Voices From Mewar

Featuring the work of:

Shri Dayal Chandra Soni

Baavji Chatur Singhji Maharaj

Shrimati Choser Devi

and the

Popular Wisdom of Mewari People

April 2002

 

Special thanks to: Dayalchand Soni, Purshottam [Pallav], Ganeshlal Sharma, Vivek Bhandari, Pannalal Patel, Eron Sandler, and Isaac Ochieng, for their help in clarifying certain meanings and editing.

  

AN INTRODUCTION TO VOICES FROM MEWAR

Paripuran je vai partham, neej basha re neev.

Vadiya majbooti vane uper bhar aseem.

If you have a strong foundation in expressing yourself in your mother tongue, you will be able to deeply understand whatever challenges come in your life and find solutions to them.

In this third publication in the Resisting the Culture of Schooling Series, we seek to highlight some of the critical and spirited voices that grow from the soils of Mewar, a region in the southern part of the modern state of Rajasthan, India. It is in this region and its parampara that Shikshantar is located. We feel it is important to share something more about the context from which we derive much inspiration and courage.

 

The Aravali mountain range, which stretches across the center of the state from the south-west to the north-east, is a very important feature of Mewar. Their natural beauty and biodiversity has inspired much cultural creativity and diversity in music, art, theatre, storytelling, puppetry, farming, cooking, social festivals, appropriate technologies, health, etc. [Note: the sanjhia prints found in the following pages are one example of this.] What makes these popular creative expressions even more interesting is that they can be found for nearly every occasion in life, and they are oftentimes spontaneously generated and changed, according to new personal experiences, in each home by families themselves. They are not dependent on outside ‘experts’, and they blur the line between ‘performer’ and ‘audience’.

 

Growing from this fertile environment, and intertwined with this cultural creativity, is a rich spiritual tradition, which highlights the inherent moral instinct for justice and dignity, as well as the pluralistic search for truth and simplicity. This spiritual tradition embraces and nurtures the multi-dimensionality of human beings in relation to a larger web of life. Indeed, a deep connection between aesthetics, ethics and Nature can be found throughout the region. The thread that delicately connects them and keeps them in balance is the Mewari language.

 

Sadly, many renowned development experts, planners and educationists have failed to recognize the indigenous genius and the diverse learning spaces and relationships that permeate the region. They continue to call the region ‘backward’, ‘deprived’, ‘superstitious’, and even bimaru (sick) as they view it from an (unsustainable) industrial/hi-tech/military paradigm. They fail to recognize the power and possibilities of Mewar in helping to construct more just, harmonious and ecologically-balanced paradigms of living.

 

In sharing this booklet, we also seek to respond to those who ask why critiques of factory-schooling, thought-control and self-destructive Development are only found in the West. It is our belief that rich forms of indigenous critique exist throughout the sub-continent. Many of these can, of course, be found in the writings of visionaries like Gandhiji, Vinoba Bhave, Tagore, Krishnamurti, Aurobindo, etc. But, perhaps more importantly, they can also be found in the everyday lives of local people, who continue to be involved in work which integrates their hands, hearts and heads. Most of these popular critiques are articulated in oral and visual formats. The reason that they have not been heard is that the agenda of Modernization has: (1) privileged textual expression as the dominant form of human communication, and (2) ignored and/or actively devalued local languages (and the practical knowledge and wisdom inherent in them).

 

All of the contributions which appear in this publication were originally conceptualized in Mewari. These ‘voices’ clearly illustrate the importance of local languages and oral media in critically resisting unjust forms of authority and the illegitimate concentration of power. James Scott (1998) highlights how a distinct language is a very powerful basis for genuine autonomy: "It is also the bearer of a distinctive history, a cultural sensibility, a literature, a mythology, a musical past. In this respect, a unique language represents a formidable obstacle to state knowledge, let alone colonization, control, manipulation, instruction, or propaganda." This spirit of critical resistance is particularly exciting for those searching for ways out of the paralyzing traps of Global Consumerism and dependency on the Big State, because it is intricately linked to organic processes of imagination, conservation, self-organization and inter-dependence.

 

However, the threat to Mewari does not come only from English or from agents of the West. Unfortunately, the drive to manufacture National Unity and National Development has led to the harsh imposition of a standardized, official language of Hindi over the region. The erosion of Mewari has become so severe that most school-educated youth and adults are embarrassed of speaking it in public, for fear of being labeled ‘illiterate’, ‘anti-national’, ‘ganwar’ (village bumpkin), ‘junglee’ (wild animals), etc. Fortunately, there is still time to counter this trend. There are also many hidden opportunities as Mewari still lives in the private lives of people.

 

Finally, in sharing this publication, we wish to also draw attention to our own internal conflict. In translating/interpreting these organic expressions and writing them down, we feel that we are in some way distorting them. It has been a very difficult to convey the deep symbolism and multiple layers of meaning and subtle nuances which are embedded in the ‘voices’. Indeed, the beauty and hidden power of these expressions is that they defy a single ‘official’ interpretation. But we have gone ahead and translated them because we feel it is important to share them with those audiences who would otherwise not be aware of these ‘post-rational’ ways of thinking, or who have lost faith in the vast potential of local peoples to think and create without the help of certified experts.

 

Today, we believe that anyone seriously interested in issues of ‘empowerment’, ‘community participation’, ‘critical consciousness’, and even ‘democracy’ must explore how to revalue and regenerate local languages on their own terms. In the humble and gracious spirit of Mewar, we invite you to join us in this process.

- Manish Jain

Shikshantar Andolan

 

AN ILLITERATE’S DECLARATION

TO THE LITERACY PREACHER

by

Shri Dayal Chandra Soni

 

First Published in 1996

Translated and Adapted from Mewari by

Shri Dayal Chandra Soni and Vidhi Jain

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shri Dayal Chandra Soni was born in 1919 in Salumbar, a small town in Mewar, Rajasthan. Having received intensive training in ‘Basic Education’ under well-known people, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Zakhir Hussain, Vinoba Bhave and Khwaja Galamusadan, he worked for several years as a teacher at Vidya Bhawan, a small school, based on Gandhian philosophy and principles of community service, founded in 1931 in Udaipur. In the 1960s, Dayalji left Vidya Bhawan because of his controversial views and made a living through tutoring, freelance writing and eventually by setting up a small flour grinding mill in his home. The experiences with running the grinding mill profoundly influenced his thinking about education. He later worked at Seva Mandir, an NGO in Udaipur, on an innovative literacy campaign for rural areas. He was chosen to represent India in the Canadian World Literacy Programme and made a positive contribution to adult education.

During the past 60 years, Dayalji has written more than 300 essays and published around 25 books on basic education, non-formal education, adult education, women’s education and public administration. In 1992, he was given the ‘Madan Mohan Malviya Award’ for his book on non-formal education. In 2001, he received the Tagore National Literacy Award.

At present, Dayalji lives with his wife in Udaipur and runs a small flour grinding mill in his home. His address is: 26 Vidya Marg, Devali, Udaipur 313004 Rajasthan, India.

 

CHAPTER 1: THE DAY DAWNS EVEN IN THOSE PLACES WHERE THE ROOSTER DOES NOT CROW

1. Listen to me O’ Preacher, Campaigner of Literacy and School Education! Listen to me O’ Liberator, Benefactor of the down-trodden, poor illiterates and the uneducated.

2. Since you have come to my village and my home as a guest, I welcome you and I very much appreciate your visiting me.

3. I am grateful to you for the slogans you have shouted, the songs you have sung and the drums you have sounded to awaken me.

4. I am also grateful to you for having undertaken this journey on-foot, and for foregoing the comforts of the city to see me.

