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I was taking a walk this evening through the lanes of my new world and new campus. 9.30pm is not such a late evening I suppose. Post-dinner walk is a routine for me for the past many months — but lost as I am always in my own thoughts and my own world, more-so without specs, it’s difficult for me to recognize faces. Suddenly from one dark corner of the lone building someone shouted at the top of his voice, “good evening maam” — the voice was warm, mischievous and naughty, enough to jolt me out of my somnambulism . My immediate response was to turn around and respond with a “good evening” as loud as his, but he ran away and vanished in the fraction of a second. I stood there waiting for him to come back so that I can return his good-evening with my own response and in fact inquired from people around in order to know the name of this boy who had the powers of vanishing 🙂 . Stood there for 10 mins or so, I knew very well that he will not come back  — perhaps he was afraid I might scold or complain, or perhaps it was just a part of a prank to make me aware that a world exists outside my own hemispheres. If the second case is true, I must thank my unknown benefactor.

Yet, I am concerned and slightly afraid of the trends. Not that am too far in times or social status to judge the present generation but there is something much more deeper and more troubling  which needs to be looked at seriously.  The first aspect that I am thinking of is regarding the safety of women/ girl students in smaller towns, localities or suburban colleges in India. How safe is a girl actually? How safe are her peripheries and her zone of movement? There is something extremely lurid in the depiction and imagination of women in India. However, if our role models are so problematic then what do we expect of a younger generation? On Friday night, I was just browsing through the news channels and happened to come across a late night edition of IBN Live ‘s show where Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai,  Mr. Suheil Seth, Ms.Nikunj Malik, and Mr. Siddharth Basu were discussing the fate of Rahul Mahajan and Dimpy Ganguly (I am desperately trying to search that video on net in order to give you an evidence of the tone of such a conversation, but the video seems to have been removed). Except for Siddharth Basu, the rest of the team seemed to take an unhealthy pleasure in maligning a couple going through rough times. In fact, the extent of the discussion was such that Mr. Sardesai asks Ms. Malik if she would like to get married to an eternal bachelor like Mr. Seth and further deeper innuendos on Friday evening and the social and cultural background of a character like Dimpy. Not that I have any special corner for either the couple or malign against the news channel but the kind of discussion that was on was simply in ‘bad faith’. On the one hand, Mr. Sardesai talks of Indian audience being extremely voyeuristic and on the other there is a vocal discussion of Friday late night jokes where the trauma of a family is open to national scrutiny. Personally, I feel that there ought to be no room for academic snobbery while sitting on the editor’s desk  especially to ridicule a girl as that ‘Dimply’ and with statements that would implicitly imply “she deserves it because she got married to a wife-abuser in a third-rate show”.  Is this what a nation condemns its women to? What do we name this? The media and national news channels are supposedly live schoolrooms where students learn not only General Knowledge but also facing the nation with a certain degree of respect and responsibility. Students learn the very alphabet of a code of conduct from the media that they get exposed to. If national televisions and news channels themselves are so dramatically bent towards publishing lewd paparazzi or superstitions then where do young minds of not more than 18-20 yrs stand in this ruthless onslaught of information? Many women are subject to not only physical but also linguistic and imaginative violence at every stage of their life. In this context, where does a young girl just out of her teens not even sure of herself, joining college for the first time stand her chances? I don’t have an answer….

The second aspect that troubles my thought is that I have been observing cultural shows and galas of late at various institutions. There seems to be a dearth of imagination and all the shows boil down to just dating, flirting and dancing for so called ‘love’ and the ‘moving on’ aspect post the one-evening love. These shows have either Bollywood or else TV shows with Swayamvar kind of content. Drama, especially theater where students actually learn to perform as well as understand texts that would enrich their vocabulary as well as understanding of life seems to have vanished somewhere. Everyday communication has taken center stage and there seems to be hardly the time to read, understand and assimilate. I am not sure if in the craze to make technology and communication ‘simpler’ we are trying to produce a crop of students who do not understand any other language except the ‘simplified’ language of MMSes, SMS, social networking sites or cliff-notes for studies. I am slightly pessimistic regarding the role of a teacher to motivate students to ‘read’. Remember Robin Williams’ role in the classic movie ‘Dead Poets Society’? All this seems very attractive and motivating on-screen but how far we are able to bring out that which we are supposed to bring out in the young minds…I am still in doubt.

A recent study published as an article in an online portal called ‘Boston Globe’ states that there is a sharp decline in students across the world regarding their motivation and the hours they put in study. The amount of time invested by students to study has dramatically reduced over the years to an extent that now students study less than an hour a day.  That is scary!  I have a very strong reservation against compartmentalizing academic disciplines.  We will prepare good servants not good leaders or bright futures of this society if we limit ourselves to academic disciplines. Einstein also read philosophy, Gandhi did read Ruskin (the economist) to prepare his political ideologies, and if we look at the people of today Nandan Nilekani or Narayan Murthy or Kanwal Rekhi, in my perception have not limited themselves to studying Computer Science or Information Technology. In order to rule the roost, the secret of any leader’s achievement is her/his capacity to read, understand and assimilate things across disciplines. We cannot and should not stop a mathematician to learn Sanskrit or Prakrit and we cannot stop a doctor to understand literary theory. If we intend to divide curriculum on the basis of disciplines and if as students we have the apathy in accepting a new thought, a new idea or a new stream of knowledge, it is our gross misfortune. The world  has opened up to disciplines — it has become interdisciplinary. The sooner we accept the fact, better it is for a growing economy like ours.

As a nation, we are gifted with a population comprising largely of the younger generation. You must have seen the cola ad everywhere regarding ‘Youngistan’ a pun on ‘Hindustan’. What kind of nation do we want to build? Is there a nation to build at all? Is there an India? Why not call each of our states just by their individual names instead of calling the whole geographical chunk as ‘India’? How many of us agree to that proposition? None…because of some weird sense of a ‘hidden’ nationalism at the idealistic level, and economic as well as political reasons at deeper levels.  However, when it comes to positively building a nation by contributing in ways which can help those sections of the society which actually need our help, we back-off.  What kind of younger generation are we preparing for tomorrow? A generation that exists for itself? Selfishness, unscrupulousness and dishonesty in personal and professional lives — is this the kind of nation we want to give to the ‘Youngistan’? Are we building a literate mass that knows how to read and write and talk, talk ‘Hinglish’ and talk to the interview board with street-smartness not with integrity or knowledge?  I am reminded of an ad of a fairness company launching a male fairness-cream brand. The ad shows a good-looking smart male snatching away a job from the interviewers with his street-smart attitude and his good-looks. If that is what it takes to get a job these days then why are we setting up institutes of learning? We just need some companies to groom our looks and develop our power of talking confidently….

All these thoughts crossed my mind this evening…  ‘good evening’ to you as well! 🙂