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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Learning from schoolchildren

NS Tasneem, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, January 07, 2014
First Published: 09:32 IST(7/1/2014) | Last Updated: 09:36 IST(7/1/2014)

The other day I found myself among schoolchildren. No one knew me, not even the teachers. The principal introduced me to all of them and, in the process, I found myself on a plank drifting along the tide. In a way, I was on the verge of discovering a new territory where dreams weave their webs and hopes build their nests.

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I realised that the approach of the children is single-minded and their expectations high. Elders seldom probe deep into their minds where horizons of the new world are ever in the process of demarcation. The young ones have no doubts and no fears because they have full confidence in themselves. Left to themselves they can scale new heights but the elders stand in their way with their suggestions, proposals and apprehensions.

During the period I acted as a judge for a debate as well as a declamation contest, I was reminded of WB Yeats. In his poem, 'Among School Children', he imagines that these students must be having new concepts about the tall figure amid them.

From them he was some sort of a caricature they scribbled on their exercise books in vacant hours. The poet feels that he has no identity of his own in this new situation. As an inspector of schools, he may be a venerable person for the teaching staff but for the children, he was merely an object of their laughter.

Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.

To be childlike is a virtue because children are ever in search of new avenues for the expression of their innermost feelings. There is no pretence in them, nor do they take recourse to deceit unless they have been much exposed to the ways of the world.

Magic thrills their minds and their hearts crave for the unknown. Surprise, like an imp, encounters them at every step. They have their own priorities and their own icons.

To expect from them the knowledge of grown-ups is like expecting too much from the young ones.

Children should be given time to move at their own pace from one meadow of discovery to another one. Mostly they live in dreamland wherein their imagination is tickled now and then. They roam about freely expecting some miracles to happen to delight their hearts.

But, as William Wordsworth says, 'Shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing Boy.' Still the grown-up boy, or for that matter girl, seldom discards the image of the glorious childhood. In the words of Sudarshan Fakar:

Magar mujh ko louta do bachpan ka sawan,
woh kaghaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani.

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