5. I am again grateful to you for being so worried about me. I have given my full attention to all of your preachings.

6. If I understand your basic mission, you believe that we are ‘illiterate’ and ‘uneducated’ - a ‘black spot’ on the nation. And because of this, you are deeply ashamed of us.

10. Up until today, you alone have spoken and I have been a silent and respectful listener of your sermons. But today, it is your turn to pay attention and listen to what I have to say.

11. Please take note: I too write the alphabet, but not on a slate or on a piece of paper, as you do. I write my alphabet on the surface of the fertile soil of my fields - my spade is my pen. The fruits of my alphabet quell your hunger. You gobble them up happily and without complaint.

12. On the other hand, you hold a pen in place of a spade and dig your alphabet on paper. What is produced by this paper farming of yours is a mystery to me. Do you even know what grows there?

13. You always maintain a clear and deliberate distance from the milk-yielding cows, she-buffaloes and she-goats, but at the same time, you find it difficult to resist consuming dairy products such as milk, butter and curd.

14. There is a marked difference between our life styles. While I am engaged in productive activities all day and night, you are engaged only in consuming what I produce. Yet I lead a more peaceful and content life, while you constantly complain and create trouble in society with your insatiable discontent.

17. My activities and my interactions provide me with rich learning opportunities on a daily basis. On the other hand, you are unable to tread the path of education without direction and coercion from your classroom teachers.

18. Whereas your education is restricted only to your books, my whole existence is a rich garden of learning.

19. Your school is by no means a source of real learning. Your school is nothing but a trader in the commodity of education. The real source, or the mine for learning, is the WORK in which one is engaged and whose company I constantly live in.

20. Since you are not aware of my educational achievements, let me tell you that I am a specialist in agriculture, I am an expert in dairy work and I am a scholar in my local dialect.

21. My learning is apparent and authentic in itself. I do not worry about being awarded any certificates to prove this.

24. Mother learning is not a captive in the prison of the schools. Nor is the basic knowledge of life contained in and restricted to the jumble of the alphabet and numerical figures.

25. Like the all-pervasive God, learning is present in every atom of this universe. Learning is an unstoppable or ceaseless activity of devotion.

26. Learning, in its infinite forms, is a universal phenomenon. The stereotyped, monotonous and uniform pattern of education in your school is not suitable for supporting the multiple faces of learning.

27. Dawn and daybreak take place, even where there is no cock to crow and announce the morning. In the same manner, learning takes place and goes on freely, even where you do not start and run a school.

34. Yet I would not be so arrogant as to deny my need to further my education. But how can I agree to your claim of deserving to be my teacher? In my mind, you are not properly equipped to take on this role.

 

CHAPTER 2: IF SCHOOLED PEOPLE WERE REALLY EDUCATED, WE WOULD NOT NEED SUCH A LARGE POLICE FORCE

38. Dear Literacy Missionary, My Brother! I am sorry to say that you do not know the real meaning of education. That is precisely the reason why you consider yourself to be educated.

39. Real education is not about changing one’s attire or their spoken language. True education is that which clarifies and elevates one’s moral conduct and one’s character.

40. The educated person would not consume without also taking part in producing. The educated person would not only selfishly seek to acquire things; he would also give or contribute something. The educated person would reduce his needs and necessities to their bare minimum.

41. The educated person would first serve others before feeding himself. And he would not desert his tired and exhausted companions. He would try to care for them.

42. The educated person would not pose as a valiant hero in the presence of a weak person, nor would he be submissive to a person stronger than himself.

43. Learning consists of doing one’s duty with devotion. Learning is to strive to attain Truth, Auspiousness and Beauty (Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram) in life.

44. Learning is not limited to the acquisition of knowledge or skills, nor does it lie in the collection of certificates or the passage of exams.

46. Real learning cannot be evaluated within the short period of three hours, which are allotted for answering the questions asked in an examination. The real test of learning extends up to the time when a person breathes his last breath.

47. An educated person does not require a watchman to stop him from doing anything immoral. He is his own watchman to guard himself from wrong-doing. He sticks to truth as his protector of morality and does not waver from it.

48. A person who is trustworthy and illiterate is far more educated than one who is not trustworthy but literate.

 

CHAPTER 3: THE SCHOOL DESTROYS OUR INNATE COOPERATIVE SPIRIT

56. The course of school education is opposed to the innate nature of children. They come with a longing for play and outdoor activity. That is why children are not enthusiastic about the school.

58. But having realized that children are not naturally interested in the school course, the school management mercilessly uses the whip of competition and rivalry to motivate friends in the same class. Thus, in the absence of genuine interest, the school creates an artificial interest around the curriculum, interest which is based more on anxiety or fear than on the passion to learn.

59. That is why whether or not he learns anything in school, a schooled student is destined to get caught up in a vicious cycle of rivalry and competition.

60. In this manner, each student is made a secret enemy of his other classmates. Thus, mutual love, trust and the spirit of cooperation are killed and buried in the grave of competition.

61. A sense of equality and the virtue of contentment get burned in the oven of the school.

68. The schooled person, of course, knows how to get served by others, but he does not know how to serve others. He is endowed only with a cynical logic and rationality, with which he tries to degrade and minimize the contribution of others.

69. The school motivates its graduates to run over others, to abandon all sensitivity and compassion for others.

70. Let me eat while the others cook; let me speak while the others listen. Let me measure, weigh and judge others; but let not anyone else measure, weigh and judge me. Such is the attitude of the schooled person.

71. Only I matter, and I am important. Others are neither important, nor do they matter. Let the crops of the others be destroyed without irrigation, but let my garden be green and flourish. This is how the schooled person behaves.

72. The real problem of today’s society is not that the working class is illiterate. In fact, the real problem is that the schooled people of our society are averse to work, particularly to any sort of physical labor.

74. O my Literacy Teacher, had you been successful in removing the anti-manual labor mentality of the schooled folk, you could also have succeeded in removing the illiteracy of the laboring class.

75. The school not only inculcates a hatred for physical labor among its participants, it also inculcates in them an attitude of not working seriously, even in their academic or official commitments.

76. The schooled person feels that all of the serious work that he should do in his life, he has already completed, by preparing for and passing his school or college examinations. Therefore, he has no incentive or will to use his mind, outside of what is prescribed by the education authorities.

 

CHAPTER 4: LEARNING IS A CHARACTERISTIC NOT ONLY IN HUMANS, BUT ALSO IN NATURE

82. It is wrong to think that learning is a feature only of human life. Nature itself is full of learning processes. Your fear that learning is absent or non-functional without schools is totally misplaced.

83. For billions of years, Nature itself has been undergoing a learning process. It is engaged in continually educating its living and non-living creations.

84. Had Nature not been educated, it would not stick to any law of self-discipline. There would not be a day in the day-time and a night in the night-time.

85. From the very beginning of this world, each stone has sought to shape itself under the flow of the river water to perfect rotundity, so that it is valued and worshiped as the idol of Lord Shiva. The sculptors equipped with the hammer and other tools of carving an idol came to the world stage much later.

86. Tell me: where did the moonlight learn to raise the tides in the ocean? Who shows the flowing rivers the meeting point with the sea?

87. Tell me: where do the twigs of a plant learn to express their joy through flowers? Who teaches the wasp to sing a hymn when it greets the flowers?

89. Tell me: where did the peacock learn to dance and the cuckoo learn its sweet musical song?

90. And tell me: who teaches a mother to lovingly nourish and raise her infant, which was once a burden in her womb and a painful delivery? What sort of education converts the blood of the mother’s body into the milk of her breasts!

91. You are wrong in thinking that the gardens are educated and the forests are devoid of learning. You do not know how well educated the forests are.

