Make the Most of Your Life : Letters to Bahujan Youth By Prabhu Guptaraby Opinion Express September 4, 2018 0 comments
In our country, not much is written specifically for young people. They want to know – and need to know! – so much in relation to “Life”, “Education” and “Work” (Career). Those are the three themes of this book. The writer Prabhu Guptara opened letter to India’s youth about what matters most and he hope his book will definitely make a small difference in their lives.
Why would a Professor want to publish a non-academic book for the disadvantaged youth? Well, that’s actually two questions, really. It brings me to my book. The answer to the question about why I have written a ‘non-academic’ book is that if you look at the range of subjects on which I have published, I have never been bothered too much about whether my books enhanced my career.
The second question is much more penetrating. I would say that we all have to do our bit for our disadvantaged youth if India is to continue making progress. By some measures, 70 per cent of our youth is disadvantaged. But are 100 per cent of our young people enabled to contribute to our country to even 10 percent of their potential?
On the basis of literacy, employment and salary figures, the situation is certainly better than what it was, but the answer remains depressing. That’s true not only for our people as individuals and families, but even more for our nation. How can any country progress if the majority of its young people is not being equipped to contribute, at least substantially?
But there are more challenging questions I’ve been asked:
- i) After all these years abroad, what do you know about the lives of bahujan in India?
- ii) Why do you feel that you feel you have a right to speak to them?
iii) Isn’t it patronising for a non-bahujan to write for bahujans?
- iv) Aren’t you basically retailing pap?
Let me put my answers this way: I have indeed lived abroad for a long time but I have always followed what has been happening in our country through the media of course, but more importantly, through relatives and friends.
On each visit back to India, I have made it a point to not only visit friends and contacts who are prospering and are in leadership positions, but also friends and relatives who are not doing well. So, I do know a little of the lives of the rich and successful, as well as the lives of the down-and-out in our metropolises as well as out in the sticks, more or less from north to south and from east to west.
And, when the Forward Press invited me to start writing the Dadu column, I did have quite severe misgivings doing so, especially in view of the debates which were even then starting in the country about “representation”, meaning, whether non-bahujans may properly write introductions to bahujan books, or even speak at the meetings of bahujans. I was persuaded to write the column in consideration of the fact: If I didn’t, who would? After all, the absence of other willing hands was the reason the Forward Press had finally asked me.
Then I wondered whether I should write in English or in Hindi, as the Forward Press is bilingual (Hindi and English). The question was settled when a young nephew offered me a backhanded compliment, “Tauji, aap itni shuddh Hindi bolte hain, aaj kal suni nahi jaati” — I took this to be a polite way of saying that my Hindi is terribly old-fashioned. Language does change with time, and there is no point in writing if your phraseology does not connect with your audience.
Is my writing patronising? Well, that is not something on which my opinion counts. It is for the readers to judge, especially young readers. We, older folks, sometimes patronise younger folks without even realising it. I have certainly tried hard to avoid being patronising. There are many areas where young people nowadays know very much more than old fogies like myself. I don’t mean just in relation to technology or fashion, but even in relation to politics: After all, 65 percent of our population is below the age of my eldest child and 50 per cent is below the age of my youngest child.
Current choices in politics will impact those generations far more than they will impact my generation. Not surprisingly, I find that the perspective of this generation is different from mine and enlightening to me. I also find that these generations are much more motivated to change things, and are much more willing to pay the personal cost of improving things in our country.
As for whether I am retailing pabulum, I request you to look not only at the content of my advice and suggestions, but also keep in mind poor students in our villages and even in our cities who have no mentors to support or guide them. So my only response to that question is: “When you are dying of hunger, even a cast-off piece of a roti can make the difference between life and death.” Perhaps even the scraps in this book will make a difference to a few lives. At least that is the hope with which I have written.
At the end of the day, writing for and to India’s bahujan is my small gesture of love. My heart is best captured by the words of Shailendra and Shankar Jaikishan’s song, sung by Mukesh: “Mera joota hai jaapaani, ye patalun ingalistaani, Sar pe laal topi rusi, phir bhi dil hai hindustaani.”
(The writer is Independent Board Member, Board Consultant; Keynote Speaker Executive Director, Relational Analytics Ltd, Cambridge, UK; and Honorary Chairman, Career Innovation Company, Oxford, UK)
Writer: Prabhu Guptara
Courtesy: The Pioneer