By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
G oddess Saraswati arrived in the city with great fanfare on the 1st February, riding her magnificent swan. Her time was very propitious, as she arrived just before the examitions were held, to bless the student community. Every year the examinees wait eagerly for her arrival, as they need her urgently at this season. After all she is the Goddess of Learning and for the students her help and blessings are very necessary to cross the hurdle of examition. For them the worship of the Goddess Saraswati will ensure their success in the examition. They believe that even if they are not well-prepared, the Goddess would surely eble them to pass the examition with her blessings. It is a laughable notion really, but they are very young and do not realise that without study or without making any effort they cannot possibly succeed. After all, you cannot expect old heads on young shoulders. The students should realise that the Goddess helps only those who help themselves. But for the young immature students Saraswati Puja is a short-cut to success.
It seems that in this age Saraswati Puja is not confined to only educatiol institutes. She is a very popular deity and her puja is performed in various shops and other places as well. And why not? Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. So to maintain accounts correctly and to calculate profit and loss you need her blessings and guidence—don’t you? Her puja is also performed in some banks and other fincial establishments. Hence for success in any business or in any profession, the help and the blessing of the Goddess of learning is indispensable. Therefore Saraswati Puja has wide application, covering every field of enterprise and knowledge.
The young people often forget that they are merely students and not some die-hard politicians. After spates of various kinds of agitations, they suddenly wake up to find that the examitions are only weeks away. Saraswati Puja in fact makes the sigl that the time to get into the study table has arrived. And then it is time to make frantic search for notes, guide books and probable questions.
It is very easy to make guess regarding questions. You don’t need any talent or supertural powers to predict the probable questions and you can be sure that your conjecture will be more or less correct. If you collect questions of last five years’ examitions, you can make a pretty good guess about the coming year’s questions. Actually these questions tend to be repetitive and the students know very well that if they learn the answers to certain probable questions in the light of last five years’ questions, they would be able to get through the examition very well. And they can do that year after year. That is why you find such lamentable lack of knowledge in case of some degree-holders. They do not seem to be proficient in any subject. That is only tural, since most of them probably never learnt the lessons nor did they read the books. They might have depended on some guide books or these “Sure successes” flooding the market. The mes are alluring enough to attract the students. At this last stage they might have gone through the worn-out notes dictated by the teachers. There might have been private tutors to spoon-feed them. Under such circumstances they cannot have thorough knowledge of the books recommended.
The present education system takes my mind centuries back to the ancient era when there was the system of guru-sishya parampara. The boys after a certain age were sent to the hermitage of some guru, where they learnt everything necessary for leading a successful and happy life. The hermitages in that age, as we learn from the ancient texts, were centres of education, which comprised diverse subjects. Usually the disciples were from the royal and other aristrotatic and upper caste families. In these centres of learning the disciples learnt everything from sashtras to warfare. They learnt about spiritualism, ethics and the path to liberation. The disciples stayed in the ashram for the entire period of their student life and the guru and the gurumata treated them as their own children. The disciples also venerated them and obeyed them in every matter without question. The words of the guru and the gurumata were divine commands for them. They could not even dream of disobeying them. They had to do all the manual work as well, and perhaps that was to prepare them for the future. Gurus taught them all the things necessary for leading a successful moral and spiritual life. But now gone are the glorious days of the ancient era. That close relation between the guru and his disciples no longer exists.
Time does not remain static. It is a dymic entity which passes from the past to the present to the future. This modern age is vastly different from the ancient era. It is very true that in this scientific age the old custom of guru-sishya parampara cannot be maintained. Today the situation is entirely different. In the past the number of the pupils was limited, but in the present era there are many students in a class room, where lessons are taught for a particular period of time, Yet I believe that today also a persol rapport between the teachers and students is very necessary to make teaching-learning process successful. But it can be noticed that no such relation exists between the teacher and the taught. The teachers go to the class rooms and teach the students mechanically for the allotted time. There is no persol bond of love between them. In fact, the teachers may not know the mes of half of their students. The students also have no respect for the teachers. If they happen to notice some teacher elsewhere they look the other way. They try to avoid the teacher as far as practicable. I think that the teacher is always a teacher whether he/she is in the class room or somewhere else. Welfare of students should be the goal of a teacher worth his me. Apparently the aim of some teachers is to earn their monthly salary by doing the routine job and the aim of the students seem to be just to pass the examition by any available means. That is the tragedy of the modern type of education.