93. But prompted by misunderstanding, so moved by pity, you have undertaken the monumental task of ‘gardenizing’ all the forests.

 

CHAPTER 5: YOUR SCHOOLS ARE CONCEALED ENEMIES OF MY LOCAL LANGUAGE AND MY FOLK CULTURE; THERE IS NO COMMON GROUND FOR OUR COMING TOGETHER

98. O’ preacher of school education and literacy! Let me ask which schools taught Prince Siddhartha to abandon his legitimate right to the throne. And also let me know which university conferred on him the title of ‘Buddha’!

99. Also tell me about the university in which Vedvyaas, the author of the Mahabharata, got his education? Please tell me where the saint-poets of India Tulsidas, Soordas, Meera Bai and Kabirdas were educated.

100. What would have happened if these great poets had been educated in the modern, English medium convent schools? What if they had preferred the English language over their own?

102. The result? They would not have produced such great literature, because they would not be able to attain the required mastery and self-confidence in English. And they would have considered it below their educational dignity to produce literature in their own language.

106. Spontaneous self-confidence can never be attained in an alien language.

117. The basic purpose of education is to allow the unique personality of each student to open up, to help the flower of his special genius to bloom. But the school of today does not in any way fulfil this primary purpose of education.

120. The pillars of education lie in the local folk culture and the local language. But alas O’ Preacher of Education, Missionary of Literacy, you have ignored and negated this basic principle of education.

122. In older times, there were crusades for religious conversions. Today’s schools are also engaged in a vicious crusade against the people’s own local culture and their own traditional and spontaneous forms of communication.

123. Local folk cultures and locally spoken languages constitute the vital blood through which these unschooled people are continually empowered to face harsh physical conditions and barren environments.

124. The content of your school education sucks out the vital blood-power from these self-sustaining communities. It also kills their self-confidence.

125. In my local dialect, the sacred herbs that protect and nourish my life can be found. But you, O’ Literacy Missionary, try to rob me of those very herbs that sustain me as the price to be paid for the few alphabet symbols you give me.

126. But the fact is, even if I abandon my local dialect and adopt the Indian national language (Hindi) as my medium of literacy and education, I know I shall still not be able to keep your company. You have deserted not only the local dialects, but also the national language, in your insecure pursuit of English.

129. I know that ultimately you will desert me and join the English- speaking crowd. You will always try to maintain a distance between us.

130. So, where is the common ground to come together? We are very different people, trying to pursue very different lifestyles and values. So go back to the cool shades from where you came, and leave me to bear the heat of the scorching sun.

 

CHAPTER 6: MACAULAY NEVER INTRODUCED SCHOOLS WITH THE INTENTION OF UNIVERSALIZING THEM

131. The underlying principles of your Western education are based on Darwin’s theory that one has to struggle for his existence. He has to fight against everyone else and put them down for his own victory and survival.

132. This crude cult of jealousy and enmity among all fellow beings is rooted in these present-day schools. Today, this cult of jealousy, cut-throat competition and rivalry is more acute in the functioning of our schools than it was in the older days.

133. Schools are concerned only with the winners in their competition. They are not at all worried about those who have been defeated, and then discarded.

140. Why does the school not accept responsibility for the student who has failed in the examination, or who has not been selected for a job interview?

142. In fact, today’s school is just a place for organizing a lottery. It engages in a form of gambling, in which the poor common people are destined to lose.

144. Therefore, the choir song praising the school is a deception, a form of false propaganda. And the illiterate person who keeps himself away from schools is perfectly justified in doing so.

145. In fact, today’s schools are more vicious and polluted than when Macaulay introduced this school system, as an essential and vital strategy for British rule.

146. In fact, even Macaulay did not envisage that the school system he introduced would be suitable for universalizing education in India. But you, proving yourself to be worse than that British imperialist, are promoting that very education in the democratic sovereign nation of India today.

152. Thank god the rural people of India possess the clarity and discrimination necessary to have correctly judged the value and utility of the present day school.

 

CHAPTER 7: THE CULTURE OF BOSSISM IS SITUATED IN AND PROPOGATED BY SCHOOLS

153. The schools create an atmosphere in which the students learn to dream about their future lives of controlling others. Thus, the school gives the impression that bossism and power to rule others is the ultimate aim of human life.

164. The true aim of education is to turn the human being towards the Divine or towards the search for truth. But today, education aims to turn the educated toward authoritarianism.

165. Thus, the schools of today have changed the concept of human life. They have wiped out the real aims and values of life and established false and meaningless ones.

167. And that is why the mind of the human being is polluted. In addition, in the name of Development, the physical environment has also been polluted.

168. The basic aim of life is to grow from darkness to light, from untruth to truth, and from mortality to immortality. But due to the influence of the present schools, these basic aims and values of human life are vanishing.

170. That is why schooled people have no limits in their consumerism and are constantly vying for supremacy. Nature is being destroyed. This has lead to a lot of discontent and suffering in modern society.

173. Therefore, the first role of education today should be to save humanity from the wrong paths of life, paths that the school has encouraged. Secondly, education should aim at turning the human ambition towards the inner spiritual world.

175. O’ Literacy Preacher, tell your school authorities that human beings do not have to compete against each other; rather each human being should struggle against himself and improve his own weaknesses.

178. Therefore, My Brother, you should stop interfering in my life. First take care of fully understanding and improving your own self.

 

CHAPTER 8: RESPECT PEOPLES’ RIGHT TO DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES WHETHER SCHOOL EDUCATION IS BENEFICIAL TO THEM OR NOT

179. Learning is implicit in the flow of life. It cannot be fully captured in the prison of schools.

180. Agriculture depends entirely on the rainwater provided by nature and only a little on the irrigation structures provided by the government.

182. Similarly, no school can provide the amount of learning that a human being engages in the process of his own life, outside of school.

183. Schools are very recent structures; they came into existence only the day before yesterday. Human beings, on the other hand, have been learning ever since their existence on earth began.

185. So, if one opens a school, you should open it in the spirit of opening a "drive-through water shed," providing free drinking water to thirsty travelers in the summer heat. Here you provide free drinking water only to those travelers who voluntarily choose, out of their own need, to approach you for drinking water. But while serving water, you should abstain from preaching about the utility of water and your great service to humanity.

186. If your water-serving station will provide good and clean drinking water to the travelers, they will use your services voluntarily. But, if the water you provide is not pure and cold to quench the thirst of the summer traveler, nobody will come to you.

188. Saint-poet Tulsidas2 wrote that even birds and animals understand what is good or bad for them. So why do you think that a citizen of India, who has the right to exercise his vote during elections, does not understand the value of your literacy and school education?

189. Even illiterate people are living human beings who can decide for themselves whether to become literate or to join a school. You must respect the right of the illiterates to make their own decisions.

191. Do not interfere in other peoples’ lives in such an aggressive manner. Do not suffer from the false pride that you are the ultimate saviour of downtrodden people like me.

197. People like me, who are always self-disciplined and contributing their share of work to the world, cannot be deemed ‘uneducated.’ How and when did you earn the right to call me uneducated?

199. You are well aware that schools were established as tools for foreign rule in India. You are also aware that the pattern of these imperialistic schools has not changed since then.

201. Although that imperialistic foreign rule has been uprooted, the schools of today are still wedded to the same conceptual framework of control and governance.

202. "How will my child get out of working and toiling in labor intensive employment? How can he enter into the comfortable class of nonproducing and exploiting elites?" These are the main educational concerns of parents, who have been pushed to send their children to these schools designed by the British.

