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BW Businessworld

Analysis: Easier Said Than Done

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Why should a cricketer not cheat, particularly when the most visible entities, individuals and corporations, skate on grey and sometimes positively black areas? Then there is the comment: ‘How greedy can one get?’ Is a desire for ‘more’ a bad thing? Who is to define the difference between ‘need’ and ‘greed’? Should one not be free to define this? And are there limits or boundaries that we must ‘respect’ as individuals living in a society? Isn’t our society built on pushing boundaries, which is the cornerstone of human endeavours?

Is this chase for the more, higher, better, not embedded in the educational process, conversations between parents and children, and peer exchanges at hangouts? How to avoid taxes, give and receive kickbacks, bend rules? Are not our heroes those who recognise no barriers — physical, social, economic or moral?

Are not these old questions that erupt in our midst with amazing regularity? And challenge us to find answers not only to answer the questioner, but also the sacred places in our beings, where questions shelter? We hear two languages — of doing practical functions, and the other of being, a recognition of where we stand, and how? Often, these point in different directions.

Studying at a British government recognised school used to be a source of valuable employment. The Depression years had sealed this perception. School, eligibility and employment became an inseparable amalgam.

Schools are places that hear echoes of young voice; where this cauldron is stirred, of aspirations and lived truisms. When many gather and interact, cultures grow. But the dominant culture can be very strong and cannot be denied easily.

The accent on employability that one hears from students in the case study is pernicious. Their voices echo the truth that examinations seem to determine worthiness. But with an inclusive global perspective, worthiness cannot be left to the mercy of high-stakes examinations. Equipping children for life requires attention to the fuzzy zone of attitudes, feelings and individual effort. The challenge is as much how to value diversity as to coexist intelligently and sensitively.

Adult voices are often timorous, weak and do not reflect life choices. For far too long have adults spoken one thing and done another. Society wants security for its young but has not cared about the how.

Talking cricket, here is an anecdote. Garfield Sobers, fielding in first slip, took a low catch off Nari Contractor’s bat. There were loud appeals, and the umpire gave out. But Sobers signalled ‘not out’; that the ball had touched the ground. The match continued. Only Sobers knew! But it was important for him to be fair, decent, and to strive hard, truthfully. Sir Garfield Sobers is not only recognised as a specially gifted cricketer but also as a human being who played fair. Is such a thing conceivable in today’s cricket? Has the space for truth and decency vanished with the bright colours, glitz, prizes, money and advertisement sponsorships? Is it surprising that the young are internalising abandonment to the marketplace where success equals money?

The younger generation unerringly catches the discord between uttered words and lived actions. Adults quiver and wonder what to point towards — Sobers saying not out? Gandhi and Mandela saying non-violence? Or the glitzy, glass-walled offices, shiny cars and success? Money, a lot of it, as soon as possible?

The ends-and-means discourse has always been acute. Possibly, we don’t speak to our children enough. Possibly, the language of success is louder, clearer and more definite.

One may ask, as Janardhan David does in the case: do we care enough for the new generations? Or, should we listen to Chief Seattle’s more disturbing words: ‘He walks on the graves of his forefathers and does not care! He tramples on the rights of his unborn children and he does not care!’? 

The author is director-secretary, The Chennai Education Centre, KFI, Pathashaala & Outreach. He is a former principal of The School KFI

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 12-08-2013)