education

Things I Would Believe If I Were a School-Going Child

Who would I be if my textbooks taught me this?
June 1, 2018, 12:30pm
Oops! Galti Se Mistake: What if we learnt that Ravana did not kidnap Sita? Image: Wikimedia Commons 

The Times of India, Ahmedabad edition, reported today that the English edition of Introduction to Sanskrit carried this gem: ‘Rama is the abductor of Sita.’ Now, I haven’t read the Ramayana, but if I remember correctly from the Doordarshan TV series, wasn’t it Ravana who kidnapped Sita and took her to Lanka? I don’t really care for mythology, but if this is some conspiracy theory on the part of the translators to retell the story of Sita and Rama, just to tell kids what a misogynistic creep Rama was, I’m all for it.

Advertisement

But sadly, it is not.

The report quoted executive president of the Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks and he admitted it was a “mistake.”

Dammit! School children will now never know the truth of the ‘real Rama and his evil intentions’. And Ravana will once again be the villain, when probably he is not.

The Sita incident, although embarrassing, doesn’t really matter that much. Factual inaccuracies in Indian textbooks over the years regularly make front page headlines. But let’s not delve into that. More importantly, let's imagine what we would learn from these books had we been school-going kids today? Especially young impressionable girls? What kind of women would we become? And how independent, self-sufficient, free-thinking and feminist would we be?

We are learning all kinds of things from our grand epics. Even today, as a new textbook tells us Rama kidnapped Sita. Image: Wikimedia Commons

We gathered some examples of ‘mistakes’ in Indian textbooks and tried to analyse the consequence of internalising these lessons.

1) In 2006, a Rajasthan School Board class XI Hindi textbook likened a donkey to a housewife. “It has to toil all day and, like her, may even have to give up food and water.”

What the fuck!

It went on to add, “In fact, the donkey is a shade better, for while the housewife may sometimes complain and walk off to her parents’ home, you’ll never catch the donkey being disloyal to his master.”

Internalised Lesson: Give up food and water for ‘master’ (aka husband). Never complain (aka be a doormat). Because I’m a donkey (aka a housewife).

Advertisement

2) In 2012, another book, New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises said that non-vegetarians commit sex crimes, they cheat and lie.

I am a voracious meat-eater. My family cooks mutton everyday in Kashmir. When I eat out, I order mutton, chicken or pork. Otherwise, what’s the point. No, really. What’s the point?

Internalised Lesson: If I read this as a child in school, I might give up non-vegetarian food forever. I imagine I would grow to be prejudiced against non-vegetarians. Meat-eaters would be katti. I would obviously want to stay stay away from these “sex-crime offenders.” And I would believe vegetarian folks are the best! I would judge you by your meal. And of course never let any non-vegetarian people into my house.

3) In a book for medical students, The Essentials of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, lesbian women are called “degenerates.” And “nymphomaniacs”.

I can’t even.

Now imagine reading this without any prior experience or exposure, and believing it.

Internalised Lesson: Cut to my younger, innocent self. What am I taking away from this? This: Stay away from lesbians. They are sex maniacs. Never make friends with lesbians. Never talk to one. They are mad. They need treatment.

4) A book by the Gujarat State Board for class VI-VIII students tells me that Japan dropped a nuclear bomb on the United States during World War II.

Why stop at fucking with ideas of social justice in India? Why not spread your wings, and learnings, and embrace the world as well?

Advertisement

Internalised Lesson: Japan is evil. USA is the victim. And why did John Hersey write such a massively wrong account of things? Writers lie. Books are untrustworthy.

5) A class XII CBSE textbook declared 36-24-36 as the “best body shape for females.”

I can’t go on. You get the idea.

Internalised Lesson: I am imperfect. Never mind nobody out there fits the norm. The point is, the printed word has told me I am not good enough. Over and over again.

So finally, who have I become? A woman who thinks lesbians are degenerates, hates books, hates meat-eaters, obeys ‘master’ aka the husband, and has some major body dysmorphia and overall confidence crises.

But then, there’s no real problem here, right? Because at the end of the day, these issues are inconsequential when it comes to my destiny: I am after all born to be a donkey.

Follow Maroosha Muzaffar on Twitter .