|Photo courtesy: Metro India|
A few months back, I accompanied my father to an ophthalmologist. Waiting for our turn to consult the doctor I noticed a girl around 10 to 12 years reading an English comic book. Almost spontaneously I called the girl, ‘Wow, Great!’
I also drew my father’s attention to it. I said, ‘Nana, see how studious the girl is, she is not wasting her time even while waiting for her turn to see the doctor.’ He was not moved at all! In fact, he said, “This is the state of our parenting, pathetic!”
I wondered what was so pathetic about it. He was clear in his statement. He continued, “She can’t spend even half an hour talking to her parents or with the boy (probably her brother) who has been struggling to engage her in a conversation! And look at the mother; even she doesn't feel it as an opportunity to pass some of her wisdom to the young generation!”
“Today’s children are not taught how to mingle with others and on a large scale – with the society. That’s why they can’t spend time with their own kith and kin. They enjoy getting choked by their solitude,” saying this he stopped. I nodded in agreement.
Two days back when I read the story of a girl – Varsha – I felt like a déjà vu! The girl never missed a single day in school, college for 20 long years! I thought it should have been 16 years going by Indian schooling system of 10+2+4.
Nevertheless, my instant response to the story was not one of awe or wonder but was ‘aww’ and ‘dismay.’ Not that I regard the achievement of the girl insignificant but I am worried that the sheer number of years not missing a class in the educational institutes should set a precedent! I am afraid that such self-imposed ‘discipline’ should not deprive the children the real pleasure of living life in all its hues!
As a teacher who had worked in some of the best schools in the city, I can say with all the confidence that ‘100% attendance’ was never my criterion for judging the brilliance in a student. Without sounding narcissistic, I can say that I have identified raw talent and rightly predicted, in most cases, that those learners will go places. Indeed they went places. And believe me, none, mark my words none of them were that ‘awfully’ regular to the school.
In fact there were several ‘false negatives!’ That is, I underestimated students who have been ‘childish’, ‘silly’, ‘amateurish’ and so on. But they made me eat the humble pie by shining brighter than their ‘sincere’, ‘sensible,’ ‘mature’ counterparts!
And please don’t take me wrong that I advocate absenteeism, indiscipline or some form of mild anarchism in schools! No teacher, past or present, would do that! Then what’s my point?
Movies are not the best guides for academic discipline but my mind goes to recollect a scene from ‘Rang De Basanti’ where ‘DJ’ (Aamir Khan) says that life after schooling is a different ball game altogether and more talented ‘DJs’ have failed to face it!
Students these days are not allowed to give vent to their feelings. The old ‘joint family’ system no longer practical, ‘nuclear families’ have become more a norm than an exception. The children do not get to share their feelings – joy or sadness, ecstasy or pain – with the loved ones. Nor are they exposed to understand the good, bad and ugly of the world around them.
In 16 years of the Varsha’ schooling, I am sure she either missed some of these occasions or was shielded from getting to know about them. I hope their parents are wise enough and found other ways and means to enlighten her on life!
But it cannot happen with every child. This is a fast paced life. Here your Facebook gives you hundreds of friends but none to fall back upon in times of distress! A child is made to study for hours together from morning till night but fails to assimilate any ‘lesson’ from it! Parents run from pillar to post to fend their families never realising that they are missing on the irrevocable present moment! You are a bundle of emotions but all momentary! Like the Hyderabadi roads that get inundated to even the slightest of the drizzle only to be emptied in a matter of hours.
So next time if some event – auspicious or inauspicious – happens in your life, let your child know it. Expose him or her to it. Tell him that life throws those sudden unexpected boulders or bouquets. Let them learn the ‘Sthithaprajnatha’ – equanimity – i.e. to take the gravest and happiest of things in their stride and move on with a sense positive attitude. Let each experience enrich, embolden and elevate them!
Sorry Varsha, I admire your persistence and unflinching commitment. No offence please, I cannot recommend this to any of my students, not certainly to my two-year-old daughter!