School Debate Topic: On need of Uniforms — Support or Oppose?

School Debate Topic

Suggested words for the debate
“Making uniforms for school students compulsory is a good idea.”

Those who support the motion …
Suggested words …. Mandatory, Sense of belonging, Cohesion, Socio-economic strata of society, Rein in, Integration, Flaunt, Bespoke, Outlandish, Identity, Orderliness, Security, Bedrock, Unhealthy competition, Animosity

 

Those who oppose the motion ….
Suggested words .. Avoidable, Economic burden, Multitude of underprivileged and impoverished students, Square meals, Afford, Malnourished, Luxury, Oblivious, Cunning way, Commercial motive, Fleece, Grotesque, Socio-economically unviable, Encroachment on individual freedom, Freedom of choice, Hot climate, Redundant

 

Prepare your own arguments taking the above words as hints.

[Answers will be posted soon.]

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Model school essay — The Season I like Most

THE SEASON I LIKE MOST

In India, we have six different seasons each having its characteristic features. They come one after another. The rainy season comes after the scorching heat of summer. In India, it generally begins from the middle of June and lasts till the end of September. I like rainy season very much.
Rainy season is the lifeline of the flora and fauna on earth. For humans, it brings respite from heat and acute water shortage. Plants, shrivelled by the parched earth and the unforgiving Sun, get their much-needed water as the rains begin to fall. In the rainy season, the sky is generally covered with clouds. On some occasions during the rainy season, it rain continuously for days together. Rivers and canals, dried by the summer heat, get filled with water. Nature seems to get a new charming face with the advent of this season.
Sometimes, breathtakingly beautiful rainbow arches across the sky. It fades off in minutes leaving the children gaping in wonder and sadness. We see lush green grass, trees and paddy fields. Farmers, who await the first rains anxiously, start their brisk activities in the fields. Mother earth gets ready to give us a fresh bumper harvest. The countryside looks so colourful.
Many great poets in the past like Kalidas were fascinated by the bewitching beauty of Nature in this season. They composed fantastic poems eulogizing the rainy season.
Some important festivals are observed in this season. The Car Festival, Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh Puja, etc. are some of the important festivals that bring cheer and hope to all of us. People from far and wide come to Puri to witness the Car Festival. On Raksha Baildhan sisters tie Rakhi around the wrists of their brothers to ensure their safety and security.
Hydro-electric power stations run in full capacity generating power. The thunder and lightning in the overcast sky drive fear into the minds of children. They cling to their mothers as the roar and the blinding light shock and awe them.
No doubt, the rainy season brings devastating floods, but the misery is generally short-lived. After the flood, soil becomes more fertile, and agriculture gets a major boost. Colourful flowers in plants and creepers sway in the wind. Forest floors become a beehive of activity as the dry leaves rot providing food for myriad species of animals, tiny, small and large. Vegetable shops overflow with cheap and fresh vegetables. So it is said that, “No rain, no grain.”
Despite the muddy roads, swarming insects, damp walls and the inconvenience of going to school, I like the rains because it falls from Heaven to sustain life on earth. The copious rains seep and recharge our ground water ensuring plentiful drinking water for us for the rest of the year. This is why I adore the Rainy Season most.
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Answers to Baby Steps to writing good English ..

Answers to Baby Steps …..

a. Why doctors and nurses in hospitals wear white aprons?

 

Answer .. Doctors and nurses come in direct contact with patients in course of their duty. As a result, they are exposed to infection of many types. Wearing a white apron makes the medical staff aware of the stains from the patients’ body waste like blood, phlegm, posh, urine, stool etc.. They can then change it and wear a fresh one. The apron also prevents their garments from being infected due to the contact with the patients.
The second reason is related to identification of the medical staff. In hospital wards, visitors often move around and crowd round their patients. A person wearing white aprons is instantly identified as medical personnel on duty. This gives them the desired respect, priority, and attention, both from the visitors and the patients.

 

b. Why diesel engines are preferred to steam engines for hauling trains?

 

The answer is simple. Diesel engines are more powerful and have higher hauling power. The steam engines are messy, slow, and give out a lot of black smoke. In hauling power, they are no match for the diesel engines. So, for rapid movement of goods and passenger trains, diesel engines are the preferred option.

