have so many such people around us who have not had opportunity
to realise their potential on account of personal circumstances.
And as time passed, very few ever thought they had it in them
to do anything better than what they are already doing.
friend was recounting the story of their twenty-five year
old maid - a competent person, bubbling with energy. She has
energy to do everything under the sun, except study. She doesn't
even sit with her daughter and make her study. But she is
interested in learning new things. My friend asked her hairdresser
if she could teach her maid to manicure and pedicure. She
readily agreed, but felt obliged to caution: "you will
be spending a couple of thousand getting her trained. Are
you sure you want her to learn all these things - she might
leave you after some time."
two episodes typify the dilemmas of our society. Far too many
people are living lives of quiet desperation. Most people
have no opportunity to fulfil their potential. But society
at large is pretty cozy and comfortable with status quo. If
a person, inherently capable of doing a lot more or better
quality of work, does not have the opportunity to hone her
skills or improve knowledge, she can never move up on the
economic and social ladder. But giving her an opportunity
may mean those of us who are now enjoying inexpensive domestic
labour will be forced to do things on our own. That is the
ultimate tragedy in our society! How can we drive our own
cars, cook our own food, wash our own dishes, tend our own
often overlook the fact that the societal benefit of having
fully productive people far outweighs the loss to our individual
comfort. If the potential of the many unskilled and semi-skilled
persons is fulfilled, we as individuals benefit a lot more
by getting better quality goods and services at lower prices.
problem is not merely that of individuals unwilling to give
up status quo. Our society does not make it easy for people
to learn new things, explore exciting avenues, and make new
beginnings in life. We categorize people pretty early in life,
and create slots for them. We make it very hard for them to
break out of those shackles. There are no easy learning opportunities,
and no real support for new beginnings. Open universities
and distance learning are certainly a good start, but a lot
more needs to be done. But first, we of the comfortable middle
classes should be willing to recognize that many around us
have had no decent opportunity for a better life and to acquire
greater skills. Life need not end at thirty. People should
be given opportunities to overcome their early disadvantages.
We should learn to encourage them to improve their skills
and gain more knowledge.
Many senior citizens in the US join universities to obtain
a degree. Often they are not even seeking a job or income.
Such learning is great fun. Can we provide the same opportunities
to those many around us whose potential is unfulfilled?