Lifelong Learning

Did you know that smoking is injurious to health?

Don’t beat yourself down if you didn’t. How could you? Had Siddharth Shukla, the 40ish year old recently deceased actor, died ever before?

May he rest in eternal peace! Om shanti!

And since this was the first time he died, there was no way our venerated tabloids, journos and writers could have told us what we needed to learn from his death. QED.

We all know that the common man does not learn about the dangers of smoking from the mandatory warnings on cigarette packs, complete ban of cigarette advertising and government advertising communicating the horrifying consequences. He does not. He waits for an article in some barely-read tabloid to learn that smoking is injurious to health after Siddharth Shukla has died.

And here I was, thinking that only sporting events play this important role in our lives.

No, not winning and losing. Not displaying the limits of human endeavour either. But learning all the things we couldn’t otherwise have the foggiest about. Like the recently concluded Olympics that have been a great knowledge-imparting event. I wish the 2021 Olympics had been held in 1976, so that I could have learned all that I learned at a much earlier age.

Like what?

Like in a competition some will win and many others will not. Some might even be second and third.

Did you know that? Answer truthfully. You can lie to the world but not to yourself. This must be life-changing for the millions who play tennis and golf and everything else, knowing they will never be Roger Federer or Jack Nicklaus. And to think that they have been playing the sport just for their love for it all along. Shame on them.

Like one should learn from one’s failures.

Really? The one common thing I have seen in the (at least) thousands of people I have interacted with in my life is their steadfast refusal to learn from their failures so that their life can go downhill like a runaway toboggan. Lawyers, doctors, students, army men, politicians, priests, I believe all are guilty. Who has ever learned from failure? Isn’t one of the driving forces of human life as we know it the refusal to learn from failures?

Like associating and spending time with like minded people, those who can support you and uplift you when you need it most.

I wonder if such a drastic change in lifestyle will be possible for human beings? After all, we all know that we like to associate with people who are the antithesis of what we are. People who like to pull us down every living moment of our lives. Who rejoice at our failures and mope at successes. These are the people we hop over to the pub for a drink with. These very same people are the ones we share our most personal and precious moments with. Show me a human who is close to people who support and uplift him when needed and I will show you a Martian.

Like discipline is required for success and that many athletes get up early and work long hours to achieve success.

Who cares about discipline in the real world? The humble newspaper vendor who has to begin his day well before sunrise to pick up the newspapers and distribute them? The call centre agent who works the night shift because her employer handles calls for a client from the other side of the world? Or even the rickshaw puller who used to show up at our house, day after day, come rain or shine, to take my sister and me to school when we were kids? We went with him for several years and never once did he fail to show up. How would these poor folks know about discipline unless someone really intelligent gleaned it from the Olympics and wrote about it?

All these learnings, and all from just one single tabloid. Boggles the mind.

But they seem to be old fashioned. Publishing learnings that are meant for everyone is a dead giveaway.

Take another tabloid, for example, that has published learnings from the same Olympics, not for everyone, but only for children. Absolutely unique ones, only applicable to children.

Like in a competition some will win and many others will not. Some might even be second and third.

Like one should learn from one’s failures.

Like associating and spending time with like-minded people, those who can support you and uplift you when you need it most.

Like discipline is required for success and that many athletes get up early and work long hours to achieve success.

Never heard of them. Have you? I don’t blame you.

These really intelligent people have whetted my appetite. I wonder who will be the first to publish 5 learnings from the Tokyo Olympics for 27-year-olds. Or 55-year-olds. Or 3-year-olds. Or 5 learnings from the Tokyo Olympics for 27-year-old females born in September with a college degree in computer science. An avalanche of learning is about to hit us.

But I digress.

I now realise that sporting events do not have a monopoly on teaching us stuff that we already know. And why should they? We are in the highly developed world of the twenty first century. All major societies have rules against monopolies, enabling the largest technology companies to have gotten so big offering their unique services that nobody else does.

