Old values needed for evolution.

Image courtesy of Christian Meyn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The genius of Raj Kapoor perceived the root of India’s problems and also posed an effective answer to the same in the theme of his film, ‘Boot Polish’. The song, “Nanhe munhe bacche teri mutthi main kya hai…” is still remembered. But did our society take in the message? All I can say is that much of it was lost and a lot more left unexpressed.

What is the scenario now 40 years after the film was released? Duping and conning are such a common occurrence in today’s cut-throat world. During the recent Marathwada earthquake, clothing donated by people in good faith for the hapless victims was being sold at Juna Bazaar, recently an accident victim’s body lay unattended for over an hour while hordes of people passed by. It is the same thing everywhere – indifference, apathy and callousness. Such is the atmosphere enveloping us that we trust one another lesser by the day and the deploring fall in standards, lack of principles is heard everywhere. Corruption has spread its tentacles all round us and now holds us captive in its tweezer-like grip. One’s shocked and pained at the loss of trust in fellow human beings.

My uncle who recently visited USA was telling me that the newspapers stands there are unmanned and you pull out a copy and leave the money in the box nearby. Sad as it is, I can’t envision such a product meeting with much success if introduced in our country.

On the other hand, we have an example of a small Asian country know for its moral values and national pride. Somewhere in the tenth standard Hindi textbook there is an instance of a Japanese youth trying to keep his nation’s image unblemished. In the incident, an India Guru complains about scarcity of good fruits in Japan. The youth overhears him and drops everything to rush and fetch some fruits for the Guru. He then requests him to never repeat his complaint again since it wouldn’t be in his country’s request. There is another instance of a Japanese taking trouble to return the writer’s lost camera. Now these incidents are certainly worth emulating.

So what’s wrong with our present generation? Why is there a lack of moral values and ethics? It is indeed depressing to find the outside world at large being so bad, cruel, selfish and greedy. Of course there are exceptions, whom we reverently call, “Good Samaritans” but that is not enough.

In a passage I read sometime back, the writer says, “Most of what I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be, I learnt in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain but there in the sandbox. These are the things that I learnt : share everything, play fair, don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you are sorry when your hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and sing and dance and play and work everyday.”

So you see the moral values are best instilled and inculcated at the primary schooling stage and I can vouch for the fact that the children are innocent and  as white as snow. You can see God in their actions. I have seen many small children return money and other things that they find to proper authorities sincerely. They even talk politely to all elders, they do fight but make-up fast, hatred and villainy is not part of their tribe. So the basic foundation of our future generation is strong and stable and can withstand the load of  morals and principles.

Then what changes these tiny tots in to the people we normally see in today’s world? I have personally undergone this experience and I draw uncanny resemblances in real life to George Bernard Shaw’s observations, “Up to a certain age, children are as nervous and cowardly as mice, dreading darkness and ghosts, dogs and cows, and imaginary dangers of all sorts, from rubbers to rattle snakes. Later on, they become pugnacious, ashamed of cowardice, and thoughtlessly cruel and mischievous in mere bravado. They love authority for its own sake; witness or inflict with pleasure the punishments that intimidate them, make ridiculous rules of conduct, dress and deportment which they enforce violently and mercilessly.” So there is subtle but strong change that takes place during the teen years. If someone travels ticket-less by bus or train the teens feel that it is an act of bravado. If he manages to fool someone, it brings a childish grin our faces. And if someone speaks or acts idealistically, we can’t stand it and tease him to force him to stop being a ‘Raja Harishchandra’. Sermons are not acceptable too.The only things that can mold a person’s personality the right way is the presence and influence of an upright and awe-inspiring ‘Hero’ in their lives.

Of course the school too has a vital role to play in this project. Even parents feel that proper schooling can make the world of difference for their children. After all we spend  a substantial chunk of our waking-lives here.If we want to set exact limits and parameters for what the school should impart; it may be difficult to arrive at a consensus. But in order to produce healthy, law-abiding, optimistic and cheerful citizens we have a beacon available. It was lit and is burning bright for well over a century now, for the light wick comes from the powerful pen of one of the most illustrious of all American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. He wrote to his son’s Headmaster thus:

‘Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend. It will take time, but teach him if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found. Teach him to learn to lose, and enjoy winning. Steer him away from envy. If you can, teach him the secret of quiet laughter.

Teach him to have faith in his own ideas even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting in the band wagon… teach him to listen to all men but teach him to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him if you can,how to laugh when he sad.. teach him there’s no shame in tears, teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness … teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul.

Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.

This is a tall order, but see what you can do .. ‘He is such a fine fellow, my son.'”

This appeared in our school newspaper as part of a ‘Newspaper-in-education’ (NIE) initiative by The Times of India. I was in XIIth standard and of course the school had promoted an edition with the theme of ’values’ in Education.

Within the theme, I guess I have charted a fair sequence of school’s role in man’s education and evolution, quoting heavily from popular writings. And I quoted a big passage from Robert Fulghum’s piece, ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.’ I did so without naming him though – well remember there was no ‘Google’ then.


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