[First posted on Sunday, December 25, 2005]
Some time back I was called upon to design the website of an upcoming elite school. The businessman-owner I spoke to had earlier run a computer institute. To give an essence of what the website should be like, he explained that ‘his’ school would be a ‘center of excellence’, and a day would soon there be when parents make a beeline to have their wards admitted to his school.
I lauded the businessman’s efforts, and coming back impressed, designed the website so as to portray the virtues of proper education (as I understand) and what the institute would offer in terms of nurturing ‘noble values’ of life. To my surprise, not many days later, the website I designed was pulled down.
What came up instead was a gung-ho description of amenities the school offered, like swimming pool, air-conditioned gym, karate classes, tennis court, and what have you. The motto seemed to be ‘you want it, we have it’. Crass consumerism, did you say!
I resigned believing the time of tide is no one’s doing. A recent nondescript happening however came to claim my attention, and I was not thrilled. My neighbor’s son who studied in standard eight in a similar elite school was a busy guy. Scurrying from swimming class to scoring a ton in cricket to a brief workout at gym, his time was precious while in school. When the holidays came he was lulled into inactivity which he abhorred.
Stories of his achievement were many, and so when he came round to seek my advice on ‘search engines’, I was a little wary about how much of my help would be of any worth to him. I decided to probe a little deep.
His was a holiday project which he chose along with another from among a list of five. Why the topic on search engines? Because this was the ‘hottest’ in the list, and if you knew none about the topic, you would have slim chance to score marks. Not bad, I thought, but what about the other ones! The next topic on popularity chart was ‘Indian Cricket’, which he chose (no surprise there!). Then came ‘How you spent your holiday’, the same old also-ran. The remaining two? He took time to recall because he felt no sane student would do them. Why, even the teachers were not enthused to ask for those topics.
Of the ‘other’ two, one was ‘Preserving water-lands for greater benefit’, and the other ‘Friendship among communities bring lasting peace’. I was shocked to find that no student opted these topics. Who would tell them targeting sky is alright, but it’s worth taking care to see the ground is not littered? This I believe is a telling example of times to come. An aspiring for high-life, sans concern for others.