Author Archives: Lubna Irfan

The Faqir who Read Half the Kalma

The complex of the Jama Masjid, Delhi, a symbol of one of the most glorious times witnessed by the Indian civilization houses the grave of a heretic. The alleged Jewish priest who read half the qalma and got executed by Aurangzeb, the alleged Muslim bigot, Sa’id Sarmad, lies beneath the sacred earth of the great congregational mosque, listening to and crying at, the enormous amount of  pain and prayers hurled at him every day, coming from all faiths and none. Saint Sarmad is remembered as one of the intellectual companions of another heretic, Dara Shikoh, the could-have-been philosopher king of India. Though it is well known that Dara had serious leanings towards comparative study in religions yet what is little known is that a Jewish priest who went about naked had a role in the formation of his intellectual imagination.

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It is claimed by scholars that Sarmad was an atheist and agnostic of sorts who didn’t believe in God and went about naked dismantling the social set up of his times. Ones’ mind wanders to what the “Saint” would have felt at being classified with atheists and at becoming the object of being prayed at and to, the collection of his verses which are known to the world by the name of Rubaiyat-i-Sarmad (1949) gives a slight peek into the working of the mind of this intriguing man. To stay true to the spirit of the time, it would be unjust to take his words literally when Sarmad claims to be a Sufi, a Catholic priest, a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, an infidel, and a Muslim at the same time. This might also suggest that the man belonged to all religions and none. And it can be agreed too that the naked fakir was a critical thinker of the highest order. He, when presented before the court of the newly enthroned Aurangzeb, and asked to read the Kalma to save his life, read half of it. La Ilaha, meaning, there is no god. And left it at that and when further questioned about it he claimed that he had till then reached only that stage of knowing god that he knows none and once he knows It he would recite the entire Kalma. This kind of critical spirit was the most dangerous weapon that could have existed, and it still is the most dangerous one to those who want to maintain the status quo and who feed off the ignorance of the minds of the people, be it the political establishment or the religious superstructures, nothing troubles them more than a man who could dare to think on his own without intermediaries. Thus execution of Sarmad was necessary. It would be unjust to not mention how Sarmad writes about his relation with God, his attitude towards God, seems definitely of the order of one of a Sufi in real search of truth, he claims that his poor heart desires nothing but union with the God. But his idea of God, wasn’t the idea that was being shoved down his throat by the orthodoxy.

On reading Sarmad it clearly surfaces that his battle was with the great bearded obnoxious orthodox Mullas who had caused the decay of the innocent minds, he says it clearly, “He who understands the secrets of the Truth, became vaster than the vast heaven; Mulla says, Ahmad went to heaven; Sarmad says, ‘Nay heaven came down to Ahmad”’. In these verses, giving his apparently heretical remark about the contested issue of Prophet Muhammad’s Miraj, he clearly seems disillusioned from the Mullas who do not really as much worry to seek the truth but to gain on their personal level from political establishment and the common ignorant folks.

He also comes close to the stand of Mansur Al Hallaj’s ‘I am the truth’ (An’al Haq) in his quest, he claims, that if your faith is pure than the entire world would be in your control. Thus execution of Sarmad becomes even more necessary than had been the execution of Mansur Al Hallaj, the 10th century mystic who was killed on the grounds that he claimed himself to be the God, because the latter had already found the answer, An’al Haq, and that answer didn’t match the established idea of truth, with Sarmad however the issue is even more dangerous he hadn’t found the truth, he was looking for it. He was looking for answers to believe in the remaining half of the Qalma and that was to come through, through a critical evaluation of every established structure around him, including the political one.

Thus for the survival of the establishment, Sarmad had to die and he was executed in 1660. Sarmad died a death where he was lost also because of the meager amount of information left behind about him; his ideas have been lately rediscovered and rethought about.

