Do They Deserve Better?

Do They Deserve Better?
Photo : Dool Hanomansingh

Education is a tool; not a destination. After Sri Krishna delivered the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, the latter fought a war and defeated his enemies. Education, therefore, is synonymous with the good life-health care, security, recreation and more so, self-realization. If today we continue to feel defeated and injustice trampling us, then we have failed education.

In the business world it is accepted that success of an individual has more to do with his ability to defer gratification than being the holder of an MBA. Most owners of businesses don’t have much formal education but have several workers with MBA in their payroll. The titans of business know that the degree of risk management and sacrifices dictate success or failure.  They also treasure social skills, a dominant feature of Mahatma Gandhi.

Most gurus recommend meditation as the mean to develop will power. When a person practices meditation he is challenged to control his wondering mind. Just as meditation transforms an individual so also must education. Unfortunately, education in the modern sense is more or less an accumulation of knowledge.

Harold Bhajan was an employee with an equipment company when Singh, a farmer, came to him asking the price for a ‘Jan Brown’ tractor. Harold hesitated to answer Singh who was bare footed, and attired in his working clothes with a hat on his head.

Collin Smith, a white manager, was taking note of the interaction between Harold and Singh. He stood up and walked toward them, extended a hand to Singh: “Good Morning, Sir. How may I help you?” Smith greeted Singh. “Never mind. I will take it from here,” said Smith to Harold.

Harold was the holder of a school leaving certificate he acquired at Balmain Presbyterian. His ambition was always to be a white-collar worker, not the drudgery of labour with old tattered clothing. For him progress was a life away from agriculture. Dark in complexion, Harold was always dressed in white long-sleeved shirt and tie, black trousers, black socks and black leather shoes.

Collin Smith had worked in Guyana and was aware of the culture of the Indians. “Sir, me want to buy a Jan Brown tractor,” said farmer Singh. “How much dollars for it?”  When Smith disclosed the price, famer Singh handed him a soiled brown bag with a large sum of cash. “You check the money,” said farmer.

Farmer Singh died and left his children with a shop that is still in operation, more than 40 acres of lands which his children have surveyed and developed into a housing settlement. As for Harold’s children, they are more or less employed as low-level public servants. With a fixed salary Harold was unable to send his last son to the US to study medicine. On the other hand, Singh has two sons who are doctors, one a civil engineer and several of his grandchildren are studying at universities in India and the US.

Lord Macaulay, in his proposal for an English education in India in the 1830s, set out to make Indians brown Englishmen. Interestingly, Singh’s children took the education but was able to digest it and make the education relevant for their growth and development. Always conscious of their Hindu values, the family sponsored regular yagyas and participated in religious festivals in the community.

Harold, on the other hand declared himself a “proud worshipper of a living God.” He had renounced his Hindu values and adopted the British culture. The result was that he was unable to digest this alien culture, to extract what was good and to discard what was useless. The result was constipation, diarrhea, and a range of digestive problems.

Professions such as law, medicine and a doctorate (PhD) have produced many individuals who have found it difficult to socialize with the masses. In most cases the communication breaks down, firstly, within the family. The educated son felt so educated that the London University education filled his brains to capacity that he had little time for “small talk.”

Exceptions were Basdeo Panday and a few others who employed social skills to develop and strengthen connection with the grassroots. Representing the sugar workers, Panday won for them better working conditions, regular employment and increased incomes. His improvement of the wages of the sugar workers resulted in the birth of many retail outlets and an economic transformation in the sugar belt.

Individuals complain vehemently against the current Prime Minister and his government for their lackluster performance but were “too busy to vote on the elections day.” The culture of being “busy” has allowed so many social ills to fester in society. Disconnecting many from societal norms, education gives the bearer of certificates an intellectual aloofness and separation.

Anyway, the farmer was smart to understand that not everything offered is necessarily good. Singh retained his cultural frame of reference and identity that acted as filters to help him to retain all that was noble and good in his heritage. On the other hand, Harold was robbed of all that was noble and good, leaving him only with solid waste. This dilemma haunts the educated today. Many become aliens in their own family, surviving by embracing a culture of inebriated stupor, a kind of cold Siberian exile from the vigor of life in the tropics. Not surprisingly, their mindset throws up a dictator that has only contempt and disregard for them. Do they deserve better?