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14 May 2008

They Don't Know English

But that does not surprise, as they don't know Hindi either
Surajit Dasgupta
Almost everyday for several years now, one has been coming across headlines and texts in the Indian newspapers and sound-bytes in the television news channels that are horrendous examples of communication. Even if content is considered more important than language, what cannot be ignored or glossed over is that many sentences do not mean what the respective writers had intended them to mean. This list is to highlight major flaws of the type. The collection does not include flaws that do not convey to the reader a wrong message. The nature of this post is such that it has to be constantly updated with new additions. So, watch this space

  • The Economic Times' 14 May 2008 issue read:
    "Mobile services provider Bharati Airtel on Tuesday announced it would focus on
    extending its services to villages in Tamil Nadu with a population of

    We didn't know the population of Tamil Nadu was a mere 3,000. Thank you, ET, for the (mis)information.

    Edited: "Mobile services provider Bharati Airtel on Tuesday announced it would focus on extending its services to villages in Tamil Nadu,..."
    "... each of which has a population of 3,000 or more."
    OR "... each of which has a population of at least 3,000."
    OR "Mobile services provider Bharati Airtel on Tuesday announced it would focus on extending its services to villages with populations of more than/ at least 3,000 each in Tamil Nadu."

    • A headline in The Indian Express, 15 May 2008 issue read:
      "Probe discovers striking parallel: bombs in Jaipur, Hyderabad ditto"

      That is, the bombs that had blasted in Hyderabad in August 2007 were re-used in Jaipur in May 2008. As preposterous as laughable! For, "ditto" means "the same", not "similar": used, especially in a list, underneath a particular word or phrase, to show that it is repeated and to avoid having to write it again (Oxford English Dictionary)

      Edited: "Bombs in Jaipur, Hyderabad: probe discovers striking parallel"
      The word "ditto" or any of its synonyms was not needed at all as "parallel" sufficed.

    • A headline in The Asian Age's 15 May 2008 issue read:
      "Suspect sketch out, ISD calls checked"

      Was the sketch the suspect? One thought it must be the character depicted in the sketch.
      Edited: "Suspect's sketch out, ISD calls checked"

    • This doesn't mean English speakers know their English well. One is unlikely to get, in the first attempt, the meaning of the following sentence in this report in The Washington Post(14 May 2008):
    • "'We also asked were serious complications, such as death and
      organ failure, lower for aprotinin compared to the two other drugs,' Fergusson

      It is disturbing to note that the rules pertaining to reported/indirect speech are increasingly being flouted all over the world, causing a lot of confusion in the mind of the learned reader. In the sentence above, the "were" after the "asked" causes a sudden break in the flow of reading.

      Edited: "'We also asked if/whether serious complications, such as death and organ failure, were lower for aprotinin as/when compared to the two other drugs,' Fergusson said."

    • How do you "do well from" a given point of "time"? What do I mean? I don't really know! Has somebody been keeping well for a year? Find out from The Indian Express, 24 May 2008:
      "Government schools have also done well from last year — 2.99
      per cent more students have passed to take the tally to 85.7 per cent."

      Edited: "Government schools have done/performed better this year..."

    • "Also" and "too": a common Indian confusion; the usage of "also" by most Indians is such that it does not remain a synonym of "too"!

      A Times Now report filed on 28 May 2008 at 10:04:59 pm:

      "It has been more than two weeks since a 14-year-old DPS Nodia student Arushi
      Talwar was found murdered in her own home. A day later, the family servant
      Hemraj was also found dead..."

      "Hemraj was also found dead" implies that they found Hemraj to be something else as well! But that's certainly not the intended meaning here; the "also" must be referring to another dead/murdered person (besides Arushi).

      Edited: Hemraj, too, was found dead (commas before and after "too" optional)

      Also note the unnecessary use of "own" as in "... murdered in her own home"

      The Press Trust of India isn't any better:

      "Nupur, who is also a dentist, said she cannot believe that her husband could be
      behind the murders."

      So, Nupur is what else?

      Clearly, the reporter/editor intended it to be "Nupur, who is a dentist too (like Rajesh and Anita), said she could not believe that her husband could be behind the murders."

      Further, note that "cannot" cannot go with "said".

    • This morning (2 June 2008), Zee News telecast a programme on futuristic technology that may be able to predict natural calamities. They had decided to club with it aspects such as astrology, premonition, clairvoyance and retrocognition.

