WISHES FOR THE GRADUATING CLASS
YOUR commence-ment speaker deals with the big ideas: follow your passion, serve your community, know thyself. These are advice that have withstood the test of time and have no alternatives. But here are some special wishes for you—most of them idiosyncratic, of course, what may come from an oddball like this idiot.
He wishes you a love of travel. Once you have seen something of your own country and the world, you will be surprised to find out how quickly an unknown, foreign place becomes your own. Our common humanity is stronger than our differences.
Every place has a distinct history and he would like you to discover it—the past means possibility. He wants you to be curious about the news as long as you do not mistake news for history. The press is not in charge of history.
If you are on a country road, you may stop by a tea stall. The debates and discussions villagers have there are sometimes more real than what goes on in the name of "talk shows" on prime time TV. Some old man sitting in a corner will say a heart-stoppingly beautiful phrase that you have never heard. Such roads are no longer easy to find, but they exist, waiting to trace your childhood back into your memories, your dreams.
He also wishes that you care about animals. They draw people out of excessive self-interest, asking nothing and everything of us, the way music operates. He hopes that you love music—even the loud sound pollution that you now clamp to your ears. In later years you will appreciate that music can change the world simply because it can change you.
Luckily, for most of his life, he has lived on a dead-end street, so he hopes you live on one—a quiet little cutoff that surprises the city's hustle and bustle with a pause. Trees on the street; he would like that for you, if there's none; you go ahead and plant your own. He hopes that your mornings are quiet and your evenings bulge with human outcry, neighbours calling to one another, children playing while the mothers watch.
He hopes that you will always play sports, just as ruthlessly as you compete for exams; that you will always seek the company of books, including the anticipation of reading a romantic novel on a summer afternoon in a thunderstorm. Eccentrics—he hopes that you always have plenty of them about you—like learning how to imitate the buzz of a mosquito.
He wishes you small surprises—a phone call or an email received indicating sudden affection or admiration, a kind gesture from the unlikeliest well-wisher, an exchange of wit with a stranger, a moment of helpless hilarity.
Take long walks whenever you have a chance. You will need some qualifications for that, though: endurance, plain clothes, a comfortable pair of sneakers, curiosity and, silence. Thoughts will come more clearly while you walk. You may even run into somebody—now gone —whom you once loved.
Never back down from a fight and yet it helps to learn that some fights are good to lose. Let it go. You are bigger than that. There are probably more wrongs in the world than you suspect, but it's good to remember that there's much to praise too.
Remember how ordinary citizens, equipped with little more than their bare hands, hammers and hacksaws, crawled into the narrow holes in the rubble of the Rana Plaza to save lives risking their own? Or, more recently, how the people of Bangladesh stood by Nepal after the devastating earthquake? He wishes you overcome the shadow that lies between the emotion and the response.
When you are feeling down, it may help to draw strength from our cricket players whose prowess on the cricket field has promoted the idea of the rational, autonomous individual shaping their own destiny in a land too long in the thrall of fatalism. Some of you have already reveled in the unusual distinction of the world's best at computer programming and business planning.
Last but not the least, he wishes you remain naïve enough to believe in free and fair elections and to be angered by deceit by our political parties.
He hopes that you cultivate and nurture that innocence, which is apparently the saving grace of our country.
The writer is an engineer-turned-journalist.