As students, you build your own future; and education is your duty to acquire
"Remember to comb beneath the hair if you want it to stay recharged and keep your mind virus-free," was one of the several nuggets I gave to college students in Mumbai on the subject of early leadership.
I began by asking them if they had planned for the next one, two, or 60 years? "If all goes well health-wise, you will live up to be 90-plus, so have you prepared for the decades to come in the demanding circumstances ahead? Would you be self-reliant, managing relationships well, and fulfilling responsibilities? Are you preparing your toolkit for the long haul?" I asked them. Laying the foundations of life skills was the focus of my address.
I told them leadership was an expression of responses to situations in life, responses drawn from the toolkit of our character that we build consciously or subconsciously. I reminded them that time flies. Their mentors, parents or providers will pass away some day, and in the end, they will be left on their own. Will they be in good company of their own self when they are by themselves?
I told them they were gifted thrice more than they thought, with a healthy body, a young mind, and the capability to grab the opportunities before them. They need to use all these gifts, none at the cost of the other. They must be conscious of their every thought, word and deed, which is called being your own witness. It's not early to know.
Time is now, before habits harden and we learn at a huge price.
Without mentioning names, I asked them if they had learned anything from a high-profile murder case where it is alleged that a rich mother killed her daughter in pursuit of greed. I reminded them that life would give them many instances to learn from. Wise will be those who pick up the right things to learn.
Why must anyone remind you of your own responsibility at different stages of life? As students, you build your own future; and education - which is a combination of life skills, including professional ability - is your duty to acquire. The more attention you pay it, the securer you will be for the next 60 years.
Since youth indulge too long in social networking, it was natural to talk about this. "Why can't you be researchers? A world of knowledge is available at the press of a button, with search engines as your librarians. How much time do you spend on this, compared with the time you spend with friends on social-networking websites?" I asked them.
Don't wait for jobs
Your life will be built on the company you keep, the material you read, the experience you gain, and how you apply this experience in your day-to-day life. I was told the college had a department of entrepreneurship. I thought of asking the students how many of them had used their summer vacations to earn some money. In the audience of more than 650, only 30-odd hands went up. "Learn by doing, don't wait for jobs, that might come or not. Your self-confidence will be built by doing. The younger the stronger," I said.
When you give the attention-starved generation too much to absorb, they will pick and choose, even when all you said is vital. During the question time, a student was keen to know how the Indian youth could create a revolution of any kind. I replied: "If you care for your country, spare time to teach the illiterates and give skills to the poor, rural communities in particular."
India needs a million more schools. Why? Because we add another UAE or Australia each year to our population. Where will more resources come from?
The youth of this country need to be aware of their responsibilities as citizens and add "kindness quotient" to their IQ, EQ, and spiritual quotient. They could invest their summer vacations in doing internships or helping India become literate, skilled, and cleaner in the next five years. Independent women with earning ability would want to produce fewer children.
I was happy these graduate students heard me with respect. It was at Guru Nanak College of Arts, Science and Commerce. Built as a school in 1947 by the refugee Punjabi community, it has grown into an institution with own management institute. India's present and future were right there. I was the past, striving to remain in present and contribute to the future.
The writer, a former IPS officer, is a member of the BJP. The views expressed are personal