Archive

Monthly Archives: March 2010

He was in his early teens. The tallest boy in his class (Grade 5). Very skinny, but so bright. He loved every opportunity to go on stage and perform. He was one of my 8-Day Academy graduates–from the first batch of children I had taught.

On February 21, 2010…he committed suicide. He jumped into a well. There are many versions to the story, but the main one says that he was deeply upset the last three months because of his uncle who had died. Unable to deal with the grief, he jumped into the well. Within minutes, he was gone.

His death shook me to the core. I was proud of my 8DA graduates and some of them had confessed that they were at the verge of suicide but participating in the 8DA changed their outlook on life. I felt happy and humbled and somehow I thought that whoever had been a part of the 8DA, had been saved.

Bilal proved me wrong. He taught me so many lessons. But is it always necessary to learn lessons at someone else’s expense?

I realised how the 8DA needs to incorporate some form of ‘continuous learning’ so that children have the strength to deal with growing up. Most of us live in a culture that encourages burying emotions and tells boys that crying is a sign of weakness and not for them.

Bilal is always on my mind. I don’t think I will ever emerge from the disturbing feeling of what goes on in a child’s mind that he has to take such a drastic step. The well was so deep; was the pain in his heart deeper than that?

He was a star and I want him to be remembered as one. His death was a sad point but it will encourage some wonderful work which will save lives of many children. It’s my promise to him.

Why do we focus on the youth as our ray of hope? Don’t take me wrong; I don’t completely disagree with the notion but I am not sure why we think that action can only be taken in our younger years? I remember Anil Gupta of IIM talking about a 70-year-old man creating a special bicycle for himself (at the age of 70!) so he could continue delivering his goods during floods. Truth is, you’re never too old to act and to inspire others to do great things.

Who are these young people who most of us have handed our future to?  We know from experience that we spend many years of our youth lost and experimenting. It takes us years to learn and to see our mistakes. Do we have the maturity in those young years to realise the weight of the change on our shoulders?

We are shaped by our experiences and globalisation has given us great gifts but has also confused many.

When I meet young people who are so polarised in their views (patriotism or religion), it saddens me. When you fight with anger and bitterness, you cannot be open in the discussion. I, for one, do not want MY future to be in the hands of such people. Young people need the right guidance so they can become the torch-bearers but that still doesn’t take the responsibility away from the older people. The wisdom that comes with learning can never be seen in a young person. Age has a different way of teaching but my only hope is that the youth grow out of differences based on gender, religion, race etc and try to rise above the differences to see how we can work together as humans.