There are many sources and many means of gaining knowledge apart from books and textbooks; some knowledge is learnt from experience, some comes from the divine itself
Petition writers are license holders who are qualified to write petitions for litigants for filing in courts. They are an important class in the court hierarchy and are respected by everyone. However, they are not the only ones who know writing petitions. There are many others also who can write better than they do. But the petitioners are authorised to write the petitions in court premises, unlike others, as they know the court rules and frame the petitions as per law.
It is a stark reality that majority of our adult population, both in cities and villages, is illiterate and one has to search for any literate person just to write a simple letter, fill any form or any application, even in this age of enlightenment and despite the efforts of government agencies to impart education to all. This is also one reason why there is so much rush of people at the counters of petition writers even for small purposes.
If someone asks you to write for him as he or she cannot write, it is not surprising. Earlier, people would search for a household in a village that would have a pen and inkpot, since these were not available easily as literate people were few and far between. We can by this know the low level of literacy in those days. Paper used for writing was generally birch paper with locally made ink and pen.
There was a silver lining also in such a bad scenario of education. If people were not educated, they were knowledgeable to some extent. We generally tend to mix knowledge with education. These are two different terms. Education is the process of teaching or learning in a school or college. Knowledge is the process of understanding and gaining information by experience about a subject. Knowledge can be acquired or can be of divine origin also.
The divinity of knowledge is manifest in so many ways in this world. Such kind of knowledge was the prerogative of men of spiritual order like prophets, rishis, sofis, etc. This is bestowed on great poets whose poetry comes of its own without involving any effort on their part. This knowledge is also possessed by newborn babies from the time of birth by which they recognize their mothers and take nourishment from their mother’s milk. This is the divine knowledge because of which the chick of a duck knows how to swim without learning the same from anywhere. Animals, birds, insects and other living beings live their full lives as per this divine knowledge, responding to the external stimuli and facing and avoiding any danger to them. Such examples of divine knowledge are many and all of them cannot be described here.
Another form of knowledge is known as “intuition”. It is the ability to understand or know something immediately without needing to think about it. It has also been defined as the ability to understand something instinctively without the need for conscious reasoning. It is also a God’s gift to someone who knows something without any reasoning. This is also a kind of divine knowledge.
It is not true that books are the only source of knowledge. If you are in the company of good people you are bound to be knowledgeable, as good company has its own wisdom. Even a clod attained fragrance from a rose tree by remaining in its company for a long time as narrated by Sheikh Saidi (RA) in one of his Persian poems. Thus, people can also become wise and knowledgeable in company of great people. We don’t say no to acquiring knowledge from books because books are a time-tested source of knowledge and their efficacy cannot be denied. However, if education through books cannot be imparted due to any reason, imparting knowledge is still possible through alternate sources as discussed above and to be further discussed in the foregoing paras.
It is a stark reality that we cannot live a successful life on the basis of theoretical knowledge gained from books alone, for which a practical approach and experience is required. The example of three men crossing a river in a boat can best explain it. Two of them were well educated while the third one, being a boatman, had no education and was illiterate. The two educated ones made fun of him on his being illiterate. When the three reached the middle of the river, the boat was about to capsize. The boatman asked the other two to swim across the river and save themselves from drowning. But they declined as they didn’t know swimming. The boatman then brought the point home to them that their bookish knowledge was of no use here and only practical knowledge of swimming could save them. There are many other such examples to bring home to us that practicality is more important than theory.
All of us know about the Wardha Scheme of education propounded by Mahatma Gandhi where education was linked and centered on some form of manual and productive work and related to handicraft as per the environment and facilities available. This is what we call vocational education and is based on the motto of “earn while you learn and learn while you earn”. Such kind of education can be very useful for adults also these days if imparted.
It has been seen that illiterate adults have also tremendous experience of life and are men of wisdom and common sense. They have a remarkable memory power and can remember things orally. I still remember my childhood days when middle-aged people or even of older ages would come to my late father with voluminous books of Persian and my father would explain them the meaning of verses in Kashmiri language. My late father would say that it little mattered if they could not read the books but the pearls of wisdom and philosophy, contained therein, could be conveyed to them orally with ease. Even I read some Persian books from him when I was yet a young boy of 5 or 6 years. This concept can even today be tried for making the adult illiterate population knowledgeable which can make a difference in their thought process and character building; no matter if they cannot read books but can understand what these contained if only someone explained it them.
Knowledge through story telling is also a time-tested practice at some places. Besides, knowledge through videos, audios, theatres and other modern gadgets and platforms is also now in plenty. Trips to museums, exhibitions and travel and tours to different places is also another form through which our illiterate adult population can be made aware about historical and geographical subjects. Education is only a means to gain knowledge and not the end. Knowledge can be had from sources other than books.
Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with examination. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
—The writer is a retired telecom engineer.