Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Respect each and every being

We  all agree to the fact that human beings cannot exist and survive in isolation and that is the reason we have the pattern of the system and in many countries, there is a close knit family fabric. When we live together, then adjustment and compromise becomes essential and important for a peaceful survival. In the year 1961 when our first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Lal Nehru raised the flag of non aligned movement in the background of the cold war between USSR and USA that was the step taken in the right direction for the peaceful co-existence. Many countries especially from the third world joined this movement. But over a period of time NAM seems to have lost its relevance. Rightly stated by somebody that the countries which were in the forefront of the NAM, are now the biggest buyers of the war weapons.  The focus has shifted from policies to the unwilling followers of the mighty nations. The countries which are powerful in terms of the economy and the military, dictate the terms to the entire world. The world is divided between two kinds of nations, the ones which are rich and the others that are poor. The rich are followed by the poor and the policy and terms of the friendship and relation are decided by the rich and poor have no role to play in that. It means the countries which are powerful , treat the other countries as their subjects or subordinates. When I say country, it does not mean the geographical aspect only but the group of the human beings living in a particular region considering that as their own territory. It means this becomes the feeling and the thoughts of the people of a particular country or countries. When people of the other countries see that happening then they also try to be the master of some other people who are weak in comparison to them.  This leads itself further down to the cities and then towns and villages and ultimately to the family or the group of the people at a work place including schools and the colleges. That further leads to the problems in the family, society and the world. The ones who remain oppressed for quite long, get frustrated and then resort to certain means which may not be as per the norms of the society or the world forum. This results in unrest and fight which does not help anybody.
This pattern is almost the same if I discuss it with respect to a family or the school. The children have most of the time been treated as someone who have to follow the instructions and the directions of their parents and the teachers. I think there was nothing wrong in that but unknowingly the parents and the teachers became the masters and the children, the followers of their instructions.  Till the time this was within limits, the children did not rebel but as the master started crossing the line some kind of retaliation started and now the parents and teachers started feeling remorseful. Many of them realized the problem and the cause of the problem so they changed their thinking and treated the children as an individual who are as important as anybody else. Due to this the world of the adults got divided in two categories. On the one side, there are teachers and parents, teachers who support the independence of the children and the other group which felt that the children cannot think and decide independently. This caused further confusion in the mind of the children because they could not understand whom to believe and follow. It is not that only children are confused but even the parents and the teachers are also in the same dilemma. We know that this is a transitional phase and hope that the things will settle for the good in the near future. But till we reach that situation both adults and children will have to understand better than what they do as on today.
I would like to talk about the way our children behave and interact with the parents and the teachers. One teacher gave me an excellent piece of suggestion when she says that irrespective of the manner in which the children ask the question, the parents and teachers must not change the way they answer their query. The children probably have started behaving in this manner (not acceptable to the parents and the teachers) because they remained as the submissive followers of the parents and teachers directions in the past. The teachers and parents are not able to accept that because they remained in the master seat for hundreds of years. The children had been seeing them the way they asked questions and answered. I do not say that this is the situation of ‘tit for tat’ but the role reversal seems to be taking place. Though this might appear to be confusing to many of us but the same is very natural and we should treat it accordingly. The teachers must change their attitude towards the children at the earliest and treat them as independent individual identity who have the capacity and power of thinking critically and rightfully. They should be treated as equals and not as the ones who have to necessarily follow the adults. The values and the traditions are important and are the backbone of the society but the change with time is also equally important and we should try to do that and embrace the changes for the good of all. If the children are expected to respect the adults and give them all due importance, then that will happen when we as adults do the same to our children. I would like to cite a few examples to make my point clear. The teachers who expect their students to follow their instructions and question them in a very respectful manner then the teachers have to do the same to their in charges or the coordinators. I know many of the teachers who murmur and grumble a lot if they are asked to do something which they are not comfortable with. The same may be the case with many parents also. When such parents talk to their parents (grandparents of the children) they behave exactly in the manner they do not want their children to follow. So the most important thing is that the adults will have to introspect about themselves and behave in a way which they expect from their children. The respect cannot be purchased or forced but this can be earned by your behavior and actions. Here I should not be misunderstood that I want the children to be behaving in a rowdy manner but trying to bring forward a point that the children need to be shown the path by actions and not by force. The day we will put ourselves in the shoes of our children and appreciate their problems and difficulties, our attitude will completely change towards them. So, if the society has to live in harmony then each one of us should respect the existence and the importance of the other human beings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The art of questioning

