The year 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. His words are acknowledged far and wide for their deep-rooted wisdom which he presented in the most accessible language for all. Here is an intersectional piece on his ideas of social service and the education of children.

Since the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to interact with the children of the migrant labourers who were working in my college. Spending time with four of them made me realise and think deeply about a lot many things that are still happening, and are significantly pressing issues in India, which are sadly overlooked. Holding bricks in their little hands came more naturally to them than holding a book or a badminton racquet. This image, as simple as it might sound in its description, made me question the very living reality I am a part of.

In all of his seriousness, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I would develop in the child his hands, his brains, his soul. Now the hands have almost atrophied and the soul has been ignored.” The words he spoke years ago ring a deathly cacophony in the face of modern India – an India built on hopes, dreams, and immense ambitions. Upon interacting with those children, I found how the very act of accessing good education is a dream too fancy to dream. They are a generation of unlettered Indians, much like their parents and grandparents. They will continue to be a part of the vicious labour cycle, because we have continued to sit quietly in our ignorance. In the actions on my part, I taught them to play badminton, how to read and write alphabets, and they taught me the value of privilege.

I hope that they all get an equal opportunity for a beautiful childhood because that is what every child deserves. That is a future our founding fathers longed for, and a future which they died for. It rattles me to the core, when we boast of the fact that India is developing and whatnot – is all of that true, or just a globalised facade while the local reality remains unnerving? There is a long way ahead of us with a long trail to tread. Are we mere paper tigers when it comes to implementation? It is here that Mahatma Gandhi’s words ring all the more true, in a dire need to be put into action, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” It surely is a battle, but one to be won with pen, patience, and systematic resistance, in going out and reaching to this parallel reality of India. It is at this powerful juncture the motto, “Each one, teach one” almost screams to me in all its naked truth. It screams how one person has the power to bring changes in their immediate ecosystems. It screams how we are just one action away from building our future and giving no individual effort in this pious task.

Every person has the right to lead a life of dignity, respect, and one where they are not exploited. Even spending as less as 15 minutes a day to teach something to an illiterate child can bring watershed changes in our society; one which have been lying dormant for the longest time. Brace up and buckle up, India. Every effort of every individual counts, and it is the time to contribute substantially to the cause of the leaders whose birth and death anniversaries we celebrate with pomp and show, while ironically rolling down our car windows to buy chai from young children who deserve an education.

Feature Image Credits: Amrashree Mishra for DU Beat

Amrashree Mishra

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