By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
I think that the human ture is such that we feel proud to be in company of rich and distinguished people. Many of us feel a little superior to others if we can rattle off the mes of some famous people whom we claim to know in our conversation. Possibly this is a kind of human weakness. We like to bask under the mantle of the glory of another person's success. Some people may not have been able to achieve any distinction in life. But they feel important if they can introduce the mes of some distinguished persons, who may be their relatives or whom they claim to be friends. I really find this kind of tendency ludicrous. I do not see what is there to brag about, if some my relatives or friends are heroes, while I am a zero.
It is a matter of great sorrow that some of the rich and distinguished people are ashamed to acknowledge their poor and undistinguished relatives. I remember that once a friend of mine did not even introduce her mother-in-law to me. I saw the old woman sitting on a stool in a corner of the veranda outside the gorgeously furnished drawing room. I thought that the woman was possibly a maid servant from some village. Her clothes were soiled and tattered. My friend was a distinguished person, often attending meetings organized by diverse organizations and her husband had a very good job and was well-established. Yet he did not appear to take care of his widowed mother.
Such incidents are not rare. Only recently a lady told me that she does not want her parents-in-law to visit them. Even her husband does not want them. Apparently they are village folks and have very conservative ideas and they are an embarrassment to their son and daughter-in-law. Somebody told me those parents sacrificed a lot for the education and well-being of their only son, who today is a distinguished officer. He married a girl of his choice, who is city-bred and educated. Apparently the consent of the parents were not needed, but they were happy for him. They love to visit them and become acquainted with the grand children. But they are not welcome by their son or daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law told me that they create problems for them. Apparently they are not accustomed to city life and do not know how to behave. She is also afraid that they would spoil the grand children with their conservative and old-fashioned ideas. The son, for whose education and well-being the poor parents sacrificed so much, does send some money to them and becomes free from the pricks of conscience by thinking that he has done his duty for the parents. Yet it is not money that the parents want. What they want is to be near to their son and his family, which is denied to them.
I think that illiterate people should not be treated as ignorant. I suppose that is a wrong way to look at life. We can find some really nice and wise people in the unlikeliest places. They may be small fries, but wiser than the big fishes. Some people have great talents and large amount of wisdom, though they may not have any university degrees. They learn from the vast wealth of ture and may be able to beat any degree-holder hollow with their knowledge obtained from ture. For them ture is their book from which they derive knowledge.
Some time back a friend asked me if I had met any remarkable people in my reasobly long life. Do you know whose image came to my mind? My thought turally ranged over some of the rich and distinguished people I have been privileged to know. But I did not remember any one remarkable amongst all those grand people. I suppose they were nice people, but possibly they did not impress me enough to remember them. Filly I settled on the most unforgettable character I was fortute enough to meet a long time back at my tive town Jorhat. He was an old man, who never left his village where he was born and was known to everybody in the village, but was quite unknown outside his small neighbourhood. If you had looked at him, you would not have found anything remarkable in his persolity. But a chat with him for half an hour perhaps would have convinced you that he did have something in him which could not be found in others.
He was a small man of about sixty years when I knew him. It was ages back and at that time I was very young. But he had left an indelible impression on my mind. He was physically frail, but mentally he was as strong as an oak tree. He belonged to a very conservative family. At the time he was born, the people were steeped in superstition and ritualism. But he never accepted any of the traditiol conjectures, simply because others believed in them. But his wife believed in them and she observed all these traditions faithfully. He did try to persuade her not to indulge in such irratiol practices. But he was not a person to impose his will on another person and even in that age he believed in the equality of man and woman. So he never interfered with the activities of his wife. You may say that he was light years ahead in his views than his contemporaries.
The gentleman had firm convictions and was far advanced than the age in which he was born. He did not have formal education, though he could read and write. Some people would dismiss his as an old and ignorant villager. Yet he had a country man's instincts and skill which a city-bred person would envy. He had only to push a twig into the earth to take root and he could forecast the weather accurately. He also knew quite a lot about herbal medicine and did cure the ailment of many villagers with the help of variety of herbs free of cost.
In that age people had lots of faith on palmists who were supposed to predict the future accurately and who also suggested remedies for misfortunes yet to come. Yet it is not that only the people in the past believed in palmistry or astrology. Even today you can see modern educated people thronging the chambers of some astrologers or palmists, who are well-known. Their chambers are well-furnished and some of them are so busy that you cannot meet them without making an appointment. They read your fortune and suggest remedies like invaluable gems, which cost several thousands of rupees. Needless to say that only very rich people can afford to consult such aristocratic and well-known astrologers. The economically backward people consult the road-side palmists who sit in many busy areas with various kinds of parapherlia. But this old gentleman, whom I knew a long time back, did not have any faith in these palmists. He used to say that none can predict the future; he believed that with self-confidence and hard labour one could achieve success and happiness.
The old gentleman also had an amazing capacity to mix with the young and old alike, and a never-ending stock of anecdotes with which he could keep the listeners enthralled for hours together. Though I was quite young at that time, I enjoyed his talks. In any emergency at any home he was sure to be present before others. He never refused to help anyone in distress. He was the most unforgettable person I had ever met. Even today when I look back, his image comes to my mind, clear and fasciting.
I am telling you about this character, because I do sometimes feel that we give too much emphasis on rich and famous people. In today's high pressure atmosphere of getting on and getting ahead, many parents are disappointed in the child, who does not benefit from a formal education. They tend to overlook the inherent gifts and qualities which the child may possess. Usually most of the parents map out a traditiol path for their children. They hope that their children would shine in every field, would have a brilliant career and get a top job. That is the wish of every parent. But the children may have different ideas of their own, which must be accorded due respect and attention by the parents. They rebel against the dictates of the parents which ultimately leads to the much hyped generation gap, which has shattered peace in many homes and has brought much heartaches to the parents.
Of course a sound formal education is an excellent start and qualifications and degrees are essential in many sectors. But it would be a pity if in placing too much emphasis on these achievements, we forget that there are achievements of a different kind, deserving admiration and in their own way as rewarding and as useful. Children should not be branded as ignorant just because they cannot pass school or college examitions. If a child seems to live in a dream world, it is the duty of the parents to discover what these dreams are, so that they can help in realizing the dream. There are many children whose dreams are not catered for in any school curriculum. Some children are desigted as "backward" simply because of their lack of interest in any formal education. Yet they may have great interest in other things, in which they may excel. Their talents lie in another direction, which must not be ignored or deprecated.
Parents make various plans for their children. These plans may not be realized; but if the children are happy and have skill to pursue their tural inclition, then surely they deserve appreciation. They may not have succeeded in the path mapped out by the parents, but if they have succeeded in their chosen field of activity, then I think the parents should be proud of them. I do believe that wisdom comes from within and it does not necessarily depend on cramming or passing university examitions. A person without any formal education may be one of the wisest men you have ever met. Wisdom is implicitly existent in some people, which does not depend on any exterl factor. The universities are churning out degree-holders year after year. But these run-of-the-mill degree-holders may not possess certain qualities and real wisdom, which may be found in a simple person who does not have a chain of degrees after his me.
It will be wrong to suppose that I am undermining the importance of formal education in any way. I know very well that for knowledge and for a bright future university degrees are essential. But what I disapprove is our supercilious attitude towards certain persons who have not obtained degrees or formal education. Even parents are sometimes disparaged as ignorant by their educated adult children. Grand parents were once regarded as founts of wisdom, but now they are ignored as illiterate ignorant old fossils by the young generation. I think that it is a wrong attitude towards some very wise people. We must remember that our knowledge does not come merely from books and it comes from within.