The topic which I am going to discuss has been the focus of attention of many in the past and continues to be discussed now also. This is important for the educators and the parents that they give enough opportunities to the children so that they become confident and develop creative thinking, which is the need of the hour. Many people have the opinion that the children follow the advice of their friends than that of the parents and the teachers. This may be true but not always because this depends upon many factors and situations. I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong in asking questions or having discussions but the way it is done is very important. We read in newspapers and watch on television channels, the way the presidential candidates of the United States of America debate and put forward their point of view. When we compare this with respect to our own debates in parliament or otherwise then we find that the picture is entirely different though this was not the case twenty thirty years back. Why is this difference? Is it because we have not been able to imbibe the values of respect for the other fellow men while we study in the schools or this is the result of the values the children get at home? I also think that the way an adult behaves is the result of the learning by him/her during the early years. I realized it more while watching a serial on a TV channel. This is the mythology based incident in which Lord Shiva teaches his son Kartikey that even if you are very brave, do not let that feeling get into your head but Kartikey being young and strong does not understand well. When Lord Shiva advises him he asks questions after questions and Lord Shiva answers him though He was not happy with Kartikey because of the manner in which the questions were asked. Though Lord Shiva does not say anything to him but Maa Parvati could not control her feelings and tries to make Kartikey understand that what he was doing was not right. Kartikey asks her if that was wrong to ask questions? She politely says that his asking questions were not wrong but the way the questions were being asked was not right. This incident is related to the period thousands of years ago but does it not appear to be in today`s time also? We come across many cases everyday when the teachers and the parents complain that the behavior of the children must be taken care of. Many parents feel that their children behave righteously till the time all their demands and wishes are fulfilled and if any time that is not done, they argue in a very negative manner. This may be true in many cases. Almost same is the condition of the teachers also and parents and teachers sit together they discuss the same without reaching to proper conclusion and the solution.
This I mentioned earlier also that the behavior and the actions of the children are governed by the environment in which they are brought up. Though it is very easy to blame others for anything wrong but we must realize that the entire system is responsible for the kind of thoughts and behavior our children develop over a period of time. The teachers and the parents should try to analyze and understand the reasons behind such behavior of the children. We must also understand that following the instructions of the adults or the person in authority should not be the rule which cannot be broken and the adults should be prepared to listen to different point of view even if the other person is younger or junior to them.  We must also realize that all human beings are important and should be valued and this applies to all irrespective of the age or the position. The incident reported in the newspapers and other media is matter of serious concern for all including parents and teachers. The rules and the acts only cannot make the difference in the progress of the nation but the manner in which the rules are followed determines the future of all.  In the episode I mentioned above Lord Shiva also realized that making his son aware of his power and strength only was the reason for his reactions which were neither appreciated by Lord Shiva nor by Maa Parvati. So if the children are taught the lesson of empathy and the care for the fellow human beings then the problems of feeling hurt due to ill mannered questioning of the children will be taken care of. Even if the children do not behave or question in a dignified manner, the teachers and the parents should not react in the same manner because this will not teach children any good lesson. I do not say that you ignore or appreciate it, but do not react in haste. Give some time to them to settle down and then talk and tell the children in a firm manner your point of view and make them understand that there was nothing wrong in asking the so called ‘wrong question’ but certainly the manner was. Even the right and justified query might create problems if not asked or put forward in a dignified manner. The other very important thing to be taught to the children is, if they care for rights then they should not forget their duties also because these cannot exist in isolation but together. Our children are very intelligent and they do understand things well but sometimes due to the age and the energy they tend to react in a manner which we do not appreciate. This happens mostly due to the condition of frustration or the influence of the peers. Now this is also very interesting that the children listen to their friends more than to their parents and teachers. Up to some extent this is natural but many a times it is due to the parent and teachers drifting away from their children. More they go away from their wards more chances are that the children will be influenced by their friends. As all of them are full of energy and there is no one to control the flow of that unlimited energy so there are chances that it flows in wrong direction. The parents and the teachers should be firm and fair in their approach towards the children and ensure that they themselves do not do anything of that sort which they would not appreciate if done by their children. The children also have some responsibility towards their parents and teachers and that should be taught to them properly. We need the company of each other because as mentioned earlier nobody can survive alone because we need society to be happy and progressive.