205. The schools are encouraging the exploited classes to convert themselves into greedy exploiters. The hidden agenda of the schools and its preachers is to curb the possibility of a revolt against the exploitative system.

213. O’ Preacher of School Education! Do not try to misguide me about the utility of your school education, as I have already suffered because of it. My children, after going to your school, neither got any ‘desk and chair’ jobs, nor are they able to work with me in the fields.

 

CHAPTER 9: EDUCATION ONCE RULED THE STATE, BUT NOW IS SUBMISSIVE TO IT

214. The most vital difference between the old "Gurukuls" (teaching-learning homes) and schooling today is that the former were guided by the gurus (the teacher sage or hermit), whereas the latter is totally controlled by the government.

215. Because the entire educational system is fully dependent on government funds, the so-called masters have been reduced to mere slaves of the government. Whereas in olden times, government leaders were deferential towards gurus, that position has now been reversed.

216. Today, when even the students do not accept teachers’ authority, how can we expect the government to respect them? Teachers’ relationships with the public are diminishing, as they are continually transferred from place to place.

218. In those countries in which the teacher has an autonomous role, the government machinery is not able to spread its influence in an unlimited and unfocused manner. If teachers were able to stimulate critical thinking among the people, it would reduce their dependence on the state apparatus.

222. Do not confuse the spread of school education with the spread of real learning. It is nothing but a means of spreading the network of government machinery and disempowering community life in the Indian society, as people lose all initiative to support and manage themselves.

232. In the ancient educational system, the hermitage of the guru had a loving family-like atmosphere for all its disciples. In that atmosphere, the weaker students received the same attention, affection and importance as the brighter students.

233. Take the example of Lord Krishna, who came from an affluent family, and his friend Sudama, who belonged to a very poor family. It was much more than mere classroom interactions that allowed for such a deep friendship to develop between them. Rather, it emerged from valuable collaborative exercises, such as collecting wood-fuel for the hermitage, encouraged by their Guru Sandeepani.

234. One day, when they went to collect wood in the deep forest, Krishna became hungry. They stopped in Sudama’s little hut, where he embarrassingly offered Krishna a few uncooked grains of rice, which was the only food available. When Krishna graciously accepted it, a new relationship, grounded in mutual respect and understanding, emerged between the two of them.

235. Only real learning can bind the poor and the rich in friendship. It can remove the gulf that exists between them by uniting them.

236. In the hermitage education, the natural atmosphere of the home was maintained, and nothing irrelevant to their lives was imposed on the pupils in the educational syllabus.

238. Education in the gurukuls was not restricted only to subjects connected with worldly affairs; rather, it extended more into the realms of inner human life.

239. That was why students educated in gurukuls never treated their fellow students as potential rivals. Instead, they indulged themselves in more meaningful processes for self-realization and self-improvement.

241. A student that lived in a gurukul even if he was a weaver (like the great poet-saint Kabir) or a shoemaker (like the great poet-saint Reydaasa) received more recognition and respect from the public than kings did.

 

CHAPTER 10: BY FAILING TO RECOGNIZE WORK AS A MEANS OF EDUCATION, SCHOOLS ARE DERAILING DEMOCRACY IN INDIA.

247. Ever since human beings started living on this planet, they have been continuously learning through their daily work and productive activities.

252. It is through work that human beings begin to understand nature and the human mind.

255. Work stimulates one’s curiosity, critical thinking and awareness. It is through work that human beings realize the real problems of life and discover their own ways of solving them.

259. No child can become curious to learn, eager to listen and ready to receive knowledge without work, which stimulates these processes.

269. Work is at the roots of the tree of education, but schools have removed these roots from education.

 

CHAPTER 11: THE ANCIENT FAMILY STRUCTURE AS A BIRTHPLACE FOR LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT

272. The ancient family in India was much more than a den for breeding children. It was a learning center, where work and growth simultaneously and continuously took place.

274. Just as a tree sucks its nourishment from the soil, a child imbibes education by participating in the routine activities of family life.

277. Education is not just a preparation for future life; but rather, the purpose of life is about exploring different ways of learning and living.

282. The parents have the first right to make decisions regarding the education of their offspring; thus, they must assume their natural role as teachers. External schoolteachers should serve only as a complement to the parents.

293. But mark the change! Education, which used to be a free, joyous and spontaneous process in family life, has now become a commodity to be bought and sold in the open markets. It is available in different shades and patterns to suit the financial capacities of the purchaser.

 

CHAPTER 12: PLEASE STOP BEATING YOUR DRUMS NOW

308. I once had a dream in which I saw and spoke with Mother India. I shared with her my feeling that India is now overpopulated. But she did not agree. She said that if this wrong kind of school education is stopped, overpopulation would no longer be a burden.

312. She said the productive population of non-schooled illiterates is no burden on her. Ten uneducated and illiterate persons who are engaged in production are less of a burden than a single unproductive and over-consuming schooled person.

329. She said that the problems of today do not arise because of the natural learning environment that she created, but they arise due to the lack of any change in your schooling system.

331. O’ friend, I am too tired to converse with you any more. It is already too late in the night. So please allow me to leave and rest.

333. Listen to my very honest suggestion: please do not beat your drums of literacy and schooling. It will only backfire, and you will be subjected to listening to more harsh and painful realities about your school system and literacy campaigns.

1 The underlying, deeper meaning of this verse is that a human being, by his very nature, has been striving to realize his perfection ever since he appeared on this earth even when there where no schools, no teachers and no books to guide or educate him.

2The author of the Ramayana in Hindu mythology.

 

CHALLENGING COMPULSORY SCHOOLING

The following statement has been excerpted from Dayal Chandra Soni’s "The Ills of our Present Education and Gandhian Basic Education as a Remedial Measure" (April, 2000).

"When India adopted her present Constitution, it was laid down in its Article 45 that ‘the State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years, from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.’ The general public opinion, largely, is that this is a very good provision in the Indian Constitution. But, in my mind, this is a very wrong provision in our Constitution. My arguments are as follows:

1. Nothing, which is imposed by a Government as a compulsory exercise, can be truly called education. Compulsion is anti-education.

2. This Article is silent about defining the concept of education. The Article implies that anything that one does in a school is right education and anything that one does out of school is non-education.

3. The Government is not a safe and qualified custodian of education. Education is an organic process, which is based on mutual love and respect between the guru and the learner, and a Government cannot be a mediator between the guru and the learner.

4. This Article does not lay down that private interests should not be allowed to introduce class distinctions in the schooling system. Nor does it state that rich and elite parents will have to send their children to those schools in which the children of poor parents get their education. This is the most serious sin of this Article. It exempts elite class children from undergoing the same educational process as that which has been provided for poor children. Thus, class distinctions are introduced and/or reinforced, even at the initial stages of their lives, for the future citizens of India.

5. My final objection to this Article of the Indian Constitution is that it does not define any concept of an educated person nor does it indicate the values which it aims to nurture in the so-called educated generation. This education restricts itself to giving only information and functional skills to its students. The development of human beings who will maintain moral values in their conduct or who will strive for doing excellent work in their accepted job is totally ignored. According to our present education, it does not matter whether the ‘educated’ person exercises morality in his work or adopts immoral means to achieve his ends. The degrees of B.A., M.A., or Ph.D. will safely stick to him, irrespective of his conduct."

  

"Jantantra yo nee hai ke janta shashakaan nai chun sakay. Jantantra to woh hai ke janta shikshikan nai chun sakay."

"The basis of real democracy is not in people choosing their rulers. Real democracy is when people can choose their teachers."

