By Volunteer Jay Laddha, FHI Ahmedabad
As India progresses towards a 5 billion economy, our society is still ailing with social evils like casteism, sexism, dowry, etc. In fact, some of these prejudices have been prevailing from the time of Lord Buddha. Even Indian intellectuals have long seized upon caste divisions, religious obscurantism and child marriage as destructive evidence of India’s perennial ills needing social reforms. Amidst this compromising world, one major concern is how our youngsters will be able to cope with such sensitive issues during their upbringing.
Accordingly, I discussed this question with my parents & neighbors. Out of this concourse, I found this surprising that there was not a single one who talked about understanding perceptions and viewpoints of little children before enlightening them with their fancy knowledge.
First of all, it has to be acknowledged that in a country possessing tremendous contrasts and enormous ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity, it happens not unfrequently that we are faced with complexity around social issues. Undoubtedly, our young minds would have also faced some kind of prejudice. This might have affected their self-esteem and they would have felt left out in their general community or circle of friends. Therefore, we need to understand the travails they went through and their consequent vicissitudes. Also, by becoming their friend and getting a glimpse of their lives, we can assimilate insights on how to nurture them holistically.
Eventually, we can make them aware of tackling social stigmas through narration of stories, performance of skits and various other ways. We can make them understand significance of education and secularism. It goes without saying that collective efforts on behalf of all of us will only make it possible to bring substantial change in society and nurture young minds with sound character.
The bigger change will come gradually. However, for now, what is imperative is that they trust us and not feel alone. If only we understand them, they will listen to us and consequently, the learning process will be smooth. Withal, maturity is not when we start speaking big things. It is when we start understanding small things. We need to remind ourselves ‘Children don’t always need advice. Sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen and a heart to understand them.’