Is there anything more appaling on God’s good earth than a Smart Indian Kid? The TV show, India’s Child Genius, is one of the most toecurlingly foul inventions yet to be dreamed up by some evil, perverted commissioning editor.
If I see one more oil-smoothed, side-partinged, smug little totlet parroting Newton’s Third Law of Motion, I shall puke.
In English-English, ‘study’ refers to (a) a detailed rendering of some specific mental state, eg "His face was a study in agonised indecision" (b) a room in a house designated for the solitary pursuit of learning, i .e. playing Spider Solitaire while pretending to work; (c) a euphemism for goofing off whilst practising the noble arts of drunkenness whilst enrolled in some institution of higher learning e.g. "I’m ‘studying’ law [hic, phwaor]."
In Indian-English, however, Studies connotes something far grander. Children are sheltered from any and all undesirable - or even desirable- activities by the cast-iron umbrella of Studies. "Sorry, she/he can’t come out to play. She/he has Studies." If you want to skip class or avoid dinner or skive off; when shamming illness doesn’t work, and you’ve run out of all other excuses, just pipe up, "Sorry Ma, sorry Pops, I have to do my Studies."
The shame of it is that most Indian kids aren’t even using this as an excuse. They ARE ACTUALLY doing Studies. Vigilance committees made up of massed ranks of assorted adults are there, ready to pounce at the least slippage of that position in class. Little Sonu’s percentage points run like the tickertape at the bottom of NDTV Business channel, showing the minute fluctuations in stocks and shares. Learning is liberating. Studies stifle. It’s time we junked the word.
This article originally appeared in Delhi City Limits, January 31, 2006
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