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The Power of Unlearning

Two school friends, Wise Friend (Wi-Fri) and Intelligent Friend (I-Fri) are having a chat.

Wi-Fri: How do you learn a subject at school?

I-Fri:  We relate words with a happening or an event in order to understand it.

Wi-Fri: Like?

I-Fri:  Sugar tastes sweet, chilly tastes pungent, the Sun rises and sets. Later we do this with more complicated terms like gravity and so on.

Wi-Fri: Does everybody “understand” it? Not remember the words, like the computer does, I mean “really” understand?

I-Fri: Hmm... I don’t think so.

Wi-Fri: What makes you say that?


I-Fri: Because I have met people who have “learnt” a lot and don’t know what to do with it.

Wi-Fri: What happens next?

I-Fri: We appear for exams, pass and go to the next academic year. These days they don’t fail the students in the formative years.

Wi-Fri: So, every year many students go from one class to the other, collecting word after word, replacing one word by more words?

I-Fri: Yes! This is what most of us are really doing! Wait a minute, this is quite unsettling.

Wi-Fri: So, you do not question what you have learnt! How many teachers tell you to do it?

I-Fri: I don’t think even a few. But with so many students in a class and the syllabus to be completed it seems impossible to me.

Wi-Fri: After about 15 years of such “education”, what does a “student” become?

I-Fri: A mere bundle of words with a degree and probably, a job. You mean to say we become well organized dictionaries? Can something be done about this?

Wi-Fri: It is clear that a teacher can’t go to every student and explain this. The teacher can teach them to unlearn.

I-Fri: What is it?

Wi-Fri: It is the process of questioning our knowledge - what is already learnt.

I-Fri: What happens when I do it?

Wi-Fri: The web of words, we have built over the years, disintegrates and the real meaning is seen. This is the power of unlearning.

I-Fri:  If I go on questioning my knowledge, I will be left with no words. How do I express the meaning without the words?

Wi-Fri: Although this may seem farfetched, you can! You can communicate it only to a person who has questioned his own knowledge. Don’t two closely associated people understand something, in an instant, without uttering a single word?

I-Fri: Yes I have seen it happen. Then what is the role of all these words?

Wi-Fri: They act as a marker, a pointer to something we have understood. But, we collect pointers all the time without seeing where they point.

I-Fri: If I can get a degree and a job without understanding “meaning” of anything, what is the use of this “unlearning”?

Wi-Fri: Express something in words and the meaning is covered under an ever-growing heap of words.

When you unlearn, you “discover” the meaning. Your job will feed and clothe you.
That is a basic necessity.

The “meaning” will nourish you.

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"आजूबाजूने वेगाने जाणाऱ्या दुतर्फा गाड्या. मधे डिव्हायडर. त्यावर तो, त्याची पेण्टिण्ग्स आणि पुस्तकं. वाऱ्यामुळे उडणारी दाढी त्याच्या टीशर्ट शी खेळत होती. कानातल्या इअरफोन्स मधे कुमार गंधर्वांच्या आवाजात कबीर गात होते, "माया महा ठग्नी हम जानी". "

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मेंढी, वॉचमन व इतर लघुकथा
- हेरंब महेश सुखठणकर
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मेंढी, वॉचमन व इतर लघुकथा
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