First, the disclaimer. I have not read any of Shri Dinanath Batra’s books. Second, I don’t think it is the end of the world if anybody’s books are put on the supplementary reading list, however bizarre they may be.
My 12-year-old’s supplementary reading included The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini even though I then thought that it was inappropriate for middle school. Well, I was wrong.
It did emotionally disturb him but it led him to seek out more information about Afghanistan, its history and contemporary events.
Children these days are smart. They see a lot on TV, on the Internet, on their mobile handsets. They don’t believe all that they see and read. They are better than adults in that respect. Representation Pic
The school was right and my fears were misplaced. Students do not unquestioningly believe all that they read or watch on TV. If something sounds bizarre, they are smart enough to reject it or even ridicule it.
Yes, better than adults who are too lazy to actually seek answers to what the ‘nation wants to know’. Also the term ‘supplementary reading’ is a euphemism. When a school hands out optional reading lists, then students better read every single line or there will be hell to pay.
So even though Shri Batra’s book or books might be on a supplementary list, kids will read it for sure. Will they soak in the Akhand Bharat concept or his belief that cakes are not Indian? Maybe. So what? There are millions who probably believe that even though they have not even heard of Shri Batra or/and eat cake.
Should this book be pulped like the book he got pulped? Actually no. Neither should have been. Better to read and debate, ridicule and reject. Religious and political leaders have bandied the Akhand Bharat concept whenever it has suited them. Some of us agree, pretend to agree to avoid pointless arguments and some vehemently argue against it. More power to them because that is what India is all about.
You are free to air your views, disagree, go on TV and shout down your opponents for wrongful documentation of history and for hurling us back into the Dark Ages. Well nobody is going anywhere. Not forward and maybe not backwards either. With so many sources of information available to schoolchildren today, what the teacher, the guru, the school texts say are not accepted as gospel truth.
We have all heard about this Camelot called Akhand Bharat but does that lead us to reject the reality of partition? The existence of Bangladesh or Pakistan? No. Some journalists and bureaucrats are worried about how this latest controversy will impact India’s image; that anti-India forces will propagate the theory that India under Modi has expansionist intentions. India’s publicity machinery is adept at damage control when it comes to the country’s image.
Back to Shri Dinananth’s book. Why should reading for school children be only centrist views or only lessons in NCERT or state education textbooks? Why not read an outright Right Wing view and an outright Left Wing view and make an informed choice? At any age. A pre-teen would find Macbeth a hateful murderer, but a romantic 18-year old would find shades of grey.
I found Taming of the Shrew hilarious when I read it as a pre-teen. I found it disgustingly sexist when I read it again when I was 17. By the time I was 20 and it was in my college syllabus, I understood the background, the time and age that it was written and could appreciate it better.
We have all read Amar Chitra Katha and for a short period believed that Lord Rama was blue in colour and babies could be born by looking at the sun. Did it lead us to stop looking at the sun or search for muscular blue bodied gods? Kids can differentiate between myth, legend and history.
Children nowadays are smart. They see a lot on TV, on the Internet, on their mobile handsets. They don’t believe all that they see and read. They are better than adults in that respect. They know that they need to crosscheck all that is given to them as facts.
If they are told that cakes are not Indian, they also know that cakes are tasty and a treat on special occasions. They can always choose to eat kheer or payasam or jalebi or jahangiri. Oh wait is that Indian? Pre-Mughal or post-Mughal era.
Let us not even go there. About Shri Batra’s advise to feed cows on birthdays. Well, that is a noble task. Add dogs and cats. Also don’t throw plastic around, which goes into bellies of cows. Storm in a tea-cup this. Wait, is tea Indian?
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash