Do not play the Great Game!

This is an amazing piece of writing by Ma’am:1_wk8A0w4oT-e54E38O5y9yg.jpeg

It is a time like no other.

You are about to start on the most important, most awaited and most respected race of life — the Rat Race.

If this word conjures mild negative feelings in your mind, blame your idealistic teachers, some unnecessarily wise people and some obscure columnists for that. They might have tried to spread fear and disgust against this greatest race. They might have gone as far as demeaning it or belittling it. They might have tried hard to convince you to do ‘meaningful’ work, whatever that is. I mean, every child knows that work must be necessarily boring, mundane, repetitive and meaningless. How else do you define work?

The Rat Race sees the largest participation all over the world. Of course, billions of people cannot be wrong. So, cast aside any doubt that you may have. Do not pause to think, just prepare to run.

Like all races of the world, the biggest prize goes to the fastest runner. The fastest runner will be awarded the golden opportunity of ‘settling’ in the dream land of milk and honey, which awaits you with open arms with its black luxury sedans, eight-lane expressways, overflowing departmental stores, glass-front skyscrapers and so many other wonderful things.

Comrade Rat, you just have to get a couple of things right — that’s it — your one-way ticket to paradise is confirmed. Don’t forget, rats all over the world are doing far more for far lesser prizes. It’s because they don’t know the correct techniques. But worry not, I am here to guide you.

I am sure you have been told and re-told about the necessary things you need to do. But this to-do list will help you to absolutely nail it and hence you should also nail this list in every possible place of your house (including the bathroom).

  1. Read not ‘for pleasure’, but for vocabulary, reading speed and scores.

Of course, reading textbook is different. They can make your grades look good. But which person, in their correct mind, can pick up a story book for fun? But alas! Those horrible things now stand between you and your dream. Sadly, the steps to paradise is marked with vocabulary. We can hope that the gatekeepers of heaven will eventually understand the futility of reading and reform the SAT test. But till then, you must put up with this nonsense.

So, dig out that useless device called Kindle, dust it and read. Even though you are forced to do this, never forget the true objective of reading. It is to gather vocabulary and increase your reading speed, NOT to get enjoyment out of it. While reading, if you happen to have the feeling of ‘enjoyment’, put down the Kindle, take deep breath and wait till the feeling passes.

2. Comrade Rat, beware of people called ‘friends’. Friends are enemies.

Self-optimisation is going to be the key ingredient for winning this race. Things like ‘friendship’, being ‘helpful’, ‘volunteering’ are severe roadblocks on your way. These will only reduce your scores. In order to win, you must demotivate friends (especially the ones who will also give SAT), be selfish and secretive, and never do anything which will not decorate your CV.

For example, you can sneakily collect past exam papers on the net, practise them before the mock tests to score highly. This will go a long way to make friends feel inferior. Or, if you have luckily come across an English or Math book which can help in increasing your scores, never utter a word about its existence to friends. Or, if your school teachers ask you to volunteer for the Contest Week or to take classes of junior kids, agree only if they promise you in writing that they will mention it in their recommendations. If they don’t give you a confirmation on this, feign a stomach ache or dysentery.

Don’t even write an article like this one because no newspaper or magazine is going to publish such a writing, so such an activity cannot add to your resume.

3. I still see you often indulging yourself in something called the Great Game. That treacherous game must be avoided like plague.

I will not have to remind you, Comrade Rat, the immense importance of the extracurricular activities. Every second of your life that’s not spent in collecting grades and scores (in SAT, APs, Subject Tests, Board Exams) must be spend in collecting achievements in extra-curriculars.

Think objectively and selfishly, Comrade. Does the Great game add to your profile? Does scoring a century in this school-invented game add to your list of achievements? The gatekeepers of paradise will laugh at you, Comrade Rat. Hence, never ever play that thing again. As per the colleges, it is not an ‘extra-curricular’ activity. Let me tell you what is.

If your parents are rich, go to Congo or Zambia — take a picture of you feeding the poorest child you can catch near the airport. The gatekeeper of the paradise are real suckers for that kind of stuff.