The question whether Sarmad was an example of a Saint which wanted to find the God and Truth in it through his own way or if he was a heretic anarchist who aimed at disrupting the established social and political order is a question that needs to be asked, thought and rethought again and again till one can come to a conclusion, but there are serious reasons to believe that he was a man who had had enough of the religious and even spiritual deterioration that had set in during the 17th century India and that is why though he speaks more or less the same things that the great sufi mystics of earlier times say yet he leaves no reason to be associated with them, he claims, “Whether an ascetic or anything else, I’m concerned with the Beloved only(God); Really I have no business with rosary or sacred thread. This woollen cloak (suf) which conceals hundreds of evils under it, I shall never put it on, as it is a disgrace”.

To sum up it needs to be said in defense of the saint who read half the Kalma that his actions were probably motivated by the most serious issue that ruins any society, the decay and rotting of its intellectual class. Sarmad was probably closer to the true idea of God than the idea the people who killed him had, people who killed him claiming he believed in none.

Our Idea of India

We the students of History, in strong terms condemn the authoritarian abuse of the basic human rights and civil liberties that is being carried out in the name of nationalism. As students of History we hold the idea of critical spirit in high esteem and refrain from categorizing the dynamic ideas of nation, nationalism and patriotism in narrow criteria limited by the understanding and the benefit of one section of the population. We enquire into the possibilities of understanding a single concept through various diverse aspects and in the process we, more often than not, contradict ourselves and when we do, we don’t stop, we work towards a solution, this ‘working towards a solution in our opinion reflects the idea that we call India.

A political miracle, India, for us is reflected in dialectic interaction of various strands of thought. It is this privilege of being able to disagree with the powerful is what is under threat due to authoritarian acts of arresting a student leader, stifling critical voices and maiming our beloved democracy. Self-criticism is one of the major elements that push the human race forward and it is this right that is being denied to us. We condemn this act and we struggle towards a society where self-criticism and debate is appreciated and upheld. We work towards what Constitution of India has promised to us. For us the Indian Nation is manifestation of dialogue and debate on every aspect, it is only through this spirit of dialogue and debate that a diverse country like India has come into being and has survived. We uphold the idea of India, We struggle for its survival. It is the Rule of Law based on Justice that we struggle for not Rule of Fear.

Images: Second Seminar of Itihas Ke Karigar Conducted Successfully

The second seminar of Itihas Ke Karigar proved to be a great success, thanks to the active participation of the audience. Some very interesting issues were discussed.

 

Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

The inquisitive audience

The inquisitive audience

Lubna Irfan discussing the social and economic factors behind Aurangzeb's actions.

Lubna Irfan discussing the social and economic factors behind Aurangzeb’s actions.

Hisham Islam talking on "Revival or Reinterpretation"

Hisham Jameel Siddiqui talking on “Revival or Reinterpretation”

Anupama Thapliyal giving an overview.

Anupama Thapliyal giving an overview.

Shamim K K speaking on the composition of nobility under Aurangzeb

Shamim K K speaking on the composition of nobility under Aurangzeb

Speakers answering the questions raised by students

Speakers answering the questions raised by students

Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

Aurangzeb is Dead, long live the Road?

Introduction

Amidst all the chatter about the changing of the name of Aurangzeb Road to that of Abdul Kalam, two types of arguments about the 6th Mughal Emperor are propping up, and as a student of medieval Indian History both arguments not only infuriate the historian in me but also sadden me about how we have still not yet moved ahead of the naïve acts of Herofication and vilification of historical Characters.

One set of arguments portray Aurangzeb as a devout, pious, religious ‘muslim’ who was the only sensible Mughal, working for the cause of Islam. Another set of arguments try to project him as a devout ‘muslim’ too, but an iconoclast who was the destroyer of temples, ironically both these extremes sound strikingly similar and serve the same purpose of communalizing the present.

