Dead Poets Society, a Robin Williams classic has been my favorite movie for ages. Many movie makers, western, Indian or otherwise have sought inspiration from DPS to portray teacher-student relationships and influence the education system. Young men, slaves of a competitive society; we just need an ignition to fire to our true potentials. Limited by porous walls of viability and success, it is easy to sneak through to what our hearts crave; we need some direction or even a simple nudge. There are many great words by many great men in this movie. Carpe Diem, seize the moment, not because you are in a hurry, but for the moment is defined by how you make it your own. Brilliant lines, most of them by Walt Whitman show the purpose of life beyond the trivialities. My favorite would be the poem which Mr. John Keating explains as “poetry, art, music, romance and love, these are things that makes us human. Medicine, Law, Banking and engineering are noble pursuits required for sustenance of life. But these are not the reason to live!” So raise your barbaric yawps and be free to do what you think is right.
I have been influenced by many teachers in my life. In high school, Mrs. Geetha Sheshadri, the terror, initiated our young minds to the concept of free thinking. She taught us English and history. We were never asked to memorize what the author would like us to understand. We were required to pen our understanding of poetry and stories. Later, Mr. Arul Mani, another fine English teacher in my 11th and 12th continued the trend by quoting from material outside the syllabus, through lively discussion of literature and current affairs; things apart from career pursuits and things that justified our lives. Through Engineering, I met another luminary, Dr J P Pichamuthu, a man of science, whose theories in avionics and field theory enable our flights, commercial and military, to soar the skies freely. I vaguely remember his sessions on field theory and communication systems; however, I’ll forever cherish our talks. He was a person that would make me say “Oh Captain, My Captain.”; an inspiration to look beyond my pursuits in finding a reason to live.
The Government of India, after years of deliberation, is at the cusp of introducing the Right to Education Act. The motives are clear and fair, but the approach as ever seems chaotic and disturbing. We are a society yearning to untangle education as a domain of the elite. Why are we then trying to degrade the elitist education system to the non-progressive public schooling system? Why are we not making an effort to alleviate the public schools to the standards set by Private institutes? The RTE should provide a system to educate the masses; not to make them mere literates. What is the point of a billion people who can read, but never understand the complete meaning of it? What is the point of a billion people that are provided a life sustenance mean, but never a reason to live?
Hendrix is not the best example we can give our kids. The man who OD’d on sleeping pills was also the man who composed “Stars Spangled Banner”; just to tell the world what he thought of his government’s military policies. What set him apart? His source of sustenance was his reason to live. The man knew what he was doing, why he was doing it and enjoyed every part of it. We lack such men in the current age. We rather complain and not figure a reason for our happiness. We believe in sustenance and sustenance only. Why do we lack a reason?