Saturday, August 20, 2016

Unlearning The Dronacharya Lesson

The Mahabharata continues to inspire multitudes that includes me. While I continue to read about Mahabharata from various analytical sources, the text itself is powerful enough to evoke a reaction out of a mere child. Which is what happened to me when I watched B R Chopra's adaptation of the classic as a child. Of course, while I was far from understanding Bhishma's dilemma or Vidur's existentialist stance I was intrigued by the part that concerned me, the teachers of Mahabharata.

Of course, times have changed now and the epic does not reflect our lives in this age of globalisation as much as it did even a decade ago. But what seems to be "back in the days" in this speed of thought age, I had many a lessons to learn from the Mahabharata. You might think it is the episode that emphasizes the value of focus, where Arjuna says he can't see anything but the eye of his prey. While that is an interesting, the event that put me almost in a state of shock, it is the Ekalavya story.

If for some reason this story has not depressed you in the past, here it is. Dronacharya was the teacher of the young princes of the Kuru and Pandav kings.

At a very early stage, Dronacharya had developed a liking for the Pandav prince, Arjuna. His plan was to hone his skills in archery to the best ever. While he was training his students, there is one incident in particular that emphasizes how hellbent he was about his ambition. While they lived in the forest, there lessons were disturbed by the barking of a dog. Dronacharya wanted Arjuna to stop its barking by shooting a bunch of arrows into the dog's mouth without hurting it. While Arjuna was still stretching his bow, the dog's barking was stopped when a bunch of arrows were shot into its mouth. It was very apparent that it was a much better maneuver than Arjuna could have managed. Dronacharya was so stunned that he immediately set out in search of the person who had made it. Following the direction from where the arrows had come they found only a replica of Dronacharya. While the teacher and students stood wondering who had made the statue, a boy who looked from the tribal community Nishad entered the place.

(Nishad are tribes outside the Chaturvarna of Hindu society,
as such they had no position in the traditional society.)

The boy called himself Eklavya and said that he had trained himself accepting Dronacharya as his teacher. Dronacharya who must have logically embraced him into his school, wanted nothing to do with this outcaste. But he also had the foresight that leaving such a warrior with his skills could be dangerous to Arjuna's position as the world's best warrior. So he demanded that if Eklavya really thought of him as a teacher he should be giving him a gurudakshina, a teacher's fee. Eklavya happy at this thought immediately said he would give him anything. That is when Dronacharya demanded that Eklavya give him the right thumb from his hands. While his own students watched this injustice, Eklavya drew out a sword and without a second thought, cut off his thumb and offered it Dronacharya's feet.

This is one single episode that stood out for me, as I found it reflected in a pedagogical schooling system where favoritism was common place and accepted. I have grown up since then and accepted that society comes with some setbacks. Also the society itself has changed into a better one, where this partiality whether in school or society is frowned upon. There are more and more self taught people who never have any Dronacharyas to let them down or discourage.

I am in fact happy that a child's dignity is not entirely placed on their academic success but on their individual strength. I am happy that globalisation has ensured that we each can find a place under the sun where our skills are honed and celebrated without any predilection. I know, this is a very gradual process but at least the wheels have been set in motion. I hope that in future this Dronacharya episode sounds like a rudimentary behaviour with no emotional catharsis for children of this generation.

“I am blogging about my dreams and the people who helped make them true for the #AdviceThatMattered activity at BlogAdda in association with Stoodnt.”

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