India is the world’s factory for churning out the most number of doctors and engineers, accounting for 25% of the annual graduates across the world each year. And yet, as a country, we aren’t the most prolific inventors or even known for thought leadership in the modern context. Of course, we have a heritage of some of the earliest pioneers of mathematics, astronomy and even medicine, but somewhere along the way, we seem to have veered off course.
Our education system still bears the burden of the outdated aspirations of our colonial masters, who were mainly concerned with producing efficient clerks to assist the bureaucracy, rather than cultivate original thought. Whilst literacy is becoming increasingly pervasive, are we really able to educate our nation? As we just marked the 161st birth anniversary of the visionary Swami Vivekananda, it’s an opportune time to reflect on his words, “Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas.”
A spiritual leader and a giant of man, Swamiji captured the world’s imagination with his address at the World Parliament of Religions at a time, when India was perhaps going through one of her lowest points. Through his thoughts and ideas, he transformed the way the world perceived and looked at India, heralding the diffusion of our philosophy and tradition in the west. And today, as the winds of promise are blowing through our hallowed land, as our youth gravitate towards entrepreneurship, wealth creation and nation building, we are on the cusp of a pivotal transformation. There is of course a long way to go, but we finally seem to be pointed in the right direction.
Through this weekend we will be celebrating a plethora of harvest festivals across the country, from Lohri to Pongal, giving thanks for an abundant harvest season. And a harvest can of course only be as good as the crops that we sow. Nurturing our youth to become the leaders of tomorrow has striking similarities to the love and care with which we cultivate our crops. As Swami Vivekananda said so eloquently, it's not about deluging the young minds with an overload of information, but rather assimilating a delicate mix of irrigation, sunshine, nourishment as well as protection from the pests of self doubt. So as the Sun starts his northerly transit of Uttarayan on Makar Sankranti, and the kites of our ambitions prepare to soar in the skies, let’s spend some time reflecting on our limitations and achievements as a people, and prepare to chart our course to civilisational glory.
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