Or publish a book (it doesn’t matter if anybody reads it or not, so don’t bother about writing quality) — daddy can surely pay a willing publisher to help you. If unfortunately, you possess poorer parents, participate in every possible competition you can find — swimming, poetry, singing, dancing, story-writing, karate, weight-lifting or archery — try to win at least one of them.

In case of failure in everything, community service will rescue you. Go clean the tables in the town library or donate your faded and shredded clothes to homeless people. Those colleges really prefer self-optimising people who can pretend to be saints. That’s really the ultimate character trait to posses. If you are in doubt, look at the richest people in the world.

I think with these precious advice, you are now ready to embark on your journey. Cross your heart and make a solemn promise to yourself that you will never violate the instructions given here. Follow them blindly and the paradise will be yours.

All the best!

A letter to Sir

This is a nice letter of appreciation written by Goody Goody to Sir:

I have thought of writing something about you many times. Every time I open the word document or hold a pen between my fingers and start thinking about you, my thought travels a similar path down my mind. It starts with exploring the innumerable facets of you that can be captured. It ends with complete awe of your limitless capabilities and I am tentative to start, fearing I would fail to encapsulate everything about you, every person that you are, every role that you have played, every risk that you have taken, every battle that you have won, every moment that you have gifted.

Today I am determined to continue. Whatever little bit I can chronicle about you, that’s still better than not writing a word. Because –

Everyone must know about the different roles that you have played.

They should know you have been the most innovative teacher, finding out the best books and movies for us, carrying the discussion from pages of books to the outer world, from movies to real-life, and teaching them in the best possible settings, sometimes while watching the rain or sometimes while sitting under the sun. You would agree to our demands about discussing Life is Beautiful while watching the rain or discussing Catcher in the Rye sitting on the staircase outside the admin while enjoying the cool breeze. Those were some of the perfect times in our lives, reading the perfectly chosen books in the perfect settings with the perfect teacher.

They should know you have been the best of friends, sharing stories with us, playing with us, hearing us out when we had grievances, lending a helping hand whenever we needed. You would share stories from your IIT days and work days, drawing lessons, at the same time entertaining us. You would be the most excited player in the field of Great Game. Even when we were small, you would take us seriously and treat us as equals.

They should know that you are the best guardian, guiding us to the correct path, making us able individuals to face the difficult world. You knew how unhappy we would be in Indian colleges, so you took on the unknown difficulty of admitting us to US colleges or taking the unconventional path of keeping some of us in the school. You told us not to trust anything or anyone blindly. By discussing about work and about relationships, you prepared us for life. You talked about unhappiness and many ways it would find us. You asked us to have a higher cause than just wealth and fame.

Everyone must know about the different people that you have been in your life.

They should know that you have been a risk-taker, who chose to give up a settled life, leave a high-paying job, keep the luxury of metro-cities behind, and come to a small tier-III town to start your entrepreneurial venture.

They should know that you didn’t just choose to remain an entrepreneur, but you also became a social activist. You could have very well limited yourself to making the school successful, catering to the demands of the parents, but you remained firm on your stand about Engineering and IITs, letting no students take the path which has destroyed so many childhood and career. You even became a columnist, talking about how the craze for engineering career should stop. Through your relentless drive, you saved a lot of lives from becoming victims of  their parents’ unfulfilled dreams.

They should know that you are a free-thinker and a revolutionary who could challenge Indian education system. You reimagined the whole system; you banned textbooks in the school despite a lot of opposition, in the process even renouncing your own identity and claims to earlier fame. Because you valued the truth above all, so you were not even deterred to say that your academic credentials were products of a wrong system. You criticised IITs without choosing to make it your identity, you opposed the Indian exam-system even though you were a state-ranker in the same system.

They should know that when you taught history it felt like you have experienced it first-hand. When you taught movies it felt like you have been in the shoes of those characters. When you taught us math I saw you deriving the formulas from scratch in front of my eyes. You could have probably invented some of those formulas if you had chosen a different, more specialised path. You didn’t just teach these subjects, you put the insights gained from them to practical use, sometimes using Lenin’s strategy or sometimes Gandhi’s.