Celebrities, or celebrity deaths to be specific, are equally useful for the foolish common man to be taught lessons by some of our venerated tabloids and journos and writers, that they would otherwise have had to live without. That itself has been a learning for me. As has happened in the case of actor Siddharth Shukla’s untimely death.

Like what?

Like one should not over exert. Apparently hard work does help but our bodies need rest as well. Makes complete sense as I just finished reading a lesson from the Olympics: “Discipline is required for success and that many athletes get up early and work long hours to achieve success.” I will rest as well as work long hours. Elementary.

Like genes are important. We need to know about the health of our parents and grandparents and take care of our health accordingly. Makes sense as I just finished internalising another lesson from the Olympics: “Everyone has it within themselves to become someone or something magnificent (or at least better than we are now) with a ton of hard work and focused determination.” I can do it but I can’t do it. Simple. There was a bonus lesson hidden in this one; I am useless whichever way I am, because I can at least become better than I am now. Wouldn’t you pay for these lessons?

I can already visualize fingers gliding across keyboards and producing an article on ‘Five lessons on resolving conflict between five lessons from a sporting event and five lessons from a celebrity death.’

All for the foolish common man, who just does not seem to learn. Olympics have been held for over a hundred years to produce lessons for him. Celebrities have been dying, some young and some old, for centuries, producing lessons for him.

5th September, marked as Teachers’ Day in India, has just gone by. On this day, we should be celebrating our venerated tabloids and journos and writers for teaching us these life lessons and making lifelong learners out of the common man.

21 thoughts on “Lifelong Learning

  1. So many important lessons we require others to tell us–climbing a ladder means you may fall and hurt yourself; I didn’t watch much of the Olympics so I missed all of that good stuff you mentioned. Thank you for the summary.

    What I watched was uninspiring (the coverage, not the athletes). I hope yours was better!

    • Absolutely. It’s a complete cop out. Many people have stopped taking responsibility even for themselves. If I am fat it is the government’s problem. If I am sick it is the responsibility of the medical fraternity or my medical insurance provider to make me whole. And once you stop taking responsibility, its a steep slope downhill. There will always be something not right.
      I did watch the Olympics in bits but completely failed to pick up the learnings which I later did thanks to our tabloids.

  2. Competition, when not driven to excess, is good and healthy in any setting. As a teacher, I had often been criticized for using a point system and other motivational methods in my classroom. As you mentioned, discipline is a virtue that is also very useful, especially when applied to oneself and not forced upon others. I liked very much the story of the rickshaw person who drove you to school. He must have left a lasting positive impression on you, Ankur.

    • Indeed! All living beings need to compete. Otherwise, why should all of us not be living on collective farms in communist USSR? Why should we hold football and tennis games?
      Thanks Peter. Yes the rickshaw puller was a nice person. His name was Teja. We lived in a small town. When my cousins would come visiting in the summer holidays, he would also take them around. A cycle rickshaw was a novelty for the kids from the big cities.

      • Definitely. And went about his work sincerely and unobtrusively. You probably know economic disparities in India are large. In my experience, most people from the ‘poorer’ sections of society are hard working, That is probably the reason for this rant. The self-styled intelligent people really have no business teaching others discipline and hard work. It is a sign of disrespect as well as smugness. They don’t need your homilies. They need a level playing field. And you have no power to give them that. So shut up.

  3. Reblogged this on Paol Soren and commented:
    I know five, maybe six, followers who will appreciate a good dose of irony, scepticism, slapstick humour and plain common sense wrapped in all of the above. And what’s more we can all relish the chance to look at life through an Indian eye.

  4. “…in the case of actor Siddharth Shukla’s untimely death.”

    What is the best time of day or night to die ? Or month or day of the week ? I certainly want to be considerate of the schedules of friends and family. Then there are other matters of concern like the weather, holidays, sports events. My death needs to fit in with a degree of convenience for myself and others. Certainly, God would have to consent to cooperate in my death planning or all my efforts would be in vain and that would just kill me for sure.

    • Ha ha! You raise an important question. Most people seem to have an untimely death, if newspapers are to be believed. It will be good to know what is the right time to die. Or, as the latest version of James Bond says, “No Time to Die.”

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