 The other important thing which all should realize is to think positive. We should come out of this environment of helplessness and hopelessness around us as on today. Even if the things are not very rosy, our thought and feelings can make a lot of positive impact and let us try to practice the same in our homes and schools. Let us think that our children are good and they will do well in future (though we may have to be apparently tough on them at times). The parents and teachers should realize that their children do understand their problems but due to some reasons they are not able to express or show that to them. At times some parents and teachers proudly say that they treat their children as their friends and the children share everything with them. This is good but there should be a line drawn for everything because there are certain things which children only can do and vice versa. I am not very sure whether I am right or wrong but I have a different opinion. The parents and teachers should not be necessarily be the friends of their children but the behavior should be friendly because this is the behavior which is most important and should be practiced to the best of the ability of an individual.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Let the children grow with grandparents

The school celebrated “Sanskar Divas” recently and this was done to pay respect to the grandparents of our children. The participants were the kids from class II. I can say it with confidence and with a lot pride that the kids performed it in an immaculate and convincing manner which must have given a lot of satisfaction to the parents and grandparents of these children. The grandparents’ day was very appropriately named as Sanskar Divas because they play the most significant role in the early life of the children as the parents of the children remain more occupied in their own work. The theme was based on our father of nation, in which children enacted those incidents of his life which left an everlasting impact on the impressionable mind of the young Mohan Das. The children enjoyed it thoroughly and we are sure that this method of telling the importance of truth, honesty, courage, love and respect for the country and countrymen is the best way than sitting in the class room and giving lecture to the kids.
 While I was still under the influence of the performance of the children and depiction of selfless life of our great Mahatma, I came across a few more things related to the children of twenty first century. One grand parent who came to witness the Sanskar Divas was accompanied by his younger grandson whose elder brother was one of the participants in the play. The grandfather of the child narrated one incident to us while interacting, which I would like to share with all of you and the other statement was given by Mr. Amitabh Bacchan in one of his programmes of Kaun Banega Crorepati. In the first example, the grandfather shared the worry of his grandson of being alone at one point of time. This is a joint family in which all members are well educated and they care for each other. The grandfather is a retired person and is very well known in the society. The father of the child is also an ideal father and he cares for both the kids and tries to look after them with utmost care as possible. The grandmother and the mother of the kids are cultured and sensible ladies who are teaching all good values to the children. By their description we can not presume any problem to the children at home and this is true also. Both the children are well informed about the things which they should be aware of. One day the younger child who fortunately does not go to any school yet asked a question to his grandmother and said that he was facing some difficulty and the exact sentence which he used was that he was in some trouble. The grandmother gave a smile to him because she could not believe that a child of age less than three years would say that he was in trouble and the word used by him in Hindi was ‘Musibat’ meaning thereby a big trouble. The child responded to the smile of his grandmother by the statement that he was in trouble and she was smiling on that. The grandmother tired to find the reason of his being disturbed and the reason given by the child is a true lesson for all of us. He said that his mother was teaching his elder brother and his father was discussing something with his friends who had come to visit him and now he was left alone and no one was there to talk to him or sit with him. There are two issues in the mind, firstly, how does a child of age two years plus know the meaning of the word trouble and the second is, are we exposing our children at that tender age to difficult situations? Does it again not establish the fact that the children of this century are maturing earlier than they should? I have been disturbed more by this because I know this family very well and the entire family is so well knit and connected and they really care for each other. The