Friday, January 16, 2015

Letter to Metamorphia

16th January 2016

Dear Metamorphians,
I have 87 days left with you. Typically, we make around 1000 choices in a day. In these 87 days, we have over 87000 choices each of us can make.

You have the choice to listen and learn or talk and waste your and your friend's time. You have the choice to work hard everyday by doing your classwork, homework, group-work and preparation for procedures or to be lazy and give up on your dreams. You have the choice to come to school everyday and celebrate your remaining time in Metamorphia or sleep at home. You have the choice to eat well and stay healthy or eat street food and fall ill. You have the choice to ask a question or to remain confused and lost.

You have the choice to work together as a team to help everyone achieve their goals or work against each other so that no one achieve their goals. You have the choice to show respect and earn some respect or hurt someone and get hurt in return.  You have the choice to react when someone provokes you or to show self control and bore the person till he/she gives up. You have a choice to show honesty in your words and actions or say lies to escape consequence and become a weak person.

You have the choice to become a wise leader or a member of the herd. You  have the choice to show your friend the way to make the right choice or see your friends make the wrong choice. You have the choice to be nice and spread happiness or be kind and spread sorrow to your loved ones and friends.

You have the choice to move your family out of Shivaji Nagar into a cleaner place or stay here forever.  You have the choice to go to college and earn a degree or diploma or drop out of school and work as a labourer. You have the choice to travel the world or stay stuck between your city and villages. You have the choice to become a person who changes the world  or become an average person who only earns respect out of fear. You have the choice to make a difference to the community or become like one of them.

No one can take this choice away from you.  No one can take Bhaiyya away from you but time. No one can take this time away from you but you.

I hope we have ALL become an excellent class again. I hope we ALL achieve our goals. I hope we ALL have a fabulous Maya musical. I hope we ALL show respect to time and have fun on Fridays. I hope we ALL act with values without thinking about reward. I hope we ALL keep trying in the face of failure. I hope ALL of us always make the right choice, with or without me.

Remember, we have just 87 days left.

Kapil Bhaiyya

Thursday, January 08, 2015

For a Peaceful Planet

I often have tell students in class to show self control when they have a strong urge to retaliate when someone hits them or abuses them. "It is only fair," they say, "that a person gets what he deserves." I ask them to express their feelings politely rather than create more animosity. Telling someone "I feel angry when you hit me" is a far better way than hitting them back. It may work if the person guilty of the act is conscientious. It gives the the chance to correct himself, to apologize, to come clean. "Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone deserves a second chance." After repeated interventions, most children do understand.

On some occasions, I am asked to arbitrate on the matter. In that case, I use a system of a classroom trial, where there are witnesses on both sides being asked to present their view. There are pre-defined rules and consequences in the classroom that the students are aware of. The consequence is not differentiated between the one who initiated the act and the one who followed in the act. If I differentiate then, in a way, I am accepting a justification for the violence and unkindness of one over violence and unkindness of the other.

I have a simple philosophy. Violence as the preferred way to attain justice creates a vicious cycle of hate and anger, that amplifies from one round to another. When truth in its incomplete form is accepted and systematically taught, it leads to dogmas propagating and spreading in the society causing further marginalization of the free minds. Communities grow up feeding on the idea of religious or regional fundamentalism. When such communities meet motivated, misguided and gifted people like Hitler or bin Ladin, they are mobilized into forms (like terrorist organizations) that unleash their anger on thousands of innocent people.

My student Firdos had once said "In my community, children are friends and grown ups fight." The simple statement had such a deep meaning,not only in the context of Shivaji Nagar, but the world itself. Children are born without these prejudices, but are systematically brainwashed - more so in communities where exposure to media is incomplete, comprehension of information is poor, scientific thinking is absent and the wisdom to independently choose the right path missing. The difference between an Ajmal Kasab going to a college and an Ajmal Kasab becoming a terrorist could have been that one mentor, that one teacher or that one parent who could gift him the voice of reason.

9/11 shocked me. When the attacks of 26/11 happened in Mumbai, I felt deep anger and hatred. But the question in front of me was "Who is this anger and hatred directed towards?" On reflection, I realized my anger and hatred were not directed towards the terrorists, their country or their religion. My anger was directed at the ignorance that led them to believe that walking on the path of violence and hate could lead them to finding their own peace.

People, like you and me, have  the skills, knowledge and exposure that is not ours to keep. If we have inherited our world, it is our responsibility to leave it in a better place. One of the ways to do this is to use whatever intellectual wealth we have to impact lives of the tens, hundreds, thousands or millions who don't - any amount of difference that you will make is going to be significant.

Through what I do, I have chosen to give children an excellent education. What will you do to save our world?