Growing up in small town of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, education was a ticket to see the big world. The city was intellectually rich – there was the legacyof Urdu, Hindi and English poets –Raghupat Sahay “Firaq,” Sumitranandan Pant, Mahadevi Verma and the likes of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra.
The university as well as the high court educated the city by its conversations – there were debates on the left and the right, there were discussions on the politics of the day and you could rest assured that there would be someone who had a divergent view and (s)he was respected, there were fierce arguments in public on the arguments made in courts, and there was a constant reminder of young people who had gone to shine brightly in their different professions globally and how they had journeyed through the city. They made the world aspirational for the young.One thing was common – education was their ticket to the big concerts of their lives. That was the environment in which I grew up – a family of professors whose house reverberated with engaging conversations on how to build a world filled with respect and equality in addition to debating nuances of their discipline. The two cities of my youth, Allahabad and Banaras, also became my extended classrooms. They had people who used education to civilize their minds, tender their hearts, and exhorted themselves to do their things despite what others thought.
There are three purposes of education: to prepare citizens for the nation, develop a love for life-long learning and to earn a livelihood.
The first makes a society and a nation by building its character. The other two make the self (and through it, the society). Good education teaches you about respect and empathy, about giving to others because we care for those who are underserved.
It is also about learning to become wise over time by learning from life and its experiences. Well, there is a fourth purpose too that has always been relevant but more so today. The writer, Italo Calvino, in his book Invisible Cities says: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”
Education is about transformation of the self for the society. A transformative education must make you feel differently, must make you reflect differently – it is not only intellectual. Good education changes who you are. It changes what you do and how you do. And true change must also make you uncomfortable. It allows you to feel the moment. It allows you to save other’s goodness to save yourself. That has been the power of education for me.