grandparents are always with the children and they are rarely left alone at home. If the child from such family finds himself in a problem, when all other members of the family are busy in some other work, then what would be the condition of the children who live in a nuclear family and in that also when both the parents are working? Where will they learn the values of life from? Will this not cause frustration and sense of insecurity among such children? We must think about it and find an answer to such questions. The other issue raised by Mr. Bachhan also makes us to think further on the same lines. He said that thirty forty years ago, the teacher would go to the class and tell the students that we would study this particular topic and the students would follow the instructions and happily learn the same as told by the teacher. As on today when the teacher goes to the class, he asks the students what topic would they  like to discuss. Hence, we have moved the full circle. The students are freer now to ask questions than before and they do take advantage of this opportunity. I would like to make it clear that I am of the opinion that the children should be given the opportunity of deciding what they would like to learn but this may not be possible always and with all groups of the children, but there is an urgent need of this to be followed. This is more pertinent now because of the family fabric of today. Earlier when the teacher used to give instructions and the students followed, this was because the children had ample opportunities to discuss and ask questions outside the class also. They were able to interact with their family members and friends while playing outside and not the virtual games on computers. The rapid growth has left our children with limited opportunity to go out and play because there are no parks and play grounds and the kids can not enjoy freely. Also the pressure of so many activities to be undertaken due to the wishes of their parents is not letting the children express themselves. People have different opinion about joint family verses nuclear family system, but I personally feel that the former is more beneficial for our kids to develop values and learn the lesson of life informally. But the reality is that the number of nuclear families is increasing day by day and the people are drifting away from their own people in this mad but unavoidable race to move ahead of others. So, the role of the teachers has become more important than before and they should take this challenge willingly and happily so that the future of the country can be moulded, guided and designed in a bright and colourful way. The young parents should also pay attention that their parents are the most important source of values for their kids, hence try to live together  so that the children are benefited and the their grandparents also enjoy the days of retirement with their grandchildren. This may not be possible in all cases and all families but should be tried and followed as much as possible. The last thing which I would like to suggest to all the parents and the teachers is to avoid  letting the children feel the enormity and implication of words as Musibat (trouble), tension and stress etc. Let them be exposed to enjoyment, happiness and care for each other. I expect critical comments from all of you so that we can discuss this issue further and contribute something positive in the lives of our children.    

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To be relived: The Gandhian philosophy

We celebrate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and many functions are organized in the schools, colleges and other places and the same is done all over the world in different ways. For many people in India, this seems to be a holiday and the people plan to go out to enjoy with their family. A few months back there was a debate on a TV channel in which the topic was how to celebrate National festivals. The person from travel industry was trying to prove that the people have a right to enjoy on these occasions and it was not necessary for them to sit at home and think and talk only about such day that are of immense importance. The debate gave a feeling to me that the national festivals, like Independence Day and Republic Day are marked only to enjoy. I have a different point of view in this regard. Such national festivals provide us an opportunity to remember the good done and sacrifices made by our forefathers and leaders. This is the occasion to remind ourselves of our duties and responsibilities towards our nation. This is also an opportunity to understand our great leaders better and get inspired by their deeds and character which made them great and enabled them to achieve freedom for us. This is not true only for the national festivals but all other occasions as well. This is the most appropriate opportunity for us to let our children understand and realize the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters and states men.
