By: Dr. Aniruddha Babar
It has been many years since I have been engaged in academics. Since I have developed this strange habit to introspect and retrospect I often wondered about my journey so far. Wondered how far I have succeeded as a teacher, whether I succeeded at all, I ask myself. Soon I reached a divine realization that I have never been a teacher. Throughout my life, I have been a student- a mad mad learner. Even when I was a practicing Advocate, I was a student. When I was teaching at one of the prestigious Law schools, I was a student. When I came to Nagaland, I was a student. Now, I am living in Nagaland, teaching at one of the most prestigious colleges, I am still a student. I think I don’t consider myself as a student not only just because of the innate desire to learn but also because there are teachers who have always been available at every walk of life. In Nagaland, my students have become my teachers and helped me grow as a human and also as an Academician. Every moment I spend with them turns out to be a learning moment that helps me realize the true nature of myself.
I have been associated with the Political Science Department of Tetso College since June 2018. The experiences that I have gathered have been colorful. My students have mentored me to understand the Naga society in a better sense. When I landed here from Mumbai first as an Explorer and Adventurer then as a Ph.D. Scholar and started exploring this world, my mind soon became clouded with questions. My research work remained dedicated to those questions and the result was a 500 plus pages Ph.D. thesis which of course was never able to satisfy my quest for the truth. My journey as a Ph.D. scholar was disturbing, the layers and layers of realities revealed to me transformed my inner world completely, and I think such a transformation awakened the inner desire in me to come, work, live and settle in Nagaland which of course have given new meaning to my whole existence as a human being.
My students introduced me to the complex squares of this great society which may be unknown to the outside world. Right from the colorful culture, delicious food, majestic mountains & dense forests, songs, dances to the dark world of corruption, tribalism, jealousy, power-mongering, HIV-Drug-Tobacco & Alcohol Addiction, pathetic status of Government schools marred by proxy teachers, absence of women in state politics and village governance, hidden violence & atrocities against women, blind craze to become a Government Officer among the graduates, broken infrastructure, shattered governance, the materialism of religion & religious, silent suffering of Farmers, invisible Child labor, absenteeism in Government offices, Proxy employees, taxation, state apathy to the Eastern Nagas.
Students taught me to look beyond what is often shown-“The Hornbill style Nagaland”. My broad chest becomes broader with pride with a thought that my students taught me about the real Nagaland without any hesitation or shame. This introduction to the world which is in dire need of ‘transformation’ shaped up my relation with this land of warriors and glorious history. I am truly happy to have found ‘socially awakened’ students around me those who are willing to sacrifice anything to make our Nagaland a better place. I feel if we are going to attempt to create something new, something better; then the first thing that we have to sacrifice is our ‘ignorance’. Todays’ generation is well-read and intellectual, they know who they are and what they are. The Modern Naga generation knows what to expect from the world around them and their country at large. Todays’ generation knows how to ask questions and find the answers. They know their rights and duties as well. The modern Naga generation has developed a cosmopolitan personality and outlook which is something extremely positive that I have observed. In this regard, I would love to quote a simple incident that still brings a spark to my eyes. As usual, I was gathering students nearby the parking area of Tetso and we were discussing ‘Social evolution of man and the question of his identity. After lots of debates, someone from the group asked a question about the state I was born in and how I see my relation to it through the family or a community I was born in. I never expected such an intelligent question which made me go ‘mute’; because since my childhood, I was raised in a free environment where cultural, community identity, or religious identity did not have any presence. We back at home, always considered ourselves Indians, firstly and lastly, never thought of regional, social, linguistic, or geographic identities. Seeing me smiling foolishly without saying anything, she made me listen to her brief lecture on the history of Marathas (or Marrahttas as she pronounced) and Maharashtra and complained that I never tell them the stories of my state and culture. I was really impressed to see her wide knowledge and silently thanked her Parents and Teachers. Then thereafter, a few days later, some evening I got a beautiful gift from her, a symbol of the union of identities – the Maratha/Marathi and the Naga- two stickers for my Motorcycle which I proudly exhibit.
Such experiences and incidents have given hope to me. The unconditional acceptance of each other as humans, who encounters us in our life with or without the baggage of ‘identities’ is I think a social ‘wisdom’ that all of us should inculcate if we wish to see a peaceful, caring, just & fair and tolerant world. Also, there was another student who shared his dream with me to build a Church where ‘the way of Christ will be practiced by ALL’ irrespective of religious identities. He called the Church of his imagination ‘The Freedom Church’. You see, how blessed I am. I am surrounded by the students who teach me so many things. I think such teachings and learning only helps us to evolve as human being.
The education system in India needs to recognize the innate intelligence of every learner and the teachers should keep their ego aside and be ready to submit themselves before this intelligence. My Father always used to say that, “In this UNIVERSE nobody can teach anything to anyone-but all can learn together”. I think, whole my life as an Academician I have been experiencing his words. In our home here, our state of Nagaland, teachers have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. They should not forget that they are dealing with the students who are either first-generation, the second generation, or in rare cases third generation ‘COLLEGE’ going students- who are blessed with their own unique, innate intelligence and abilities. We, as teachers, should partner with our students to construct a dream for a better world. I have been mocked, criticized by many all these years for my thoughts and ideas, their words occasionally hurt me as well, however, I am still firm on my belief and will remain firm till my last breath-that together- the teachers and the students can build a better present and the best tomorrow. The needs and requirements of our Nagaland are different. We have a long way to go and for that, we need people who will pave the path with their wisdom, knowledge, sweat, and tears for the future.
Nobody needs to become a leader to bring change. Nagaland does not need change but the transformation which is only possible when each one of us will learn to transform our inner world. We speak about political problems or Naga political issues- yes we have to talk about it, but at the same time, we must have the courage to talk about how lusty and greedy we have become, how corrupt we have become, how insensitive we have become, how inconsiderate we have become. We must also talk about the secrets that we never talk about. We never talk about why there should not be woman representatives in the village governance, we never talk about why tribal bodies of Men always have to take the final decision in every aspect of Naga life, we never talk about why we kept our women limited to Church and church organizations, we never talk about why women organizations do not have enough powers in their hands. We never talk about Marital Rapes. We never talk about Rape and Molestation. We never talk about cold silence& fear in the heart of girls and women who become victims of lust and suffer in the ‘hands of Powerful’ and are asked to keep their mouths shut by their people in society. We talk about cultural security for women in our Naga society but never talk about their RIGHTS as a human.
TIME is like a River. It flows. We all are bound to this ultimate Law of Time. Nothing remains constant in the world-neither you nor me, neither our beliefs and ideas nor our convictions or experiences. I may say, we all are victims and assailants of time. My students taught me the ‘Geometry of Change’ through their words, actions, and dreams. They want to climb high, go up, up on top of the Mountains and jump from there into the unknown- but they cannot do that unless and until you the elders give them the wings of freedom – from the Past, the Present, and the Future. Let them create the world of their dream and they will.
It does not matter whether I have my own ‘shelter’ here in Nagaland or not, but for sure I have a home in the heart of my students who are striving to catch the ‘Rising Sun’. The young generation is way powerful than we could ever imagine. They are way honest and dedicated like never before. We need to produce more visionary and fearless architects of society- in the interest of our people- who are toiling in the field, struggling in different corners of the country, surviving with a strength of a warrior, and trying to be victorious in the battle of life. My students-my dear friends taught me that the new world is possible. Has your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter; your student, taught you the same? If yes, give them the wings of fire to fly and build a New Nagaland. My students taught me ‘Courage’!