This is an edited version of a speech I had delivered in 2014. The full speech can be found below:
Every time I think of my school days, it reminds me of that forwarded SMS I had received a few years ago. It was regarding the hierarchy persistent in the Indian professions and it goes like this:
There is an invisible hierarchy in Indian professions. At the bottommost are the least valued, above them a little more valued, and finally at the top is the most valued. The least valued was engineering (obviously), above them, the management graduates, then doctors, politicians, dons, and ultimately above all of them advising the entire nation (also minting money) lies the spiritual gurus (swamijis and gurujis). Now the irony is, as you go up the ladder the amount of time they have spent in school reduces (drastically).
It makes me wonder, is education all about schooling? There must be something beyond schooling in education, right? We have plenty of engineers, doctors, business schools, teachers training institutes, institutions of national importance but still we are a nation ruled by corrupt politicians and spiritual gurus. So why does education not help us in reaching the topmost tier? I believe this is because we have culprits in education, not one but three. The list goes like this:
1) Students. The Innocent Culprits.
They exactly know what they love doing, but they will never do that for a living (or are never permitted to). When I ask a few of my friends to tell me some books that they love they speak of Sherlock Holmes, Nicholas Sparks & Enid Blyton. But then why do we never love our textbooks? Or why do we never take that branch which has textbooks that we love? We love literature, gaming, social sciences etc. But will we ever try being a writer? No. Why? Because it is not a respected job/field/profession. Parents won’t agree and it doesn’t possess the required value in the matrimony field. We choose by elimination, don’t we? After standard 8 we eliminate our regional language, after 10th we eliminate arts and social science, after schooling, we eliminate chemistry (and after engineering our girlfriend eliminates us!).
2) Teachers. The Smart Culprits.
Not all, but a good majority. The first thing that comes into my mind when I think of teachers is — gold medals, toppers, the best outgoing student, etc. It was my teachers who taught me all this. Either be an outstanding student or stand outside. I very clearly remember visiting my relative’s house for birthday parties during my childhood days. Every now and then you will have some uncle or aunt coming up to you and introducing their child. This is my son, Rank 2, Class 8th. This is my daughter, topper UKG. And I always used to wonder where the rest of her class is? And why on earth are they not my relatives.
3) The Parents. The Ignorant Culprits.
They have completed one full cycle, know the entire system, and about the pointless exams, but still create a fuss. I come from a state wherein even if you are a Ph.D. holder you will never be respected (Yes, Kerala!). Super-saturated with literacy. So if you want to be respected u should be either working in the Gulf or Infosys. Once it so happened that the parents of a friend of mine who was turning 27 decided that he should start suffering (Read: get married). A profile was created on a matrimonial website. The girl’s father liked the profile, and started inquiring to the guy’s father “Where is your son working?”. The guy’s father replied “Chennai”. (Score-Minus one). The next question was “ooh… in which company?” and “AMAZON” came the proud reply. The girl’s father asked, “didn’t get in Infosys huh?”. (Score-Minus two). Saddened by this low profile the girl’s father went home and told his wife “I don’t think this will work. How can we send our daughter with a guy who is not in Gulf? And he is working for a courier company. Which is not even DTDC?’’
People, the true purpose of education is to make minds and not careers. It is not about eliminating, it is about self-exploring, figuring things you love and developing as a better individual. It is not about always standing on the podium, it is about failing and fighting back. It is not about working at a place where people will respect you, it is about having a job which you will respect every single day. Be yourself and not a culprit.
That is why the legendary boxer Mohd. Ali said, “Yes, I am going to be the peoples’ champ, but not the way they want me to be, but the way I want me to be!’’