Our 'magnificent' world through the eyes of our children!
Some days ago I made a speech to the students of the City University of Seattle in Canada, graduating with masters, some in education and others in counselling. I have made hundreds of speeches in my lifetime, some of them to graduating classes at various educational institutions.
For the latest speech I could simply package what you and I read in the news papers, watch on television, hear on radio and encounter on the internet. I could draw some lessons from the current events in the world, add some inspirational words and hope to leave the students with some aspirational urgings to improve the world along with their personal lots. That would have been the usual stuff and the old way of putting together a speech.
I wanted to do something different. As I was wrestling with my thoughts, one of my six grandchildren happened to come into my study to give me my daily dose of hugs and kisses. It suddenly dawned upon me that the world belonged to her generation more than it did to mine or the generations in between. Of course it belonged more to the generation of the students I was addressing than it did to me. But it was clear it belonged more to my grandchildren's generation than it did to any other.
I have six grandchildren, all between the ages of nine and four. I decided to talk to the oldest four about what they thought were the three or four most worrying things happening in the world. They could base their answers on what they had learned from the news, at school or at home.
The findings were depressing:
1) Three of the four grandchildren worried about the killings, violence and guns in the world. One of them questioned whether it was safe travelling on the planes. Another pointed to the Orlando club shooting spree; knew about Istanbul but couldn't pronounce the word. If I had asked the question today, the Dhaka cafe attack by the terrorists would too have made the gruesome list. The seven to nine year olds may not understand all the reasons about how and why the violence is happening but it is clearly on their minds.
2) While my grandchildren live in a relatively affluent Canada, they see the poverty and hunger in the world as a real problem that warrants the attention of the older generations. They are aware of the poverty in Canada too and how it impacts inner cities and the conditions in which many indigenous Canadians live. They are aware too of the plight of the refugees fleeing war, hunger and poverty.
3) My grandchildren worry about the pollution we are causing and the effect it has had on the world. One of them, an eight year old, has the goal of helping plant a million trees as she grows up. Her interim solution is more walking and biking; the cars should only be used for long trips and only twice a week. That is her view and AAP may feel encouraged by it in their drive to reduce pollution in Delhi by restricting the unbridled use of cars. I am sure she thinks AAP is just some App.
As I drove with my wife to the graduating ceremony in Vancouver to make my remarks, my grandchildren and hundreds of millions of their contemporaries and the thoughts of their future, the future of our increasingly smaller and deeply interconnected world, flooded my mind. I shared those anxieties and thoughts with my audience that evening.
As I wrote these lines for publication in India I added one more concern to the three outlined above--the ubiquitous corruption, rampant in most aspects of the life in India. As Indians tackle violence, poverty, hunger and pollution they must know that the scourge of corruption hangs over all their endeavours, debilitating all their brave efforts and wasting precious days, months and years when India could be quickly and boldly striding into domestic prosperity and much more international influence. The diaspora breathlessly looks forward to a corruption free, prosperous, just and more influential India.