Language, culture and history act as a pillar of psychological support and encourage us to take pride in our country; Indian classics and epics are one way to reinforce this in our children.
Last year, I was invited to give a talk in IIT Kanpur, one of the premier technological institutes of India (and my alma mater), on how young budding engineers can help light up the lives of forgotten poor Indians. During the question-answer session, I asked the 250 + students who were in the auditorium, how many had read the Indian classics like Mahabharata, Panchatantra, Jatak Tales, etc. Very few of them raised their hands.
It is a similar scenario in all the educational institutes that I visit and deliver lectures in. Yet, the same youngsters have often read Western fairy tales, stories and nursery rhymes.
Similarly, it is very difficult nowadays to meet youngsters who can talk comfortably in their mother tongue; it is often a hotchpotch of their mother tongue and English. Very soon, we will be producing a generation of Indians who will neither know their culture nor their language!
Language, culture and history provide us with a pillar of psychological support and encourage us to take pride in our country. This could be one of the reasons why many youngsters are not proud of their country or do not have an attachment to it.
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In the same talk at IIT Kanpur, at the end of my lecture, I asked the students that, if I had the power to send them to the US, how many of them would take me up on my offer and go to the country to settle there. A majority of the students present raised their hand.
I wonder how we got to a stage where youngsters who attend elite institutions and come from well-to-do families, prefer to live and work abroad, rather than stay and work in India. I feel that, somehow, they do not have a bond with India or a strong tie with its culture or philosophy.
Last year, in December, I attended a conference on Consciousness in Bangalore. A speaker talked about autism in children and how it is being treated. She showed a video clip in which a young boy from a rural town in Karnataka was brought to the clinic in Bangalore and his mother sang Western nursery rhymes to keep him occupied and engaged.
There is a craze in rural and urban areas to learn English and children are made to memorise Western nursery rhymes, poems and ditties! Slowly and silently, we are moving towards a time when we will completely forget our great Indian stories, tales and culture.
The brain of children in the school-going age is very pliable and is capable of absorbing a huge amount of information.
The folk tales of India from all states, from our great books like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchatantra, Jatak Katha, etc. should be taught in schools to inspire children.
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There is a great deal of wisdom in these books, which needs to be distilled and presented in a form which can be easily understood by students.
Similarly, the rich and long history of India which has produced great leaders like Buddha, Ashok, Adi Shankaracharya, Akbar, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Vivekananda, Gandhi, etc. should be taught in schools and these leaders should be presented as role models for children; short stories on their lives and their deeds should be taught in all classes.
During my childhood, my father presented me with a set of Tales from Panchatantra. They were in Hindi and were so fascinating and wonderful that I used to be lost in reading them. Later on, these tales, together with other Indian classics that I read, instilled in me an awe and pride for the country that could produce such a great thinking and values, thousands of years ago.
One can even say that Mahatma Gandhi, who laid great emphasis on the Gita and the Ramayana, and quoted them extensively in his speeches, was himself inspired by them and used these great classics to instill a pride and love for India.
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Similarly, all great leaders in various civilizations have inspired their countrymen by taking recourse to the tales and history of their country’s past, and classics of that country provide an excellent backdrop for such inspiration.
Only when our children will be inspired by Indian thought, ethos, history and the lives of our great spiritual and social leaders, will they start taking pride in our country and our culture. Otherwise, our culture will become Bollywood and Hollywood-based (as it is already becoming)! And we are creating a whole generation of Indians who can best be described by an Indian saying “Dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka!”
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