I once knew a little boy
Who was always asking why?
Why this, why that, why then, why now?
Why when, why what, why how?
I heard these lines once when I was a young kid, but they stayed with me because of how aptly they described my younger brother. He was forever seeking answers to questions that wouldn’t even occur to any of us. Why do we have ten fingers? Why is the sky blue? Why does a rolling ball come to a stop? I now laugh when I think of my father at the receiving end of this ceaseless barrage of questions. If only, he had had Google then, life may have been simpler for him.
I, on the other hand, was this ‘model’ student, a favourite among teachers. I would replicate answers dictated by them in my exams, I was obedient and would do as told, I would sit on the front desk and nod at every word that poured out of their lips. My parents too, found me an ‘easy’ child.
It was only when I stepped through the gates of Lady Shriram College for my graduation that things began to change. If there was one thing my professors and peer taught me in those three years, it was to question things. Why did Hindu women wear bindis? Who had laid out the rules of the caste system and why? Why should the man on the local bus, who touched me inappropriately, get away with it? Why should women want to be mothers?
Yes, I became a feminist. But more than that, I became a seeker of answers.
My room-mate at B-School threw up her hands in exasperation when she tried coaching me in Stats and Accounts, but was always met with the question “Why?” My seniors and colleagues at work may recollect how often I shook my head over company policies that had been around for ages and asked “Why?” My mother-in-law, while familiarizing me with customs and traditions, often gets stumped when I ask “Why?” My French tutor, while explaining grammar rules, is at a loss of words when I raise the question “Why?”
If you have ever known someone like this, you would accept that it is a pain to have these people in one’s orbit. If for no other reason than because they put you in discomfort. When Galileo Galilei opposed the theory that the Earth was at the center of the Universe, he put the Church at severe unease. Yet, it was his declaration that the Earth, in fact, revolved around the sun that was a harbinger of change in astronomy.
It is because someone questioned the ‘normal’ that women started enjoying voting rights, that LGBTs started leading a respectable life in many countries, that Africans emerged from slavery, that female novelists came into existence, that organ transplants became possible, that space travel took place… the list is endless.
For any change to occur, a question has been asked.
Questions then should not be seen as nuisances, but as necessary to growth, to evolution, to development. So let’s not look at students graduating from colleges like JNU as rebels. They too, are seekers of answers, agents of change. Yes, they questioned the propriety of Afzal Guru’s death, even though he may have been involved in a terror attack, but is it wrong to question capital punishment?
In fact, I would go so far as to say, let’s start encouraging such education systems, which don’t teach you to memorize, but cajole you to ask questions.
Let’s start inspiring our children to look at everything with inquisitive eyes and ask questions.
Why others? Let’s begin with ourselves.
Let us start asking questions!
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Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.