Age, gender, class, caste, country, language, educational background – nothing should deter us from developing new skills.
We can and should develop any or all kinds of skills that:
- Really matter in our day to day lives or
- Create a difference in our lives or
- We are keenly interested in acquiring.
The group discussion was taking an interesting turn. The students were all able to relate to the topic and each one of the participants wanted to put forth their views on the topic.
The medium of communication was English. Not all of the students were very well versed in English. But they had overcome their initial inhibitions and had started conversing despite several grammatical errors. My colleague and I smiled with relief. Unless they made mistakes – how would they ever learn? We exchanged a nod of understanding and encouraged the youngsters to continue speaking. One particular student, whom we all knew was quite intelligent, suddenly mustered up all his courage and just started speaking in Marathi. He did not wait for anyone’s response or reaction. His points were valid; he knew what he was talking about and was quite knowledgeable about his subject matter too.
When we discussed each participant’s contribution and how they were progressing really well, this Marathi speaking boy’s contribution to the group discussion was highlighted by both of us.
Yes, the medium of communication was supposed to be English. English is now a global language and we cannot – simply cannot do without it. But it takes a lot of effort, time, patience and practice to learn English – or any language for that matter. Any one learning a new language will know how difficult it is to gain complete mastery over any language. As Indians, we are exposed to multicultural backgrounds as children – and so learn several languages at this stage. So we never realize how arduous a task it might be to others.
Most of the students who had enrolled for the classes had studied in vernacular medium schools – simply because 20 years back – it was the norm. English as a language was not globally recognized then and most of the parents could not afford to put their children in expensive English medium schools.
20 years later, in the current context, these students faced a major handicap and it became our duty to help them overcome their inhibitions.
Just because they did not know English, or any language for that matter, did not mean they were stupid or inferior in any way!
They were making slow, but steady progress with the language but needed to equip themselves with other skills despite the handicap that they faced!
In fact, the other skills were far more important than learning English – they understood everything that was taught in class, knew how to read and comprehend correctly, and wrote with several mistakes – sometimes really terrible mistakes – and their spoken English was even more terrible!
I would always say so with a smile – and then tell them that my Marathi was worse – and I was facing the same problem with my Marathi – so I knew and understood their problem.
That’s it! We became great friends – my students and I and they gained the confidence to participate actively in group discussions despite their terrible English!
My cousin set up her own preschool at the age of 50. I would keep prodding her to use Whatsapp to send messages or circulars to the parents. Snap pictures on her smart phone and send them to parents. Take photographs of special occasions, burn a CD and gift them to the parents. Take videos and upload them on face book.
“I don’t have a smart phone. I don’t need one. I don’t know how to use one. No one will teach me. I forget what my son taught me yesterday! L L L L !
More prodding and a few years later – her dialogue is “I know how to do this and my daughter in law uploads all the photos and we now have a new face book page and yes – I use Whatsapp to send messages to all the parents – and if I forget how to operate things – I simply ask my daughter in law or son!”
- People will help you overcome your mental barriers or your inhibitions only if you show the inclination to learn something.
- There are umpteen blogs in vernacular languages that have a great fan following.
- Senior citizens go out of the way to learn how to use smart phones and Skype because they want to keep in touch with their sons and daughters and grand children living abroad.
- They learn – spend hours – learning how to do online banking and book tickets using internet banking.
- Koreans, Iranians, Iraqis and students belonging to other countries consciously leave their countries to develop new skills. They may or may not be rich – but most of them opt to come to India because English is widely used here. They struggle, they cry, they stutter – really stutter and stammer to speak one single sentence in English.
- Like our vernacular medium school students, they know their alphabets, have functional vocabulary and can comprehend basic level English.
- And then it is all a case of confidence – under confidence.
Why – OH! – Why do we feel so under confident when we don’t have a particular skill?
We need to:
- Be comfortable in our skins first.
- Analyse our strengths and weaknesses objectively.
- Study our background to understand ourselves better.
- Project our skills in the current context of the world.
- Understand where we stand in the current scenario.
- Update our skills accordingly.
That will involve a lot of time, energy and effort. Acquiring any new skill is not going to be easy. Something that looks so easy – and we all take for granted – like rolling a chapatti or baking a perfect cake – takes time – a lot of time!
Heads of leading business houses all over India – have years of experience behind them. That is how they learned all those leadership skills – the hard way – they made plenty of mistakes and developed each skill – with every mistake that they made. Sometimes the mistakes were trivial, sometimes it cost them a pretty buck – but the learning was invaluable!!
And yes – I know – and have worked with such business heads – and such good men they were too – they had not even cleared grade 10 – they simply knew what they wanted – they knew the skills they lacked and employed people to complement their weakness! A true and good leader knows this and is humble enough to know that he is not perfect.
At the end of the day – and at the end of our lives – we should be constantly evolving as better human beings. We should be flexible enough to adapt with the changing times. We should be eager enough to accept the changes that are happening around the world. And if we want to play an active role and be a part and parcel of this fast progressive world – we better do our best to acquire all the skills that help us do so!
Or we will be left behind – and we will have no one else to blame but ourselves for the dismal predicament that we find ourselves in!!