeks like many others in this country, I too got emails asking me to sign a campaign against Emami India and Sharukh Khan. A visit to the campaign page in Facebook told a lot about the ideas associated with dark skin and the motivations of the group.

In an interview Nandita Das, the celebrity campaigner says, “Do you mean to say that there are no dark colored upper class women?… Especially in mainstream you have to have woman who is fair” (www.desiyup.com ).

And this is precisely why I think the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign is absurd. Most of the entries in the fan page underscored that they have been ostracized for being dark; that they have to work extra hard to prove their worth. And most significantly the campaigners belonged to elite urban backgrounds.

While Nandita Das is campaigning for the acceptance of dark skinned individuals, she is talking within the limitations of an uppercaste/class highly successful woman who was looked upon as dark and dusky despite her beauty and talent.  In the same interview she says that dark should be looked upon as beautiful and not an exception. The inherent flaw in the campaign is the glossing over of discrimination based on caste, class, region, and race as one associated with skin tone.

Take the case of Arpit Jacob for example. Arpit, a native of Kerala, recounts his experience of studying in a school in North India. In the school he was called Kalia (black) and haspi (negro). Because of the ridicule he suffered, he says he joined a college in south India “where there were more dark skinned people.” It is true that Arpit has been the butt of ridicule in school for his skin color. But the real reason for being ridiculed is the fact that he is a southerner and his skin color is different from his northern class mates. It is no wonder that he felt comfortable in a college in south India with like skinned people. Unfortunately in the article, Arpit goes on to generalize on the effects of focusing on negativities in life (darkisbeautiful.blogspot.in ).

Diya Paul, a communication professional recounts her trauma of enduring her paternal grandparents’ mournful “ivvelevu karuppa porenthutaa (she has been born so black!)” and her father’s anguished surprise that his daughter is black despite a “fair like a foreign import or a North Indian” mother. Added to this was the general disbelief in her circle that she could not have born out of her biological mother. She says she even went on to ask her mother if she was adopted or was there a goof-up of babies in the hospital (www.weekendleader.com/ www.Facebook.com/darkisbeautiful). While it is clear that the author’s family and her circle are fair skinned people, we need to ask who the dark skinned ones are.

In the “Dark is Beautiful” fan page in Facebook, there is a vote to trace the origin of skin color bias in India. Out of the four choices – caste system, British influence, Cultural divide between the North Indians and South Indians, and Bollywood – caste system has earned 36+ votes followed by cultural divide between North Indians and South Indians with 27+ votes. Compared to this colonial influence and tinseldom had earned only a negligible 6 and 8 vote.  While the campaigners have indeed realized the factors originating skin color bias and the followers have made it quite evident through their votes, the campaigners have camouflaged caste and regional bias as superficial a bias as skin color.

dark is beautiful

(Courtesy: www.Facebook.com/darkisbeautiful)

The Emami Fair and Handsome advertisement sought to be withdrawn is viewed as spreading the message that one need not work hard when their skin is fair. Well, the truth of the argument is beyond question. But the difference is why is dark skinned detested? Why are dark skinned people looked down upon? Hira Shah, professor of South Asian Studies, York University points out the power and authority associated with the rulers in a colonial set up and the evil doers as dark skinned in many of the Hindu scriptures (http://vimeo.com/16210769 ). In the African- American context, colorism had its origin in the condescending treatment enjoyed by children born out of “slaves and their white masters” (abcnews.go.com ) who naturally had lighter skin. The bottom line of Professor Hira’s analysis is that fairer skin means power, authority, and goodness. In the African-American context it means privilege. Darker skin means the opposite.

The role of media, tinseldom in perpetuating the fair-successful-beautiful-good equation is beyond doubt.  On answering the charges of why Fair and Handsome and why Sharukh Khan, Kavitha Emmanuel – founder Woman of Worth – says that they have to start somewhere (darkisbeautiful.blogspot.in ). She also says that “This is not an attack on brands or brand ambassadors, but on the toxic belief that only fair skin is beautiful” (www.Facebook.com/darkisbeautiful ). And for this reason alone the credibility of the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign as people’s movement is shaky. If the campaigners do not want to rub on the rough side of powerful people, whose conscience are they trying to awaken?  How will brands sell fairness creams without putting forth the idea that fair is better?

In the Indian caste based structural hierarchical society, is it not a fact that the lower you went the darker was the skin? Is it not a fact that people in the south are darker than their northern inhabitants? If you accept dark as beautiful, does it mean that there won’t be discrimination based on these categories?

The hatred for dark skin tone arises out of a sense of shame to resemble someone who you would look down upon and vice versa. The campaigners without addressing the associations of the dark skin are merely saying, “Look we have dark skin, but we are not like them.”