 

History: Breeding Ground for Communalists

Indian history, especially Indian medieval history has been the breeding ground of communalists. As much as I hate to refer to people in terms of them being merely ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’, when talking about the present scenario, I am but helpless before this divide constructed very subtlety by our long gone colonial masters. While the Muslim communalists bank on the return of ‘past glories’ to Muslims as the means of mobilizing masses, they also have the ‘fear’ of complete domination by so called ‘Hindu majority’ to bank on. On the other hand Hindu communalists have no such ‘fear’ to propagate as they are already in majority, and here is where the past comes into play where these communalists invoke the past injustices of the so called Muslim monarchs and then mobilize the masses to ‘correct’ the wrongs of the past. Here is where Humanity and History lose and short term political ends win.

The easiest target for such parasites of hatred is Aurangzeb, however what these people tend to forget is that in those times (like in our times), the actions were motivated mostly by political and economic ends in mind, and like present times they were enveloped in a cloak of religious justifications.

 

Religion: Not so much in the mind of a Politician

“The evidence I assembled did not in any sense exonerate Aurangazeb, but I think it did set different limits within which the Emperor’s personal preferences and decisions had impact: and it suggested a number of other factors, besides the one of religious bias…”  says Athar Ali in his book The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb, where he tried to give a new perspective to the actions of Aurangzeb.

Certain examples from the past may help in clarifying things.

Aurangzeb during the war of succession, issued a nishan(royal order issued by a prince), which is found in Udaipuri records, to Rana Raj Singh, which from the perspective of modern historians sounds like the preamble of independent India, where Aurangzeb claimed the equality of all people, irrespective of their caste and faith. He even asserted the legacy of his enlightened great grandfather Akbar in this document to forge political alliance with the Rajputs, thus it becomes clear that the cause of propagation of religion was hardly in his mind.

Another very interesting fact that most of the people tend to overlook is that most of the temple demolition took place where there were political disturbances, rebellions or potential threats to the authority of the monarch. One instance that has been conveyed to us by Waqa-i-Ajmer(reports of news-writers of Ajmer covering the period of Rathor rebellion of 1679-80) would bring a whole new perspective to iconoclastic tendencies of Aurangzeb, the rebellion broke out mainly on the issue of succession to the throne of Marwar and Aurangzeb’s involvement in it, Rani Hadi one of the leading queens of the deceased ruler offered to destroy all the temples of Jodhpur and erect mosques if  her claimant was made the successor, this ‘tempting’ proposal was rejected by the Emperor without a second thought.

 

Religious justifications to Political actions

In medieval times, unlike in present, religion and politics were not segregated, these ideals of secularism dawned upon the world only with the coming of Reformation and became popular only with the rise of liberalism, the entwined nature of religion and politics can be understood by studying Akbar’s theory of kingship, where the king was the representative of God on earth and it was his duty to establish God’s justice, thus the legitimacy to the political rule came through religious justifications, thus to assert political authority one had to assert religious authority too. Destruction of temples was a means to strike fear and awe in the hearts of the vassals and rebels.

Contemporary historians of Aurangzeb, in order to attach a sense of glory and legitimacy to the emperor, tend to give religion as the reason of his acts, accepting all these sources without critical analysis would only create a distorted and biased picture of the past that would haunt the present.

 

Asserting religion to cope up with political troubles

Aurangzeb, by imprisoning his father and by murdering his brothers, destroyed the aura and authority attached to the Mughal throne and he had to give justifications for his coup of 1657-58, and for that he first tried to give military successes as the justification but by 1666 this attempt had failed and whatever gains Aurangzeb made were soon lost, it was then that the need of invoking religion as a legitimizing force came up. Aurangzeb also couldn’t afford to displease any section of nobility, especially not the ones who exercised great influence amongst the masses and played key role in the act of king making, namely the Ulema, and it might have been to please these sections that jizya was re-imposed after a long time after his accession.