 

c. Why eating cut fruits from street vendors is not a good idea at all?

The hygiene is the problem. Exposure to flies, contact with human hands, cleanliness of the vessels, and dirt in wind are the major concerns. Most commonly, eating cut fruits causes stomach upsets due to germs. In times of epidemics like cholera, eating cut fruits from vendors is a sure recipe for disaster.

 

 

d. Why do mountaineers carry oxygen cylinders?

 

At high altitudes, air is thinner. So, oxygen availability in a certain volume of air is less than what we get at ground level. It causes breathing difficulties. To get over this problem, climbers carry oxygen cylinders.

 

e. Why are CCTV cameras installed in public places?

 

The CCTV cameras record the movement of people and objects continuously. For crime investigators and prosecutors, CCTV footages give invaluable clue about the involvement of criminals in the crime. The evidence is irrefutable and courts accept it. CCTV cameras are the 24×7 sentinels dedicated to our security.

 

f. Why do empty ships carry a good quantity of sea water?

 

Empty ships tend to be unstable while floating in the sea. To make them stable, they need to become heavier. The weight for this purpose is provided by the load of sea water purposely carried by the ship. When the ship is loaded later by goods, this water is emptied into the sea. Such water that provides stability to a ship is called ‘ballast’.

 

g. Why do onion prices skyrocket and crash sometimes?

 

It is a demand and supply question. When there is a bumper crop in onion-producing states like Maharastra, UP. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka etc., the mandis overflow with onion bags. Inevitably, prices fall. The reverse happens when the crops fail and demand exceeds supply. Prices soar causing hardship to consumers.

 

h. Why do some farmers commit suicide?

 

Farm income has progressively declined in the last two to three decades. Farm holdings have also become smaller, and price of inputs like those of seeds, fertilizer, pesticides etc. have gone up sharply. The farmers have to borrow to raise a crop. In those years, when rains fail, the harvest dwindles leaving the farmer with a debt burden. When the drought comes in successive years, farmers find themselves in an un-sustainable position. They can neither feed themselves, nor can they repay the loans. Lenders come in to humiliate them for their default. The hopelessness of the situation drives them to take their lives.

 

i. Why is an aluminum plate embedded to the bottom of a stainless steel pressure cooker?
Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat. This is the reason, aluminium plates are embedded to the bottom of pressure cookers. It makes cooking quicker and saves fuel.

 

j. Why have oil prices crashed in recent months?

 

The main reason is the widespread availability of shale gas in America and elsewhere. The United States is soon going to be self-sufficient with regard to its energy needs. Its oil import will taper off. The other reason is the entry of Iran to world oil market after the lifting of international sanctions. Iran is a big seller of crude oil. The third reason is the slowing down of the Chinese economy. It no longer imports as much crude oil as it used to before. The OPEC led by Saudi Arabia has not reduced its oil output. All these factors have contributed to the fall in oil prices in recent months.

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Baby steps to writing well

Writing practice … [Answer in 4 to 6 sentences each]

a. Why doctors and nurses in hospitals wear white aprons?
b. Why diesel engines are preferred to steam engines for hauling trains?
c. Why eating cut fruits from street vendors is not a good idea at all?
d. Why do mountaineers carry oxygen cylinders?
e. Why are CCTV cameras installed in public places?
f. Why do empty ships carry a good quantity of sea water?
g. Why do onion prices skyrocket and crash sometimes?
h. Why do some farmers commit suicide?
i. Why is an aluminum plate embedded to the bottom of a stainless steel pressure cooker?
j. Why have oil prices crashed in recent months?

You may send your answers for correction to

broadbase.knowledge@gmail.com

First 200 responses will be evaluated.

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A very short story of an urchin turned tourist guide

Dinh’s saga of survival
Dinh had arrived in the world unannounced, unsung and un-loved. He was born in a bombed, abandoned house in one desolate corner of Saigon. He saw his mother for barely a few minutes before she died, unable to battle anemia and infection.
Dinh survived, but just barely – in the family of a janitor. By 12, he had fallen in the bad company of petty criminals. He became a pickpocket. He lived rough – in the streets of the cruel city.
One evening, he was caught red-handed. The Magistrate sent him to a juvenile detention facility. Life was hard, and frugal. A dour, bearded teacher took a one-hour class in the morning. He thrashed Dinh for minor infractions. No wonder, Dinh hated his teacher. He dreaded him, and stubbornly refused to remember anything taught in the class.
One day, a French man from a French charity came to the juvenile prison to distribute gifts. Among the items were a few nicely printed booklets in French. He offered to teach French to those inmates who wanted to learn the language.
Dinh became a pupil. Soon, he was able to write and speak basic French. Encouraged by Dinh’s progress, the Frenchman gave Dinh a collection of Guy de Maupassant’s illustrated short stories. For Dinh, it was a gift from Heaven. He poured into the books with great enthusiasm.
Dinh had become 18– the age he had to leave the juvenile facility. Dark days in the streets stared at him again. He became despondent. His French teacher understood his anxiety. In days, he secured the job of a tourist guide for Dinh in the local French embassy. Dinh loved the job, and the excitement of being seen so admiringly and lovingly by the French tourists.
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You may adopt this storyline and reduce it to 150 words, if you desire so.

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Of Ambition — By Francis Bacon

