It is exceedingly simple on the part of the Directorate of Education Government of Meghalaya to say school timings shall be thus and thus from this date till that date so as to meet with the rules framed under the Right to Education. The reality from our experience in the past year teaches us that there are more problems that confront the citizens, and the students, in keeping up with the very stringent instructions contained in the notification, primarily the fact that even the one from whose desk the notification was issued knows and wishes that things were different because he is as sanctimonious as any of us and is aware of what he will be confronted with when schools reopen; if he has school going children that is. There is no point in casting a veil of illusion over the facts that will confront us, and even if we do it, there’s no escaping the reality of the situation.
To do justice to this subject, one has to have suffered from the fate of dropping and picking up school children as from an open wound that won’t heal. What does one suffer when dropping and picking up children from school? Traffic jams and indecision on whether to wait for the other child or proceed with one and come back again for the other.
One glance at the order and it becomes wearisomely evident that a set number of days and hours at school for the students of different age groups is incorporated in which a clear sympathy for the general life and suffering of the young child is indicated, especially those in the Primary Section. For them the direction sets a 9:30 am to 1:30 pm schedule (four hours). And to give credit where credit is due these school timing rules are a relief. Rarely do we come across those who think outside themselves to contemplate the general life of the child. If one regards the consideration given to the children of the Primary Section one rejoices in the operation of this timetable, and we overlook the other people who think and act fallaciously, because fallaciously is precisely what was considered as valuable in the past two months.
Two months of holidays were spent in festivals of song and dance and now that reality is back with a bang, we suddenly realise that we have not used the valuable two months in formulating a solution to the problems of traffic that we were bound to confront from February to December. This lackadaisical approach that we have developed, I must confess, has struck me as being the most dangerous, most sinister cause for the problems that we face in Shillong. Whatever the problems may be, we actually had an opportunity to rectify them but we didn’t because we believed Shillong rectified itself. This veil of illusion that our merrymaking culture has caused has ripped society beyond repair now, and there’s only one way out. But I’ll come to that a little later, for now let us continue with the introspection.
The fact of the matter is that our forgetfulness or insincerity of facing the reality that we are tied up in is the crisis. Anyone will tell you that anything that needs to be settled must be settled and not set aside even for one day; we must constantly monitor and tackle everything that comes to us as a problem at the fledgling stage with the means available to us, instead we have surrendered ourselves to the problems that are inherent in Shillong and found relief in doing so even believing that it will sort itself out. And so when one directs one’s attention only to the impulse of pleasure, as we did for the past two months, we must now bear life without any considerable grumbling and whining since we didn’t tackle them when we had the chance.
The regular traffic problems in Shillong are situations that involve danger, anxiety and stress and normally our fundamental instinct is to get rid of these intriguing and painful circumstances immediately, but we have ignored them or determined ourselves to believe that since they occur elsewhere and others have accepted them they will be tackled in the same manner as they are by people elsewhere and so we must now face the terrors of existence and understand that Shillong, like any other place, is indifferent to the welfare or problems of the individual lives of its citizens and that the only way we can endure the fate that is Shillong and its traffic woes is for us to accept it and say, “Yes” to it.
By doing so what is involved? – The stoic acceptance that suffering and hardships are the rule and that though this admission and acceptance initially repels us finally it is the only way out of the chances of depression and stress taking over our lives. We have to affirm the fact that this is what Shillong is and that the reality of Shillong is something that the government can do nothing about, perhaps even the gods can do nothing about.
In short we must learn now to become a little bit like Shillong – chaotic, anxious, uncertain, sometimes good mostly bad, a drug addict here a drunkard there, etc because only in this way is there hope that something will turn out for our betterment – we will become creative, creative enough to escape the traffic jams, and creative enough to accept that the time it takes us to reach from one point to the next is to be spent in acceptance and cheerfulness. We must learn to find pleasure in anything and everything that is Shillong – be it the way the government functions, or the way people casually accept the weather with not a care in the world for everything else that amounts to what we now know is Shillong.
Shillong won’t change for the better of its own, and since we are not going to do anything about it, we must be capable of accepting it and becoming a part of it, a part of the way we see it. That way we would have invented the way to our own happiness for the day and for the night and in this way months and years will pass and all will be well. And a time will come when we will have to be sufficiently creative to tackle the circumstances that stare us in the face – months may pass, years may pass, decades may pass and we may even have to admit that it was a mistake to believe in a Shillong that was once a part of “The Scotland of The East” and that we should have instead believed in a world of flux and that all of life is a flux and that in order for there to be any redemption there must be creativity – a personal creativity – the kind that bears and accepts and tolerates the fact that there has to be that period of suffering till our creativity recreates something different.
We have to give up the idea that there must be only good in Shillong and that the old ways must return and that the goal of life is essentially to be happy. This attitude that Shillong must be what we want it to be must end because if we don’t it will have its revenge on us and there is nothing that we can do about that. Life in Shillong is no longer about being just, about getting back as much as one puts in. This moral view that many of us still hold will take a terrible toll on our lives.
We must accept and learn to love the traffic jams and the angry faces of parents and grandparents driving their wards to and from school and the impatient look on their face as they park for hours on end at any spot they can find waiting for the school bell to ring at the end of the day. No matter how confidently we state in no uncertain terms how things should be we will still be making an ass of ourselves if we insist that things must be the way we want them to be. We have to learn to accept the fact that we are just another spoke in the rim of life – one more necessity for all that is and is to come.
Shillong is unable to administer consolation; and it is all over for many of us because we were least aware of the right way…and to be serious nobody knew the right way before us – they never told us if they did. A prescription for a better culture will have to begin now by the generation that is now. This generation is the destiny of Shillong. Our only consolation is that out of all this a legend has grown, that such a place and such a faithful society once existed. The best in us is perhaps inherited from former times, to which it is hardly possible for us to return, but in our memory it is still glowing, still alright, although we can behold it no longer.