The calls for the protection of religion and jihad were often voiced when a military campaign was to take place in order to rally the troops behind the monarch. Aurangzeb even tried to call the campaign against the Muslim kingdoms of Deccan as jihad by highlighting their vicious un-Islamic practices and portraying himself and his state as the ideal one. He also did not hesitate to play with the superstitions of his people during Satnami rebellion when the rumours of Satnamis possessing supernatural power had demoralized his army, he claimed to be a Zinda-Pir in order raise the spirits of the soldiers and was called ‘Alamgir Zinda-Pir’.  Thus it becomes evident that military and territorial gains motivated the 6th Mughal Emperor much more than religion.

Economically speaking Aurangzeb’s were hard times, with the unending campaigns in Deccan and continuous rebellions in the empire, some of his acts like that of banning music and discontinuing official history writing were due to economic considerations and religion was merely a face saving explanation to them.

 

Aurangzeb: A despot with his own shortcomings

Aurangzeb was a despot, a politician and an imperialist who tried his best to maintain the proper functioning of his empire. It is true that some of his policies might have conveyed a sense of discrimination to the ‘non-muslims’, but there was no great consequence of it, this becomes clear from the Rajput support to Aurangzeb during the Rathor rebellion, and also from the significant number of Marathas and Rajputs in his nobility.

Aurangzeb was not a hero, nor was he a villain. He had blood on his hands, even of his own brothers, but so did numerous other despots of this dynasty and of dynasties before it. He might have stitched caps but he also led campaigns to gain territory and treasure. One thing that nobody can deny is that Aurangzeb had to encounter innumerable difficulties which were not so significant during times of his predecessors, there were rebellions (Jats, Satnamis, Sikhs, Afghans), there was be-jagiri-where the state had shortage of land grants to give to its servants and on the top of it there was the Deccan Ulcer. Thus there is much more to this monarch than destruction of temples.

 

Names, identities and Politics

It is easy to blame things on a dead man and even easier to divert popular attention to artificially constructed issues. Aurangzeb is dead, Abdul Kalam is too, they both contributed to history in their own capacity, that’s what they should be remembered for, not for them being just ‘muslims’ or good or bad ones. We need to get over this false consciousness that religion motivates all actions of human beings, it might at times, but mostly it is used as a cover up for pure political or economic ends.

In all this chatter of changing road names have we stopped for a moment and thought how much does the name of a road matter to a child starving to death on a similar road?

Rise of Communalism in India: Tracing vestiges of the past

Rise of Communalism in India: Tracing vestiges of the past

Rise of Communalism in India: Tracing vestiges of the past

Introduction:

To understand the condition of communally charged times we today live in we need to trace our steps back as historians to the time when it all started. To ask the question if it all started at the same time or is the communal atmosphere a culmination of various processes that pull India apart. When did it become inevitable for “muslims” to have a separate nation of their own and was that nation the true manifestation of dreams of people who fought for it. Why would Ram Chandra Guha call independent India an unnatural nation? What is so unnatural about it?

Here I’ll try to make sense of the events that led to the freedom of united India into two separate nations, divided on the lines of religious affiliations.

The elections of 1937:

It has been said that most of the communalists before 1937 operated within a liberal framework, only after 1937 did the Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League and RSS veered towards extreme or fascist communalism. The question arises of the reason of this shift, which can be searched in the elections and results of elections of 1937. In 1936 All India Congress Committee decided to contest elections but left the decision of office acceptance for later. While the Socialist Party members were averse to the acceptance of office, the right wingers wanted Congress to accept office and form the ministries. While office acceptance raised great expectations it also brought power to right wingers who tried to rid congress of the clutches of socialists. And it was due to the pressure of these right wingers that not a single muslim representation was there in these 1937 congress ministries in 8 provinces. This became the basis of the idea of muslim Alienation by the Congress, which had until now been subtly expressed in the absence of major muslim participation in Civil Disobedience and Quit India Movement.  Moreover it has been noted that Congress and Hindu Mahasabha shared their cadres till the 1930s which would have made muslims apprehensive of the actions of Congress.

