In these times, when the society has to grapple with the glorification of a homogenising culture on the one hand and communal coding on the other, the question of the role of education in governance has to be a critical concern. The Dadri lynching, burning of a Dalit family in Faridabad, subjugation of religious liberty and many more developments reflect the levels of intolerance. How do we understand the role of education in this context and how can the seeds of transformation be sowed?
This was not supposed to be your habitual lecture. It could not have been. Daya Bai is much, so much more than a discourse. She is, to say the least, a model. A life, a lifestyle, a series of life decisions with as many confident no-returns as necessary. As many checkpoints left by life to verify that the force of her character is still there, firmly grounded and ready to face all the resistances, the fights, the abuses and the aggressions that our world produces when established orders are questioned. Here she was – tiny body, frail pitch. The hypnosis of an evening. A few minutes to recount some of the marking events of a life dedicated to causes – to the realisation of an ideal, in the most simple and practical forms, by living, by ‘becoming a local’ in villages of Bihar, of Haryana, of Maharashtra, of West Bengal, and finally of Madhya Pradesh, where she has been living with the Goondi people of the Barul village for nineteen years.
In this remarkable lecture, Sundar began by telling us about a pedagogical experiment they have initiated at his University, wherein ‘themes’ are the fields of study and not particular disciplines. One of the ‘themes’ that they are dealing with is ‘Thinking and Imagination’. From this academic context, one question emerges: “What is the relevance of ‘thinking’ in education, especially in our times of ‘instant culture’?” Ironically, the constant complaint that one hears in our Maggi noodles times, even as it seems one can instantly access ‘happiness’ with less work, is that one has ‘no time for thinking’. There seems to be constant anxiety about things one has ‘to do’ despite the availability of ‘instant’ means of doing them; about the isolation that one feels despite technology bringing a network of ‘friends’ and resources from across the world to one’s fingertips; about the loss of political consciousness and ‘voice’ as one makes rapid, short exchanges with a lot of ‘faces’, instead of long reflective conversations with people whom one has a connection with. Academic capitalism seems to be facilitating tie ups that do nothing but perpetuate this anxiety, and bring into focus one’s inability to cope with the stress of doing it all (alone?).