      In the programme, on several occasions, the person providing the voiceover translated "déjà vu" [déjà = already; vu = (past participle form of the French verb, voir - to see) seen] as pUrwAbhAs (पूर्वाभास) = premonition. The two are certainly not the same; in fact, the thought process is just the opposite. In case of "déjà vu", you come across something and feel that you had, some time in the past, seen it somewhere; whereas in case of a premonition, you first see something and then it happens exactly as you had seen it.

    • India is the only country that has several "ministers for planets"! For, many journalists in the Hindi electronic media pronounce the term for "home minister", griha mantrI (गृह मंत्री), as grah (ग्रह) mantrI!

    • It's a shame that a big chunk of the population of English users in India, including journalists, do not know the difference between "alternate" and "alternative".

      "Diesel cars could also be preferred over petrol, considering the fuel is
      cheaper. Also, alternate fuel options like LPG and CNG could be
      in demand. 'There can be a further shift to diesel cars from petrol. However, a
      big shift to LPG/CNG versions may be restricted due to their limited
      availability,' Jajoo said."
      from a report in The Times Of India, 5 June 2008 -

      And a whole lot of other newspapers and websites follow with as much innocent ignorance:
      The Economic Times:
      "CII undertakes initiatives for alternate fuel usage (like wind
      energy and solar power); energy efficient furnaces and boilers; energy labeling
      for oil fired systems and gas stoves; extensive awareness campaigns to promote
      oil conservation in small and medium industries and domestic sector; switchover
      of captive steam generators from fuel oil to alternate sources; etc, concluded

      "(Prime Minister Manmohan) Singh used the speech to push the Indo-US nuclear deal and urged the country to tap alternate sources of energy."

      The Canadians have forgotten their English too:
      "In Watkins Glen, N.Y., there is a Grand Prix that truly is green. Aptly named
      the Green Grand Prix, for the last four year it has brought together owners of
      hybrid and alternate fuel vehicles in the only road rally of
      its kind in the United States sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America,"
      said The Gazette's 31 May 2008 edition.

      Now, say, in a week if the alternate days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, since the contents extracted from the top to the bottom of a fractional distillation column for crude oil are in the order: naphtha, gasoline, paraffin, diesel, grease, fuel oil (for ships, factories, central heating, etc) and residue petrol, are the newspapers asking us to use gasoline, diesel and fuel oil alternately to run our cars? That may still be possible, though it would mean carrying three engines in every car and allied accessories for each fuel, making your car as huge as a mini ship in the process. But some editor should explain to us how we can run our vehicles on naphtha, paraffin, grease or oil residue!

    • The Indian Express should now think of claiming a copyright for the following mistake (highlighted): PAGE 1 ANCHOR
      Charlesworth, called to revive Indian hockey, hasn’t been paid four-month dues
      Navneet Singh
      Friday, 20 June 2008
      Rs 17 lakh dues from November to March still pending, SAI says we are trying to sort it out
      Did SAI say that the staff of The Indian Express were trying to sort out the problem?

      Edited: SAI says it is trying to sort out the problem

      As Chandril has commented below, it must be nothing but egotism that does not let such editors correct the mistakes they have been doing for ages. The following is an e-mail I had written to the newspaper's chief editor, Shekhar Gupta, last year, disgusted as well as exasperated with the wrong usage of the first person in reported speech in its headlines. Clearly, the newspaper will arrogantly keep passing this error as 'style'.

      from: Surajit Dasgupta 16/08/2007
      to: shekhar@expressindia.com
      date: 16 Aug 2007 20:59
      subject: Express English
      mailed-by: gmail.com

      Dear Mr Shekhar Gupta,

      It may be very unconventional of an editorial staffer of a newspaper to correspond with the editor of another paper except when the former is looking for a job. But the constant wrong usage of English on the front page of your otherwise brilliant publication has been disturbing me so much for the last three years that today I thought of breaking the convention.

      My specific objection is to the use of first person pronouns in the headlines. It is only to a certain extent that grammar can be compromised for the sake of a paper's distinct, individualistic style. The examples I'll quote will show that it has crossed that limit.

      Consider two headlines on the front page of today's edition (17 August 2007):
      (1) CPM says we will push hard rather than pull out on deal; &
      (2) India should answer why they stopped appeal... I was ready for the Q case: Public Prosecutor.

      In the first instance, did you mean "CPM says Indian Express will push hard rather than pull out on deal"? Certainly not. Then, who is "we" (referring to)? This sentence seems to have been phrased by a person who thinks in Hindi (or any other Indian language) but has to write in English, as it is in our native languages alone that the reported speech does not see the pronoun in the speech part agreeing with the person of the speaker.

