When I was in school in Dubai and lived in the relatively crowded and lively part of Bur Dubai I met several kinds of young people. The ones that intrigued me most were those who were cavalier about their studies. They had this nonchalant attitude towards their classes like how to fudge homework, how to con the parents over their progress reports, a loping approach that totally undermined the importance of education. Not just the curriculum as is given for the year but in using the time to imbibe knowledge and read eclectic books and just learn even if it was watching National Geographic, which by the way, is pretty serious stuff.
The odd thing is that I had an ambivalent approach to them. On the one side I envied the freedom of their indifference where a cricket ball had more significance and fights over trivial pursuits marked our evenings in the building compound and taking sides assumed warlike proportions Sun Tzu would have been impressed by.
On the other I often felt like expressing my dismay that they were squandering such valuable time and failing to feed their minds with marvelous information about the marvel of this planet and the system it was integrated to…I could rhapsodise all day.
For me school was a benediction. It wasn’t just the formal periods that attracted me. It was the library, the gut wrenching butterflies in the stomach on stage before you engage in vigorous debate, a feeling like none other when you make a point, in soaring with good poetry and enjoying rapport with strong prose,feeling the mind being nourished.
I was not a stuffed shirt nor judgemental or boringly academic. That is not what I advocate, people whose families make them swot sixteen hours a day and sit for an assortment of examinations and sit for various aptitude tests in a mad hurtle to beat the others.
I chose to beat only one individual…myself. I was my own challenge and I thrived on it. Even today the world sadly has not changed. Technology and the ether have combined to create more diversions that have no playoff and no outcome. Simply eating up the minutes engaging in futile exercise, playing video games, watching screen where others are active and your mind and body are inactive,spending hours texting and messaging and establishing rickety relationships with no future.
Where does it all get them? It is like going round and round in a circle and not getting anywhere. Even the elevator goes up and down but these pastimes are just that…passed time.
Even sport has dwindled. The privileged have playing fields that are largely vacant. The poor have tin cans and torn tennis balls in an alley and at least they try.
My argument with friends who thought school was a pain (and they were still friends) was that this is the best period of our lives to learn: languages, cultures, about other lands, traditions, history, geography, the arts and sciences, so much to know, so many miles to go. Why thumb a lift when the train has long gone?
Sorry for posting the article late because of travelling and different time zones.