A few days ago, I was sitting with my son, trying to get him to study. We were discussing one of the lessons in his history textbook that was about the Mughal Empire. As he finished reading the lesson, he suggested that I test him about what he had learnt. I chose the easy option and went back to his textbook to look at the exercises at the end of the lesson. The first question was to challenge the child’s imagination and the question read, ‘Imagine that you have been made the king of a fairly large kingdom. What is it that you will do for your people?’
I was impressed with this question and asked my son to think for a few minutes and then respond. I was in for a shock as my son spontaneously answered that he did not have to think about it. He continued, “I know what I will be doing if I were to be made a king. I will first arrest and punish people like Suresh Kalmadi, A. Raja and Nira Radia. I will also make it very difficult for people to be corrupt. Corrupt people will exploit people and keep them poor. I will make sure that every child has a school to go to, there is a hospital in every village, there are only good roads in my kingdom and drinking water is available everywhere and not just in bottles in shops. I will also make sure that every person has a job and families have enough to eat. I will also make sure that children can have lots of fun and play a lot.” I was lost for words. I asked him how he would be able to do so much. He was very matter-of-factly in his reply. “Oh, I don’t have to do all this alone. I will have very good, honest and intelligent people with me whom I will appoint as ministers. They will be doing all this and I will only have to make sure that they do their jobs.”
While my son’s answers may sound both impressive and simplistic at the same time, it did leave me sad. Sad that the leaders at the helm of affairs in this country do not seem to have the wisdom that this 12-year-old has. Sad that children of today have no role models that they can aspire to imitate but are filled with people that they despise. While they have a tacit knowledge that corruption is bad and that it impacts the progress of the country, I am concerned that over time, they will begin to start thinking that it is okay to be corrupt and selfish and not be concerned about what happens to the people and the country around. As they continue to be bombarded with negative reinforcement, see inaction from the powers that be, evil continuing to prosper and yield huge materialistic returns, we have the real danger of they aspiring to make it their way of life too. Soon, we may have to contend with a society that will no longer see ‘Corruption’ as something immoral and to be avoided, but as something to aspire for and acquire. What we need is the kingdom that Rabindranath Tagore dreamt of and hoped that a ‘free’ India will provide its citizenry.
Is this is not something all our children deserve and hope for?