We have lost hope. With more barriers and walls being made in the mind of the youth every day it is easy to lose hope. The number of murders and rapes increasing every second but still the population is the most it has ever been. We have forgotten the inconvenient truth very conveniently. There is so much hatred. So much anger. But why? It is everywhere from the music we listen to the movies we watch. Violence, anger, hatred, sex. This is what turns us on?
I’ve taught children who have their own maids and drivers and talk about Muslims as if they were less than dirt. I can’t blame them. I got the privilege of being bought up where all religions were treated equally. Not only religion but gender and class as well. I used to play with the cook’s children and treat them like my own brother and sister. I used to teach the Maali bhaiya English while he tended to the garden. I’ve dated a Muslim who respected my family and me more than some of my Hindu friends.
We keep talking about how we are developing. For me enhanced technology is not development. Humanity is development. With 9 year olds giving me advice that I should buy an I-phone to having them say that beggars are mad. It makes me cringe. But that doesn’t mean we should lose hope. All we can do is mold their delicate minds that have been corrupted with the pollution of barriers and class.
At the same time I’ve taught a class filled with about 50 children who come from families like plumbers, fruit vendors and gardeners. It was the time when demonetization had just been announced so I wanted to get an idea on what they thought. I will never forget what they said ‘’Ma’am huamre liye toh theek hai lekin mazdooro ke liye acha nahi hua”(Ma’am it’s ok for us but it’s not good for the laborers). These are children with about 8 people living in one room in the bastis of Doon. I have been to their homes and never felt so welcomed ever before. Each house I went to I was offered water and given the only chair in the room as the children slept on the bed or floor suffering from malaria and dengue. The point is, when we were worrying about having to stand in lines in banks or ATMs these children were still thinking of others and how they were still better off. I think they taught me more in those 6 months than I taught them.
We have become so selfish. We go around in our huge cars and go to charity parties while we have 12 year olds working for us at home and our children show them complete disrespect. I used to teach two children at their home. They were about 6 years old. Whenever the helper who was about 15 years old would bring me a cup of tea or water I would always say thank you to him. My student would always observe this and one day asked ‘’Ma’am why do you say thank you to him? He doesn’t even know the meaning of it.’’ It took me a second to respond, since I knew the helper had heard everything and my student had said this in Hindi. I casually told him that why doesn’t he teach him then? If he is going to school then doesn’t the helper have the right to go to school as well? He didn’t say anything after that but I knew he was surprised at what I said.
I am not a feminist and think that there will never be complete equality however much we try. I believe in respect to each other regardless of gender or age. I remember once in college on the bus in I got up to let an old man sit down. I remember him saying how we don’t find such children anymore. It made me feel so good. I didn’t do it so that the good looking guy in the bus would think I am a nice person. I did it because when I saw that man he reminded me of my own grandfather. Most of my friends are males and come from different backgrounds and religions but they have so much respect for me as well as others. I like to observe how these friends act around their mothers and sisters because I do believe it makes a huge difference. I once told my boyfriend how if and when we have children how I want them to be able to see how much he respects me as a woman. He told me that he would expect me to respect him too. I never thought of it that way.
With the next generation playing on their phones and tablets before they can even walk properly it’s time for a cry of help. I don’t want to believe it is too late for us to get in touch with ourselves once again and go back to the simpler times.