OF AMBITION

Ambition is like choler; which is an humor that maketh men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it be not stopped.
Explanation …. In medieval times, it was believed that the body has four bodily fluids– blood, phlegm, choler or yellow bile, melancholy or black bile. It was then thought to determine emotional and physical disposition. Choler or yellow bile makes people restless, irritable, and itching for action.
A person bubbling with ambitions can hardly lead an un-hurried, contented, and a relaxed life. Since he sets his eyes high, he will continuously think to do something newer, better, and harder. He will knowingly accept challenges, and strive to solve them. The more he succeeds, the more he will drive himself to do things which others don’t dare to do. Such a person will be a go-getter, a perfectionist, and a workaholic. He will be continuously restless with ideas and energy. Naturally, he will find people around him indolent, mediocre, sulking and un-worthy.
But if it be stopped, and cannot have his way, it becometh adust, and thereby malign and venomous.
Explanation …. If such an ambitious man is restrained, and not allowed to pursue his goal, he will feel stifled, angry and rebellious. Finally, all his creative energy and dynamism will be numbed and wasted. Due to his frustration, he will develop a negative mindset and hostility to other people.
So ambitious men, if they find the way open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy than dangerous; but if they be checked in their desires, they become secretly discontent, and look upon men and matters with an evil eye, and are best pleased, when things go backward; which is the worst property in a servant of a prince, or state.
If a person, with ambition burning within him, gets a conducive environment to pursue his goal with little hindrance, he will be totally lost in his work. No ill-feeling will enter his mind. He will not harm anyone. On the other hand, if the same person is held back and not allowed to work towards his vision, he will seethe in frustration and anger. Driven by his internal discontent, he will begin to dislike others and perceive everyone as wicked and hideous. When something bad happens to his boss, the organization, society, or the government, he will derive some wicked pleasure out of the misfortune of others. Employees developing such negative mindset are a liability to the government, and the society, at large.
4. Therefore it is good for princes, if they use ambitious men, to handle it, so as they be still progressive and not retrograde; which, because it cannot be without inconvenience, it is good not to use such natures at all.
It is, therefore, imperative that ambitious people be given sufficient freedom to let their creativity blossom. If this is made possible, the individuals will be an asset. They will not be hostile and angry. If it is not possible to afford or grant such freedom to an ambitious person, it will be a good idea not to employ them at all and invite problem later.
5. For if they rise not with their service, they will take order, to make their service fall with them.
If these ambitious employees continue to remain disgruntled, they might bring disgrace and downfall to their employers.
6. But since we have said, it were good not to use men of ambitious natures, except it be upon necessity, it is fit we speak, in what cases they are of necessity.
It is now realized that there is an inherent risk in employing ambitious men, so, unless essential, they should not be employed. But, this is not a rule written on stone (meaning ‘rigid’). There are situations where ambitious people should be the preferred choice for engagement.
7. Good commanders in the wars must be taken, be they never so ambitious; for the use of their service, dispenseth with the rest; and to take a soldier without ambition, is to pull off his spurs.
While selecting the right person for positions of key commanders for the battlefield, existence of ambition in the commander-designate cannot be a disqualification. After all, for a man in arms, a contented, laid-back temperament is a huge negative trait. Such a soldier can never fight. Shirking his responsibility, he will run away from the battlefield at the slightest sign of defeat. Only a brave ambitious and egoistic commander can confront the enemy boldly and vanquish it.
8. There is also great use of ambitious men, in being screens to princes in matters of danger and envy; for no man will take that part, except he be like a seeled dove, that mounts and mounts, because he cannot see about him.
Ambitious men are also essential where safeguarding the personal safety of the king or government’s senior-most functionaries are concerned. Ambitious men make reliable and astute body guards. For such responsibilities, the guard may have to shed his own life for saving the life of his employer. This calls for a spirit of extreme sacrifice on the call of duty. For the person employed as body guard, nothing is more sacrosanct than the life of the person he has to protect. Such single-minded dedication to duty is akin to the blind-folded dove (a small, robust bird) soaring higher and higher into the sky without bothering to worry about the distance and its limited energy. At one stage, it gets too exhausted to fly and comes crashing on to the ground. An ambitious guard can make similar sacrifice.
9. There is use also of ambitious men, in pulling down the greatness of any subject that overtops; as Tiberius used Marco, in the pulling down of Sejanus.
Sejanus was a gallant and ambitious warrior who was officiating as the emperor in Rome. Sejanus discharged royal duties in the absence of the real emperor Tiberious, who lived in a distant island. At one stage, receiving credible intelligence inputs, Tiberious began to suspect that Sejanus was contemplating to usurp power by dethroning and destroying him. He did not venture to challenge Sejanus frontally. Instead, he resorted to crafty intrigues to create confusion in the minds of the Senate members. He managed this subterrfuge by sending letters to them with ambiguous messages. Sometimes, he praised Sejanus in his letter, while deriding him in the next letter.
In Rome, Sejanus had created enough enemies by his boastful and brash manners. He was a brute too. Teberious plotted with the valiant and ambitious Marco to kill Sejanous. Teberious returned to Rome and summoned Sejanus early in the dawn ostensibly to decorate him. Marco seized this opportunity to take control of the mounted guards functioning under Sejanus’s command till then. After this, he attacked Sejanus and killed him and threw his body unceremoniously to the river.
Had an ambitious man like Marco not been there, Teberious could not have neutralized Sejanus. Hence, kings, generals and senior government leaders need ambitious people around them.
10. Since, therefore, they must be used in such cases, there resteth to speak, how they are to be bridled, that they may be less dangerous.
Having thus pleaded in favour of engaging ambitious men, Bacon gives an advice of caution. He suggests that such people in the payroll must be kept under a leash either covertly or overtly. If this is not done, the danger of these men turning against their benefactors and employers is a real possibility.
11. There is less danger of them, if they be of mean birth, than if they be noble; and if they be rather harsh of nature, than gracious and popular: and if they be rather new raised, than grown cunning, and fortified, in their greatness.
