Wednesday, May 10, 2006

'Come Be My Friend' - Antidote For The Nation.

Little did I realize how the proverbs that were taught to us in school would one day prove their relevance. Then, of course, we memorized them by rote and did not really comprehend their import and significance. Pondering over the happenings over the past few years and the great gulf and distrust that divides our populace, I wondered if the proverbs of yore held any solution. Going through the list of sayings and proverbs, many struck me as absolutely pertinent to our current state of affairs; proverbs have that 'forever relevant' quality. I'm sure many of you could easily rattle out a score of these without hesitation.

To me surprisingly it was not a proverb but something children always say that caught my attention - "come be my friend". In its childlike simplicity and innocence it invites us to a peaceful relationship, devoid of envy, ill-will and the other negative attributes of adults. If somehow we could retain this attitude as we grow into adulthood and actively practice it how nice it would be. (For me it looks like this week is reserved for forays into the realm of dreams!)

What would it take for us as adults to maintain our childhood innocence? Nothing. Sorry for the pessimism. But our children can be molded to do so. How?

First on the list is parental example. Don't, I repeat, don't discuss political, ethnic and religious issues pertaining to others in front of your kids. Avoid stereotyping other races, passing derogatory comments about other ethnic and religious groups and statements that kindle feelings of animosity and hatred. Remember children learn fast and absorb things even passively. Do actively encourage your kids to mix and form relationships with children of other ethnic groups. If any one of you feel that your race, religion or community is superior and therefore such interracial mixing is not needed and worse, unhealthy, then there is no bigger fool than you. Don't let your bigoted thinking and philosophy stunt your child's future worldview.

Second and equally important, nay crucial, are the schooling years. In our present system with different schools for different races, a recipe for interracial strife, it becomes incumbent on the school boards and the education authorities to ensure that children are not fed a diet of xenophobic balderdash. Teachers of all races have been guilty of feeding their perceived grievances and pet hatred to their wards. Teachers should keep their personal feelings and opinions on a host of issues at home and be professional enough to be circumspect in their day to day interaction with their young charges. To desire a happy and friendly school environment devoid of the hatred and cruel politicking of the adult world is not a utopian expectation but a constitutional right of every citizen, from the elderly to the tiny tot.

So let us say that now we have hypothetically raised a generation of 'ideal environment' children, what happens next? I don't know. We are now in the realm of the possible and therefore maybe anything desirable could or would be achieved. All I know is that if we as parents show by example that we are willing to invite our fellow citizens to be our friends then our kids will follow suit.

This may seem a simple or even silly suggestion, but hey, what have you got to lose? Give it a try, your best shot and think of it as your contribution to national solidarity and unity. Sometimes the best of us can learn from children how to overcome the worst of our faults.

Together let us all give our children and ourselves this antidote, this simple tried and tested prescription preached by every religion in the world - the hand of friendship to our fellow human beings and then we shall see how it counteracts against the poison of ethnic, religious and communal hatred now coursing through the lifelines our nation's corpus.


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