Monday, 30th October 2017

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Kids will be kids, Prime Masterji Loud and clear and a ‘throat ache’

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  • Published 6.09.14


Event: Teachers’ Day speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

School: Delhi Public School Mathura Road

State: Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s voice reverberated off the walls — the students couldn’t escape the tenor and pitch of a single syllable even though some were seen taking frequent toilet breaks.

For many in this private school, the primary question was: you can broadcast a speech to us but can you force us to listen?

Some girls are glued to the speech…

“I do not think that it was necessary to shove the speech down our throats. Many of us here heard his August 15 speech and it was not mandatory. We would have heard this speech as well. This is like the Prime Minister telling us that ‘my speech is more important than your studies, so hear me’.

“How can anyone make that choice for me? Students who want to listen to him will do so even if it’s not compulsory,” said 17-year-old Meghna Gulati, a Class XII student who is preparing for her mid-term exams that begin next week.

DPS Mathura Road was one of the schools in the capital that had made attendance mandatory for the students of Class VI to XII and warned of “strict action” against absentees.

Almost 80 per cent students turned up, the other 20 per cent having explained their absence by citing inability to arrange transport.

…while another stifles a yawn in another school

The Delhi Transport Corporation, which ferries the students of close to 90 schools, refused to pick up students in the evening because it had to cater to office commuters.

“Parents are being punished in this entire exercise. While I have nothing against my child listening to the PM, I have a problem if I have to change my schedule to accommodate him. He could have given the speech during school hours,” said a parent who had to take a half-day’s leave to pick up his child.

The school did not telecast the speech but relayed it over speakers in every class.

“We are 17 years old, many of those listening are younger — many of us will be voters in five years. We know what his strategy is,” said Vedant Puri, a student of Class XII.

Sarthak Sharma, 17, said: “Modi is an awesome orator and neither Manmohan Singh nor Pranab Mukherjee come close to his charm. We like to hear him because his speeches seem impromptu and not practised. Yet, all this comes to naught if he becomes someone who keeps issuing diktats and expects everyone to follow them. This should be a matter of choice.”

Is he listening too hard or is he doing something else? (The photographs just capture some moments and do not mean that the students portrayed here were responding in the same manner throughout the nearly 2-hour event that included an interaction.)

The younger pupils were mostly busy with artwork or were drinking water, napping or requesting bathroom breaks. But it was not of much help. Some later said the voice from the speakers easily breached the toilet walls.

Some leaned out of the windows on the upper floors for a change of scenery. “No one is understanding anything of the speech. Actually, I think no one is even listening,” said an 11-year-old student. But that was not the case everywhere.

School: MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School, Behala

State: Bengal

Many children here did catch little Modi’s mischief when the grown-up Prime Minister recounted how he used to staple together the clothes of guests at weddings. The students laughed out aloud and some turned back to steal a glance at their teachers.

“It is a good initiative to reach out to students. But it turned out to be more about the Prime Minister than about the students, especially the questions that were asked,” said Aman Bagaria, a Class XII student.

School: Bala Vidya Mandir, Adayar

State: Tamil Nadu

The language skills of Debjani, a math teacher, helped bridge the divide in Tamil Nadu. She was among several teachers in the state who translated Modi’s speech from Hindi to English.

“I never imagined I will be translating the PM’s speech. That way, this is a memorable Teachers’ Day for me. Even otherwise, it was an interesting experiment as the country’s top executive was directly communicating with students,” Debjani said.

THE mantra and the moments

Advice given by Modi to students

• When you come out of classrooms and rooms at home, switch off the fans, lights and appliances and save electricity

• Turn off the tap while brushing teeth and conserve water

• Thread a needle during a full-moon night. On a full-moon night, if street lights are switched off for two-three hours, will it not be a service to the environment?

• My mischief? I used to staple the clothes of a man and a woman and shehnai players at weddings. But you should never indulge in such acts

• I am a task master (when a girl said Modi’s style conveyed the image of a headmaster)

• Don’t let the child in you die