If these ambitious men offering security to the heads of state or king are from the lower sections of the society, they pose lesser danger than those who are from the aristocratic class. If the security personnel are ill-mannered and boorish, they pose less danger to their employers than those who are suave and popular. Similarly, newer recruits are less dangerous than those bloated ones who have been around for a long time. Since they are privy to the affairs of the palace and the court, they might feel tempted to misuse their knowledge to harm their masters.
12. It is counted by some, a weakness in princes, to have favorites; but it is, of all others, the best remedy against ambitious great-ones.
In all ages, kings, heads of states and men of importance have preferred to employ their known and trusted people to form the security around them and to give them counsel during crises. Some say, this is an unsound and imprudent policy that smacks of nepotism. As per Bacon, this is a wise policy as it helps to keep unduly pretentious and scheming people reasonably satisfied with the cl;out they enjoy because of their proximity to the emperor. Some disgruntled ambitious people can upstage their superiors and employers whom they are duty-bound to serve. So, keeping them in good humour is a prudent policy.
13. For when the way of pleasuring, and displeasuring, lieth by the favorite, it is impossible any other should be overgreat.
In course of his duty, the favoured person, chosen by the king to do the duty, may either endear himself or antagonize his master because of his proximity to him. This may not be detrimental to the interests of the state or the king (employer), because the man will not possibly harm his master. On the other hand, an unknown ambitious person, despite his quality and talent does not fit well to this responsibility. He may have hidden hostility which might tempt him to rebel against his master.
14. Another means to curb them, is to balance them by others, as proud as they.
If at all such ambitious persons are employed, it is essential to preempt any over-zealous tendency in him by employing another person of equivalent talent in a parallel position.
15. But then there must be some middle counsellors, to keep things steady; for without that ballast, the ship will roll too much.
Bacon says, even this is not enough. What if the two persons collude to plot against the king? They may also fall out with each other creating disharmony and undesirable hostility around the master. To prevent such a situation from happening, a few counselors or high-level officials or ministers may be appointed to bring stability and coherence to the set-up.
16. At the least, a prince may animate and inure some meaner persons, to be as it were scourges, to ambitions men.
The prince / king / employer / head of state may prop up and bring in a person of somewhat lesser upbringing and inferior attributes to the inner circle. Although these persons may appear misfits and, even, disagreeable to be in the inner circle, they offer a counterweight to the overly ambitious and crafty employee.
17. As for the having of them obnoxious to ruin; if they be of fearful natures, it may do well; but if they be stout and daring, it may precipitate their designs, and prove dangerous.
Bacon exhibits his keen sense of observation and judgment here. If the potential candidate for the post of security-in-charge and advisor (similar to a minister’s job) has an awesome exterior, repulsive persona and an unpleasant aura around him, he may well be the right candidate for the job of the body-guard cum protector. In contrast, if the person is robustly-built with a daring nature, his appointment may invite disaster.
18. As for the pulling of them down, if the affairs require it, and that it may not be done with safety suddenly, the only way is the interchange, continually, of favors and disgraces; whereby they may not know what to expect, and be, as it were, in a wood.
If suspicion arises about the integrity and loyalty of the aides, and they are perceived to be potential usurpers, it would be advisable to ease them out cleverly. No rash action against them should be taken against them, lest they explode and do something nasty. In order not to upset them with the impression that they are facing dismissal, the ruler may confuse them through deception. He may reward them today, reprimand them tomorrow. Such ambiguous signals from the ruler will leave them wondering as to where they stand. Such confusion in their minds will unwittingly freeze their evil thoughts and put their unwanted ambitions in cold storage.
19. Of ambitions, it is less harmful, the ambition to prevail in great things, than that other, to appear in everything; for that breeds confusion, and mars business.
Bacon proceeds to argue that ‘ambition’, per se, is not bad. For example, a budding author wanting to write well to outshine his contemporaries is a good thing. A musician trying to blaze a new trail through his creative music is a great gift to society. A doctor trying to rise to world eminence by his medical skill is a boon to humanity. But, such burning ambition and zeal should be restricted to the area they excel in. It should not spill over to other domains like administration, military and other state’s affairs. In such case, an overly ambitious person is a potential hazard. He carries the seed of destruction of the state.
20. But yet it is less danger, to have an ambitious man stirring in business, than great in dependences.
So, it is welcome when ambitious people excel in their areas through single-minded effort. But it is fraught to have ambitious people in key administrative positions. The ruler depends on these functionaries to run the day-to-day administrations. Ambitious people may play havoc when they realize that the ruler leans on them to run the administration.
21. He that seeketh to be eminent amongst able men, hath a great task; but that is ever good for the public.
Pursuit of excellence, fame and adulation by gifted individuals can never be bad for the mankind. These people should be nurtured and rewarded.
22. But he, that plots to be the only figure amongst ciphers, is the decay of a whole age.
However, if a person wants to tower over others and sway ordinary people to his control, we can conclude that his rise is ominous for the state. If not nipped in the bud early, he will destroy his own state and his generation.
23. Honor hath three things in it: the vantage ground to do good; the approach to kings and principal persons; and the raising of a man’s own fortunes.
Honor, as understood generally, brings the following benefits to an individual.
a. Reaching an exalted position in society, b.The access to the king and the upper echelons of power, and c. Affluence, prosperity and well-being.
24. He that hath the best of these intentions, when he aspireth, is an honest man; and that prince, that can discern of these intentions in another that aspireth, is a wise prince.
An ambitious man who limits his aspirations to the above three goals is the right man to be engaged, encouraged and rewarded. The prince who correctly reads these attributes in an aspiring person and decides to take him on board is the wise ruler worthy of appreciation.
25. Generally, let princes and states choose such ministers, as are more sensible of duty than of using; and such as love business rather upon conscience, than upon bravery, and let them discern a busy nature, from a willing mind.
In conclusion, Bacon dons the garb of the modern HR manger for the princes, rulers and people in the highest authority of power. He wants a. People with their mind rigidly anchored to their duty to be nominated. b. People, who have propensity to use their position to further their own ambitions, should be shunned. c. People, who are driven by their conscience rather than by their bravery to discharge their duty, are to be chosen. d. People who love to remain engrossed in their work are to be given preference over those who exhibit obedience and servility.

