I have added a new blog to my blogroll: that of my old boy Sreejith. I think readers will find good stuff there. I take this opportunity to
ge my readers to try out the blogs on my blogroll whenever they visit mine, and to comment on those posts they like – that would be a great encouragement to the writers. I also ur ge the blog writers to write more frequently. Only Tanmoy and Shilpi write often enough. Those who don’t write for ur hs on end I am sadly forced to remove from the blogroll. I shall also request all to let me know now and then about any interesting new blog they have found - I shall be glad to visit them. And one other reminder: nobody is stopping you from visiting older posts and commenting on them! mont
I was thinking about the various requests that have been made lately regarding what people would like me to write about next, and wondering whether I could write something that addressed several of those requests simultaneously. Anirvan asked about how to raise children well; Harman (who himself lives a frighteningly busy life as a neurosurgeon based in
) was musing on the need for solitude (and even provided a link to an article which I want all my readers to look up and reflect upon), and Subhajit asked about how to empower New York individuals and be of some use to mankind. Too divergent questions to answer at one go?
Well, yes and no. The fact is not only that peaceful solitude is vanishing from our lives (except for those like the handicapped and the very old and the very young with no guardians to look after them, who might have too much of it!), but children are actually being brought up in such a pressure-cooker atmosphere that they are not only not learning to appreciate the immense value of occasional solitude, but actually to be afraid of it, to regard it as some kind of sickness. It is not that they are having to work or study all the time –
eed, compared to the amount of regular studying good boys used to do in my day, these creatures hardly study anything at all except at exam.-time, studying anything ‘outside the syllabus’ is equally anathema to both parents and children, and it is a rare child which is both trained and encouraged to do regular household chores in this part of my country, at least in the social set that I deal with. But going to school every day (regardless of whether much learning happens there), attending sundry tuitions, doing the same kind of homework, watching the same sort of stuff on TV, playing the same sort of computer games, having the same sort of birthday parties, giggling over the same kind of jokes, swooning over the same celebrities, being seen in the same kind of clothes, being programmed to desire the same sort of status-symbol gadgets – and never being allowed to be alone with their thoughts – it often strikes me that in an apparently democratic society which makes a huge fetish of free choice, children today are actually being raised in concentration camps designed to produce hordes of clones (tellingly, hundreds of them even make exactly the same mistakes of grammar and spelling!), with only the starvation and physical brutality missing. Not needed, I suppose, since brainwashing works so much more effectively. Half a century ago, lots of children could think on their own; today I can see my old boys (and that too, only a small fraction of them) beginning to think now and then after they are past their mid-20s, if by thinking we mean wondering why things are the way they are, and why they are being told lifelong to do the things they are told, and trying to figure out whether they could live better, more meaningful, more rewarding lives. By that time most of them have their careers and lifestyles unchangeably decided for them – alas for all those who then start feeling that this is not what they wanted! ind
Another awful thing that has happened (and this has to do with Subhajit’s concern with ‘empowerment’) lately with children is that, in the process of being brought up as described above, they have actually been taught to feel helpless without parents, tutors, formatted syllabi and routine examinations – more and more with the passage of time they are being convinced that they cannot do, learn, think, feel or achieve anything on their own. Where are the Tom Sawyers and Indranaths, the Dickens-es and Faradays today? They cannot possibly learn anything without tutors (I am tired of telling parents their wards, especially when they are doing well by themselves, don’t need me); they cannot travel anywhere on their own until they are past 20 (and sometimes not even then!), they cannot be trusted with money, they cannot go out to play with their friends (the parks in my town are either empty or occupied by old men or kids from the slums – lucky kids!), they cannot learn by themselves to deal with the opposite sex (too ‘dangerous’), they cannot even ‘afford to waste precious time’ going shopping for their mothers (though I know as they do how many ways they have devised of wasting time…). And this is becoming self-fulfilling. After five years of college, MBBS doctors say they are not yet ready to treat patients on their own, so they need a further diploma for ‘hands-on’ experience; graduate engineers are having to be 'trained' in elementary good manners and language skills before they can become job-competent; PhD scholars are passing off others' earlier work as their own ‘research’ and getting their papers ghost-written, housewives with master’s degrees cannot teach their primary-school going children, I personally know married ex-students whose parents still virtually run the household, and I read about actresses pushing 30 being chaperoned by their mothers on the sets. Does empowerment merely mean giving poor people some means of making money? I often discuss with my wife and daughter that the girls who work as our maidservants and simultaneously take care of younger siblings at home are far more ‘empowered’ than their more ‘fortunate’ brothers and sisters - all they need is better wages!
To return to the need for solitude, it has been my lifelong conviction that one needs a lot of it not only to become one’s own man, sure of one’s strengths, tastes and goals, not only to become truly creative in any field, art or science or philosophy, but even to enjoy all the many good things of life. You don’t need cackling company to enjoy a baby's hug or a beautiful sunset or a grand symphony or a good movie or a great book or a fine wine: in fact, unless it is genuinely congenial company, you are much better off without it. It’s a terrible pity that today’s children hardly know all the enjoyment they are missing, with adults as well as peers breathing down their necks all the time. Thoreau’s solitude in Walden is not for everybody, but we all desperately need some of it to live good lives. And those who think they don’t perhaps need it the most!
P.S., March 03: Try this article, it's a must-read. And I swear that I didn't write it myself. The writer is a very successful American social entrepreneur.