Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Saga of Sex Education

Gang rape, child abuse, molestation, marital rape. None of these make the public bat an eyelash.
Mention a three letter word - SEX - and they all start waving the flag of indian culture and morality!
What is it about this word that makes the adults and ministers (note that they are two different categories and not necessarily the same) squirm in their seats?
An enlightened and thankfully aware official wants to introduce a much needed sex ed program in schools. The next day he succumbs to the morality police, one of whom actually has enough stupid in his head to say (and i paraphrase here) that sex education will plant wrong ideas in the heads of youngsters and crimes against women will increase!!
Objections and arguments against sex ed this time round include the same ones that were spouted a couple of years back too. Children will be encouraged to experiment, they will get wrong ideas in their heads, it will spoil the culture and morals that we Indians are proud of blah blah blah.
What are these people talking about? What do they think sex ed involves? A lecture on the best positions? pick up lines?
They hear the word sex and their brains either go into denial or into overdrive. As adults they forget that they way they think of sex isnt necessarily the only way to think of it. They assume that just because the word 'sex' stimulates certain ideas and thoughts in their heads it will do the same for the young.
Teenagers today are bombarded with sexual stimuli all the time through media. As befits their age they are curious. This curiosity leads to experimentation. Experimentation without the correct information and knowledge is the worst kind.
But where do they get answers? the correct information? Teachers don't have the time or the inclination, parents are too embarassed and forget how they conceived their children, older siblings are too busy getting their own answers.
This leaves friends who are as clueless, furtive flipping of pages of glossy books at big book stores, and the google search engine which offers acess to unlimited porn at the click of a button.
All sex ed is seeking to do is provide answers to questions in a classroom without the children having to google sex and get a warped understanding of a basic biological process. It is seeking to help children understand the changes their bodies are going through. Understanding helps develop respect for their bodies and others' bodies. Sex ed is seeking to help reduce reckless experimentation by offering information that the children want and are unable to get anywhere. It is seking to reduce the incidence of STD's and teenage pregnancy.
Sex education is all about the forwarned being forearmed.
At the end of it all, those who oppose sex education in schools are probably the ones who are most in need of it. So instead of sex education in schools, maybe sex education at the parliament might not be such a bad idea.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Tear and a Hug

A classmate and I were talking the day before the funeral, and both of us had still not come to terms with the fact that we wouldnt be able to talk to Fr. B again. There was so much we wanted to tell him, and i know for a fact that there was loads he wanted to tell us!!

In the beginning of the course we thought he was being a pain because he wasnt in the best of health. It took us only a few weeks to realise that health had nothing to do with it!!! :D
There were times when we felt he took some sort of sadistic pleasure in sucking the joy and dignity out of us in class. But now we know (actually now we accept) that he knew what he was doing. I for one am a much stronger person because of what i went through in his classes.

This course has taught me almost everything i know about counselling today. It has taught me who i am and what i want. It has taught me how i try not to be who i am and deny what i want. It has taught me the most important lesson of all - being honest to myself.

Fr. Berkie helped me deal with my own personal hells over all these months . In all his ramblings in class, there was always a personal lesson for those who wanted it, and knew what to listen to! :)
I once had a long talk with him about things troubling me. Today im glad i did that (even though i was miserable and worried about how he would react). Im glad i got a chance to see a different side of him. A side that listened to me. One that did not judge me. A side that helped me think about and deal with my thoughts. A side that showed humour. Laughed with me. Showed interest in what i had to say about how i felt. A side that hugged me.
Of all his classes, there are two that I think about the most, and everytime i think about them i tear up.
One time is before christmas. I'd brought some brownies and chocolates, and along with a card, the entire class wished him a very merry christmas. He sat down in his chair and smiled. And talked. And was sorry that he wasnt having a celebration and a party like every year because of his health. He was sorry that we werent getting a chance to party!
Then there is one of the last classes he took, during which he told us we were all good students and that he was knew he was always sounding rude and not smiling at us, but we should not feel too bad about it.
I know that this was the closest Fr. Berkie would ever come to say that he cared for us.
Thank you Father Berkie for caring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Do It Now

In one of the last classes he took, Fr. Berkie told us (not for the first time) that over the years students have not liked how he has treated them, how he has graded them, assessed them. He told us how these students would not even talk to him or acknowledge him because they thought he was unfair. He said that it is all that negative energy over the years that has probably caused all these health problems for him. He sounded disillusioned and defeated at times like these. He would aften tell us that he should shut the course because no one appreciated the effort he put in.

I remember thinking then that i would come back after the course to meet him.
I remember thinking then that i want to thank him for everything he has taught me.
I remember thinking that when i would come to collect my diploma from him i would tell the next batch not to get too bullied by Father.
I remember thinking that even though he was in excrutiating pain he was coming to class for us and that he should be appreciated for that.

Today im thinking that i should have done these things when i thought them.

I missed out on so many opportunities of telling Father that he was not unappreciated.
Of telling him that even though we might appear fed up, we were glad he was there and telling us off.
Of thanking him.

Over the last week, apart from realising what a big part Fr. Berkie was of my life in the present, i've realised that anything i want to do, i should do it now. To use a cliche which rings true in this contexr, time and tide wait for none.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Memoriam

I read Tuesdays with Morrie a few months back. Apart from being one of the best written books i've read, it touched a chord in me somewhere.
I too was seeing a teacher battling a serious illness, and living on sheer will power and determination.
Reading a book it all seems unreal in a way. Its difficult to imagine someone dying to be so full of life and so insistent on being independent.
But seeing my teacher doing it made it all so real.
At the time i didn't get how he could still continue taking classes and insisting on conducting all aspects of the course when he was so obviously in pain. He would be on pain meds, sometimes to the extent that it affected his memory. He would lose track of what he was talking about. He would repeat the same things over and over again.
But through it all he never once gave up. He never took the easy way out.
Reading Tuesdays with Morrie i realised that sometimes lessons learnt in a classroom arent as important as the ones you learn outside of them.
Spending 9 months with my teacher i realise that sometimes lessons learnt in a classroom arent as important as the one who teaches them.
Just by being who he was, my teacher taught me more important things that theories and therapies. He taught me how to take charge of who i am and what i do. He taught me to be responsible for what i think, say and do. He taught me how easy it is to let an illness become an excuse for mediocre performance and how difficult it is to perform no matter what the condition. He taught me that i really am in the sensori-motor stage.
My teacher was incorrigible, difficult, stubborn, opiniated.
But then, he was the only one i knew who couldnt care what anyone thought of him. He was the only person i knew who truly made choices he wanted to and lived with their consequences.
He lived life like he wanted to.
My teacher passed away yesterday.
This is in memory of him.
Good night Father.