If you need a more detailed note with questions and answers and a critical appreciation of Francis Bacon, please write to us.

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Answers to COMPREHENSION EXERCISE 2

Answers to Comprehension Exercise 2 — (School level)
The Ghosts of Mrs Gandhi
by Amitav Ghose
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Nowhere else in the world did the year 1984 fulfill its apocalyptic portents as it did in India. Separatist violence in the Punjab, the military attack on the great Sikh temple of Amritsar; the assassination of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi; riots in several cities; the gas disaster in Bhopal – the events followed relentlessly on each other. There were days in 1984 when it took courage to open the New Delhi papers in the morning.
Of the year’s many catastrophes, the sectarian violence following Mrs Gandhi’s death had the greatest effect on my life. Looking back, I see that the experiences of that period were profoundly important to my development as a writer; so much so that I have never attempted to write about them until now.
At that time, I was living in a part of New Delhi called Defence Colony – a neighborhood of large, labyrinthine houses, with little self-contained warrens of servants’ rooms tucked away on roof-tops and above garages. When I lived there, those rooms had come to house a floating population of the young and straitened journalists, copywriters, minor executives, and university people like myself. We battened upon this wealthy enclave like mites in a honeycomb, spreading from rooftop to rooftop. Our ramshackle lives curtailed from our landlords of chiffon-draped washing lines and thickets of TV serials. Continue reading

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COMPREHENSION EXERCISE 2 — School level

Comprehension Exercise 2 — (School level)

The Ghosts of Mrs Gandhi
by Amitav Ghose
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Nowhere else in the world did the year 1984 fulfill its apocalyptic portents as it did in India. Separatist violence in the Punjab, the military attack on the great Sikh temple of Amritsar; the assassination of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi; riots in several cities; the gas disaster in Bhopal – the events followed relentlessly on each other. There were days in 1984 when it took courage to open the New Delhi papers in the morning.

Of the year’s many catastrophes, the sectarian violence following Mrs Gandhi’s death had the greatest effect on my life. Looking back, I see that the experiences of that period were profoundly important to my development as a writer; so much so that I have never attempted to write about them until now.

At that time, I was living in a part of New Delhi called Defence Colony – a neighborhood of large, labyrinthine houses, with little self-contained warrens of servants’ rooms tucked away on roof-tops and above garages. When I lived there, those rooms had come to house a floating population of the young and straitened journalists, copywriters, minor executives, and university people like myself. We battened upon this wealthy enclave like mites in a honeycomb, spreading from rooftop to rooftop. Our ramshackle lives curtailed from our landlords of chiffon-draped washing lines and thickets of TV serials.

I was twenty-eight. The city I considered home was Calcutta, but New Delhi was where I had spent all my adult life except for a few years in England and Egypt. I had returned to India two years before, upon completing a doctorate at Oxford, and recently found a teaching job at Delhi University. But it was in the privacy of my baking rooftop hutch that my real life was lived. I was writing my first novel, in the classic fashion, perched in garret.