      If you want to retain 'we', then "we will... on deal" should be within quotes. And
      if there isn't enough space for the punctuation marks, then the correct usage of
      English takes care of the constraint: "CPM says it will..."

      The "I" in the second example is, however, okay simply because you have used a colon before "Public Prosecutor". Though it does not have the inverted commas mandated by school-bookish grammar, that much of compromise is admissible not only in journalese but also from a reader's viewpoint. Further, to address the issue of space, the first headline could have been "CPM: We will..."

      I would not have written this letter to you had this kind of erroneous English not been a regular feature of your front page. Either the first example -- despite being wrong -- shows Express's distinct style or the second, the preferable one, does. Employing both confuses the reader, presuming -- I suppose, correctly -- that an Indian Express reader is discerning.

      Please discuss the matter with your page-one editorial staff and fix the problem. This I request as a humble student of the English language.

      Thanking you,
      Surajit Dasgupta.
    • Indian Express's 'copyrighted' (wrong) English continues... as predicted!
      Page 1 flier headline: SP deals Kalam trump card
      Tagline: Kalam told us nuclear deal is in best national interest, says Mulayam, hours after he gets UNPA allies to agree to disagree, soften their opposition

      Edited: Kalam told him nuclear deal was in best national interest, says Mulayam
    • This was not expected at all. Of all papers, The Hindu has published a report that reads so funny.

      Gujarat riots’ victims do not want to return home: Survey
      Staff ReporterWednesday, Sep 10, 2008 |
      "The first two years after the 2002 Gujarat riots were the most difficult for the victims as the rehabilitation camps were forcibly closed down, points out a survey on the socio-economic condition of the riot victims released in the Capital .

      Titled “The Wretched”, the survey conducted in March 2007 in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Panchmahal, Bharuch, Anand, Mehsana, Dahod and Sabarkantha was aimed at assessing the living conditions of each and every family affected by the riots. The survey team members interviewed 4,182 individuals. Addressing a press conference here, scientist Gauhar Raza said a majority of the respondents did not want to go back to their homes because of the fear psychosis prevailing in the State.“Even six years after the riots, Muslims fear identifying their Hindu neighbours who saved their lives during the riots and Hindus also fear claiming proudly that they were the ones who helped their Muslims friends during the carnage."

      Now read the highlighted portions together in this order:
      The survey was aimed at "assessing the living conditions of each and every family affected by the riots" which were living in "rehabilitation camps" that "were (already) forcibly closed down"...

      "... respondents (in Gujarat) did not want to go back to their homes (Gujarat)..."

      That is, the surveyors went to a camp that does not exist, for the news item reports in the very first paragraph that the camps were shut down within the first two years after the riot! And, those already in Gujarat did not want to go back to Gujarat!
    • Research's impact

      It feels good to believe someone in The Indian Express has read my blog. The headline of one of the news reports in today's edition of the 'Express' reads: "Killing of CEO: PM steps in, Oscar ‘sorry’, but says ‘I am for the poor’"
      So far, the 'Express' would have it this way: Oscar says I am for the poor (notice the absence of inverted commas), meaning perhaps that Oscar Fernandes says that The Indian Express reporter is for the poor!

      Well, Shekhar Gupta could argue the government is so impressed by his paper that its ministers go out of their way to advertise it in their speeches!

      ... to be continued
      The writer is a mathematician and linguist, now a corporate communicator and has been a journalist, a teacher and marketing manager (in reverse chronological order) in his previous vocations

    12 May 2008

    How To Take A French Leave

    Alliance Française, pull up your socks
    Surajit Dasgupta

    This article was written three years ago, more as a diary entry that was not intended to be published. It remained tucked, saved in my e-mail account all these years. Today I'm forced to tell the story to all, for I have just been through a horrendous week-long experience of total lack of professionalism by the second seniormost teacher of the institute discussed here. The curricula of the institute have changed lately, rendering the facts related to the courses obsolete. However, the spirit of the teachers, as I heard from the students at the institute's canteen this afternoon, remains unchanged — incorrigibly laidback.

    Here is what happened last week. Readers who have been through my blog-post, “Don’t Dare Show Your Versatility in Public,” are already aware of the backgrounder to this. A teacher at AFD was entrusted with the task of translating our company’s product brochure by 2 May, with the deadline extendable maximum up to 4 May. When she pleaded being too occupied, we agreed to accepting it on 6 May. When it did not arrive by the 9th, anxious, I rang her up. She expressed surprise on receiving the call and said that she had e-mailed to my boss the translated document on the 7th already. My boss, not being computer savvy, allowed me to scan his entire inbox but the desired mail was nowhere to be found.