Everyone must know about the beautiful moments that you have gifted.

They should know that inside and outside the classroom it was a pleasure to be with you. You would always be entertaining us, making us laugh with your jokes, making us more knowledgeable about the world, coming up with great ideas or tweets right in front of us. Sitting right at the Theque, while listening to Bollywood music being played in the background, you came up with an explanation of why cheap music is produced more now as opposed to medieval times. Sitting right at the lunch table, you started a furious debate between bucketists and showerists, in the common meeting you started a debate between chair-ists and floor-ists, spoon-ists and hand-ists – all these were fun but at the same time intellectually stimulating as we understood how we are instinctively but unnecessarily drawn towards the Western culture.

And who can ever forget the joke “There is a bit of Horse in Mule”, when you wanted to say how Mule has become arrogant, similar to Horse. The double meaning must have gone past many present in the room.

They should know that you made our lives more enriched, more fulfilling by keeping us away from the addiction of smartphone and internet. We are not affected by fake news, our brains are not spoiled by playing endless video games, we are so much better off by not being part of the endless hatred being spewed on social media.

They should know you taught us to appreciate not only good movies and books, but also music. Who can forget those times when you played Mozart’s music every day before beginning the class? Who can forget the sweet melody of the Beethoven’s symphonies and Vivaldi’s concertos?

I am yet to say how smartly you solved the problem of recruiting teachers, how savvily you moulded the opinion of the people of this town, how you keep the non-teaching staff happy and united, how astutely you got your way even after keeping everyone happy.

In front of all your achievements, contributions, and the ones I couldn’t still capture, I feel too small to be even be a chronicler. A letter is not enough to tell about you to others; an entire book can be written on you, and maybe it will be written someday.

The uniqueness that we are part of:

This is a writing by Shruti about how our school is way ahead of even the best colleges in the world.

Our school is so unique that “no school in the whole world compares with it”. As you may be knowing, the quoted line is from our school’s official video. When I was re-watching it a month back, this line made me think — is it just that no school compares with our school? I felt that not only any other school but no college, no university in the whole wide world compares with it. It’s a strong statement to make and the validity of my statement could be doubted as I knew little of other colleges and universities. But now, a month down the line, I can tell with full confidence that wherever you go, anywhere around the globe, you would find no place like ours.

Before I say what gives me that confidence, I must give some background. Our Path 2 and 3 students will apply to the US universities, the best in the world. In the process of advising the students and figuring out who is going to find their fit where, I came to know those places better. Many colleges seemed to have their own flavours which is unique to their place. To my surprise, their uniqueness was strangely familiar; what they called unique was not new to me because each of their uniqueness is very much part of our lives here at our school!

Let’s talk about Deep Springs College which is the most unique among all (If you have any doubt, just google it). The unique feature is that its students are responsible for running the college. An integral part of their curriculum is running a ranch which means students devote a substantive part of their day to tasks like cleaning, cooking, farming, etc. The aim is to develop a sense of responsibility, ownership, humility in the students and above all, teach them to work for the community.

The parallels between Deep Spring and our school cannot go unnoticed. Our school is a student-run place with the students teaching junior classes, running the canteen, maintaining our social media presence, setting up the computer infrastructure, and taking part in variety of other activities. Through this work, the school fosters in them a strong sense of responsibility. Through the group projects, the school fosters in them the sense of ownership — to work for the benefit of the group instead of caring about self only. Working for the local people keeps them grounded, teaching them humility. Above all, it teaches them the value of giving back to the place they are from.

Let’s move on and look at another college named Davidson. One section of their home page reads ‘#DAVIDSONTRUE’ which says that Davidson wants to inculcate a culture of truth, sincerity, and integrity in their students. Their campus is governed by a system of Honour Code which means they expect the students to take responsibility of their performance with honesty and integrity.

