Of honey and the bees | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Of honey and the bees

The vice-chancellor of one of the acclaimed universities of our country was candid when he recently said that girl students were not allowed to visit the library because it distracted boys. Writes Avnish Sharma

chandigarh Updated: Dec 18, 2014 19:38 IST
Avnish Sharma
Avnish Sharma
Hindustan Times

The vice-chancellor of one of the acclaimed universities of our country was candid when he recently said that girl students were not allowed to visit the library because it distracted boys.

Weird as it may sound, and whether said in jest or all seriousness to keep the genders apart, it is not seeing the wood for the trees.

In my Class-10 days in 1975, during an interschool debate on “co-education versus singlegender institutions”, the speaker from an allgirl school clinched the argument when she spoke for co-education.

“Compartmentalised education begets communication gap and gender bias, which leads to a distorted society. The boorishness of the boys is tamed by the civilising influence of the girls; the cattiness of the girls is tamed by the more relaxed approach of the boys. It’s a win-win situation,” was her thoughtful tailpiece.

Chandigarh’s planner Le Corbusier located almost all boys’ and the girls’ colleges together, which is the best he could do to keep the sexes together, since those were not yet the days of co-education.

Hanging around the girls’ colleges was a big attraction, and for a few was a daily ritual, a moral duty you could say. In due course, wisdom dawned on the powers that be and most colleges converted to co-education.

The armed forces battle a shortage of worthy officers. As the defence will not compromise on its standards for more intake, and it shouldn’t, the men in uniform gathered to discuss the problem. Senior officers suggested incentives, ranging from attractive salary to better service conditions. The chairman, our brigade commander, noticed a young lieutenant dozing off.

“Let us have the views of the youngster,” he said, pointing to the unsuspecting officer. Taken by surprise, the officer regained his composure and replied: “Sir, we need to get women into the army to attract boys.”

Silence followed, as the audience waited for a reaction from the brigadier, who after digesting the bloke’s out-of-the-box idea rolled with laughter, and so did the forum. This discussion was much before the armed forces opened their doors to women.

Even though the government implemented the suggestion from the lieutenant in letter and spirit, the shortage of officers remains.

The V-C who referred to the genders obliquely as honey and the bees is advised in a similar manner of jest that keeping the two together might stimulate the boys to pick up the sweet habit of reading, which is fast deserting students.