Dismal performance of Muslim League in these elections in muslim majority areas of Punjab and Bengal due to the presence of class based parties like Unionist Party and Krishak Praja Party, led Muslim League to launch a mobilization plan on the lines of religion. The passage of Shariat Application Act 1937 with spirited advocacy by Jinnah in the Central Legislative Assembly  provided a symbolic ideological basis for Muslim Solidarity on a national scale, transcending all divisive internal political debates.

Thus we see that when protesting against India’s drawing into World War 2 the Congress ministries resigned in 1939, Jinnah celebrated it as a “Deliverance day”.

 

The blurred idea of Pakistan:

In theory communalists, both majority and minority bank on the concept of a homogenous identity of a community which overshadows all other identities.  And it can be said that the idea of the utopic land of Pakistan was to some extent an elite manipulation of the masses, the intensity of emotions involved had more to do with the political and economic anxieties of various classes than with a profound urge to create an Islamic state.  Pakistan was presented as “a peasant utopia” which would bring in liberation for the Muslim peasantry from the hands of the Hindu zamindars and moneylenders, here again the basic reason was of social and economic in character. Moreover, it has been argued that Jinnah’s stand though belligerent was still inclined towards negotiation with Congress, his major public pronouncements in 1938 were ‘a model of communal moderation’. In an article published on 19th January 1940, he did not refer to Hindus and Muslims carving out their separate destinies, but commented ambiguously on two nations ‘who both must share the governance of their common motherland’.

Thus it can be positively concluded here that the idea of Pakistan as a separate nation sovereign in itself was not very clear, because viceroy Linlithgow could find no genuine enthusiasm for Pakistan among the muslim Leaguers even in 1942, he concluded that they would be content with Pakistan within some sort of a federation.

 

The Fateful Conference at Shimla:

Prior to the conference at Shimla that sealed the fate of the millions of muslims calling themselves Indians, in 1944 there was a huge blunder on part of congress that was that of the recognition of the demand of Pakistan as legitimate, where in April 1944 C. Rajagopalachari had proposed a plebiscite of the adult Muslim Population in muslim majority areas to assess if they wanted to join Pakistan and in July 1944 Gandhi proposed talks with Jinnah on the ‘Rajaji formula’ which amounted to an acceptance of Pakistan demand. But the talks failed due to non-compliance of Jinnah.

Thus the British intervention in June 1945 to start negotiations led to the Shimla conference, where Jinnah claimed for Muslim League the exclusive right to nominate all the Muslim members in the cabinet of an entirely Indian executive council, with the viceroy and commander-in-chief as the only British members. Congress, which then had Abul Kalam Azad as the president, however, refused Jinnah’s demand for that would amount to an admission that Congress was a party only of the caste Hindus.

 

The misinterpretations of the cabinet mission of 1946:

Ayesha Jalal argued that at no point between 1940 and the arrival of Cabinet Mission in 1946 did either Jinnah or Muslim League ever coherently define the Pakistan demand. But it was the very vagueness of the demand that made it an excellent instrument for a muslim mass mobilisation campaign in the 1940s, where everyone could interpret it in its own terms, where for peasants it was freedom from Hindu overlords , for the corporates it meant ending of Hindu competition.

The cabinet mission arrived in India to discuss two issue:

  1. The principles and procedures for the framing of a new constitution for granting independence.
  2. The formation of an interim government based on widest possible agreement among Indian political parties.

But it was seen that the two political parties had become more intolerant about their contradictory political agendas, with Muslim League Legislator’s Convention defining Pakistan as a “sovereign independent state” consisting of the muslim majority provinces and congress declaring that complete independence for united India as its demand.

After wide consultation across political spectrum a three tier structure of loose federal government for the Union of India, including both the provinces and the princely states was offered. Constitution would be settled for three levels of Union, Group and Province, the provinces would have the right to opt out of any particular group but not out of the Union. On July 6th,   Muslim League accepted it on the assumption that the basis and foundation of Pakistan was inherent in the plan. Congress announced conditional approval to this on July 6th but on 10th of July it declared that congress agreed to nothing else other than participation in the Constituent Assembly.