We don’t call it ‘#LEVELFIELDTRUE’, but this unique feature of Davidson is very much present in our school. We also have instituted a system of Honour Code in senior classes successfully. Our senior students take internal exams completely un-proctored, they check it themselves, sometimes the answer key is also handed over with the question paper, with the expectation that they would not look at it before or during the exam.

Then there is Cornell College and Colorado College. They advocate the philosophy of ‘one course at a time’ — also called the Block Plan. That means students immerse themselves in one single subject for around a month and not dilute the intensive experience by studying any other subject.

This famous ‘Block Plan’ which makes them unique is part of our school’s philosophy too, though not officially called the ‘Block Plan’. Here the students learn only one subject for a month in a focused way and completely immerse themselves in it so much so that the subject becomes the topic of discussions beyond the classroom, often invading their informal conversations.

Coming to know of these colleges and what they stand for, I could finally validate my statement. No school and no college and no university can ever match up to the standards and values of our school.

I realized, all the world’s best colleges and universities rolled into one is our school. Maybe all of them combined would still fall short of this place. The best school, the best college, the best university is here, our second home, our school.

To Sir, with gratitude

Urgi’s heartfelt letter to Sir on the occasion of Teacher’s Day, 2019:

Dear Sir,

It’s teachers day today but I was wondering whether one day is enough to celebrate and appreciate all you have done for us over the last many years. Over almost the last decade that you have taught us, you have toiled for us and everyday, through bits and pieces, built into us the foundations through which we could become someday worthy and able members of society, capable of being successful in almost every endeavor that life throws at us.

There are not many people who can do this and it would be unfair to say that you’ve only been a teacher to us, in the conventional sense that is. You’ve been to us much more than that, to us you’ve been like a mentor who has prepared us for life by arming us with the set of skills that’s required for survival. To us you taught not only how to fight the battle of formal education, which is merely temporary in nature, but something much more permanent, the battle of life itself.

In many a ways to us you taught these various skills.

One such skill which you built in us was the need for thought. It was you who taught to us that in the end it was the thought that counted and the thinker that was rewarded, and so we must learn to think if we wanted to be successful in life. From a very early age this is what you prioritized in us and not something the other schools prioritized, to mug up and then throw up in the exam.

Having built into us the ability to think, to be our own person and not a sheep, you then tried to make us all into mature and responsible human beings. This you did through various ingenious ways. One of those ways was that you made us run the school with you so that we would develop some of the skills and organizational abilities needed to run, well, organizations.

But to get to the adult life in which the learning of all these skills would pay off we first needed to pass some hurdles. We had to first pass the barriers that had been put in place by society in terms of formal education. For this you taught us, and taught us you did phenomenally. Instead of making us memorize things that we could have then written in exams you gave us real learning. All the subjects that needed to be learnt you taught us the concepts and principles of and that too in the most interesting way possible. The results of these teachings were immediately evident as most of us ended up getting top scores and grades in almost every exam we gave.

In all the ways that I mentioned till now you’ve enriched us as a group. But to me personally you have helped a hundred times as well to become a better person in every aspect.

One such time was when last year I had gone off track by thinking of colleges as the ultimate destination for fame and glory in life, thinking of them as paradise even. But thankfully you became aware of the illusory bubble in which I was living and brought me back to reality.

This, though one of the greatest ways in which you’ve helped me, compares not at all when taking into consideration the inspiration you’ve constantly been to me throughout the last decade or so. Before there was the need to do well in exams for my own sake, my motivation to do better everyday came from you. In you I saw somebody I wanted to be like, somebody worthy of being like, somebody smart and compassionate and caring. To me as a result you were like a parental figure, a guiding force.

Finally, though this really could go on, the most fundamental way in which you have changed my life, and everybody elses’ really, is due to the fact that you opened this school. With this school you provided to us a magical and radical place in a place where tried and failed convention really had the upper hand. By opening this school you changed our lives forever.

So Sir, for all of this I’m greatly thankful. Thank you for teaching us the skills we needed to survive in this world. Thank you for providing us with a wonderful childhood by opening a school of wonders. And above all thank you for being such an inspirational parental figure who was always there for us. So Sir, THANK YOU for all this and with this I wish to say to you happy Teachers Day, though to me you have been a lot more than that.

