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Thursday, February 28, 2008

My speech



Good Morning respected Principal sir, dear colleagues and beloved students,

Speech on the occasion of any celebration is something very common and I was, therefore, wondering what I should speak on this occasion. I felt that, as a teacher, I should be speaking about things related to education.

First of all, we have to learn that freedom is different from independence. You can be independent, ie, you don’t depend on someone for a living but you need not be free. India became independent in 1947. But has it become free is a question we should ask and it would open up a plethora of issues and concerns before us. Freedom means psychological, spiritual freedom-freedom from fear, narrow-mindedness, prejudice, envy, jealousy, indifference etc.

If this celebration takes us only back to the memories of the past and not to the responsibilities of the present, and if it ends up as mere celebration, then, I think it has failed the purpose upheld by all those well-known and unsung heroes in the history of our country. I have usually found that all our talk on freedom struggle is centered round a few well-known personalities. Let us not tread the beaten path and try here to remember those who led a miserable life in the Andaman Cellular Jail, those who in their own humble way raised their voice against the foreign rulers even in the remote villages of India.

We are living in an age where New Historicism is the current approach to study history. History itself is not a set of fixed objective facts, but like the literature with which it interacts, a text which needs to be interpreted; that a text whether literary or historical is a discourse which, although it may seem to present or reflect an external reality, in fact, consists of what are called Representation-that is, verbal formations which are the ideological products or cultural constructs of a particular era and that these cultural and ideological representations in text serve mainly to reproduce, confirm and propagate the power structures of domination and subordination which characterize a given society. That is, History is ‘His story’ and there is very less about ‘Her story’. The contribution of all those who were marginalized in the writing of history has to be digged out and presented before us for a virtual democratic approach to life and knowledge. Writing the history of a nation is a greater challenge as it should do justice to all those involved in forming the nation. It should not be in the hands of vested interests. If the history books we read are written with vested interests to highlight a particular caste, religion, person or region, it is our duty to ask pivotal questions to find the truth. T.S. Eliot writes in one of his poems:

“History has many cunning passages,
contrived corridors and issues,
deceives with whispering ambitions
and guides us by vanities”.

As students, it is your duty now to look at things afresh and read between the lines. A text is not a mere text, it is a context. It is a social and political context. It is your duty as a student and my duty as a teacher to take you away from the printed matter into the vast ocean of life from which it emerges. Every text is born from a social context. If you learn without being aware of it, your learning does no good to the society or to the nation.

Media has grown incredibly in the present age after sixty years. But we must ask the question, “Are they really committed to the problems of common man?” We have to develop the sense of discrimination between True and False. When media resorts solely to promoting sensationalism and diverting us from the cardinal problems of the day, how can we remain passive repeating advertisement captions like “Thanda matlab coca cola”. The foundation of this awareness has to be laid in the school itself. When media celebrates the marriage of a celebrity’s son or daughter, we should realize that it is not doing justice to the nation and is failing in its ethics. If you merely remain a couch potato with your fingers shuttling from one TV channel to another, remember, you are moving towards a greater or more dangerous colonization. In the past, there was an obvious enemy, so, the revolt against it was easier but now corporate globalization and multinational companies colonize us through various ways. When you compete to become beauty queen, you are colonized. If you believe cricket is the only game popular, and the most interesting, you are colonized. The world is run by three secretive institutions and a handful of greedy bankers and CEOs. In Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Bolivia, civil unrest is growing against this. This exploitation has spread its roots all over the world sucking the last drop from all and is growing enormously.

If you are patriotic only when you watch cricket or on Independence day celebration, you are not doing justice to the nation or to yourself. So, it is time that we realize the importance of work and responsibility. Instead of blaming the system all the time, we should introspect and see how much dedication and joy we have in the work we do. If you try to escape from work and responsibility and criticize the system or the country, you are wasting your potential in a battle with your own shadow.

Of course, history teaches us a lot. But we can only work in the present. If work is a burden to you, what right have to blame or tarnish the image of your country? We don’t want mere passionate outbursts like “I am ready to fight for my country, die for my country”. What is important is “Are you ready to live for your country?”

The strength of a nation is not wealth but the people. As future citizens, my dear students, you must learn to love the work you do. No system is born by itself. It is born out of the dreams and desires of all of us. If at all you want a change, you have to change your attitude to work. Hard work, sincere and dedicated. If you work so everything else would work.

Thank you, Jai Hind.


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