This event marks the shift of League from constitutional politics to agitational one. This was the beginning of the frenzy and madness with which Partition is today remembered.

 

Conclusion:

Looking at the series of events that led to the ultimate division of a colony into two nations we can conclude here that religious fervour was basically a cloak in the guise of which many political and social ends were served by the people in position of power to manipulate masses, not all the muslims of undivided India dreamt of a Pakistan. The clever mixture of the propagation of terror and fear, the incapability of secularists, the economic and social desperations and the political manoeuvring were some of the reasons behind the creation of Pakistan but one can never truly find reasons for the inhuman massacres that were associated with it.  Violence was both the cause and consequence of Partition and this Partition was to haunt Indian nation was a long unending time.

Protector of Cow, Protector of Nation, Protector of Women: It has always been the same ‘Hero’

Protector of Cow, Protector of Nation, Protector of Women: It has always been the same ‘Hero’

Protector of Cow, Protector of Nation, Protector of Women: It has always been the same ‘Hero’

Wandering very near the fringes of oversimplification of complex ideas, I can not help but see the world divided into two groups, the protector and the protected, with glorification of the protectors to the extent of their being worshipped. But we have rarely stopped to ponder over the question of protection. From what do we need protection and why?

If we try to ask this question, our voices are hushed back into our throats by horrifying instances of violence around us. With a Hindu nationalist organization equating Rape of a woman to the Slaughter of cow and failure of the masses to counter or even recognize the disgusting, inhuman tone of this remark, we need to wonder how far have we deviated from the ideal of a sensitive sensible society.

Importance of cow in particular and cattle in general grew from the Rigvedic times. In fact, according to historian R.S. Sharma, there are so many references to cow and bull in Rig Veda that the Rig Vedic people can be called a predominantly pastoral people. Most of their wars were fought over cows. Even the term for war in Rigveda is gavishthi which means search for cows, in those times cow seems to have been the most important form of wealth. Gradually cow seized to be the cause of violence and land took its place. Since we aren’t pastoral anymore, the logic of protection of cow, today, with the devotional strings attached, relates to the need of protection of God. Protection of Whom by man has caused innumerable deaths of His creation. Only cause that nears the amount of violence done for the protection of god is that of the protection of nation.

The concept and term of rashtra for territory can be traced back to the later Vedic times. And across the waves of time, kingship has been unapologetically linked to Divinity. With king being the representative of the Superior Being on earth, he became the ‘protector’ of land and its inhabitants.  And obeying King became obeying God, this in addition to giving legitimacy to the ruler gave him not only a temporal authority over his subjects but also a moral and spiritual one. In ancient and medieval times protection of the rule of the King meant the protection of God. With time, this glorification of protection of King’s authority faded and with the national struggle and the emergence of nation states emotions were attached to nations, and killing in the name of protecting them became an honor.

In justifications of such bloodshed in the name of nation or god, we often find mention of ‘vulnerable women’. This ‘vulnerable woman’ is a voiceless creature who can’t think and who always needs a protector to keep her breathing. For women in ancient philosophy, there has been assigned no greater role than the service of husband. Even her spiritual and religious existence breathes life with the ceremony of marriage which is recognized by legislators as taking the place, for women, of the sacrament of initiation prescribed by the Veda. And in return of her selfless devotion to her better half, she gets ‘protection’ by him. Whether it be the logic of need of respecting and protecting women just because of them being daughter, wife, sister or mother of ‘somebody’ or  the propagation of idea of a veil to protect against lustful gaze we somehow still can’t rid ourselves of the tendency of deciding what a woman needs.

