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Choose the Happy Life – Not the Life of Profit
Address to Class XII students of Lalaji Memorial Omega International School, 25 March 2012, Chennai, India
I don’t want to give you all a long lecture. You have had enough in school these last whatever years you have been there. Many of us leave school and later remember it with mixed emotions. Isn’t it how you will experience it? Mixed emotions: some of it good, hopefully not much bad resulting from some ill-treatment you had from your teachers, or some such thing.
I remember when I was at school, I had a teacher who was supposed to be teaching English. It was a British school – what would be called a public school. And I have never forgotten this, though I would love to forget it. There was something about one word which could be spelt in two different ways and had two different meanings. I forget what that word was. He challenged [me]. When he misspelt it, I said, “Sir, this is the correct spelling.” He said, “Shut up.” The next day I made the very tragic mistake of taking a pocket Oxford dictionary and showing it to him. He became my enemy for life. “How dare you challenge a teacher?” He thought he must always be right. I said, “Of course, you must always be right. But you can’t be right when you are wrong.” Isn’t it?
So such memories, they rankle. It has been part of my life, much to my annoyance, because I would have liked to have left it behind long back. I have been carrying it with me for about seventy years. Can you imagine? That is what teachers should realise when they create bad memories. They last longer than good memories. I hope you have had a lot of good memories created here in our school. Hmm?
Students: Yes, Master.
PR: And that education is not all dull learning, but there is a lot of fun to education too, as you will realise later when you put your education to use. It is all right, you know, when we are taught that two plus two is five. Is it? Two plus two?
PR: Well, why don’t you say so? So when we are taught these things, we wonder why we are being taught all these things. What on earth does it matter when the Norman conquest was? What Julius Cesar said when he fell? When he landed from the boat? What does it matter? But, the wider... It is like having land. If you own a property twelve by four, it is very small. If it is twelve by forty, it is big. If it is twelve hundred by four hundred – wow! Now we can ask you, “What do you do with a house with six bedrooms?” They are useful only to boast, to show off: “My dad has – we have a six bedroom house.” “Oh, really?” And if someone had sense, he would say, “Where do you sleep? In all of them at the same time?” No, not at all.
Similarly, education: the more you know, sometime, somewhere you will find that it comes in useful. So we are taught geography, history, mathematics, I don’t know what else – things we think we will never use. And then all of a sudden one day your husband or your wife decides to go to, let us say, Paris. It is all right if, like my Master Babuji Maharaj, when asked about Paris, he said, “France is in Paris.” Everybody laughed. “How sweet of Babuji. ‘France is in Paris’.” But if you say it, they will say, “Where did she learn her geography? Or her facts?” Or when you go to the shop and you need to total up what you have bought – even machines make mistakes.
I don’t know if Jacky is here (but that blighter always manages to be everywhere!). I was shopping once in France, and they had these machines (totalling machines). But he totalled and made a mistake, and it was a big mistake. It was almost twenty per cent of the bill. In Europe it’s not polite to point out mistakes, especially as I was standing on the wrong side of the table and I am not expected to be able to total it from the wrong side, you know. They are writing here and I am standing there. So, I whispered into Jacky’s ear, “The total is wrong.” He said, with a look of incredulity, “But, Chariji, it cannot be. It cannot be!” I said, “But it is.” And fortunately, without fighting me for it – “Let us fight for it!” – the shopkeeper corrected it and apologised profusely. So, I had this ability to total from the wrong side. It was fun when I used to do it for practice wherever I went.
So, these abilities when we cultivate… And even once if you are able to use it, you feel as if your battery is recharged. I hope these teachers here have done something to give you automatic recharge of your batteries, which is what memory is supposed to do. Every time you feel a little weepy, there must be a memory which says, “Come, come, it is not as bad as all that.” And you console yourself, pretend there are no tears in your eyes, and march off singing. So, it is essential to have good memories so that our batteries are kept recharged. Always we think well of the past; of those who were with us in the past; of those who helped us in the past; even like my English teacher who did not know the difference between ‘anonymous’ and ‘unanimous’. Those were the two words which he could not differentiate and which caused him to become my enemy because I pointed it out to him.
So, that I still carry this memory shows that it was not good to have told it to him; but on the other hand, that I pointed it out to him, showed that it was necessary to correct a teacher who was wrong. Because when we students are not expected to be wrong, how can we permit the teacher to be ‘right’ when he is wrong? Isn’t it? Then we have to say, “Sir, you are right every time you are wrong!” That would be fun, isn’t it?
So, remember, school life is a mixture of all these things: of friendships, of jealousies. I am sure you have all been jealous some time or the other, of someone or the other, perhaps of all. No? Not at all? There used to be what is called a ‘patch’ in my school. Of course, it was a fraud, but we believed it. You know this Johnson tape – they come in squares and circles depending on where you want to apply them. I had an Englishman who taught geography. He taught geography by throwing the duster at us! – “Where is Cambodia?” and you can’t say, “There.” He used to play tricks with us and he used to say, “Everybody, come up here.” And we lined up, and he put a pink patch on our forearm here. He said, “Anybody who tells a lie, this will turn yellow.” And we spent three days carefully keeping it on while we had our bath, and looking at it every time…! I had all sorts of teachers at school, a very conglomerate mix: Britishers, Anglo-Indians and Indians.
So, what I am trying to impress upon all of you is: carry home good memories. I am sure some of you at least will want to write to me by mail; under your name put Omega/2 (Omega-stroke-2). Okay? Now let us go to better things and have something to eat before we disperse.
PR: One thing I forgot to tell you: you will surely miss the love and the protection which I hope LMOIS offered you.
Students: Yes, Master.
PR: Because you are going out into the world: different parts, different places, different situations. So that will show you what a school does for you, and give you the moments of nostalgia when you felt so protected, so embraced. You know, the Indian pronounces ‘embarrassed’ as ‘embraced’. I don’t mean it in that sense! I mean really embraced – tight, like a mother. So, that is what I want you all to remember the school as – a mother.
Student: What should I do in my life, Master?
PR: Live it!
Student: As in profession, Master.
PR: Live life and profession and everything, they are parts of it, you know. Kya baat hai? [What is the matter?]
Student: I want to become an IAS [Indian Administrative Service] officer, Master.
PR: The trouble with all of you is you think living is different from doing something. But I find that living includes doing something. And if I am able to do what I want, what my heart tells me to do, my life is good, pleasant, happy, comfortable. If I am forced to do something which my heart says no (my heart, mind you), my head may say, “Why not? It’s profitable.” But we are not talking of profit here; we are talking of happiness. They are not the same, because if you look around the world today, the most miserable people are the rich people. They have too much: too many houses, too many cars, too many suits of clothes, too many servants, too many companies, too many incomes. And all they are concerned with is, “Where to invest my next twenty-five crores, or two hundred and fifty crores.” Our life should not be like that.
Our life should be happiness with minimum possessions. You will find that when you have minimum, you don’t worry about anything. You are not worried about thieves and robbers; you are not worried about the stock market. I mean there is nothing to worry about. So, choose the happy life and not the life of profit.