Of hope -- and hope alone

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Aug 2018 09:35:19




Vijay Phanshikar,


There is a general rush. Everybody is in a hurry, as if. Despite that, there is also an inexplicable sense of laze everywhere, as if nobody is in any hurry. Various smells -- of perfumes, of cheap deodorants, and unmistakable sweat -- invade your nostrils as youngsters whiz past you from all directions. In the thickets of all those boys and girls, you cannot notice or recognise anyone in particular, as all of them are clad similarly -- in uniforms. But you sense two most prominent of emotions through body-language of so many -- either they are tense (or serious), or they are too relaxed (or casual). Yes, you are on a college campus -- any college campus -- in Nagpur.

Add to this the images of lecturers and professors -- young and old -- moving around, and the picture is complete. They are generally well-dressed, and mostly smiling, or at least trying to ..! Most have a book or two or an attendance register in their hands. These people -- men and women -- also have two groups, so to say. One appears in an eternal hurry (of course in a terrible minority), and the other is relaxed in manner and method (in a big majority). In an average college where stress on academics is of a rather higher order, the atmosphere conveys certain sense of purpose. But the other category is of colleges where such a sense of purpose is not so easily visible or sensable.

Whichever the college, either an engineering or a polytechnic institution or a general degree college or a management college, the most amusing and charming feel comes from the mingling and milling crowds of youngsters. Stand in a corner and watch the youngsters move around -- individually or in groups of boys or groups of girls or groups of boys-and-girls. There also are youngsters that move is twos -- two boys or two girls or a boy-girl combination.

No matter the formation, the body-language of these youngsters is something to be watched with much amusement. They are all sorts of persons -- some very neatly groomed, while some absolutely and horribly careless about themselves, with unkempt hair, smelly and rather unwashed and unironed clothes, unclean faces, unpolished shoes ...! And the most common and enduring attribute of all these is the cell-phones they have in their hands. Countless youngsters seem eternally engaged with their gadgets. At least a backward person like me will never understand what they are constantly peering at in their respective gadgets.

Pull yourself a little closer to a group, and you can be privy to their conversation, even though you commit the sin of eavesdropping. Very few youngsters are heard using dignified language. They shout. They curse. They berate. They swear. They use words that are terribly far from being parliamentary. In other words, most youngsters use street language in which decency and dignity of expression are not considered virtues.

Back darts my mind to my own college days when I often remained on forefront of various activities and making good scores for myself and for my college. In those days, too,
youngsters had some qualities common with the youngsters of today. Yet, the atmosphere on the campuses in those days was certainly more dignified and marked by a greater sense of purpose. And in those days, we did not have many youngsters with a sense of having been lost
somewhere, of not having been ‘there’.

Why do they look like that? -- I wonder to someone. And he says, “Sir, it is quite likely that these youngsters are on drugs”. Oh, my God!
If that is the case, then we must worry about it -- I tell myself. Back to those good old days ...!
No, no. Let me get the past off my back. Let me live in the present. Let me once again turn my attention to the average college campus of today:

Yes, despite a little sense of sullenness that creeps out of faces of a good number of youngsters, there is also a sense of hope. It is not difficult to know why sullenness and why hope: The sullenness is due to a silent threat of not finding appropriate jobs at the end of full college term. For, almost every youngster is woefully aware that there is a serious issue of jobs in the country. The youngsters in general degree colleges are almost always sure not to find decent jobs in the next three-four years. This is also true about youngsters in professional colleges.

And the hope is due to a silent assurance that if they built virtue and value in their performance and personality, they would surely land decent jobs. Some also harbour hopes of getting into business -- of their families or start-ups, as per the fashion of the day.

In yet another section, hope dominates thinking because these youngsters are not given to much serious pondering about their future. They carry a generally ill-informed sense of hope. Glory be to such youngsters -- I may say!
Does anyone carry a sense of defeat from this scenario? Yes, some may. Yet, on the whole, there is certain
doubtless freshness on the campuses. For, youth has always stood for newness, freshness and young and raw ideation. Have a word with them, and you will feel that most of the youngsters talk without much thought. For, you are quite likely to find that most youngsters with whom you have conversed have not read a book in 90,000 years. You are also likely to find that most youngsters are not well informed about the world in general and life as a whole. Their lack of reading -- and also lack of the habit of thinking -- shows up in conversations with the youngsters.

And, that is when you realise how true the adage is: Ignorance is bliss!
No matter all this, the average feel on the campus is of a carefree abandon, dotted, of course, with some anxieties, some worries, and a lot of bliss born out of ignorance.
Some of us may blame the youngsters. Some of us may never do that. And some of us may remember this statement, in effect: ‘These youngsters who stand at street
corners wearing horrible clothes and indulging in nonsensical talk all the time! Oh God save them! God alone knows what will happen to them!’

By the way, this statement has not been made by some Vijay Phanshikar in 2018. It was made more than 25,00 years ago by none other than Socrates!
And this is where one comes away from a college campus with a clear sense of assurance that we have every reason to believe that our youngsters would do well for themselves in the future.

For, even after that dark prophecy by no less a man than Socrates, youth have often proved themselves to be torch-bearers of humanity. There should be no doubt, thus, that from our present campuses as well, we may have people who prove modern Socrateses wrong.