The headmaster urged the inspector not to pursue the matter any further. He explained that it was a dangerous thing these days to say anything to the students. “No matter who might have broken it,” he said, “kindly let the matter drop. There has only been peace in the school for the last two months. Over the years the students have broken so many things and burned furniture and damaged the buildings of the school. It is better to just remain quiet. Saying anything to them these days will only invite serious trouble. There could be a strike, there could be a fast unto death at any time!”
The inspector was utterly speechless; he couldn’t believe what was going on. He went to the chairman of the school committee and told him all about what had happened – that the Ramayana was being taught in a class, that a boy had said he hadn’t broken Shiva’s bow, that the teacher had said that the boy must be the culprit, that the headmaster had begged that the matter be dropped no matter who was responsible, saying that it was unwise to pursue this, that there was constant fear of a strike, and all sorts of trouble. What have you got to say about this state of affairs?
The chairman said he felt the headmaster had been wise in his approach. “Furthermore,” he added, “don’t bother about the culprit. No matter who broke the bow, the committee will get it repaired. It is better to get it repaired than to dig into the cause of the damage.”
The inspector related this experience to me and wanted to know what this whole situation meant. I told him there was nothing basically new in his tale. It is a common human weakness that manifests in it. The weakness is that people want to show they know – even about things they actually know nothing of.
None of them knew what the breaking of Shiva’s bow was all about. Wouldn’t it have been better for them to accept their ignorance and ask about it? But nobody is prepared to acknowledge their own ignorance. This has been the biggest mishap in the history of humankind. No one shows the courage to say “I don’t know” concerning any question about life. This weakness proves suicidal and makes the whole life of the person a waste. Because of the false assumption that we know, the answers we give are as ridiculous as those given in that school – by the boy, by the teacher, by the headmaster and by the chairman. Attempting to answer without knowing only makes one a fool.
It may be true that the question about who broke Shiva’s bow or who didn’t has no deep profundity to one’s life, but the questions which have deep profundity to one’s life – questions which will decide whether life becomes beautiful or ugly, healthy or insane; questions on which the direction and evolution of life depend – there too we pretend that we know. But then our answers expose us badly in life. The life of each person is showing that we do not know anything about life at all. Otherwise, how come there is so much failure, so much despair, so much misery, so much anxiety?