Thursday, May 11, 2017

Details Create The Big Picture

The topic I would be reflecting upon in this piece has an interesting origin. Deciding to explore the field of economics, I picked up Ruchir Sharma's, The Rise and Fall of Nations. It indeed rethinks the -dismal science- of economics as a practical art. Sharma explains how to spot political, economic, and social changes in real time, narrowing the thousands of factors that can shape a country's fortunes. Interestingly, the part that caught my attention was a beautiful introductory tale. It goes like this. A prosperous king wants his young son to learn the importance of details and nuances that is generally missed by a non observant mind. In order to let him accomplish this he sends him to a dense jungle. On his return, the son narrates that he could hear the tiger roaring in the jungle. The father asks him to return to the jungle and observe things deeply. This time the son returns to tell the father that he could hear certain other animals in the vicinity of the forest. Once again he is asked to observe and the process goes on. Every time he returns being able to observe a detail much nuanced and descriptive than the previous one. He even hears the ruffling of the leaves, buzzing of insects and the serene flow of the wind. The father is finally satisfied with his son when the he comes back and reveals that he was able to predict what was about to happen in one corner of the jungle before it actually happened.
Out of so many messages that this story gives; the most important one is the fact that “beauty lies in details and a mind forewarned is forearmed”. And the key to acquiring this quality lies in the sheer idea of ‘keen observation, paying attention to details and reading between the lines’. Once you learn to deal with an idea, information or a situation with a broader perspective, giving all the possibilities around it a proper chance to unveil, you realize how many ways could actually be there to not only understand but also to deal with a situation. “Anyone who teaches knows that you don't really experience a text until you've taught it, in loving detail.” There is a lot of importance given to the idea of observation and attention to details in the teaching-learning process. As said through the above quote a teacher is able to cover a topic or a chapter well when she/he takes it up in detail. Similarly, students are able to grasp every bit of it only when they are made curious about the nuances of the concept. Once they get involved in the chapter they become interested to know more.  Our education system in the past produced scholars and enabled people to develop so they became learned person in real sense. But our examination system in the present scenario is faulty as it is marks oriented, which does not encourage students to take a free leap into the world of imagination.
Getting into details is like meditating. When teachers begin with their career, their initial performance is not par excellence but as they get time to go deeper into a subject and explore it in detail, year after year their knowledge deepens and they are able to teach the chapter in a better way every time. When children are given an opportunity to teach their peer or fellow students they are able to understand the chapter or topic better. Reading a poem or a chapter again and again gives them a better insight into it. Children are curious by nature. How interesting even a heavy duty cell becomes when a child explores it by opening it in parts, removing its zinc and brass layers. This curiosity shuns when pressurized under the race of attaining more marks. Being curious about details builds the capacity of the student to understand things in various possibilities considering alternate meanings and becoming curious at the same time, about the origin of a concept or an idea. This broadens the perspective of the students and they venture beyond the factual stock of information.
Adherence to details creates an atmosphere of holistic teaching and deeper understanding in the classroom. Look at Bloom’s Taxonomy for example; it was introduced in order to promote higher forms of thinking in education, such as analyzing and evaluating concepts, processes, procedures, and principles, rather than just remembering facts. This proves how details play a very important role in the teaching learning process. When it comes to vivid descriptions of basic principles, name of Sushruta comes to mind. He is one of the earliest surgeons of the recorded history (600 B.C.). He is believed to be the first individual to describe plastic surgery. He described the principles of plastic surgery in his famous ancient treatise ‘Sushruta Samhita’. His teachings and practice has considerable surgical knowledge of relevance even today. He believed that knowledge of both surgery and medicine are essential to constitute a good doctor who otherwise, “is like a bird with only one wing”. The new students under him were expected to study for at least six years. He always emphasized that to be perfect in any field you need to be having knowledge of as many areas as possible. Great physicists like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were not great in physics only but in mathematics, philosophy, religion etc also.
Delhi Public School just celebrated its Annual Function 2017 and the grandness it reached this year is unmatched and par excellence. The theme was India’s fight for freedom. It spanned from the coming of the British to Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’. To encompass such a magnanimous theme for a school annual function was a tremendous challenge. But the way it was conceived and presented by the students made it another remarkable feat for the school.
There were so many times when a particular scene became a challenge for the students because they could not grasp the intensity of that moment. That is when ‘adherence to details came handy’. Once they were made to feel the seriousness of the historical event they were supposed to enact, they could easily feel it in their veins. To express the correct amount of emotion and feel the struggle, students had to realize the details of the historical event. They were made to understand the feelings of Gandhi when he says in response to the statement that the country is moving ahead, as he questions “But, in which direction?” They were told the tales from history books only to prove that these emotions cannot be confined to the pages of a history book. Introduced to these details they were beautifully able to showcase the roles of Mangal Pandey, Lok Manya Tilak, Shubhash Chandra Bose, Pandit Nehru, Kasturba Gandhi, the cruelty of british officers and even the small role of the villagers.
Coming back to the story that became the inspiration for this article I would point out that the prince who was sent to the jungle, time and again, had no formal training about how to adjust in the jungle. He was not guided rather was expected to use his instincts to deal with any situation in the wild jungle. Similarly, children should not be bound to a set pattern. They should be given opportunities to explore and experiment with experience and attempts for learning in the real sense.

“It is the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”- John Wooden


  1. Sir it's good to read such inspirational words.My situation is the same ,I am learning the environment and it's various signals to face the situation.Thanks for your words. I will be waiting for the next.
    Congratulations for the Annual Day.

  2. really inspirational....we never have to stop learning ...we must continualy look for ways to improve ..thanku sir