- Dayal Chandra Soni, Shikshanjali, 1992

 

 

 

A Plea from All the Children

by

Baavji Chatur Singhji Maharaj

First published in Mewari in 1940

Translated and adapted from Baalka re Vaar by Vidhi Jain and Gopal Sharma

 

About the Author

Baavji Chatur Singhji Maharaj was born in 1880 in the house of the Maharana of Mewar. He was Maharana Fateh Singhji’s nephew and former Maharana Bhagwat Singhji’s grandfather. From very early childhood, he developed an instinctive and natural interest in poetry. After having read Kabir, Nanak, Meera, Dadoo and other great poet-saints, he matured into a very sensitive, wise and serious poet. He focused on social issues, Bhakti, education, religion and local culture, through his verses and poems. He was also a great exponent of Sanskrit and a lover of paramapara and nature. Baavji was very critical of modern civilization and schooling. He often wrote that modern schools did not nurture true education and learning, but instead cut the throats of students. He believed that schools made children feeble, ignorant and superficial human beings. His pieces, Baalka re Vaar and Chatur Chintamani, demonstrate this conviction. Baavji Chatur Singhji Maharaj passed away in 1929, leaving behind a treasure of over 18 novels and poem verses. Baalka re Vaar was first published by Hiteshi Pustak Bhandar, in Udaipur in 1940, nearly 11 years after Baavji passed away.

a challenge to copyright

Published in the Introduction of Chatur Chintamani

This is a collection of different verses composed at different periods of time. Its readers will be the real judges of the value and success of this work.

Anyone is free to publish or reproduce these verses and any of my books published by Sadachaar Library. I have not assigned any tune to the verses, and so anyone who wishes is most welcome to sing and recite these verses in their own style or tune.

I would be very grateful to the readers if they make appropriate modifications and additions to the verses wherever they feel necessary.

- BCSM

 

In this book, Baavji Chatur Singhji seeks to draw our attention to children’s feelings about (and expectations towards) their family and their school environment. Throughout the entire book, children are speaking, openly expressing their innermost objections and fears to their parents, teachers and all other so-called well-wishers.

"Please listen to us children, because it is the wise person’s job to listen to people who cannot express themselves freely. You should pay more attention to children when they cry, because they never cry without a reason. We are very grateful to you for all that you have done for us thus far. And we know that you always have our happiness in mind. We do not have words to describe our appreciation for you. But you also need to be very careful. Some of your decisions unknowingly bring pain and agony onto us. We know that your intentions towards us are always meant to be noble, but they are not always well thought-out.

There is a well-known Mewari saying: ‘Bhola manak bhi dushman ki garaj palta hai’, which means that an innocent person will always pray for his enemies’ well-being. We do the same. We always pray for your success, even though sometimes we feel you treat us like an enemy. Some of your good deeds bring lifelong suffering to us. But, as your children, we always respect you. We are not blaming you. But we often wonder, how do you knowingly let this happen to us?

One of the most painful things that you keep forcing us to do is to ‘study’. Didn’t you also go through the same torture when you were children? And yet, you continue to subject us to this abuse. Or maybe you are not creative enough to think of other alternatives. So you continue to insist that we go through the same hell you did.

Let us give you an example to explain the sad state that we are in. You force us to wear a lot of jewelry, like bangles, rings and anklets to make us look cute like stuffed dolls. Well, to tell you the truth those ornaments are like chains and handcuffs to us. They only give us pain, not any enjoyment. Those ornaments leave scars on our tender bodies. They hurt us. Sometimes, children even lose their lives because of them. If we happen to lose the ornaments by mistake, all your precious love turns into anger. You beat us until we cry. You adorn us with all those ornaments only because they make you feel proud.

But the saddest part is that we get used to wearing them. We get addicted to them and develop many bad habits. This is pretty much what happens to a drug addict, who hates drugs in the beginning, has indigestion for a few days, and then, over time, gets hooked on them. When we get obsessed with your ornaments, we develop a superiority complex over those people who do not wear ornaments. We start treating those people badly and look down upon them. We also start competing with people who wear more ornaments and try to show off all the time.

You force us into such bad habits right from our childhood and then blame us when we turn out to be ‘bad characters’. Therefore, the love you shower on us is nothing but a myth. Luckily, we are able to recognize that real beauty lies in the way in which one behaves and talks with others, not in the outward ornaments and make-up that they wear.

All the faults you find in us as adults are usually planted in our early childhood. These bad habits stay and haunt us all the time, like the ceaseless drone of a gramophone. There is another saying: ‘Ghar mein bolay dokra, barnu bolay chokra’, which means that children speak and do as they see their parents speak and do. So from where do you think we picked up all our bad habits?

Anyway, this is not what we want to talk to you about right now. There is something much more urgent and pressing we need to discuss. This plea is to draw your attention to our education. This is a call to school directors, managers, inspectors, gurus, pundits, saints, teachers, to all compassionate people and to our parents. There are hundreds and hundreds of children who study in this region. This is a humble plea from all of us.

Please try to understand that the crime being committed against all of us in the name of education is a crime that no intelligent or wise person would tolerate.

There is a region called Gujarat, where all children learn Gujarati first. All other languages like Hindi, English, Pharsi, Urdu and Sanskrit are taught much later. The children there learn how to speak their local language fluently before they are forced to read and write or study other subjects. This encourages the children to both appreciate their land, work, culture and Nature and to look after these. This also places less pressure and strain on the children. They are not beaten or punished by their teachers for lagging behind. It makes sense that all other regions of the country should also give priority to children learning their own local language first, before putting any other language burdens on them. It is sad that this is not yet allowed in our region.

We do not need any textbooks to learn our own local language, Mewari. We learn how to speak on our own, without any compulsion. We learn how to say words like ma (mother), bapu (father), dado (big brother), raab (corn buttermilk), chaa (buttermilk) very naturally. However, in school we are taught alien words in Hindi like mata (mother), pitha (father), chacha (uncle), bhojan (food) and jal (water). These words are strange and difficult for us to remember. We hate having to repeat the same words over and over (and that too aloud) in order to memorize them. This drains our brains. If we do not memorize things quickly, we are labeled ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’ and looked down upon. For this reason, we hate school and run away from it. We would rather hide in the jungle than go there.

We have a humble prayer for God Almighty: please give the school planners some common sense. The torture that they put us through kills our enthusiasm for learning. We become more and more feeble.

This is the real reason why we do not fare well in schools. But the school doesn’t understand this. It mistakenly accuses us of being careless and lazy. Because parents and teachers assume that we are ‘slow’ and ‘empty’, they believe that the only way to make us learn is through severe punishment. Parents give merciless teachers the full freedom to scare us, beat us and force us to do all that we hate. Parents tell the teachers, "The children’s skin and bones belong to us, but you own their brains and mind. So feel free to mold them in whatever way you think is right."

The parents and teachers fail to understand the real roots of the problem. Who is to blame for this? Have they forgotten what happened to them when they were growing up? They were allowed to learn their own local language first, so why aren’t we allowed to do the same? The reason we do not do well in their sham schools is because we are compelled to learn a strange language and a foreign culture. That is a sin!

In such a cruel and miserable situation, what else can we do but pray to the Almighty: either you summon these confused parents and teachers to you, or else please call us children to you, so that we can be liberated from this hell called school.

In the school, we are forced to learn Hindi. This is like banging our heads against a wall. You tell us that Hindi should be easy for us. But if you really want to know the truth, it is like a big weight crushing our little chests. After some time, you think that Pharsi will help us with our pronunciation, so you start teaching us Pharsi. Then you remember that, in this modern age, English is a must, so you start pounding A, B, C and D into our heads. And after all this, the pundits realize that, for religion, Sanskrit is a must, so then you add on: Om shri ganeshaya namah!