    It is possible that one makes a mistake while keying in an e-mail address, notwithstanding the fact that the lady being spoken of is well versed with software applications; all she had to do was click on the “Reply” button against the mail my boss had sent her. If she didn’t, that’s still not a mistake of the order that should merit a harsh article. What followed, however, was inexplicably dodgy. The lady, my erstwhile French teacher, would just not receive any call from us thereafter. Curiously though, she would answer almost all of my SMSs, pleading either that she was “not carrying the ‘mobile’” or that she was rushing to honour one of her numerous appointments of the day. That our job, for which she would be paid as much as she had demanded, was equally professionally important did not occur to her.

    In the morning of 12 May, it was a question of saving my reputation in the organization I work for. I could not have forwarded any of ‘madam’’s innumerable excuses — that the internet connection at her home had been defunct last weekend or that she had other appointments to keep or that she was busy conducting exams or that she is deemed very important by the French Embassy, which has been keeping her on her toes… My boss, I thought, must have assumed by then that I had been bluffing to him all the while and that I had not given the document to anyone for translation (maybe because I had once offered to translate it).

    I had to go to another agency’s office in the Lodi Road Area to fetch the Mandarin translation, which had been completed by long ago. I hadn’t gone over to fetch it for I thought, so far away from Gurgaon, I should make not more than one trip; more so because Lodi Estate (where Alliance Française is located) is a stone’s throw from Lodi Road. On the way, waiting to clear the Toll Plaza at 10:35 am before driving at 100 kmph on the Gurgaon Expressway, I shot the French translator an SMS, “Have you sent the translation?” Quick came the reply: “No. exam going on… will SMS you once sent. Director is co-examiner and glaring at me (sic) because am sending SMS.” This was after the whole evening of 11 May went with her not attending to any of my frantic calls and an SMS reaching me early in the morning, saying: “Was away in Bangalore on an interpretation assignment, a sudden development for Embassy and Alliance… will send from Alliance by 10:30 (am) after exam supervision. My Internet at home is still down.”

    After that, all my calls on the way to Lodi Road went unanswered. After collecting the Mandarin document from there, I went to AFD where the receptionist said that ‘madam’ had left the Alliance’s premises at 9:30 am. Further in my wild-goose chase, I rushed to Vasant Kunj where ‘madam’ lives, trying to contact her on phone all the while. When she did not attend to any of my calls — if you dismember a mobile phone without switching it off first, all callers keep getting the "unreachable" message even after the phone is reassembled and switched on again — I rang her MTNL number.

    After several rings, the landline phone was picked up by her son who claimed his mother had rushed out to a cyber cafe to do my work as the net at her home was dysfunctional. I was at the Vasant Kunj D Block market then, hardly 200 m from her house. Not convinced, I rushed to her house to hear the same thing again when the son opened the door about 10 minutes after I rang the doorbell. This, even as I found his mother's car parked outside her house. The woman being my teacher once, I couldn't charge her son saying his mother was a liar. If that's too harsh a statement, I'm ready to mellow it down thus: What I am sure of is that of all her SMS's and my last verbal conversation with her on 7 May, at least one was a lie, to cover which she was at loss of words, due to which she was not attending my calls. This whole affair has caused me a terrible loss of face in the office. Before the document arrived from 'P...", it was thought I was bluffing. That charge has now been withdrawn. But a complaint remains: It was professionally a wrong judgement for me to have given the work to an "unreliable person". It's a pity that a woman whose French is envied by the French is found, professionally, an unreliable person.

    The account above cannot be in public interest. But the one below certainly is. The aforementioned narration is to expose the material of which AFD’s teachers are made. For sure, the assignment the French teacher had was not sourced through AFD, but it is natural to presume that her lack of work ethic is a habit she acquired for being a member of a powerful lobby of senior teachers at the institute against whom Directors sent from France for extremely brief tenures cannot take any action.