To Sir

-From Urgi

Our beloved Common Meeting

This is Ma’am’s writing about our Common Meeting reminiscing some of the great enriching and fun-filled moments that we have shared together.

We stayed in the Karidhya Campus for not very long but we were perfectly at home there. The intimate structure of the building, the two small fields — where we played football and badminton, the middle courtyard — which was our cricket pitch, along with the forest outside was a very well-loved campus. The middle courtyard was particularly memorable for various other reasons.

The common tiffin time was great fun. We remember how the whole school used to have food together sitting along the corridors. The food would be over soon, but fun and frivolity will continue for a long time. There would be imaginary games where students will play perfectly synchronized cricket matches at the absence of any cricket bat or ball!

The 4 o’clock time was also very memorable. Again, the entire school will be congregating, chattering and bantering away; saying the last few things of the day to us and to their friends, the last few smiles and waving of goodbyes until we met again the next day. Through the lunchtime and 4 o’clock time, we all became close, and the whole school, irrespective of class boundaries, became a single group of friends.

Our shift to the current campus in Husnabad was exciting. This campus was a huge upgrade from our earlier school buildings. It was far bigger compared to both of our earlier campuses — in Dangalpara and in Karidhya. Our new campus had a large field in the middle of the compound bordered by the cottage-styled classrooms on two sides and the big L-shaped two storied building at the far end. We moved from a four-roomed school building in Dangalpara to finally a 20+ roomed campus with a lot of open spaces.

But as the space increased, the intimacy reduced. After the initial excitement of shifting to the new campus was over, we realised that students were becoming strangers to each other gradually. All the classes had separate tiffin time, inside particular tiffin rooms. Even at 4 o’clock, when the school will get over, students would be scattered all over the large campus — making it impossible to have some common fun or talk before we call it a day.

The idea of common meeting was borne out of this dissatisfaction of the students gradually becoming distant from each other. We decided the bring back the familiarity, to have some common time with the whole school (or most of it) — even if it is through some artificial structure of a daily meeting at a particular time slot. Hence started our Common Meeting.

We were not very sure what would be the topic of discussion in this new Common Meeting. What we were sure of was that we wanted to meet and talk to all of you together every day. We decided that if on certain days we run out of our usual banter, then our Plan B would be to discuss some EVS slides with you. Somehow in all these months and years, Plan B never had to be used. And now that we look back on all our common meetings we understand that between us we never needed a Plan B, the Plan A always worked and that is half an hour a day of talking to all of you together without any agenda, without any plan. The topics of discussions just appeared every day as we met you. We had to tell you so much about the world, about our country, about our town, our neighbourhood, about the school, about you. We never ran out of conversations.

The Common Meeting had a humble start — the sole objective of which was to keep in touch, was to keep the conversations going. But it became much, much bigger than that over the course of time. What did we not discuss in these meetings! Topics varying from why a student has hygiene issues to why poor countries have more corruption; from topics of economics to topics of relationship; from analysing the news of Suri to analysing the behaviour of global politicians. No discussion was off-limit and nothing was beyond questioning. Out of many memorable common meetings that we had a few that would always be close to my heart:

There was one where Sir read out and explained you the meaning of one of Wilfred Owen’s poem — Disabled. The poem was a very traumatic and moving account of an ex-soldier, crippled by the war. The common class, which is normally always full of laughter fell absolutely silent during this discussion. The usual chatter while leaving the room was also not there. We are not sure if you understood all the words and sentences of the poem but we understood that you felt something much deeper that day, that you grew up a bit that day. They say certain emotions cannot be seen or touched. But you did touch empathy that day, you did touch the sense of futility of war that day, you did touch a very pure side of yourself, which I hope have made all of you a little wiser and a little better people.

There was another very memorable and quite different incident that comes to my mind — when we had bought chairs for the Common Room. The Meeting which used to be held with you sitting on the floor was to change — from then on you would be sitting on chairs. I remember a fiery debate ensued between ‘floorists’ and ‘chairists’ about this. Strong arguments were made in favour of and against the new move of putting chairs in the room. Nothing has ever been so serious and so funny at the same time!

