Let’s speak up

Ashwini Subodh Pathak

Today’s youngsters are really very smart, wearing chic clothes and carrying around the latest gadgets. The way they study, play, manage time …everything is just so cool and smart. But when it comes to communication, they are a people of few words. They want to keep all communication short and brief. While this may be fine in some situations, one wonders if they really are able to convey what they want to every time. They have a smart answer to our misgivings, “Our generation can understand each other’s language.” But then don’t they have to communicate with people of varying ages? Or is there no need?

With humankind constantly evolving, we have developed gestures, signals and so many other means of communication, but when it comes to speaking we seem to be going in the opposite direction. Are people at least able to express themselves properly in their mother tongue? Are people really trying to communicate? I am not talking about WhatsApp and Instagram “communication” where everyone is flaunting what they eat, where they go, what they wear and so on. I am talking about face to face, real, meaningful communication where you don’t just share and flaunt your happiness but speak about your failures, difficulties, dreams, fears, weaknesses, embarrassments; where you speak your mind.

Now-a-days when one visits a new place and comes across new people, children don’t tend to talk or mingle, they prefer being immersed in their phones. If they need anything, they google it. If they want to know the way, they are shy or embarrassed to ask. When google maps is there, why ask? This is a common sight in homes, hotels and public spaces. People gather together and get busy on their phones. Rather than mingle with each other, they want to tell others, “Hey we’ve come together to socialize!”

In an interschool competition, presentations were being given away. Two of my students were with me. Around 100 students were there in the hall. After receiving their mementos, however, most students were neither interested in other presentations nor in getting to know the new students sitting with them in the same hall. They were all busy on their phones and laptops, which they brought to the presentation ceremony! I struck up a conversation with a student. He answered my questions and then went back to his virtual escapades. After some time, my students asked me, “How can you talk to strangers?” It was so natural for me to get to know the person sitting next to me, but for him talking to strangers was an alien concept. I said, “You can play and talk to random people who you haven’t even seen when you play games online, and if that is not weird, how is talking to someone sitting next to you weird?” I remember in our childhood, when travelling by bus we used to talk and make new friends on the bus, share food with them and even take care of them during the travel. What has happened to our new generation? Have we failed in their upbringing?

With crime rate on the rise, we teach our children not to talk to strangers, not to give unnecessary information to new people, but we also need to teach them to try to understand people, listen to them, make prudent judgments and speak when needed. Children should speak freely with parents, friends and relatives.

In the current scenario with lockdowns, pandemic, suicides and other heart-breaking news, this issue of ‘not being able to communicate’ has come into focus.

In this situation, with online teaching, I think the school teacher and her students are the most blessed people in the world. When I wake up in the morning I know within an hour or two I will be able to see 40 pretty faces, smiling, yawning, hiding from the camera, facing it enthusiastically, saying the prayer with involvement…pretending to say it…but I really feel so nice, talking to them, learning new things from them…each day is new, fresh and young. When my class starts, I forget my worries; the pandemic, social distancing, money matters; nothing troubles me. In those 40 minutes I don’t waste a single minute. We do a lot of talking and listening. I feel like school should never end and there should be no holidays. Isn’t this the urge to communicate, to share?

We all have this need. Let us try to develop this habit in our kids as well, to speak freely, to open their minds and be fearless. Let us speak our minds. You may get help…maybe you won’t…you may get the solution…maybe you won’t, someone may listen…maybe someone won’t, but at least you will have the satisfaction of having spoken up for yourself. You tried …you opened up your mind, you used God’s gift of speech, which only human beings have been blessed with.

The author is a chemistry teacher at DSK school, Pune. She works with her students on different science projects for Children’s Science Congress. She has also received the Best Teacher Award in her school. She can be reached at ashwinipathak17@gmail.com.

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