On the morning of October 31, the day of Mrs. Gandhi’s death, I caught a bus to Delhi University, as usual, at about half past nine. From where I lived, it took an hour and half; a long commute, but not an exceptional one for New Delhi. The assassination had occurred shortly before, just a few miles away, but I had no knowledge of this when I boarded the bus. Nor did I notice anything untoward at any point during the ninety-minute journey. But the news, traveling by word of mouth, raced my bus to the university.

When I walked into the grounds, I saw not the usual boisterous, Frisbee-throwing crowd of students but a small group of people standing intently around transistor radio. A young man detached himself from one of the huddles and approached me, his mouth twisted into light tipped, knowing smile that seems always to accompany the gambit “Have you heard…?”

The campus was humming, he said. No one knew for sure, but it was being said that Mrs. Gandhi had been shot. The word was that she had been assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards, in revenge for her having sent troops to raid the Sikhs’ Golden Temple in Amritsar earlier that year.

Just before stepping into the lecture room, I heard a report on All India Radio, the national network: Mrs. Gandhi had been rushed to hospital after her attempted assassinations.

Nothing stopped: the momentum of the daily routine carried things forward. I went into a classroom and began my lecture, but not many students had shown up and those who had were distracted and distant; there was a lot of fidgeting.

Halfway through the class, I looked out through the room’s single, slit-like window. The sunlight lay bright on the lawn below and on the trees beyond. It was the time of year when Delhi was at its best, crisp and cool. Its abundant greenery freshly watered by the recently retreated monsoons, its skies washed sparkling clean. By the time I turned back, I had forgotten what I was saying and had to reach for my notes.

My unsteadiness surprised me. I was not an uncritical admirer of Mrs. Gandhi. Her brief period of semi-dictatorial rule in the mid-seventies was still alive in my memory. But the ghastliness of her sudden murder was a reminder of the very real qualities that had been taken for granted: her fortitude, her dignity, her physical courage, her endurance. Yet it was just not grief I felt at the moment. Rather, it was a sense of something loose, of a mooring coming united somewhat within.

The first reliable report of Mrs. Gandhi’s death was broadcast from Karachi, by Pakistan, at around 1:30 PM. On All India Radio regular broadcast had been replaced by music.

I left the university in the late afternoon with a friend, Hari Sen, who lived at the other end of the city. I needed to make a long-distance call, and he had offered to let me use his family telephone.

To get to Hari’s house we had to change buses at Connaught Place, that elegant circular arcade that lies at the geographical heart of Delhi, linking the old city with the new. As the bus swung around the periphery of the arcade, I noticed that the shops, stalls, and eteries were beginning to shut down, even though it was still afternoon.

Our next bus was not quite full, which was unusual. Just as it was pulling out, a man ran out of the office and jumped on. He was middle-aged and dressed in shirt and trousers, evidently an employee in one of the government buildings. He was a Sikh, but I scarcely noticed this at the time.

He probably jumped on without giving the matter any thought, this being his regular, daily bus. But, as it happened, on this day no choice could have been more unfortunate, for the route of the bus went past the hospital where Indira Gandhi’s body then lay. Certain loyalists in her party had begun inciting the crowds gathered there to seek revenge. The motorcade of Giani Zail Singh, the President of the Republic, a Sikh, had already been attacked by a mob.

None of this was known to us then, and we would never have suspected it: violence had never been directed at the Sikhs in Delhi. Continue reading

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Comprehension exercise 1

Comprehension Text – A paltry 19 minutes a day

Since the arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1450, the primacy of the written word — as a means of distributing information, for delivering pleasure — has been mostly unquestioned. But with the rise of radio, television, and now the Internet, print’s reign has come under fire, and is perhaps approaching an end. A recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has foud that the average American spends only 19 minutes a day reading; young people read less than ever, apparently, with people ages 25 to 34 reading eight minutes a day on weekends and holidays, while those 20 to 24 average around 10. This, of course, is a decline: a report from Common Sense Media found that 45% of 17-year-olds admit only reading for pleasure a few times a year — up from 19% in 1984. The causes implicated were obvious, naturally having to do with the ubiquitous presence of screens in our lives. Is this progress? It’s hard to say. Vox has some pretty charts that’ll help you decide for yourself.

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