Throughout this entire process, your blessings and concerns pierce our little bodies like daggers. The funny thing is that you put only one sack of burden on a donkey’s back, but load at least four burdens (if not more) onto our poor little bodies. When we finish our school education, we become like blind-folded oxen: absolutely unaware of our community and surroundings, wholly dependent on the instructions of our master. We become so ignorant that we can neither speak our own local language, nor any other language fluently.

We have no objection to learning new languages. In fact, we are very open to it. But we request you to let us learn our own local language first and then build on it to learn other languages. This is how we will learn with greater enjoyment. The language that we use in our day-to-day lives is the language we remember and enjoy speaking more then any other alien language. But your problem is that you want us to jump into learning a language that we know nothing about. It is strange that you yourself do not speak the language that you are forcing onto us. Because of your hypocrisy, our local language is dying.

As children, we have an innate love for learning. But you are killing our love by forcing us to learn things we dislike and find irrelevant. You should realize that we have a lot around us to learn from. We are learning without your textbooks and compulsion. We love to listen to great epics like Narsiji ro Mayro, Gopi Chand Bharath Hariji, Pavooji ki Phadh, etc. in our own local language. We can learn a lot of things through drama, art and dance. We don’t have to be slaves to your textbooks in order to deepen our knowledge.

Furthermore, the person teaching us should have some common sense. He should not be like a quack doctor, whose ‘cures’ cause his patients more suffering. We want teachers who nurture us through play and fun, who are not fixated only on textbooks. Our textbooks also need to be well-analyzed and understood by the teachers. If the textbooks are not relevant, they will lead to our mental stagnation. We become like confused donkeys: living in one place, but dreaming of another (neither here nor there). This is a very disempowering condition for us to be in.

There are at least ten different local sources from which we can learn in our daily lives. Of these, five are related to outer dimensions of our life, such as: (1) Acharya (from our gurus), (2) Pustak (from books), (3) Niwas (from the place where we live), (4) Sahay (from the circle or people we live with), (5) Khava Peena ri Aushaan (from caring about our eating and drinking habits). There are also five inner dimensions of our lives which we need to try to concentrate on and perfect: (1) Aarogyata (good health), (2) Buddhi (deep understanding), (3) Niyan (self-discipline), (4) Udhyam (skill in physical work) and (5) Shanti (mental peace).

Just like a Vedhya (local healer) understands the roots of the illness in order to remove it from the body, the pursuit of knowledge (coupled with humility) helps one to understand negative and destructive thoughts and remove them from the mind. But because local systems of knowledge about living have been destroyed, the human being has become superficial and arrogant. These days, people consider their own local language to be inferior ? even though it was spoken by kings like Rana Sangha and Rana Pratap. This is ironic, since people from all around the world (even the British during their rule) considered Mewari a very refined and superior language. Similarly, they declared Mewari people to be very brave and virtuous. ‘Aa nila ra aswaar’ (the rider of the blue horse, Chetak) was a title given to Rana Pratap for his greatness. But sadly today, the people of Mewar have started disrespecting and devaluing their local language and parampara, as a result of this polluted system of education.

We still don’t understand how saying ‘water’ makes one person superior and saying ‘bhoo’ makes another person inferior. The element remains the same, irrespective of what you call it. These trivial distinctions are given far too much value by ‘educated’ people. We request you to pay attention to peoples’ qualities and strengths, not to their superficial adoption of a language. What matters most is how you behave with people in the place you live. The knowledge generated through your local language invariably develops innovation and wisdom. Most importantly, it builds self-respect, respect for others, and respect for the work they (and you) do.

Another thing which we are really upset about is that you call people who are slow in reacting and learning, ‘baalak’ (child-like). Even if they request your help, you consider them to be stupid and ignore them. What we need sometimes is a trustworthy friend, who can act as an intermediary and support us. But to expect this friendship and trust from a teacher is impossible, because most teachers are lazy, arrogant and selfish. They consider themselves to be gods, so how will they ever listen to children, let alone be able to understand them.

But what can we do in such a situation? There is a saying: ‘Mama ke siva tho kana mama bhi chalega’, which means that if you cannot find a wise person, then you have to keep trying with even those people whom you consider foolish. That’s why we children keep hoping that someday our good-for-nothing teachers will listen to our plea.

We have a very straightforward question for you teachers: why do you disrespect us so much? Why do you treat us like animals and insects from feces? You like to humiliate us all the time, without really understanding what we want or who we are. In many ways, you want to keep proving yourselves to be very smart and superior, by showing us children to be dumb and empty.

But it would be very arrogant for us to just keep accusing you without substantiating our point. That’s why we feel we need to have a very serious discussion about who really is smart and who really is dumb amongst us!

We find it very odd that you behave like this, conveniently forgetting that you were also once children. You act as if you just fell from the sky. Don’t you have any faint memories of your childhood? Even after living with us, you are not able to remember your childhood. Wow, what a great memory you have! Or perhaps you have intentionally forgotten.

But we will remind you: when we left your womb, you prayed to God to relieve you from the pains of birth labor. You took an oath to look after all children for eternity. What happened to your promise? It appears as if someone made you sniff chloroform and you lost your memory. That’s why we think that you are still punishing us for all the pain you went through while in labor. What else could it be? It is high time that you forgave us and act on your pledge.

You should also realize that everyone has faults, so you have to forgive us when we make mistakes. But where do you think we inherited all these bad qualities from? Well, it can’t be from anyone but you. If we are beast-like, it is because you too have this beast in you. We don’t think it is appropriate that you find faults in others without looking at yourself and your own faults.

Why do you look at us as if we are dirty little insects from feces? What’s so bad about it anyway? It doesn’t matter to us if we live in feces or live in sandalwood. We don’t really pay much attention to these superficial things. Honestly, didn’t you ever wet your beds or dirty your clothes as children? Even now, you become filthy. But you wash yourselves and then haughtily walk around, taking great pride in your cleanliness ? as if nothing ever happened. This self-deceit only makes you more arrogant and superficial.

We don’t know even what our bodies are made of. We do not feel proud about having inherited them. But you know very well that our bodies are made of nothing but soil. So why are you are so proud of your physical attributes? This shows how very ignorant you are.

Why do you keep telling us that children’s minds are empty? Why are you so adamant about your opinion? You call yourself wise and intelligent, yet you don’t want to change yourself at all. You call us animals, but you are bigger animals. Like all humans, animals also eat, defecate, sleep, think, etc. There is only one thing that animals don’t follow and that is religion. But the sad thing is, humans have started fighting in the name of religion. Animals only compete for food, but you have begun to compete for everything and hate each other. This is why adults should be considered worse than animals.

Unfortunately, we must also tell you that you are lazy and weak. You outdo even pythons in your laziness. Pythons don’t even have hands and feet to defend themselves. But for your kind information, you do have hands and feet. Yet, you keep dreading any little bit of harm to your precious bodies.

Animals are your greatest fear, even after knowing that they never harm anybody unless provoked or attacked. They are pure and innocent. But from our early childhood, you scare us and turn us against animals. Your aggressive behavior ruins simple-hearted and faultless animals.

You also put domestic animals like cows and dogs through a lot of misery and pain by unnecessarily tying chains and bells around their necks and feet. These ornaments are again for your own convenience. You have always displayed a selfish interest when rearing animals. You may worship cows as Gods on one day; but on another day, you will sacrifice them just to please God.

We think there is a major hypocrisy in your life and that too in the name of religion. Your superficial faith in God is not hidden from us. How can showing off with gold and pearls be a part of religion? You try to cover up your sins by going on pilgrimages, bathing in holy rivers and living in caves for short spans. Well, birds, fish and snakes do these things all the time. Yet, you claim to be superior to them. You try to create a false image that you respect Nature and are one with it, but you are not, because you always intend to manipulate and control it.

