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BW Businessworld

Analysis: The Children See All

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Dronacharya basked in the glory of successful warriors who had been his students. When a teacher educates, does he look for material success of students as the measure of his effort? Nothing succeeds like success! The means are soon forgotten.

Time washes the stains clean, and benevolent biographers do the rest. We have enough stories of dyed-in-success-awful-means endeavours. All it takes is smart success, many zeros, suits and ties and expensive cars. And the means don’t count any more. All can be covered over with the sheen of success, softened to acceptable levels for the bright lights. Truth can be reduced to opinions and opinions altered to make life just that bit easier.

Shri Kundu refused to play this game, but wished that honesty and truth would prevail. That his life and his children’s will, somehow, be cleaner, purer, better. But the rewards of honesty are not visible, and on the contrary, shame, ridicule, and tolerance are his rewards. He endures, fearful of the consequences.

In the name of pragmatism we are taught conformity, subtly. ‘Do what everyone does, or you will fall behind, be left out, only place with the losers.... See Kundu! Learn soon, or else....’ This becomes second nature; this is the education we receive, and no school is needed for this. Of course, schools are free to voice their moral rant. No one minds. The moral rant is for the moment, and isn’t cashable, so it’s of little value.

Then what is the teacher-professor offered? An opportunity to engage with young minds and give them the tools for a good life. Surely part of this is earning a livelihood. But then what about the dilemmas? Life is not linear; crossroads confront us often. Then what is the teaching? Who is to provide the fibre to engage with the attrition that values take? Who is to help the young trust their dreams and inner intimations, uncover their predilections and callings?

Surely, the educator is not a person who meekly endorses survival according to the venal pattern of scams and loot. Surely, the educator has to do something more than meekly support an ancient order of privileges.

There is a myopic view that just sees the immediate. All too often, with the pressure of the immediate we lose the long view. And no one seems to help the young in handling this. Possibly there is another gaze that sees things not through the lens of mere utility. (Are we guilty of mauling or cauterising this gaze?) The unnerving gaze of children, unborn and innocent, is difficult to cheat, or avoid. Surely, our children will see what fripperies we played for, what coloured glass pieces. Surely, they will know — as we will, when we are near our end — that the success of accumulations and accomplishments, is fleeting.

Even if it sounds impractical, Kundu should consider the gaze of unborn children as a truer audience than approval in the eyes of the immediate trendsetters. Therefore, he needs to accept the consequences of his choice and simply consider his investment as one for the invisible future. Sagar possibly sees that he may find himself in Kundu’s shoes all too easily.

The children of the future will walk on what we leave behind. All walking is movement on what has been, what is beneath the feet. It is a question of whether we wish to recognise this or consider our life and right to enjoy gratification as the main purpose of life.

Kundu seems to be pleading with Sagar. Is he is really weak? Could he actually be saying: Your work goes beyond merely mouthing words? Do you take responsibility for supporting students through the mazes of terror, uncertainty, ridicule, self doubt, loss, desperation and meaninglessness? Do you go beyond the sheltered academic walls where words are tossed about? And if you do, you will be an educator!

Kundu offers his living practice, and asks, ‘Do you practice or only preach?’ Sagar shudders acknowledging a real question.

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 29-07-2013)