My grandfather, late Prof. A.M.Dharmalingam, compaigned for the adoption of English in Indian educational system. He was from the time of independent post-colonial India when everything non-Indian was persecuted. He was of the opinion that English was the key to progress in a world which is not limited by national boundaries but rather becoming more global.
As I was returning from Mukhalingam to Srikakulam, the plan was to move on to Bhubaneshwar. On the bus I met Janardhan who was living in Srikakulam. He informed me that this place has much more to offer than what I had imagined. At Telineelapuram, bird lovers can watch migratory birds. Some migrate from Australia , others from Siberia. I have personally seen painted storks perched on trees during my travels on the road. There is a famous temple at Srikakulam dedicated to Surya, the sun god. It is said that once a year a ray of sun falls on the god’s feet at sunrise. No one has found the opening through which sun enters. It is claimed to be a miracle. Some distance away from this city is Sri Kurmam, a temple dedicated to the tortoise avatar. For those interested in handlooms and khadi, Ponduru was the place to visit. With so much around, I decided to put up in Srikakulam for one more night.
Janardhan invited me to his place which he shares with two other bachelors and one married man whose wife lives in Vizag. There is a small kitchen. The only other room is 12 feet by 8 feet. This is where everyone sleeps on the floor. I joined them for one night in this tiny room.
At dusk, Janardhan and I visited the Arasavilli temple. He talked a great deal. I remained the silent listener. He spoke about the nine planets/gods and the 18-year rule of Shani. He spoke about how some of them must be appeased from time to time for a favourable life. He then instructed me that people should not close the eyes while praying. The whole purpose of coming to the temple was to look at god. God must first be looked on the feet and then the head.
The temple was a busy place but architecturally or artistically it did not interest me much. Then we waited for a long time for the bus to Sri Kurmam. Finally we gave up the idea of visiting it because we might have difficulty getting a return bus.
Janardhan and his married friend are busy preparing for State Bank of India (SBI) Clerical Exam. It appears that there are 20,000 openings in SBI. There are only two more weeks for the exam which has five sections. Their confidence is weakest in the English section. I came to know of a fundamental problem in our education system.
Most villages do not have English medium. This is fine for the majority but when there are many brilliant students who wish to pursue higher education, it puts them at a disadvantage. When they enter degree courses, tutoring is in English. Lecturers do not take interest. They simply keep passing the students and granting them degrees. When the students come out they have no skills to get jobs. They fail miserably in interviews. They remain unemployed, in debt and depression. This is a huge issue for many bright students who come from villages. It is acute in Andhra Pradesh but may be true in other states as well.
Janardhan has personally saved as many as 80 students from suicide. He has helped them overcome depression. Many of these cases were friends during his post-graduate course. His English is reasonably good and may be just enough to pass the exam. He is keen to learn more.
We had dinner at his place in an ambience that reminded me of my college days. Then we sat up till midnight discussing about the English section for the exam. I taught them what I knew and they were very appreciative. There were clearly disappointed to learn that I won’t be able to stay another night. I had to get going to Orissa. I wished them the best in the exam and the future.