    Part II
    From my yahoo account with slight modifications:
    Dasgupta Surajit
    suparcoeur@yahoo.fr a écrit:
    Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2005 19:10:36 +0200 (CEST)
    De: Dasgupta Surajit
    Objet: 5/4/2005. for CAMPUS: the state of affairs of Alliance Française de Delhi.
    À: Surajit Dasgupta

    Institution of lethargy

    Alliance Française de Delhi is the only institute in this city of millions whose French learning courses are recognised the world over, as it is a division of the French state that promotes the country’s language and culture. Alliance Française retains its place in the collective psyche of education enthusiasts the world over as “The Place to Learn French”. In effect thus, the institute has become an institution. Mostly due to a late adolescent craze of making a style statement by being able to utter a few expressions in French, and little for serious academic pursuit, aspirants from as far as Azadpur and Shahdara flock in large numbers to the institute’s Lodi Road centre.

    Aantels of the world, unite! Go to AFD if you feel exalted in the milieu of half-baked intellectuals, not if you intend a serious academic pursuit of the French language. A photo exhibition, "Paris A Love Affair", by Amit Mehra, an artist who was part of the artist-in-residence 2006 programme, at Alliance Française de Delhi. Seen in this photograph are Pavan K Varma, DG, ICCR (below-centre). M Varadarajan, President of AF Delhi (in white on the right), Philippe Martinet, French Cultural Counsellor (extreme left), and all the directors of the 12 Alliances spread across India

    The measure of the learners’ zeal can be gotten from the fact that many students living in the above extreme corners of Delhi have to wake up at 5 am to be able to attend the 7:30 am class.

    This zeal is, however, never matched by an earnest participation by the teachers in the curriculum. The first session has recently been moved from 7:30 am to 8 am; yet, few teachers make it to the respective classes in time. Students, waiting haplessly for the teacher, curse themselves for having chosen AFD to learn French.

    But the lack of punctuality is only the tip of the iceberg. Every now and then a teacher says, “J’arrive!” (I’ll be right back), goes to the staff room either to discuss with her colleagues the answer to a question asked by a student, or just to indulge in some nonsensical chitchat. She arrives with a few minutes left of the scheduled two hours, sporting an ear-to-ear smile, as if suggesting: “I’ve done one big favour to you all (by re-emerging from thin air!)”

    The worst happened in 2003. Many of the newly recruited teachers were either not well versed with the language they are supposed to teach, or they are all hands and legs in matters of public speech and communication. Perhaps the sheer look of about 20 students staring at her takes the life out of the girl who has just graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She may just have been one of those starry-eyed children, like most of the students, who had once thought French was ‘fun’.

    A routine kind of example from my first semester class of February-May 2003 will demonstrate this. A 20-something girl, a few months into her MPhil course at JNU, was my teacher. She taught: The translation for ‘in’ before a country is ‘en’ if the country is of feminine gender; and ‘au’ if it’s masculine. “What is ‘in Iraq’ in French?” I had asked. “À l’Iraq,” was her reply (“en Iraq” is the right answer). Another day, she goofed up with the rule that in certain cases, past participle agrees in number and gender with the subject. One day she would falter, the next day she would apologise.

    Soon she would start calling me “monsieur” (sir) though I had lost all respect for her to accord her a “mademoiselle” (miss). Eventually, the inevitable happened as she asked me out of sheer exasperation, “Why has a student like you come for a beginners’ course?” My reason was to strengthen my base in the language I then knew a little.

    This brings me to the context of the source of AFD’s teachers: JNU. Why JNU? It has a lot to do with the pedagogy of the sourcing institute being somewhat similar. Sources in AFD say that graduates from the Delhi University invariably have a terrible indigenous accent while they speak in French; sometimes they cannot speak a sentence despite their supposedly remarkable written skills. This makes one deduce that to the management of AFD, the apparent oratory of JNU graduates must be preferable to the potential writing skills of DU alumni. That was about the standard of AFD’s young recruits.

    As for those boasting of “20 years’ experience”, they, too, have done little justice to their profession. Some time in 1983, a JNU graduate — as per the opinions of most alumni, JNU’s standards were much higher then — took the job of a teacher at AFD. Between two and five years of her joining, several “like-minded” teachers, more or less of the same age group, joined her. In due course, they got married to men quite established in their respective fields of work and also in society. So far, so good.

    What bugged me was when I became quite friendly with some of the senior AFD teachers, I found a few of them nurture a never-ebbing hatred for the male species. They are, of course, entitled to their opinion, prejudiced or otherwise. The bothersome aspect was that, with the flimsiest of excuses, they would force most classes to deviate from any given topic being discussed to an inconsequential debate on men-versus-women, only to hear the girl students cheerlead the mêlée, watch the boys grin and bear it (as it used to be in the “Purushkshetra” show of Kiron Kher some nine years ago), and overhear the senior women students whisper, “It’s her personal life speaking again. Tch… tch… tch… !”

