The first test tube baby was born in India, 7,600 years ago, and he was called Dronacharya. Ancient sages divined a long time back the leaps in technology we see today, such as stem cell research. Perplexed? This is part of school curricula in India; the first a gem from a Class IX science textbook; the second from Dinanath Batra’s Tejomay Bharat, now supplementary reading in Gujarat. A Hindi textbook for Class VIII students in Karnataka twists a Kannada folktale to have a tiger sermonise beatifically on how eating beef is sinful (see box).
Last year, primary schoolchildren in Punjab were told shehar diyaan kudiyaan (city girls) were husn phuljharian (sparklers). Elsewhere, another girl’s arrival in college was hailed as ‘college wich aaya patola’ (a gorgeous girl has come to college). The books, which were meant for primary class students, were withdrawn after educationists directed that the highly sexist and inappropriate content be deleted. But not before causing a major embarrassment to the state government which had set up a panel of five government officials to frame the primary textbook curriculum. The Punjab education department had then supplied these books to several government-run primary schools. Some books even had a chapter on jeeja-saali (brother-in-law and sister-in-law), defying explanation why primary schoolchildren needed acquaintance with that relationship.