In one of the training sessions held recently, the participants were allowed to ask questions to each other.
It is just a month since the college started, the students of the first semester are still quite new to each other.The class consists of an eclectic mix of individuals from different parts of India and even those from abroad.
When the task was announced with the mandatory rules for the activity, participants looked anxious. Some of them tried to go into hiding and were definitely not keen to stand up to ask a question.
Yes, there were doubts. What kind of questions do we ask? Can we ask the girls too? so on and so forth.
So,the first question to the student from Yemen was how did he find being here in India and he took the question sportively and answered that the culture in India and in Yemen was quite similar and he had no problem in getting adjusted to the place. The participants welcomed the answer with a round of applause.
Since the one who answered the question had to choose another to ask the question to before he could sit down, he came up with an interesting question, ‘Do you think people from other nationalities are welcomed positively in India or not?’. The girl who replied said that since India was multi-cultural in itself, people from different nationalities are welcomed here.
She then went on to ask an all important question to one of the boys about a ‘crush’ on any of the classmates. What I found very stimulating and bold was when a student from Nagaland was asked, if he faced any discrimination in Bangalore, especially in the university. The class was silent considering the intent and the impact of the question. The student who answered said that, yes, he faced a certain discrimination in Bangalore but not yet in the university. This was followed by a discussion on such instances and the idea of tolerance and intolerance in the society. After some discussion, the class reached a conclusion that if the student faced any sort of discrimination in the campus, the class would stand with him and ensure that it does not happen again.
That the class was discussing a topic like tolerance at a time when Rohingya refugees are being asked to return to their homeland was perhaps not lost on anyone.
Slowly the class was warming up to the idea of asking questions and facing them. Some one who was asked why he was very late to class every day, replied confidently, ‘I travel 57 kilometres each day.’
Another person who the class thought was a geek was asked what his hobbies were? When he replied that it was hanging out with friends, the class did not still look convinced and suggested that he become a lecturer.
Young people need to be have time to discuss what is happening around them, beyond the text books, beyond the classrooms, way beyond their curriculum. Providing time to the youth to discuss and deliberate what happens around, what happens within and among them will probably be a good idea to let the steam out, build rapport, feel comfortable and make better relationships in life.
As a nation, we complain about the growing indifference towards socio-cultural situations and events among the youth forgetting the fact that we bring them up so secluded, so isolated from everything happening even in their immediate neighbourhood. How can we expect any one who has been told to focus only on his/her studies throughout to suddenly take cognizance of what is happening around?
If education was truly linked to real life then the repair of the roads, the throwing of the garbage, the collection and its disposal. the traffic, animal welfare, health, corruption and so many other so-called social issues could well be handled by our school and college-goers,don’t you think?