2nd October has great importance in the history of our nation. Two great leaders who contributed immensely in shaping the destiny of our country were born on this auspicious day. They were Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri. As usual we celebrated their birth day yesterday also. I happen to read some articles in different newspapers regarding the life these two great personalities. It is not that I had not known these things about them earlier but every time I read about them, it gives a lot of strength and positive energy. This also gives us a belief that if we remember and follow their sayings and doings then this country will reach newer heights sooner than thought by many in today`s time. At times Gandhi Ji and other leaders are made so great that ordinary people think that they cannot do anything of that kind which these leaders did. The same, at times, is felt by the children also and they tend to feel it too difficult to do things as Gandhi Ji or Lal Bahadur Shastri Ji did. But the truth is that they were also as ordinary children as anybody is! They did the same things which are expected of a normal child but the difference was that of conviction, courage and doing the things honestly. Gandhi Ji was no exception because he was also an ordinary human being, but truth and honesty were his hallmarks and he was very true to himself and also to others. We do read different views about him that he ate meat etc., but why did he do that, is very important to understand for all of us. He was swayed by one of his friends, who was very close to him and used to influence him the most, particularly for this incident of his life. As we all know that Gandhi Ji was very respectful towards his parents and would never dare to tell a lie to them or hide anything from them. They belonged to a Vaishnav family and were pure vegetarians and never thought of eating meat. This friend of Gandhi Ji used to encourage him to eat but Gandhi Ji would very politely say no and it was the same for other things also which Gandhi Ji thought were not right to do. When all efforts of this gentleman failed he used a trick. He knew that Gandhi Ji used to think and talk about why Britishers were ruling our country so one day he told Gandhi Ji that it was because they had more strength than Indians. When Gandhi Ji asked about the reason why Britishers had more strength than Indians his friend told him that it was because they ate meat and fish etc. So if he wanted to fight with them and be strong then he should also eat the same. It was something that Gandhi Ji had never done before, but was persuaded to do  because of his respect for the country. But at the same time, he was worried that his parents would be very annoyed with him if they came to know. He also knew that he would not be able to hide it from them. He ate meat few times but could not afford to conceal the same from his father. He wrote on a piece of paper and gave it to his father and stood in front of him. He wanted to be punished by his father. But as always after reading the confession his father was quite and did not say anything to Gandhi Ji. Gandhi Ji knew that his father would not scold or punish him and would not say anything to him. After this Gandhi Ji did not eat meat because he followed the voice of his conscience and never wanted his parents to suffer in the heart of their hearts because of his actions. One thing important to understand for all parents is that the parents of Gandhi Ji never scolded or punished their children. If they did anything wrong then the parents used to punish themselves particularly the father. This means it is not necessary to punish the children to make them understand their mistakes. This can be done by using other methods also because the children are so innocent that they get influenced by small gestures of love and understanding. The other thing which is very important for the children to be learnt from Gandhi Ji`s life is that they should be very careful while being friendly to someone because the friends can influence you the most, both positive as well a negative. This can very easily be understood from the lesson which Gandhi Ji learnt from the mistakes he committed because of the influence of his friend, who persuasively turned him into a non-vegetarian. He also misled and misinformed Gandhi Ji on different occasions. This teaches us that we should be very careful even while selecting a friend.
The other important quality which the children must imbibe from his life is that to accept and admit anything wrong done by you. This was one of the greatest qualities of Gandhi Ji that he would admit his mistakes very politely in front of all. I would advise all children and grown up people that if we can follow these simple things (which are not very difficult to follow but we seldom do), then the life would become easy for self as well as others. Let the children be inculcated with the value and habit of telling the truth and being honest. But before teaching the same to the children we have to inculcate the same in us. When I spoke to some students about these things their simple question to me was that if truthfulness and honesty are so important for them then why most of the adults tell a lie and why they were dishonest? This was one of the most difficult questions I faced and seek your help and guidance to answer this to the children. Only thing I can admit is that our words and actions do not match each other most of the times and that confuses our children the most. So, we should also take a pledge that lessons of Gandhi Ji`s life are not be taught to the children only but we should follow them first. This will be the real tribute to him.