Eat, Pray, Love

India is a land of many, many contradictions. Since ancient times foreigners have been fascinated by India who have come here to find themselves, or religion, or something equally important.

Continuing with this tradition, writer & journalist Elizabeth Gilbert travelled to India during a difficult period in her personal life in an attempt to find herself, spirituality and love. Her memoires are published in her highly successful & acclaimed 2006 spiritual travelogue named “Eat, Pray, Love” (the book was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 110 weeks).

A few days ago, Hollywood star Julia Roberts arrived in India to shoot Ryan Murphy’s screenplay adaptation of the book. The filming of the movie is taking place at “Ashram Harimandir” in Pataudi, Haryana – 40 Km from Gurgaon. The Ashram is a picturesque 25-acre campus, which houses a temple, an educational institution for higher learning, residences for students & an old persons’ home.

Despite the fascination India holds for foreigners and its reputation for being a destination where one can find piece of mind, spirit and body; Indians seem to find their own country as a place where they lose themselves in the daily humdrum of life and living. We are so busy with our daily lives that we don’t question contradictions and idiosyncrasies in our systems and behaviours.

Included in this contradiction is the decision of the Ashram authorities to shut the educational institution for a period of 2-3 weeks for the filming of the movie. The authorities of the educational institution seem to have forgotten that their primary job is to teach the students and to prepare them with life skills relevant to their chosen fields of specialization. In turn students also devote significant time and effort mastering the syllabi and sharpening their skills. The closing of the institution for something as trivial as a filming of a movie seems to be an extreme injustice to the students. This is specially so when the primary argument given by almost all educational institutions in India – for not changing/ improving existing teaching learning practices and/or adopting best practice – is work overload and paucity of time.

How is it that work overload and unavailability of time are not factors considered while making the decision to suspend classes? In recent months, a number of schools have temporarily suspended classes – some of them being the most prestigious and best in India – as a precautionary measure against H1N1 (Swine Flu). Now, closure of an educational institution as a precaution against swine flu makes perfect sense – but this does not take away the schools responsibility to take measures to compensate for lost time. Most schools, especially when it comes to their senior school and students who will be sitting for the external board exams, will put in a programme which will make up for lost time. This brings me to the point that I would like to make – where there is a will, there is a way and where there is a need, solutions are found and in these situations constraints are not impediments but catalysts for creative solutions. When it comes to our education system, we need to recognise the dire need for bringing about positive change to make the system more relevant to the requirements of the 21st century (there is an urgent need and ways to address the need must be found). Mr. Kapil Sibal’s reform push have provided the thrust for change; the other stakeholders now must to do their bit to ensure that there is a positive outcome to these initiatives.