The Kaurwas and Pandavas were being taught by their Guru Dhraunacharya the skill of archery, in the background a tribal boy who was later came to be known as Eklavya was admiring the process.
The rights to learn these skills were reserved for the royal children only according to the social order prevalent at the times. If we take up the liberty to imagine that all children, the royal and the natives, would be interested in learning in the solitude of Himalayas with one another and would develop a sense of belonging in the context.
What the teacher could not have taught the royal children would have been instilled by the company of the natives. The royal students would have been more sensitive, skilled, and contextual had there be inclusion of native boys like Eklavya in the group of students.
The tale of Eklavya presents a chance to develop consensus around the contemporary situation whereby continuity between the past and the present can be drawn. Today we are living in similar times in places like Dehradun (named after Guru Dronacharya), Mussoorie, Nainital, Ranikhet. Many of these institutions boast of having long glorious past, where the children of the powerful Indian Elite studied.
They would flash state of the art infrastructure, swimming pool with clear water, race courses, and a luxurious boarding facility, billboards would be showing cool-looking-faces of young kids. Any parent would drool over sending their kids to these institutions that come with cutting holes in your pockets. The website of the Elite schools are filled with words like “English Medium”, “Quality Education”, “Extensive Curriculum”.
What the so called elite schools do not provide is the social structure, culture and environment that the region has to offer. They seldom interact with the local communities. They do not have a single occasion to interact with children going to state-run primary schools.
They do sometime come down from their high mountains for window dressing environment concerns which tend to be few days before their annual fest is to take place. In all possibility the children grow up with a sense of superiority complex, intellectual arrogance and class-consciousness. Many name this process as a “Personality-Development-Thing”
Dehradun as well as Nainital both boast of a literacy rate of 85%. That means that most of these children are gaining education, some in the elite institutions, some in small private schools, others in the government schools. Though the books taught in all of these schools are similar which consist of CBSE based curriculum, the difference major lies in which and under what infrastructure this education is provided.
Their poor cousins who study in the state run schools can only dream of even half of the intellectual right that could have been provided to them. These students are much familiar with the local fairs, local traditions, that waterfall in the deep woods, the name of that bird which sings in the dusk.
When the children of Mukteshwar come across huge pile of garbage left by the tourist, they will reaffirm- those who have the purchasing power and the education come to the hills to consume. They develop a very negative sense of what does it mean to be rich and powerful in this country.
For the students in elite schools, mountains are to be conquered, the rivers to be tamed, and serene silence to be embellished. They, as soon as they get a chance, leave these hillstation in search of a better future and polluted air. Their facebook status says with a picture of nostalgia “To the place which I belong, my road back home”.
But they were never of these places, they will never be, they have never known these mountains, they have never drank from a stream after a 30 km trek, they have never heard the stories from their grandmothers of how their grandfather use to perform Chloiya dance collecting every penny with his sword.
They have moved to a different culture, different goals and I hope they find solace there. Many of them find a home. But many exhaust themselves in the search of a sense of belonging. They have wings to fly but no trees to rest in solace. The story of Eklavya and the royals continues.