" We are men by anguish taught
to distinguish false from true;
Higher wisdom we have not
But a joy within guides you."
And it is this joy and wonder that gives wings to a child's imagination letting him create all that is in his mind.
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012. Watching the videos, I was intrigued by Rohini Nilekani's dream and found myself completely agreeing with her. And I thought that the above verse from G W Russell's "Childhood" is way off the mark, not just in India but in most developing nations. There is no joy or dreams for those born in squalor who are still trying to figure out the different worlds they see around them. One, where the children in smart uniforms are chaperoned to schools and various classes for their 'development'. Two, where children work in putrefied environment so they can put together their share of income towards the house hold expenses.
Is this how they should continue? With no hopes, of ever seeing colours or stories for them to fall back upon? Things can change if Tedx and Franklin Templeton see the long term and multi-faceted benefits in Rohini Nilekani's dream of seeing a book in every child's hand.
We have a chance to make our country a better place for all and not just for a select few. No amount of subsidized programmes will bring about desirable changes if the core issue itself is not addressed. Tedx and Franklin Templeton have a chance to carry forward this step that can bring about long term benefits for all.
When we put a book in a child's hand, we not only introduce him to a beautiful world of imagination where it is possible for a boy to climb up a Giant bean stalk; realise the follies of impersonating as a blue jackal; or chuckle at Tenali's wits; we also give him a chance to dream of a better world for himself. We give him a chance to see the goodness of values that he was perhaps, never exposed to.
For any person to develop, exposure to the right environment is very important. So can we blame a juvenile delinquent if all that he has ever witnessed is an abusive father and brawls in his environment? Lotuses do bloom in muddy waters but not in murky waters. Books are the best way to initiate them into a realm where good values will always win the race - both moral and social. Let the stories be resourced from the vast reservoir of folk tales panning the different regions of the country and also the world. The values of honesty, community living; acceptance of plurality; tolerance and respect for others views, will show him a civilized world. That he too can be part of it. After all, most riots and social depravity are rooted in denial of differences, deprived childhood and lack of an ability to think for oneself.
When you let a child imagine, you also give him the ability to think. If man never imagined of flying, you and I wouldn't be booking flight tickets today or enjoying the other fruits of many creative minds. A child with a book is empowered to change things not just for himself but also for you and me.
While the corporate houses are doing their bit of Corporate Social Responsibility by sponsoring campaigns; the NGOs are crusading ahead with bringing wonders to a child; let us also make our contributions, however small, by giving the Rs2 Pratham story cards or brighly illustrated old story books to a child at a traffic signal. Wordsworth said "The child is the father of Man"...So fill up a childhood with colours and stories and let him be a man of strength and character tomorrow.