Ah! It's that time of the year again. The surroundings, the foliage, the buildings and the roads, everything after having received good monsoon showers wears a well-washed look. Though it is hot and humid, I still relish this weather largely because it is the time when fresh students brimming over with youthful enthusiasm troop in for the new academic session in institutes across the country: the sounds of their laughter and chatter, the clink of shoes, the honking of two-wheeler horns: the campuses are alive again! Those of you who may not have got admission to a course or institute of your choice, please remember the Dalai Lama's words, "Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck."
You are among the lucky few who have got the opportunity for higher education. So please do not forget that the youth is a country's real wealth and it is important for you to work hard and gain as much knowledge as possible. But please don't take education as a painful process of swotting away for the distant final exam only. Albert Einstein has rightly pointed out that information is not knowledge. "Any fool can know, the point is to understand."
Remember, mere physical presence in the classroom will only take you to the roll call register, you have to be proactive in learning. Be ambitious, but your ambitions should be in sync with reality. For example, if photography is your hobby, don't be an idiot by believing that Discovery Channel will straightaway employ you. You should be ready to pay the price in terms of the sweat of your brow. Someone complimented classical pianist Richard Clayderman by saying, "I would give my life to play the piano like that," to which Clayderman replied, "I did."
There are other issues that I would like fresh students to ponder about. It is good to be proud of one's regional identity, but we should not shut our eyes to reality. For example, we Punjabis have ruined our environment, especially groundwater, to pollution and our youth to drugs. We continue to live in a fool's paradise and feel that we are the best! As Indians, we are contemptuous of Western society and blame all our ills on the influence of the so-called 'Western culture'. I personally do not find anything wrong with Western culture.
Take science, for example. In recent decades, the maximum basic scientific research has originated from the West; we, at the most, apply the results to our situations. When it comes to accomplishments, we only boast about the past: Ayurveda, yoga, spirituality (sic!) with very little current input. Westerners definitely have a better civic sense (we clean our houses and dump garbage on the roads), better environment sensibility (the recent environmental disaster in Uttarakhand was largely due to human intervention), more national pride (it is unfortunate for a country when the majority of educated, talented youths aspire to settle abroad), moral culture (as a woman, I have always felt safer travelling on my own in Europe than in my own street) and dignity of labour (everybody here wants white-collar jobs).
You, the youth, must change this mindset and learn from those countries and societies that have accomplished more. You should be vectors in this change. Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary was celebrated nationwide this year, advised the youth, "Stand up, be bold, be strong, take the whole responsibility on your shoulders and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourself. Therefore, make your own future."
So all of you, the fresh students, please work hard, do not waste time and energy on trivialities, take charge of your lives and stay focused. Ten years from now, you will not regret not having worn that expensive pair of jeans to college, but you will regret having missed out on learning opportunities. Someone has rightly said that the mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.