Nandita Das while acknowledging the presence of caste and culture behind the obsession with fair skin thinks that “current causes should be targeted first.” I cannot restrain from asking, when is the right time to talk about caste and culture based color discrimination? It is naïve to assume that caste and culture based bias will be forgotten if dark skin is accepted as beautiful. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say even if the dark skin is accepted as beautiful the question “whose dark skin?” will still remain unanswered.

At the very minimum the campaign does not point out that those who discriminate on skin color are showcasing caste and regional superiority attitude. Without pointing out the reason I am not sure what the campaigners aim to achieve. The campaigners never said, “See, you are being casteist in the guise of color, you are being racist and so on.” Until there is discrimination based on caste, class, region, and race there will be discrimination based on skin color. Even thousands of “Dark is Beautiful” campaigns will not eradicate it.

A campaign which willfully disengages with social realities is only an elitist movement which need not be taken seriously. Unfairly, the Bollywood glam-quotient has earned the campaign undue attention from world over. At its present form the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign is usurping the voices of those dark skinned people who have lesser means of overcoming the bias to prove their talent. As Anjali Rajoria says, the campaign is one that of “highly successful upper caste women who are protesting the loss of few more lucrative mainstream opportunities due to their relatively darker skin tones” (http://www.dalitweb.org/?p=2039 )











அவிழ்க்கமுடியா கட்டுக்கள்


ஓங்கி வளர்ந்த அந்த (அ)சோக‌ வனத்தில்

கட்டழகு மரங்கள் நீள்லுயர பந்தயத்தில்

ஒன்றை ஒன்று முந்திச் செல்ல

மௌநித்திருக்கிற‌து தரையில் ஒரு பேரொளி!

தனித்தொரு மரமாய் அக்காட்டில்

உதிரத்தின் மென்நாற்றம் வீச

ஒளிப்பிழம்பாய் அகத்தின் இருளுக்கு

இருள் சேர்த்த படி காத்திருக்கிறது…

வட்டமும் சதுரமும் நேர்க்கோடும்

விழிவழியாய் உமிழ்ந்து

சுற்றிருளை பழித்து காத்திருக்கிறது

மிருகத்தின் வரவுக்காய்

விழித்திரைகளின் கட்டுக்குள் நில்லாமல்

விரிந்திருக்கிறது இருள்

உயிர்ப்பிழைப்பின் விதிப்படி

இயங்குகிற‌து கானகம்

மலரந்தம் பருகிய களிவண்டு

உன்னிதழந்தம் பருகி திளைத்த‌தாய்

எண்ணி எடுத்தியம்பிட காத்திருக்கிறது

ஒரு புராதான அக்கினி

கரியது இருளென்றும்

கொடியது வனமென்றும்

மிருகத்தின் வரவுக்காய்

காத்திருக்கிறது பேதமை!

© பூவிளங்கோதை

சுய நேர்மை


ஓர் பேய்மழைக்குப் பின்
சமனற்ற தார்ச்சாலையில்
தேங்கியிருக்கும் நீரில் படிந்த‌
நேர்க்கோபுர பிம்பத்தில்
ஒட்டிக்கொண்ட காகிதம்…

சன்னலுக்கு நேரெதிரே மாட்டப்பட்ட‌
கண்ணாடியில் பிரதிபலித்த‌
எதிர்வீட்டுப் பெண்ணின் இதழ்களை
தொட்டுச் சிலிர்க்கும் நிமிடம்

முகநூலின் பக்கங்களில்
வந்து குவியும் நட்பின்
வேண்டுகோள்கள், பாராட்டுகள்
அதனாலெழும் கர்வம்

என்னைப்பார் என்னழகைப்பார் என்ற
மோகினியின் பின்சென்று
அவளை புணர்ந்த தருணம்…

உன்னை அறிவாய்!


குயில்களின் குரல்களிலும் பேதமுண்டு இவ்வுலகில்,
மனிதர் போன்றோரின் சபை வேண்டுமாயின்
நீ ஊருக்குள் குயிலாய் பிறந்திருக்க வேண்டும்.
எந்தருமை சேரிக்குருவியே, அவர்கள் மனிதர் போன்றோர் தான் என்பதை மறவாதே!

Silence 2



The sound of silence is in the mind.

Middle of the night, cry of a dog,

Muted fan, mumbling cicadas,

Rustle of the light bedsheet,

Someone’s yawn,

Soft foot of the cat walking up the window sill,

Soothing breeze rubbing the curtains,

Windows shutting down echoing in the air,

Swallowed saliva vibrating through the ears,

Numbed hands almost glued,

Striking of the hour clock,

Damn the deafening silence!