We also have to tell you that your wisdom is dying every day. We see a world of difference between our perspective about life and learning and yours. Because of this difference, you accuse us of being dumb and stupid. That’s why you don’t like it when we question you about it. You find our honesty insulting.

For example, we consider your religion a crime. Krishna Bhagwan said that his true disciple is one who is always filled with humility; that’s how children are inherently born. Christ had said that if you want to be a true friend of children, you have to behave like them. See how Christ (unlike you) actually respected children’s feelings.

When we follow you and end up on the wrong path, you blame us. But you don’t realize that you walk like a drugged person. If we fall, we will at least be able to recover and stand up on our own feet. But if you fall, there is very little hope for you, because you will sink too deep into the abyss of your own Ego.

There is an unending list of your bad habits and hypocrises, but we don’t think it would be appropriate to upset you any further by pointing anymore out to you. It is also very likely that you will start blaming us for being rude and insolent, and turn your face away from us like you have always done in the past. But we know we are not betraying you, because we know that you realize your shortcomings; your wrong-doings are not hidden from your soul.

We can only request you to think about your own behavior and lifestyle. The rest is up to you. We respect you, and so we expect the same respect from you. We believe in self-improvement and self-correction. Nobody can force anybody to change. But, at the same time, we want to warn you that that self-change is not possible if you maintain your elephant-sized ego and false self-pride. Knowledge and wisdom comes to everyone, even the simplest at heart, but it rarely goes well with a large ego.

We request you to change, or else we will have to leave. We don’t want to be converted into people like you. We care about our future. We believe that it is our duty to tell you what we feel. It is the work of a candle to share its light wherever it goes. But it is your choice, if you want to continue to live in darkness.

We can share with you what we know to help liberate and free yourselves from the misery you are trapped in. Whenever you think of progress, you have to think of how to build a harmonious relationship with Nature. You also need to reconnect yourself and your learning processes with Nature. You also need to support us in learning naturally, without force or compulsion. We should all be open to learn together and from each other. If you leave us with Nature, we will be able to learn much more than we ever could from any textbooks or scientific pedagogy. And that’s our most sincere plea to all of you."

 

CHATUR CHINTAMANI (Chatur's Thoughts)

Baaviji Chatur Singhji Maharaj on ‘Avidhya’ (false education):

Bhan ne leedee kashi bhalai I

Gaant ri saami samajh gamayee II

Aankha oopre kaach aagya, jeebh gayee jakdayee I

Degree sathe dhashya jeb mein daava kake davai II

Parmarth ro pat bhool ne keedee yaad thagai I

Anwali ghada mel maal pe, keede ghani kamai II

Fogat phonogram jyo hi sab, surn ne pari sunai I

Gangajal su hui glaani, soda whisky bhayee II

Dekhya dosh sada doojey ra, kar kar aap badai I

Vibhcharya bhi haar hajaara, brahamcharya mein payee II

Tan man dhan ne samey kharach kar, khota khoob kamayee I

Batan mein to haatha mein jyon, aankhi dhara ootai II

Mukh mein maal male tabla jyon, dhan dhan taal lagayee I

Pate mayen to rathi ne pogyo, dooja ne dikhayee II

A, B re, C, D pahla hee abbee seedee aayee I

Tat sat om ganesh sharda, bhoolya ram bhalayee II

Bhan ne leedee kashi bhalai I

Gaant ri saami samajh gamayee II

 

What greatness have you achieved after studying in school? You have even lost the understanding and common sense you had before. You have acquired spectacles on your eyes after rote learning. Your tongue has become tied after cramming so much. But you keep roaming around with your degree in your pocket and claim that it is a medicine to make up for your weaknesses.

You have forgotten the basic lessons of humanity and have learnt how to cheat other people to earn your living. But you fool, how can you ever expect to deserve anything good from anyone after pursuing the wrong path? How can a person ever fill a pot of water when the pot is kept inverted?

Your only way to show your excellence is by repeating what others have told you. You keep blindly repeating others’ ideas like a gramophone which has gotten stuck. You now despise our pure and crystal clear water from the holy Ganges. Instead, you have started preferring the consumption of soda and whisky.

You keep blaming and finding faults in others in order to brag about your greatness. You claim that you have attained Brahmacharya (or sacred knowledge), so that you can hide your lack of moral character.

Let me tell you that you have already wasted your precious time, energy and money by having gone through this useless education. And you continue to waste more time, energy and money trying to recover your losses by cheating innocent people. You act as if you have attained the wealth of the whole wide world through this school education, but you are actually the poorest person on earth in terms of values.

You keep repeating information and alien knowledge to show off in front of others. You are like a tabla - making noise from outside, but absolutely hollow from inside. Nothing new grows from within you anymore.

Your education is extremely dangerous, because as children you are forced to learn the alphabets A, B, C, D, without ever comprehending the ABC’s of life. Before even understanding either English culture or your own local culture, you have already acquired a false sense of arrogance and cultural superiority. You have forgotten the beautiful sounds of tat (natural elements), sat (truth), Aum, Ganesh (happiness in the home), and shaaradaa (learning/deep knowing) which emerge from your own culture and provide real meaning to your life.

 

School-Educated but Lacking in Common Sense and Values

by

Shrimati Choser Devi

First published in Mewari in Apni Vaath, January 2002

Collected and translated by Pannalal Patel and Vidhi Jain

About the Author

Shrimati Choser Devi is from Udaipur, Rajasthan, and has married into a family living in Bedla Talai (a village near Udaipur). She is 23- years old. She enjoys sharing local, traditional stories and songs in Mewari. Choser Devi has learned many of her stories (including the following) from her grandmother (Narayani Bai) and mother-in-law (Sovani Bai).

Bhaniya Parn Guniya Koine

There was once a potter who lived in a small village. The potter’s daily job was fill water from the nearby well and supply it to the court. He had been doing this work for many years. He started to realize that as he was getting older, the work was too much for him to do alone, and he needed some help. After much thought, he decided to get a donkey to make his work less fatiguing.

The donkey he got was very honest and simple-hearted. The potter named the donkey, Heera (diamond). The donkey actually was a diamond in his sparkling behavior and hard work. He never bothered or disobeyed the potter, as a result of which the potter grew very fond of him.

Out of respect and affection, the potter began to call the donkey, Heeralalji.1 The donkey and the potter became very close and cared a lot for each other. They used to work together and spent all their time together, which made their lives blissful.

Slowly, the potter became very devoted to the donkey. But no one can delay the inevitable. One day, the donkey became very ill. The potter spent a lot of money and energy trying to cure the donkey. But all of his prayers failed and the donkey passed away. This was a very big blow for the potter. He went into a state of very deep mourning. He realized that the donkey had been like a son to him.

He felt a very deep void and loss in his life. After cremating the donkey, he went and shaved all the hair off his head.2 He very faithfully performed all of the sacred rituals and ceremonies that were required after a family member’s death. He also had a betak (sitting) for mourning in his home.

After 12 days, he returned to work at the court. In his absence, the primary school-educated guard had to perform the potter’s work of filling water. He was infuriated when he saw the potter and started shouting at him. He said, "You fool, don’t you know government rules and regulations? Why should I be doing all of your menial work? Do I look like your servant-boy?"

Shortly after, he asked the potter why he had not come to the court for so long. The potter kept quiet in grief. When the guard stared more closely at the potter, he realized that the potter was bald and immediately asked him what had happened. The potter’s eyes filled with tears, and he said, "Heeralalji is no more."