History is filled with instances of people using the slogan of women’s vulnerability, national pride and religious fervor to further their political and economic ends. What comes as a surprise is how we haven’t learned anything. The act of attributing positive traits to women which highlights them mostly as innocent vulnerable beings and nonetheless justifies their subordination by the protector falls in a broad category of what sociologists call benevolent sexism. And often the protected group consents to the “need” of being protected due to propaganda of fear. And with this discourse we grow into a society where glory to the sword is praiseworthy, where fear rules. Amongst the tools of avarice and fear used for controlling people, fear has always been the easiest and most effective instrument of the oppressors to keep the oppressed in their place, and this need for the creation of fear lies at the core of the propagation of the instances glorifying protection and protectors. It is this protection that manifests itself in the form of violence.

The irony is how when we don’t agree on anything ever, we all agree on violence. Attackers of Charlie Hebdo were protecting their religion, Dylann Roof was protecting his women and nation when he attacked the African American church, the sorry story is the same everywhere, it always has been the same with varied degree of passion and execution and madness. But what nobody notices is how in justifications to these acts of violence we have dehumanized women, and how in protecting god and nation, we have failed to protect the humanity.

Identifying and brushing up life changing Skills

What are we missing and why are we not able to assess the problems?

In a world where the competitive spirit rules and one ought to pull down the other to rise up the ladder of ‘success’, those with a bit of sensitivity need to stop and  examine why have we reached such a hopeless place. What we never bother to ask are the questions of what success actually is? Where are we as a society heading with such hedonistic ideals? And what we truly need to make world a better place for not just ourselves but for a large number of people around us. We also need to realize how this need of making the world better is not an act motivated by selflessness but is in fact a very selfish act because we need the people around us to be good, for the maintenance and upkeep of a harmonious society. A far sighted vision and an open approach towards things is what we need.

 

Success: A myth?

When we talk about someone being successful, what is it that we refer to? The power. The money, The happiness? To be true, success may have different meanings for different people and these meanings may vary widely. But what we need to wonder is, if these different meanings of success are to be seen as a problem, some people might say they need to be, because with different meanings of success one would not be able to classify the levels of success of different people and would not be able to create a hierarchy. But why is having a hierarchy so important? It is not! It’s just that some people make us think of it is important. Different people have different opinions, views and aspirations and them having different definitions of success seems like a natural phenomenon.

 

How do we succeed?

The key to success is hard work and there is no de tour to success they say apart from hard work and it might be true, but what we need to understand is where we direct our hard work is equally important. Channelizing once potential towards developing a skill is a hard work that promises long term benefits. People might develop inclination towards some things but working hard on that inclination and passion is what transforms it into a skill that would help you succeed. But the sad truth is, we ignore the need to nurture individual skills and passions from a very basic level. By burdening the students with the responsibility of meeting the standards of success set by the society, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. We are leaving no scope for the creativity to take roots and flourish. We are leaving no space to breathe for the ‘round pegs in square holes’.

 

Ignorance of Diversity by our Education System:

There is an inherent contradiction in the Indian Education System, while we expect students to grow and contribute to the society and the nation with their varied skills, we teach all of them the same things for a large part of their student life, these things mostly turn out to be irrelevant in the greater struggles of practical life of these students. While a 12 year old would easily solve complex arithmetic problem, he would not be able to speak a single sentence about himself in front of a small crowd. Yes, it is true that we might not expect all the students to be vocal extroverts, but the point here is the negligence on the part of the teaching elements of the unique ability and talent of each student. This contradiction is explicitly visible to most of the people and organisations but hardly anyone tries to raise their voice against this inhuman practice of forcing on students to learn what they are not interested in and then demoralising and degrading them when they fail to meet the ‘set standards’ of success.

 

Lacunae between what we learn and what we need:

The greatest misunderstanding of the student life which is busted when one wakes up to the harsh morning of adulthood is that their entire childhood marked with Results, Mark-sheets and home works was a lie and these things hardly play any role in the greater struggles of survival and success. It is at this stage that we think about learning skills which would actually help us survive. Skills like Content Writing, IT management, Designing, Communication skills etc. are the skills which have always been ignored in our school lives and if not totally ignored these skills were always overshadowed by the need to study the ‘greater subjects’. However in practical life these are the skills that count the most. And not just that, our education system is in general very averse to progress, most of the courses still teach age old syllabi and hardly any attempt is made to understand and incorporate new researches. May be it is here that we can find a suitable explanation to the pathetic condition of employment of Indian Youth and the slow rate of progress of India as a whole.

