I attended a function at a local school recently in which each of us five panelists were asked to present ideas about the future of India. My presentation was "The individual and the collective: how small is sometimes big." What was interesting was that a few days later I attended a wonderful talk by an architect friend who repeated the exact same message. Speaking about the need for each individual to take accountability for ecological issues in the world today he implored us to recognise that it is each of us who can bring about the necessary change required if we each had the desire and will to do small things of consequence.
But for those children who sat as the audience at their school function the day I was invited to speak to them; their school and their parents fails them, without a doubt. This is because their parents and teachers have not believed it relevant to sensitize these wonderfully bright, formative and impressionable young people, the value of learning from spaces that are unorthodox and unfamiliar. Where self accountability and introspection are experiences that we teach our youth in the classroom; so that in the moments of being in a crowd the spirit to stand up and be counted burns like a fire in the belly. Where children learn to hold their own space that demarcates who they are for themselves, and we break the pattern of mob mentalities that prevail as the excuse for human dysfunctional behaviour. Where success is not merely reflected in the marks of a report card, but by the personal development of the individual child who is nurtured through wisdom.
No child is ever too young to not be impacted or to not be inspired. The potential to expose our children to learn how they can imbibe positive lessons of life, is infinite. But for any plant to flourish, a seed must be sown. If activities at schools are to truly bear fruit, then we who conduct them need to stringently re-asses the paradigms of purposefulness that we seek to establish. We often become content with the virtue of a gesture and stop short of realising the larger consequence that the intention can carry.
Today the world is changing rapidly and nothing can ever be done that does not impact the collective. If we do not recognise this. If we do not encourage our children to learn this basic lesson that each of them are individuals who add up to make this collective, and who therefore need to be accountable to their conscience at all times; if we do not teach them to be alert to receive from beyond the prescriptive modules of learning; then yes we are failing to equip them with the basic lessons necessary to live productive lives.
So each of us must look at ourselves and whenever we interact with children, prepare them to know the value of these spaces of communication. Because otherwise the spark of knowledge is only a short fuse, and no sustained illumination can ever be expected from it. So let us keep the darkness of ignorance at bay. It takes very little to scratch at the curiosity and alertness of children, and even less to get them to find their inner consciousness and hold it with pride. The question is do we as adults choose to approach the space of interaction with our children for the right reasons, and are we willing to walk the talk ourselves? I leave you to answer that question for yourselves.
Photograph of Rajinder Tikoo the sculptor, talking about his work to students from the collective studio, at Sauparnika on his recent visit to Baroda in January.