    Whether the men in the lives of these man-haters might have been horrendous, I wouldn’t know. I do not intend to stoop to comment on their personal lives either. But the husbands of these women are for sure responsible for their women’s lacklustre involvement in teaching, if at least indirectly. With the men bringing home enough to fend for all, these women must have lost the urge to prove what they appear hell-bent on proving: “We are nothing less than men!” This, in fact, is the sad scenario in almost all schools in India — women teachers who joined the profession either to support their families with ‘extra’ income or for ‘pocket money’. Interestingly, the least punctual of all AFD teachers, also the translator in this story, is a single mother, bearing the responsibility of raising two adolescent sons. So, has the French socialist policy of tolerance for employees spoilt her professionalism?

    Back to the past, shortly after they became mothers, the AFD teachers had requested the institute’s authority to let them have a crèche running alongside the pedagogical institute under the pretext of avoiding the familial distraction of the newborns’ concerns. Mercifully, that request was turned down. But the authority’s refusal could not save the institute from turning into a hangout.

    The previous dispensation led by Mr Jean-Pierre Bricman was not a favourite of the old teaching folk though he bore with all nuisance of the said coterie. The new director, Mr Gérard Saby, must have designed an ingenious ploy. Early this year, suddenly the old brigade appeared in a frenetic rush to look for new jobs. Ms Florence Cédiey, the pedagogical director, offered such schedules and terms of work to them that even the most gentile of teachers would have quit.

    They complain they are offered a pittance: Rs. 160 per hour. But in which other institute could these old-timers get the luxury of not having to discuss Victor Hugo and Voltaire, but speculate why Aamir Khan’s marriage didn’t work out, or whether Shahrukh Khan is bisexual? Every individual has a right to her personal space. This ‘space’ here may refer to these women’s taste. While that is nothing to complain about, imposing it virtually as a subject of discussion on a class that has gathered for academics cannot be accepted. In 2004-05, students used to pay Rs 4,500 for various courses. Now, they have to dole out Rs 6,500 for the same. Is it to keep abreast with Bollywood’s gossips?

    When this writer was a student of AFD, there was hardly ever a two-hour session held with two hours of teaching. A 7:30 am class seldom started before 8:00 am. At about 9 am, the teacher would announce “une petite pause” (a short break) for a snacks interval. That petite pause would become a grande (big) pause as a sandwich and a tea or coffee couldn’t be finished in five minutes, especially when an 84-millimetre cigarette is added to it. And then, there were those half-an-hours unaccounted for when the teacher disappeared to ask her friend which of the four choices of a given multiple-choice question was the most appropriate one; but would return with the information that Salman Khan’s latest girlfriend, too, had fled!

    As a teacher of mathematics, having come across numerous Indian students who score marvellously in exams despite defunct left halves of their brains, I seriously doubt the “20 years’” claim to fame, too. Let’s consider how past papers are discussed at the AFD. I, in 2003-04, tried the same papers that a student of session, say, 1998-99 had tried. During the semester-graduating examinations, thousands of photocopies of the exam papers are still made, which suffice as the practice exercises for years on end (I think even when my grandchildren visit these classes, if at all, half a century later; the exercises will remain the same). A month after the exams are over, mark sheets of all candidates along with the set of all correct answers come from nowhere other than Paris.

    Now, when an AFD teacher suggests that a certain option in a multiple-choice question is “the right answer”, how do we know whether it is she or a French national based in Paris who thinks so?

    In India, students poor at maths sometimes manage to score well because here we never come across a problem for the first time inside the exam hall; all questions are sourced from various books. Similarly at AFD, teachers know the answers perhaps because they have known them by rote for 10 or more years. If not, then why is almost 50 per cent of what is taught by the Indian teachers till the sixth semester, marked wrong by the French faculty of the seventh and the eighth semesters?

    In lessons on business management, they say, “How many hours you put in is not important; what you put in those hours is.” Since grapevines surrounding the big Khans of Bollywood have been the ‘inputs’, the result of students is, at the least, better than expected.

    I could know these teachers to such an extent because it was through friendship, and not journalism, that I learnt of their misdemeanours. To expose the extent of disservice they are doing to the future of learners and the profession of teaching, I had to write this article. For my friendship with them, I have not revealed their names.

    The writer is a mathematician and linguist, now a corporate communicator and has been a journalist, a teacher and marketing manager (in reverse chronological order) in his previous vocations

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    Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.