Then there was the ‘Clueless Contest’ — towards the very beginning. At that point we realised that most of you didn’t even know each others’ names. So a contest was organised to figure out who knew the least number of their fellow students. I remember Mars calling everyone Adrija, like choosing all Bs in a multiple choice question paper! We have come very far from those days, not only you know everyone’s names now, you also know their traits intimately.

One other day we wanted to show you the absurdity of Bollywood movies; and we showed you selected clips from certain blockbusters. By looking at Bacchan’s and Mithun’s heroics, and Shahrukh’s absurdly romantic expressions, the whole room burst into laughter. But there was a bigger point: that those movies feed us myths about justice and romanticism that’s harmful to us as a society. If the reality is grim, we need to see it in our movies, so that people are moved to do something about it.

In the common meeting we invented the ‘Mollie Disease’ (name given to the habit of endlessly wasting time), ‘Rajarshi Disease’ (when you talk more than you listen), — and often through these clear diagnoses, these diseases got cured. At least, you became more aware of your flaws and imperfections. You are not always able to change yourself or control your impulses, but due to the common meeting, there is better self-awareness in every one of you. As you got to know yourselves, you got to understand others and your surroundings better, resulting in many memorable tweets from you which were wise beyond your years.

There are so many more events that cloud my memory as I am writing this that entire volumes can be written about our discussions on these meetings.

We say to outsiders that the Common Meeting is our take on the traditional Assembly of standard schools. But that’s slightly untrue. The Common Meeting has no comparison, no equivalent anywhere in the world. Perhaps in a few years’ time, when some of you have already ventured out into the world, settling down in your new life, making new friends, trying to make them acquainted with your past life, with your roots, you might want to talk about this very exciting thing that happened every day in your school, the most enjoyable and memorable part of your school life — the Common Meeting; you might be able to tell them various anecdotes, various funny incidents, you might be able to sew various pieces of your memory about the Meeting and present to them the best that you can. Your friends will nod, show interest, be curious, they might say that they understand what you are talking about and they can understand it must be been a great experience to be part of something like this, but trust me, they will never know. The moments that we shared together in the Common Meeting has become a part of you, has made you but even then most articulate of you will probably not be able to put words to the magic that we have together been part of.

A Special Visitor

This is a nice short story written by Bhopul (Debarnab Chatterjee of Class XI, 2019) on a hypothetical scenario where a special visitor takes his class for a day. 

That day had started like any other day. School had always been a fun experience for us, but we had no inkling of what was to happen that day. It was probably the biggest surprise we were going to get in our lives.

Homo Deus class was about to begin. We took our booklets and sat down, waiting for Ma’am to come and start her discussion. Today’s topic of discussion was about the future of humanity due to the rise of artificial intelligence.

Ma’am came into the class and told, “Today I am not going to take your class. Today somebody else is going to take your class. Somebody more interesting. Who can it be? Guess?”.

Urgi’s hand shot up.

“Who is it, Urgi?” Ma’am asked.

“Sir, right?” Urgi answered.

Mule too raised his hand, albeit a little sheepishly.

“I don’t think it is Sir. Sir very frequently comes and discusses bits and parts of the booklet with us. I think it is somebody from outside. Probably one of Sir’s friends,” Mule said.

“Wait Mule… Sir comes and discusses only bits and parts of the book with us in this class. He doesn’t discuss the whole time. So probably he is going to take our class today for the entire two hours,” Mollie contradicted.

“Okay…No need for so much of speculation! You will get to see who is going to take your class today, very soon,” Ma’am shouted, silencing the whole class.

Just then the door opened and a man walked in with Sir. At first glance I didn’t understand who the man was. But now that his face could be seen, I saw that the man was none other than the author of Homo Deus: Yuval Noah Harari himself.

Harari had always been present in our classroom. The man Harari may not have been there, but his ideas had dominated our classrooms.

My other friends, having understood the magnitude of the situation, gasped in surprise. After all it had been our dream to have an interactive session with Harari, or at the very least meet him.

