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Values & Education

Life Skills

I spent the past few days at an art and literary festival in Gurgaon called Gliterarti. It was a rewarding experience for me as not only a human being, but also as a parent. I met a writer called Capt. Navin Gulya, a paratrooper with the Indian army. An injury left him paralysed waist down and he is now on a wheelchair. That did not stop him.

Schools Don't Teach Life Skills To Kids

Today he runs Apni Duniya Apna Aashiyana or ADAA, a centre for street children in Gurgaon. He also visits six nearby villages to help the differently-abled, guiding them in their career choices, taking care of their medical needs and living expenses. Through the ADAA foundation, Capt Gulia invites sponsorships for these children. Thanks to his efforts, 32 children today are fully sponsored.

How many of us, as parents have taught our children to cope with reverses? How many of us have taught them that failure is a part of life? Once when I was going through a rough patch, I went to Mcleod Ganj and met the Dalai Lama. It is not easy to meet him or have a one on one conversation with the great man. I was fortunate enough to be granted an audience. I asked him “Why me?” He replied, “Because you are fortunate. You have been given the chance to grow. This is your chance to learn to overcome reverses. I can’t sympathise, I can only congratulate you. Fortunate people get this opportunity.”

It made me angry. Deeply upset, I caught the bus back home. On the way, my temper cooled down. Understanding of what he had said dawned much later. Yes we encounter failure. There are times when we feel we have lost everything and we want to quit. But if we keep on going, we climb out of the pits and re-invent ourselves. In good times, one does not learn anything. Challenges teach us.

Sadly schools do not teach our children this. Our education system is not designed to teach us the most important thing of all, life skills. Parents are geared too much into teaching children how to be winners. When our kids fail, there are times when they simply want to quit. There are children who commit suicide when they fail academically. There are others who do so when bullied or because of a failed love affair. We have not taught our children how to cope with failure, despite of stressing on them how important it is to win.

What if this man had simply quit when the doctors said he would be unable to move anything more than his eyelids? He had a choice, he could have curled up and wished for death. Instead, he reinvented himself, and is now an inspiration for others.

I would like to see the school curriculum have a class for life skills, text books that teach us that “Why me?” is the silliest question in the universe and that it is okay to fail, because then one gets the opportunity to re-invent oneself. Goals can change and goal posts can be shifted.

I would like regimented education to give way to things that are more important, like Life Skills.

To know more about Navin Gulya, google him.

Ritu Lalit is the author of two novels, A Bowlful of Butterflies published by Rupa & Co., and Hilawi published by Popular Prakashan. She is a single parent and blogs at