Lately I have been reading a lot about this man Abdul Kalam. It may also be that he has started speaking a lot lately on the critical issue of the corruption rampant in our nation and its debilitating impact on all of us. Needless to say he is the past President of India. But even more impressive than that is the fact that he is quite a man!
My wife and I run a charity in the eastern Uttar Pradesh. We strive to provide quality education free of cost to underprivileged rural girls. Our goal is to make them socially, emotionally and intellectually competent individuals as they graduate from our school after the 12th grade. We have been doing this for the past 6 years. One of the great opportunities I have been privileged with is to teach each grade one period a week. There is no fixed subject or topic. The girls are asked to put away their books and stop taking notes. We just talk. No subjects are barred. Typically I ask a lot of questions. The girls are encouraged repeatedly to come up with the answers. No judgment is passed on their answers. We talk about social issues, emotional issues, family issues, ethical issues and the ubiquitous corruption issues. We talk about ethical and corruption issues within the family, society, school and the country.
Those of you who know how schools are run in eastern Uttar Pradesh would understand how depressing this job can be. Most of the schools are run as pure business to make money without any commitment to provide education. In most cases, particularly in the government aided schools, the teachers get the comparatively high salary jobs after paying a hefty bribe and therefore consider the appointment as a retirement benefit. Since many times teachers do not show up in the classrooms, the students are forced to pay for coaching classes they take from the same teachers to get any education. Of course, during the final examinations, depending upon the amount of bribe the students can pay; appropriate facilities are offered to assist them in cheating through the exams. This is quite an ingenious enterprise. Everyone benefits in the system up and down the chain including the teachers, the school managers and of course the master minds – the government bureaucrats. We should be able to market this business model abroad. Unfortunately, the biggest loser in all this is the student around whom the whole enterprise revolves.
Now that I have succeeded in spreading some of this gloom to you, let me continue on with the real story. Since I deal with all this ingenious corruption every day, I find that the daily class I hold with the girls offers an escape for me to talk about it with the young minds and possibly come up with some solutions. I have found that these rural girls are as intellectually gifted as any other students from within India or abroad. They have remarkable ability to apply deductive and inductive logic to complex and abstract issues. Their mind is still fresh, inquisitive and not corrupted. Their answers, therefore, are very refreshing and sometimes totally surprising. We hold regular parent-teacher conference for each grade every 3 months. We have “used” the students to compel their parents to attend these meetings. After the regular progress review of the students with their parents, we discuss the family, social and ethical issues that the girls bring out in my classes. Most of the time the parents are stunned and dumbfounded but then they slowly start responding and communicating. The point I am making is that we are teaching ethics and social responsibility to parents through their children.
Now, let me reintroduce you to this remarkable man Abdul Kalam. In his speech today at Kokarajhar he gave an experience of a lifetime for the students of strife-torn western Assam. For a corruption-free society, Kalam asked students to ensure that their parents desist from it. "Corruption can be rooted out of society if every youth takes the responsibility of making their parents desist from practicing corruption at home," Kalam said.
Let us pause and think about the gravity of this statement. Here is an older generation begging from its youth to bail it out of its own bondage with corruption. We are admitting that we are addicts of corruption like an alcoholic and need help from our own children. What an irony? Help us out our dear children before we turn you into an addict of corruption just like ourselves!
We are a failed generation who have let our children down and our nation down! We are telling our children that we have ruined your future. You are better off not using us as your role model. We are handing over a nation to you worse off than what our forefathers, the freedom fighters, handed over to us. Soon, your shoulders will be slumped with the burden of our sins!
In the future, generations to come will read about us in the history books. They will read about the Maurya Period, the Gupta Period, the Mogul Period, the British Period and then The Dark Period! The Dark Period will remind them of their forefathers who plunged into the darkness of selfishness, greed and corruption with utter disregard for their future generations and the nation. They will wonder in despair about what kind of people these were?
Congratulations! We are writing our own history in golden letters. We will be remembered as the most corrupt generation in the history of our nation!