In this paper I would like to dwell on the subtle interiorization of coloniser’s culture by the educated Indian in the postcolonial city space as reflected in Bhavani Prasad Mishra’s poem ‘Kya Karte Rahte hain’. This poem can be read as a document of fractured modern identity of the educated class in Indian cities at the threshold of post Gandhian era. Gandhi had criticized this class for becoming obsessed with Englishman’s language and ways. Bhavani Prasad Mishra, a Gandhian in thought and by practice, is deeply disturbed by the Englishman’s parting gift, the poisoned sweet that is being spread by the modern education system. The poem is about a class which is obsessed with English language and culture. It describes how the Western mode of education and work patterns have shifted our attention and energy away from our more urgent problems to pursue the goal of becoming a ‘Developed Nation’, an idea propagated by the West. Mishra’s poem questions this belief and undercuts the notion that achieving the status of a developed country would provide us with immense power and endless zones of comfort and convenience.
21st century has seen globalization, IT boom and the Internet shift the world focus from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based society impacting the ELT paradigm across the world. In the light of rapid pace of socio-economic development and the emergence of information age, demand has arisen for ‘knowledgeable workers’ and ‘smarter graduates’ equipped with a set of new skills and attitude towards work.
I feel sad and even annoyed when I hear teachers and parents complaining about the poor performance standards of students in English. ‘This is unfair,’ I would say to myself. ‘Have we ever asked those kids to communicate their ideas?’ No. All what we have done is teach them bits and fragments of English in terms of discrete sounds, words and sentences. When we ask them a question we expect them to reproduce the information that has been given to them. We don’t want them to come out with their ideas; nor do we encourage them to ask us questions, as both involve risk, the risk of making errors. Probably we have taught them hundreds of questions and answers and also have made them do several vocabulary and grammar exercises. We even go to the extent of teaching them nuances of pronunciation. By definition none of these activities provide space for communication, though we may claim that we are following communicative language teaching. I feel annoyed because this is a collective treachery inflicted on the learners as well as the teachers.