M Suresh Kumar
Two years ago while I was working in an international school in Vellore, Tamilnadu, a few students from class 10 approached me and said, “Sir, we have come for your blessings.” I was struck by this arguably uncommon request. I sat them down and asked.
“Why … do you need my blessings?”
“Sir, not only your blessings but those of all our teachers; we are going to write our board exams!”
“OK, but why the blessings?”
They took a while to answer.
“Because you are our teachers and it is in our culture to seek your blessings on occasions like this,” somebody blurted out, apparently confused by the seemingly sacrilegious question I had asked. Everybody else seemed to share his sentiment on this.
“Ok. But without referring to things like culture, etc., tell me if a teacher’s blessings can really help you with your exams.”
“Well, we think they can.”
“In what way?”
They fell silent.
“Can they, for example, help you remember the answers you have not read?” I continued.
They shook their heads, becoming attentive.
“You will remember and write only what you have read. Yes or no?”
“Then where do the blessings come in? You are not doing any better than you otherwise would!”
“Then tell me why you need anybody’s blessings for anything; those of your parents or even God? Just because we have known somebody else to do it we needn’t follow suit.”
“Sir, but don’t they give us some strength and confidence?”
“Don’t you think this is purely your imagination? You can feel the real strength and confidence in you only when you have thoroughly prepared! Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“OK. Now let the blessings of human beings be. But why not God’s blessings? He is supposed to have the power to do things!”
I resumed, “Even if God was willing to grant me easy access to answers, I would request him not to do so!”
The students were listening with rapt attention.
“Can you guess why? Because if he did, he would be doing things for me and I wouldn’t get a chance to do them myself – I am getting deprived of my opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them and improve. In other words by asking God to help you, you are denying yourself the opportunity to become a ‘better’ person! Yes or no?”
“Do you all want to become better persons or remain the same by asking somebody else to do your work?”
“We want to become better persons, sir,” they said in unison.
“So we arrived at a good thing today!”
“But how did we manage to do it?”
They drew a blank.
I said, “By thinking differently, originally. By disregarding what people usually do. We ‘created’ a new perspective on the issue in question that gave us a better understanding of it. Yes or no, boys and girls?”
“Sir, yes, sir,” they were louder and happier.
“Then tell me, what is the use of creative thinking?”
“Sir, as you said it gives us a better understanding of something.”
“How does it happen?”
There was no answer and I continued, “By getting us to look at what is/is not happening when we do something in a particular way – it gives us the ‘truth’ of it. And truth is always more appealing and beneficial: it gives us the right direction!
“So, children this is what is called creative thinking. It is not thinking as you like; it is thinking most sensibly. And to do this you need 1) a genuine interest in whatever you are thinking about and 2) the self-confidence to think right.”
“Finally, remember, if you tend to ‘depend’ on somebody for your strength, you will never become ‘self-reliant’, and therefore, never different/creative!”
The author is an English Teacher from Tirupati. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.