In Kathopanishad, the conversation between Nachiketa and Yama (Lord of death) is beautifully presented. Nachiketa was a young, brave and intelligent teenage boy. Yama on being happy with him, granted him three boons. The first boon, Nachiketa said, “I seek the welfare of my father as my first boon.” Yama granted him happily. The second boon “Sir, I desire to know how one could reach heaven where there is no sorrow, old age or death”. Nachiketa did not ask this second boon for himself but for the sake of the people. He wanted everyone to learn this secret knowledge and free themselves from the sufferings. Yama was pleased with the unselfishness of Nachiketa. Yama gave all the details of a particular sacrifice, the performance of which would take one to heaven.
As Nachiketa was an intelligent and a sincere boy with a spiritual knowledge, he could understand all that was taught. Yama was pleased with him and in appreciation, named that particular sacrifice after Nachiketa himself. For third boon, Nachiketa asked to learn the mystery of what comes after death.
Yama was reluctant on this question. He said that this had been a mystery even to the gods. He asked Nachiketa to ask for some other boon, and offered many material gains. But Nachiketa argues that all worldly treasures and heavenly pleasures come to an end sooner or later. These are not permanent means of enjoyment. He insists to get the ultimate knowledge of self, ” O Lord of Death, you have promised me the third boon”.
Yama was pleased with such a young truth-seeker who had rejected the path of enjoyment and chose the path of goodness. Then Yama taught him the knowledge of the Atman, realizing which man attains immortality. Know the Self as lord of the chariot, the body as the chariot itself, the discriminating intellect as charioteer, and the mind as reins.
The senses, say the wise, are the horses; Selfish desires are the roads they travel. When the Self is confused with the body, Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems to enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow. The all-knowing Self was never born, nor will it die. Beyond cause and effect, This Self is eternal. When the body dies, the Self does not die. The Soul is immortal.
Thus, having learned the wisdom of the Brahman from Yama, Nachiketa was freed from the cycle of births. Nachiketa has been one of the most influential characters in Hinduism. The story of Nachiket’s conversation with Yama teaches us how the curiosity of a child to know about life and death enlightens him with the wisdom of Brahman. There are several such stories of enlightenment in Indian history. Every child starts his learning life with questions. A child when start knowing his surroundings, what all he asks is ‘Why?’ This questioning habit in child shows his love for learning.
However, when he enters the present education system of India, he is taught, “What to think, rather than how to think?” This hampers his overall intellectual growth. Jawahar Lal Nehru once said, “Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow. Only through right education can a better order of society be built up.” The focus of the education system must be brought towards the questioning capabilities of a child rather than the rote memory.
Once the child is out of school, new questions would be there in his path. To find the answers for a better and prosperous life, he must know how to build his own path. If the child is made to

stop thinking in his childhood, the future of any country could be in danger. For the same reason Swami Vivekanand said, “If I get ten or twelve boys with the faith of Nachiketa, I can turn the thoughts and pursuits of this country in a new channel.” Also, learning is not a day or two-day long process but it takes a whole life learning new things. It is correctly said that, “One who thinks he know everything is the biggest fool”. We all must strive to seek the answers for very existence of ours. This will give meaning to the life of each one us. One such example is Gautama Buddha, born as a prince, had flourishing empire. But he left all the pleasures of his life to seek answers to the questions that brought a storm in his mind after his walk in the town, where he met four persons. The first one was an old man, a sick man, a dead man and finally a wandering holy man who had given up his home and family to search for knowledge. The prince was disturbed with the sufferings of people and determined to find the answers for human suffering and the final cure for it. He finally gained enlightenment and solved the mystery of the sufferings of human life. He then dedicated his life in preaching what he had learnt, and hence was known as Buddha (the awakened one).
Being in religiously rich Indian culture, we have learned a lot about self-realization through self-questioning our conscience. Throughout the course of our history, we have evolved with the various cultures we interacted with. When the scope of evolution was hampered by the British Government, people started questioning the authority of its inhumane acts. The whole event from mid nineteenth century till independence was based on the power of people to question. With every passing question, people understood the exploitation done by the British Government and sought its answers in freedom from the clutches of the mighty empire. In the modern-day India, we are given several rights and we enjoy our freedom. Right to Information (RTI) has proved to be the biggest tool with people to enlighten them with the working of government. This right to information has brought a paradigm shift in the government functioning as they are now more accountable to the public and can be put to scrutiny through the RTI queries, which become a part of public domain. The question thus enlightens the public and government functioning.
The story of people in rural Karnataka had combined the campaigns for the Right to Information and the Right to Food to fight hunger. Poor villagers have successfully participated in social audits and public hearings to demand that the rations due to them are allotted to them at the correct prices. The people were not given monthly rations. On a complaint by a Self-Help Group (SHG), the officials were summoned for a meeting. The questioning to the officials made them aware of nine programmes of food security. Positive fallout of the public hearing has been the marked improvement in the quality of food grains which is now being supplied in the villages. After a week of public hearing, people got ration cards and new ration shops were opened. For the first time, women were confident enough to ask why they were not being given rice and wheat at the right price. This movement must spread to every village and every taluka. It can now be hoped that the new tools of empowerment will enable the people to ask tough questions and demand answers as well as action.
There are several such examples where questioning through RTI has made people aware about various welfare schemes available to them as well as has brought several scams in highlight. This has made government more accountable. The demand of increasing transparency in working of the government system is also slowly being fulfilled. The RTI has taught the youth and middle age people of India, the power of questioning.

The present-day movements like women movement, environment movement all started with a question. Women in India have always enjoyed a high position in society, but still there are some flaws in the societal set up. The famous Shah Bano case (Mohd Ahmed Khan v Shah Bano Begum, 1985) is a relevant case in question. It is considered to be a very debatable and problematic legal contest in India. This lawsuit has substantiated to be a milestone in the struggle of rights, freedom for the Muslim women. It is all about Shah Bano’s fearless and valiant struggle against the system of Triple Talaq. Instead of creating a history or story of suppressed women, she faced the embarrassment of the community and of her husband. Even though she was facing such a drastic situation in her life, she chose to struggle against her husband’s oppression and faced the world where everyone was in favor of her husband, and above all she bravely decided to fight against the male-dominated society. She fought against the system of Triple Talaq and at last her efforts didn’t go futile and it raised the important question of women rights in India. It proves that it was not the answer, but the question that Shah Bano posed before the court of law was essential and akin to the societal enlightenment.
The modern-day women have started questioning the societal norms and are enjoying the freedom and prosperity. The enlightenment that women have achieved has made them cross several hurdles in life and has helped them break the glass ceiling. Let’s say, the success of Phogat sisters in a male dominant sport, Yousuf Malala’s fight for girls’ education rights in Pakistan are testimony to this fact. Questioning has always helped in enlightenment of every section of society. Questioning and learning should never be stopped. The ability to question shows how enthusiastic the person is to know and learn. The process will continue to evolve human to the best.


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