On hearing this, the guard started consoling the potter. He thought that Heeralalji must have been some very famous politician from the village, and that is why the potter had started to cry. The guard did not want others to think he was ignorant. So he said nothing to the potter. But, in a flash, he ran out to the barber’s shop, had his head shaved and went into a state of mourning.

The next day, the guard happened to go the police station for some assignment. He knew many people there. On approaching the station, he met the police watchman, who asked him who had passed away. The court guard replied, "Heeralalji has passed away."

The watchman started to comfort the guard. He thought that Heeralalji must have been some elderly and important person in the court, and that’s why the guard had shaved his head. The watchman thought to himself, "If I happen to go to the court for some work, without a shaved head, it will be considered disrespectful to the authorities. The guard will not give special priority to getting my work done."

The watchman shared the news of Heeralalji’s death with the other watchmen and the sepoys (constables). They also thought of their own corrupt selfish-interests, and immediately ran to the barber to have their heads shaved.

The next day, when the thanedar (local police inspector) returned from his holiday, he was rather surprised to see that all the police watchman and constables were bald. After a little while, he asked one of the sepoys what had happened, why were all of them bald. The sepoy replied with fear, "Sir, Heeralalji has gone to heaven."

As soon as the thanedar heard this, he thought some high-level government official must have died. He did not want to be out-done by his underlings. So he rushed to the barber’s shop and returned to the police station, only after he had his head shaved.

The next day, all the police people went to the court for a hearing. Upon seeing that they all were bald, the first thing the lawyer asked was, "What happened?" The thanedar replied very sadly, "Sir, very bad news. Heeralalji is now with God."

The lawyer thought someone very important in the police must have passed away, because everyone had shaved their heads. He thought to himself, "I will not get special privileges from the police, if I am not also seen to be in mourning. " So the lawyer went and had his head shaved.

A couple of days later, an old man came to the lawyer to get some advice on a land dispute in his village. The old man thought, "Since this lawyer has gone to a University and has read many books, he must certainly understand how to obtain justice in my case."

On meeting the lawyer, the first thing the old man asked was, "Vakil Sahib, sorry to ask you, but which elder person in your family has passed away?" The lawyer replied, "Heeralalji has passed away."

On hearing this, the old man asked the lawyer very politely, "Sorry to ask you again, but how old was Heeralalji?" The lawyer was surprised to hear the question. He replied, "I really don’t know."

So the old man asked the lawyer again, "Then why did you get your head shaved?" The lawyer had no answer. He said, "I will go and ask the thanedar who Heeralalji was."

The thanedar did not know either. He asked the police sepoy who Heeralalji was. The sepoy also did not know.

He asked the watchman who Heeralalji was. The watchman did not know. He asked the guard who Heeralalji was. The guard did not know. He said, "We should ask the potter who Heeralalji was."

The potter was then summoned to the court. And everyone, including the old man, went there to hear what he would say.

Everyone asked at once, "Tell us, potter, who actually was Heeralalji?" The potter sadly replied, "Heeralalji was my donkey. I loved him dearly. To show my grief over his death, I shaved my head."

All the educated officials were in shock. They did not know what to say. They considered themselves to be very intelligent, but now they were all embarrassed and angered by their own foolishness. They remained silent and looked down in shame.

The old man who had come to seek justice was very surprised. He thought to himself, "All of these men are so proud of their formal education and elaborate degrees, and yet they have zero common sense. How in the world can I trust them to provide me with justice?" So he turned around and headed back home to his village.

 

Mewari Dohas

Dohas are short poetic couplets that form a very important part of the ancient oral tradition of Mewar. The wise spiritual leaders of the villages create dohas which get passed on from generation to generation. On spiritual occasions, such as Ratti Jaggas, Bhajan Mandlis and Satsangs, the heads of the singing troupes travel from village to village reciting the dohas -- accompanied by traditional musical instruments, such as Tandoora, Majeera, Ghooghra, Dholaki, Khartaal and Cheemta.

These Dohas have been taken from ‘Rajasthani Doha Vihar’, which is a collection of commonly recited Dohas. The book has been put together by Svargiya Narotham Swami and published by Rajasthani Sahitya Sansthan, Jodhpur.

 

Aadha ghat chalke sada bharya chalke nai

Seva aahi parkhya, na samaj dekh man maye

A half-empty earthen pot makes a lot of noise just like an insecure person whose knowledge is not grounded in real experiences and is dependent only on outside information. Such an individual will always make a lot of noise bragging about himself. While a person who has a lot of valuable life experiences and self-confidence is like a full pot of water that doesn’t need to make any noise.

B.A theye pass, vaata ran vaalam ghana

Kaaam pade jad nyhaas jaave, nahi neda bheede

People who get degrees like B.A’s and M.A’s have volumes to talk about. But when it comes down to doing the work, they all disappear or they start accusing other people of laziness.

 

Moorakh nar moorakh nahi, jo janey nij saar

Moorakh hoye gyaani vane, so moorakh sardar

The so-called stupid person is not stupid if he is able to understand the true meaning and values of his life. A very educated person is stupid if he/ she blindly follows a stupid leader/teacher.

Paradeen ki rahan mein kay jane swadheen

Udairaj kyo kar varne ahankaar aur deen

The people who live in mental slavery can never understand what true freedom is. The people, who understand what it means to be free, prefer to live in poverty rather then becoming rich and being slaves to money. Those who claim they are free -- without understanding the true meaning of it -- are full of arrogance.

 

Nirdhan jo saachi kahe, saach maane na koi

Thakur jo joothi kahe, haanji haanji hoye

Nobody believes a simple, humble person when he/she speaks the truth. Yet when a Thakur [person with money and power] lies, sounds of agreement and appreciation fill the air.

 

Sarita kare na paan, vriksh na fal chaakhe kadi

Khet na khave dhaan, parhit neepjey sekhra

The river never drinks its own water. The tree never tastes its own fruit. The field never consumes its own harvest. They selflessly strive for the well-being of all those around them.

Dhan bal, jan bal, bahu bal, vidhya bal, sahu koi

Parn budhhi bal re vina, jaye sakal bal khoye

Money power, collective power, physical power, knowledge power are all possible. But without wisdom to guide these, they will all be lost.

 

Kevtas from Mewar

Kevtas are proverbs that are spontaneously used by the people of rural communities to clearly and simply share their experiences and wisdom. They are used widely by all communities of rural Mewar, irrespective of their caste, gender or class. They are illustrative of local knowledge and parampara, as each Kevta is deeply rooted in peoples’ daily work, lifestyle, value system and Nature. Virtually all kevtas have been created and are being used by people who have never gone to school or who have never attended a government or NGO literacy course.

 

Anbhaniya ghode chade, Bhaniya mange bheekh

An unschooled person is a much better prospect for marriage [because he is not ashamed of doing difficult manual work and can always earn a living]. A well-schooled person becomes a beggar [because he is only willing to take a government office job].

 

Jo manak khaki coat, kalo coat, aur dhola coat uhn vanche jaye, vando jamaro hudra jaye

The person who can save himself from the trap of the khaki coat [police], black coat [lawyer], and white coat [doctor] will have a peaceful life.

 

Jathe pota, vate rota

Wherever there is cow dung, that’s where you will find your bread.

 

Ghar mein ghee ghano ve to, vo bhethra re nee chopdey

If you have extra Ghee [purified butter] in your house, you shouldn’t show off by smearing it over all your walls.

 

Che mina re galae nee jano, bara mina re galae jano

You shouldn’t try to take the short-cut path of six months, work hard and take the honest longer path of twelve months.

 

Akal deva o nahi aave, akal to heeayon upjaye

Common sense cannot be given, it can only grow from within.