 

What possibly can cause such blindness on the part of the Educational System?

Utter lack of interest on part of the Educational Organizations to improve the deplorable condition of Indian Education System is explicitly visible. The reason might be the selfish short sighted vision of most of the elements of the System. While the elaborate educational system provides livelihood to a huge amount of population of the country, the returns from this field might not be equal to the amount of investment being put into it. This affects the national growth adversely in the long run. While illiteracy still looms large as a huge dark cloud over the future of the nation, the means of overcoming it are also not showing promising results. Though we have national level organizations to look after skill development programs but what we tend to ignore is that skill development should be a part of the overall educational system of the country.

 

Degree: A Piece of Paper that creates more problems than it solves:

The paranoia over having a degree is basically because of the promise of livelihood that comes with it. While it is true that basic training is necessary to perform a particular task, and degree acts as a proof of this training, today degrees have become a mere piece of paper which guarantee no skill in most of the cases. This havoc over acquiring degrees has led to mushrooming up of a number of institutes that ‘sell’ these degrees to the students in need and make their own fortunes by charging huge amounts of money. Can we blame the students or even these institutions? No we can’t because the functioning of the state and its organizations makes it impossible for the ‘degree-less’ folks to even  attempt to make any difference no matter how skilled they are. There have been instances where even peons are expected to have a high school degree to get employment. How is one supposed to survive in such situations without giving in to the faulty corrupt system?

 

Skills: Definition and Need:

As we step into the huge world of opportunities we encounter the harsh reality of how ill qualified we are for being of any use in that huge world. What makes us useful are the skills, and skills may have a varied definition but we may say anything that helps us contribute productively to the cause of the development of society can be a skill of importance, it can serve material, sociological, emotional or psychological ends. But it would contribute to the betterment of the society as a whole in the long run. Here we would need to redefine what we mean by skills, they do not just include the qualities we acquire after rigorous training, but also some basic things necessary for survival, they might range from the ability to fix an electric wire to be able to manage information on a large scale. IT management is one of the growing fields these days however we hardly see any institute providing training in this field. Nor do we see any seriousness in the society about the development of skills of content writing or graphic designing or public speaking, when these are the skills which play a major role in shaping of the society.

 

What needs to be done?

In this huge world resonating with material benefits a writer can just try to provoke the human sensitivities of the people in charge. In our society we have already seen a lot of stagnation due to the huge disparity between the skilled individuals and the organizations wanting of such skilled individuals. While the restructuring of the education system would serve a long term greater goal, the immediate action might be to make the skilled meet the organizations in need of skilled people. And for doing that one needs to learn to sell their skills in such a way that it helps the growth of the individual along with the organization it is meant to serve while contributing to the growth of society. Because we don’t realize that the huge population that is often seen as a liability can very easily be turned into an invaluable asset if we concentrate on skill development of these masses.

 

Is the ability to sell your skill also a skill?

When we talk about skills and contribution of these skilled individuals in the long-term development of the society and nation, we mean that these individuals would also use these skills as means of their survival and sustenance. And this in turn would mean that they would need to sell their skill to the potential buyers who would nurture these skills and use them for their benefits. What is relevant here is the gap between the two. And we need to devise a way to bridge the gap between the two and create more opportunities for the skilled. The means to achieving that end is inculcating in the skilled the ability to sell their skills, one other important thing that comes in to play is the confidence of people in their skills and confidence in significance of those skills for the world. Thus what we need to learn is to have confidence in our own abilities to contribute for the betterment of the nation, and to have faith, because we need to accept that skills don’t develop in a day and nor are they recognized in first attempt.

Resilience and tireless effort is the way to developing skills and ascending our own ladder of success.

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