Harari was wearing a grey blazer, which seemed too big to fit his measurements. He wore matte black shoes. He was wearing spectacles behind which twinkling and radiating intelligence, were two eyes.

Sir introduced us to Harari and told him that we were very big fans of him. On hearing that Sapiens and Homo Deus were a compulsory part of our school’s curriculum, he smiled broadly. He seemed delighted when he heard that some of us have also read “21 lessons for the 21st century.”

“Will you please introduce yourselves to me?” Harari asked. Everyone began introducing themselves by telling their names and the class they study in.

I had the impression that he was going to be an authoritative figure; after all, he was the author of such great books. But he seemed to be just the opposite — it seemed as if he didn’t like so much attention. He seemed satisfied to be here but he seemed awkward at the same time.

Ma’am gave him the booklet. He seemed to be impressed by the format of the booklet. He asked us what we were supposed to discuss. But the whole class seemed to be against the idea of discussing Homo Deus. We were more interested in just talking to him, talking about him.

“Can we not have the discussion today and instead just discuss about different stuff?” Urgi asked Ma’am.

“That’s not a very bad idea,” I said, voicing my support for Urgi.

“He’s here for a day. So shouldn’t you discuss his book with him rather than just talking?” Sir said.

“His book already explains his ideas beautifully. So shouldn’t we just use this opportunity to get to know him better?” Aritra said.

Sir seemed to accept this proposal, albeit with a bit of reluctance.

Immediately after Sir and Ma’am had taken their seats and Harari had taken the microphone in his hands, there was a show of hands. I could see that Mule was raising his hand with an impish grin on his face. He was the first one to ask — “We read in an interview that you don’t kill mosquitoes, but just catch them and send them out. Why do you do this?”

“I’m against the killing of animals in general, mosquitoes included.” Harari replied to Mule’s question.

“Why did you write Sapiens in the first place?” Arnab asked.

“Well, as many of you may be knowing, I teach at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am a professor of history there. So, in one of my classes I had wanted to teach them about the history of humanity. As a reading material for the class, I had written some notes for the students. Later on these notes were compiled and published as the book ‘Sapiens’, that you read today.” Harari replied.

“You seem to be against the usage of smartphones and internet. But, do you yourself use smartphones?” Penta asked.

“I’m not really against the use of smartphones. They are the most revolutionary invention of this century — so far — and the internet has immense potential for doing good to society. However, all technology really does is to provide leverage. It will do good or bad depending on what we want it to do. Since it is in the interest of the most powerful people of this age to use technology to exploit, that is what it does. I’m not against the internet; it is merely a tool. But to answer your question, no, I don’t use a smartphone,” Harari replied.

Everyone was quiet for some time after Harari’s reply, trying to absorb and understand what he just said. I broke the silence by raising my hand, and asking, “How do you manage to undergo the two-months long rigorous Vipassanā meditation?” Urgi whispered to me, “Good question. We can’t survive without talking for two hours in the computer lab. How can he survive for two months?”

“I come to Mumbai to do Vipassanā meditation for two months every year. I find meditation to be particularly soothing. It helps me track my thoughts and helps me to understand myself and the world better. Once you start following your thought, meditation will seem easy,” Harari replied before seating down.

Now Sir came forward and told that Harari had to leave Suri to catch his flight to Mumbai. Harari had come here en-route to Mumbai, where he was going to do Vipassanā for the next two months.

Harari told that he was delighted to interact with us and would have liked to spend some more time, but he had to leave due to his tight schedule. He further mentioned that if possible, he would like to be here with us next year too.


Though this account is fictional, and Harari has not been here in the school in flesh and blood (and unlikely to be here in the future too, as he hates travel), he has always been teaching us. So are other stalwarts like Richard Dawkins (whose book Magic of Reality forms the basis of our First Science Lessons), Carl Sagan and Neil Tyson (through their TV series Cosmos), Jawaharlal Nehru (his writings inspired our First History Lessons).

If you want great teachers, you just need to reach out to them through their books!