A conversation between mothers and teachers of schoolchildren recently caught my eye: “Aaj kal ke bachhe bhi naa. Sunte kahaan hain… (Kids don’t listen at all these days).” Everyone had misery to share and I thought again about what had gone wrong with our upbringing. We come from a culture that follows: “Maathru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, Aacharya Devo Bhava, Atithi Devo Bhava! (Respect your mother, father, teacher and guest as God)”
Why then should values such as obedience, respect, humility, discipline, empathy, gratitude, etc. be alien to our youth?
When I got home, our two-year-old granddaughter was lisping to age-old nursery rhymes: “Old MacDonald had a farm, Eeeya eeya oh!” and ‘Rain, rain go away, come again another day…’
According to Google, the poem ‘Rain, Rain go away…’ dates from the 17th century. I think the poet lived in gloomy, cloudy, and cold weather, so it was a good idea to sing, ‘Rain, rain go away; Come back another day…”
But in India, especially in Central and South India, where the weather ranges from hot, hotter to the hottest, we value rain very much. Our agriculture depends on it. When the God-loving Indian peasant prays to Varun Devta (God of the Oceans) to send the rain elixir for the thirsty ground so that he can sow the seeds; and his son at school sings: ‘Rain, rain goes away…’, wouldn’t the paradox confuse the gods?
Do kindergarten kids even understand the poems we teach them? Of course not! We learn to memorize them using rhymes ‘n’ rhythm. So how about training them to phone something that is truly Indian and meaningful; like the cosmic, all-encompassing Om or the Gayatri Mantra? We just have to tutor them to recite it. Understanding comes much later…just like in nursery rhymes!
The ancient Indians knew that the sound of creation is OM. It can reverberate in us by plugging our ears with our fingers and closing our eyes, in silence. Can we teach our school-age children to tune in to this cosmic sound of the universe? It would teach them to recognize the underlying unity in the diversity of creation!
Enough research has been done on the benefits of reciting the Gayatri Mantra. The Gayatri Mantra enhances our intellect, unlocks our intuitive powers and awakens the radiance of the sun in us. Chanting helps to develop calmness and concentration. The world recognizes this. Unfortunately, sometime in recent years, the mention of God and religion has disappeared from our educational system.
I taught our two year old granddaughter to sing the Gayatri Mantra.
Ombhurbhuvahsvah, tatsaviturvarenyam bhargodevasyadhimahi, dhiyoyonahpracodayat…
She would definitely learn the nursery rhymes in school too, but I wanted to teach her something that is definitely more valuable.
It is heartwarming to see that the New Education Policy (NEP 2020) speaks about the importance of the human values of truth, peace, non-violence, love and righteous behavior. It recognizes that teaching values to children is likely to help overcome the prevailing fanaticism, violence and corruption, exploitation and drug abuse. It identifies that religion is an important source of value generation. The NEP 2020 is all set to reform all curricula and pedagogy so that it is firmly rooted in the Indian ethos, culture and traditions, taking stock of ancient and contemporary knowledge.
As a Result, the youth of our country will benefit from the precious Indian knowledge that is our priceless heritage. True education should equip children with life skills, human values, character and wisdom; it should not only enable them to earn. The revised focus is much needed and welcome!
And who knows, maybe the morning prayers in our schools will be replaced by the radiant Gayatri! And soon we will hear: “Aaj kal ke bachhe! Kya bat hai!” And we will celebrate our children every day… not just on Children’s Day!