By Rishikesh Vaidya
Let me start by posing a question. I will give you a word, say ‘torch’. Now I will give you two more words, and you have to tell me which of those two words this word closely resembles. So, the two words are ‘question’ and ‘answer’. So tell me, what does the word ‘torch’ closely resemble to? Those who attend my classes would know that mostly my answers are not the expected answers. I tend to think that actually you are coming from a system where you have been told that answers are like torches. You don’t understand the importance of questions because questions are written for you by the author of the book. But the book of life has no author; so you are the author of the book of your life. And very often it is very important to find the right questions to pursue. When you find the right questions, they become torches; without them you are groping in dark. I think questions are the torches. Questions are definite; answers in matters of life can be different for each one of us. And that’s why you have to find your own answers.
But to begin with, answers to what questions? That is what you have to understand. The theme that I want to touch upon is something that has to do with the system of education world over, and I think that is the question that we should ask ourselves. There are two important classes of questions that we need to ask. One class is a very personal set of questions. Other is opposed to the personal, rather a universal set of questions. So what are the personal set of questions that we can ask? Who am I? What I want out of my life? How would I go about it? Is it worth it? And education is supposed to help you to figure out answers to these questions. Unfortunately it is falling miserably short of its objective; education is a system which tells you who are you — you are somebody who is meant for pursuing computer science, where you should head to — you should either head to Microsoft, or Google or Facebook, how you should go about it — find the best schools/institutes, make it to BITS and IIT, go to coaching centres. Everything is set for you. So there is no scope for figuring out for yourself . You have been told that your horoscope has been prepared, you just keep doing what you are being told. These are the personal set of question, it does not even encourage you to ask.
Second is a more universal set of questions, which is not even acknowledged in any academic system. The universal set of questions is, what is the relation of my existence to society, how am I impacting it, how am I getting impacted by it, and society is society in particular and my environment in general. You might think that I am talking in abstracts; let me give you simple example. There comes a technology and we are just blindly driven to it. Here comes internet, we blindly follow the internet, there is social media, we all start brandishing the social media. Then there are cellphones and all that. So we see somebody, you know, walking with the headphone plugged in the head and driving, we all just blindly follow it, right? Should he drive with his headphone plugged in? No. But you see that happening in campus. OK. We are blindly driven towards consumerism, materialism. It’s fine, there are several aspects to it. But what does it do to the environment? What is growth? What is development? What is GDP? What is the cost of GDP? Does the calculation of GDP factor in the cost that happens to the environment? These are the questions that are not even posed. That’s my point.
Feature photo credit: Asian Development Bank 40296-013: Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in Armenia via photopin (license)