You really cannot blame the students for the sorry state of education. Rather blame the academic atmosphere and our mechanical education system. Educatiol institutes have become centres of politics and intrigue. The teachers have become more interested in spinning money and the students are being used as pawn in the political games, played by smooth-talking unscrupulous politicians. If a bait of power is dangled before them, very few young people can resist it. After all, they are young and immature and it is easy to influence them. For the entire session the students get involved in diverse activities except the one which should have been their primary objective. The lure of money and power misdirects them. They know that there is only one step from college union to centre of power. Hence they forget all about books and lessons. But when the examition approaches they suddenly remember their books and neglected lessons, and become nervous and apprehensive.
Even school students are getting more interested in diverse entertainment programmes and less in their lessons. Extra-curricular activities are necessary, but not to the extent that they neglect their books. After they pass the examitions and attain their goal, they may of course dabble in politics or in anything they like. And with Doordarshan supplying the youths with the staple food of villainy, fighting, romance, crimes and all that hotchpotch every day, our children are no longer interested in dull subjects like mathematics, science, literature etc. Who would like to get confined to the study table, when the Television is offering such large doses of entertainment?
I may be old-fashioned, but I really feel that television has done lot of harm to the young people. There was a time when television was non-existent. In that era the children did not know about television and turally there was nothing to divert their minds from the study table. But today’s children cannot imagine a life without a TV set. It is not that television has nothing good to offer. It has done a wonderful job by offering the news and other events of the entire world, which we can know by sitting at home. Due to the impact of television the world has become much smaller. It also offers many educative programmes. But it appears that the young people are not interested in educative programmes, they are interested only in serials, movies, dance programmes, crimes etc, which may affect their young minds adversely. Besides television shows there are also other kinds of diversions in this modern age. These things do put obstacles in their path of knowledge. After securing their degrees and their ultimate goal, they can pursue any line they wish, but not before that.
Saraswati Puja was performed in the city with all enthusiasm and hilarity. There seemed to be an undeclared competition among the organizers of the Puja celebrations in different institutes, regarding decoration and expenditure. The hidden talents of the budding artists were mutely demonstrated by the wonderful gorgeous decoration of the gates and the pandals. The educatiol institutes and the students hostels glittered with bright lights and colourful decorations. In some pujas Hindi Film songs blared through the loud speakers to batter the gates of heaven and the residents of all these localities bore all this as inevitable. I wonder why the Puja organizers think that these film songs would please the Goddess. We of course have no objection to the students enjoying themselves. But the problem is that they not only love to hear those filmi songs, but insist on others also to like those titillating filmi songs.
In the past also Saraswati Puja was performed in the schools and colleges with great exuberance and ecstasy. But the puja was a very simple affair. The students greatly enjoyed the celebration and the teachers and the students worked together to make the puja a happy occasion. But today’s glitz and glamour were not seen in that era. I still remember vividly how we enjoyed the puja in my school, ages back. In that age also the little girls wore the traditiol mekhela chadar and the little boys wore kurta pyjama or a dhoti. Most students used to go to their institutions with flowers to offer them to the deity. The idol of the Goddess was simple and there was no razzmatazz which we see today. The devotion was there, but no costly decoration. The whole atmosphere reflected a kind of purity and bliss. After the pujas the mid-day meal of khichri and sabji was prepared by the senior students and teachers together. It was a very joyful occasion as I remember. Pujas were over during the day and after taking ‘prasad’ and the meal the students used to go home. There were no evening programmes.
At present also I believe that the pujas are performed with the same kind of devotion. But today huge amounts of money are required to perform Saraswati Puja. Everything, from lighting to decoration costs a lot. So the Puja has become a gorgeous and costly occasion, vastly different from the simple pujas of the earlier times. But whatever that may be, the pujas give immense joy to the students as they did in the past and that is all that matters. In the past money did not play a major part in the pujas. But today nothing can be done without a huge amount of money. The modern students believe that glamour and magnificence are indispensable for the pujas and we have to bow to their decision. After all, Goddess Saraswati comes to the earth to bless the students in the examition season and so they must celebrate the puja in their own way.
Now the Puja is over and the Goddess of Learning has departed to her Heavenly abode. We sincerely hope that She had blessed the students before Her departure from the earth. Now it is time for the students to study hard in order to cross the hurdles of examition. They must remember that time and tide wait far none. Hard labour confidence is very necessary for a person to succeed and I do hope that the students have enough confidence in themselves. They should get rid of their nervousness and fear and face the examition boldly with confidence.