An Interview with Dr Hemachandran Karah

Dr Hemachandran Karah is Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Karah works in the fields of disability studies and medical humanities. Following his doctoral research at Cambridge on the writings of Ved Mehta, Karah has been working on a book manuscript concerning the narratives of blind culture. In the long run, Karah is expecting to contribute towards academic debates in the areas of disability, health, and medicine. Here, in an interview with Manjari Chaturvedi and Chandra Nisha Singh, he shares his thoughts on the idea of disability pedagogy eventually moving towards a brainstorming session on newer horizons in the field.


Manjari Chaturvedi (Manjari): Hema, tell us about your early days as a student. How did you learn English following your school education in Tamil?

Hemachandran Karah (Hema): It was indeed a messy affair to begin with. Telugu and Tamil were my primary languages of thinking, playing, and breathing. While one spoke Telugu at home, the world of learning opened up solely in Tamil. This is not to mention the amount of rote learning in Tamil one has to comply with during the waking hours.

When I joined Loyola College (formerly Madras, and now Chennai), I chose to read English Literature. This was in a sense taking the English language bull by its horn. (We all laughed!) But, actually it was not that difficult; thanks to bazar guidebooks! I used to depend upon them heavily. Interestingly, they all had Tamil and English summaries and cursory reviews of the novels of Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and what not.  So, one can get a feel of a novel with a detailed vernacular review. They also offered me a cultural translation of a British world which was so far away by way of language, culture, and time. Moreover, these guidebooks are intelligent templates of our examination-driven academia.  All one has to do is to commit the template contents into memory. The templates host paraphrases, themes based Q and A sections, synonyms and antonyms of a hard-hitting words cluster, and even commentaries on historical context of a literary masterpiece. Probably, one can claim that the bazar guidebooks were an erstwhile Wikipedia portal in themselves. Obviously, many of us helped ourselves with a good many of them to crack a seemingly advanced undergrad course in English. On the spoken English front, my first port of call was always The BBC. Those days, imitating the accent of a BBC reporter was my fond hobby (you should ask my sister about this!). Of course, the BBC stuff did not help me with written English. My teachers, both at tertiary level and thereafter, told me that my writing was sketchy, illogical, and completely unorganized. Then, and now, we haven’t evolved structures beyond a classroom setting that can cater to pupils who are in a similar situation. In inclusive education, the main issue is not about how to make books accessible; say audio and braille formats. The concern is the starting point itself. It is like this: In an unequal marathon setting like ours, students start at various distances. One who has a better cultural capital begins the race already much ahead of others. Some really lag behind so much that their starting point in the marathon is far behind the track area itself. We need to understand this first before talking about disability pedagogy, and the like.

That said, I started much late for a career in writing. Writing is a different game altogether. One can deploy camouflages in the spoken domain, and not so easily in the written medium.

An Interview with GJV Prasad, Professor at Centre for English Studies, Jawahar Lal Nehru University

Prof. GJV Prasad, discusses life and literature at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he is Professor of English. His major research interests are Contemporary Theatre, Indian English Literature, Dalit Writings, Australian Literature, and Translation Theory and he has published extensively in these areas. He is also a poet, novelist and translator. His novel A Clean Breast was short listed for the Commonwealth Prize for best first book from the Eurasia region in 1994.  He is the current editor of JSL, the Journal of the School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies, JNU, and Vice Chairperson of the Indian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. In this interview he shares his thoughts about interdisciplinary approaches in higher education with focus on English studies.


Rachna Sethi(RS): Interdisciplinarity seems to be among one of the new directions that academia is moving towards in India. Yet there seems to be lack of clarity in defining the term itself. It is often confused with multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. How does one differentiate between these terms?


“Classroom Observation and Supervision” within the ambit of Continual Professional Development (CPD)

An Interview with Rod Bolitho, Academic Director of Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE) United Kingdom

After an intensive workshop on ‘Classroom Observ ation and Supervision” organized by MINDS (Mentoring in Delhi Schools) Project, headed by Professor Rama Mathew, Central Institute of Education (CIE) University of Delhi and British Council, New Delhi on 26th April 2011, Prem Kumari Srivastava and Sabina Pillai, both Associate Professors of English at the University of Delhi, caught up with the workshop leader, Rod Bolitho, a well-known English Language Teaching (ELT) expert. An Academic Director of Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE), UK, Rod Bolitho started out teaching English in Germany and has been active in teacher education and trainer training for over 30 years.  He has also been  a consultant to a number of British Council projects since 1989, including the CBSE Curriculum Reform Project in India, and is currently involved in Teacher Education and Materials Development initiatives in Uzbekistan and Romania as well as in Policy Dialogue initiatives in India.


Prem Kumari Srivastava (PKS): Right at the outset, Rod, it is indeed a pleasure meeting you and then interacting with you for the whole day in this intensive workshop on “Classroom Observation and Supervision’ organised by Professor Rama Mathew, Coordinator, Minds Project in collaboration with the British Council, New Delhi. Many thanks for agreeing to talk to us after a full day and to discuss some significant issues related to classroom pedagogy: Observation and Supervision.


Ruchi Kaushik Interviews Professor Rama Kant Agnihotri

Professor Rama Kant Agnihotri, Department of Linguistics, University of Delhi is an eminent linguist and a pedagogue. He has been instrumental in setting up Equal Opportunity Cell(EOC) at the University of Delhi. Here in an interview with Ruchi Kaushik he shares his thoughts and experiences about various aspects of interaction with students in the classroom.

Ruchi: How would you define “classroom interaction” that is meaningful and learning rich?

Professor Rama Kant Agnihotri: I think any classroom in which the teacher is willing to become a learner, is a meaningful classroom. Since teaching is a give and take process, a teacher has a lot to learn from what students bring to their institutions. Therefore, increasingly, we should evolve classroom processes and strategies where the space for learners is more and the space for the teacher, although extremely important, is less and less in terms of time. This would ensure that each child gets the opportunity for articulation and interaction which, in fact, would lead to a learning rich environment.

Ms. Tara Chadha interviews Prof. Penny Ur

Penny Ur, a well known author and teacher trainer from Israel held a week-long workshop on materials development at the Institute of Life Long Learning (ILLL), University of Delhi from February 15 to 20, 2010. Tara Chadha had the opportunity to have a tête-à-tête with her over a cup of coffee.
Tara Chadha (TC): I understand that you decided to migrate from your native country some three decades ago.  What inspired you to make Israel your perpermanent home?
Penny Ur (PU) : I was going to study Hebrew and Arabic at Oxford, so in my ‘gap year’ decided to go out to Israel and learn modern Hebrew.  I stayed on a kibbutz on an ‘Ulpan’ scheme which allows you to study half the day and work half the day for five months, and acquired a basic knowledge of modern Hebrew that way. But I also fell in love with the kibbutz idea and the country, and decided I would make it my home. I returned to the UK to finish my degree and teaching diploma, and then emigrated to Israel.
TC: You have been a practising teacher and a teacher trainer.  How far has your experience as a school teacher helped you to carve out the agenda of your training programmes and teaching materials?
PU: I have been for most of my working life a practising teacher of English; my writing and teacher training grew out of this.  To this day, I see myself primarily as a teacher (it’s what I automatically write on things like visa applications where you have to write ‘occupation’).  I have since studied research literature and have published and lectured as part of my work as an academic; but my thinking is shaped primarily by my own professional classroom experience.