"The young mind explores continuously. It’s important to give a child a broader focus of life by helping him in his urge of exploration.”
Social activist and former Miss India
Nafisa Ali on Young Minds
From winning Miss India title in 1976 to social activism to the Children Film Society of India, Nafisa Ali’s life epitomizes the bold and the dynamic face of Indian feminism. She has also been a passionate crusader against the scourge of AIDS and a sporadic film star. Apart from that, she is a concerned parent of three children. She opens her mind on children film making, AIDS awareness in youth and sex education in an interview with Bhuwan Sharma and Himanshu Kumar Singh of Amity EduMedia .
What is the goal of Children’s Film Society of India?
Children’s Film Society was set-up about 50 years ago by Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru when he was the Prime Minister of India. The organization was set up to promote children film making in the country. Realizing that the children are the most important factor of futuristic thought and growth, the Society serves as a vital link between information and entertainment. After all, information results into growth. I think varying perspectives of life should be shared with the children. For example, you should not teach children only about one religion. Yes, you have to teach them their own but also make them understand other religions. Because, with understanding you will realize that the essence of religion is about the improvement of the self. You teach them to respect the environment, to love animals and so on and so forth.
Are films an effective medium to counsel the young minds?
I personally think, yes. A picture speaks a thousand words. What you see visually can affect you deeply. Reading does not have that same impact. For example, in my own life, I used to work on HIV/AIDS awareness. When I realized that people do not understand what are HIV and AIDS, I made a documentary. That had a different impact on the minds of the people. Gutka and cigarettes are disasters for human being’s health. But you don’t think about it because you don’t see the real face of the cancer.
You also run Action India that looks after HIV/AIDS positive patients? Can youngsters of the country play a role in HIV/AIDS awareness? How?
Since it is a young people’s disease, it is they and their peer groups who can create an understanding of the dangers of HIV. But, unfortunately, young people think that they are invincible, that they can do it all, do it in their own way and AIDS is not going to happen to them. They fall in love, they party, and under the influence of alcohol or drugs they tend to loose their strength and stability and fall into traps. Therefore children should be brought into the part of the reform. Right now, it’s only about the elders. Though, finally, the government has started taking initiatives, it is the young people who have to come forward in a very big way.
Finally, as a mother, do you think counseling young children is essential? Does it play an important and an effective role?
I, for sure, don’t think that children know everything. When I was young, I used to have the feeling that I can do everything own my own without any guidance. My children also tell me that we want to learn through our own mistakes. But it’s only fools who fall into a ditch despite someone telling you that there is a ditch. I tell my children to understand the pitfalls, and then use their sense of direction in life. As far as generation gap is concerned, my parents used to tell me the same thing which I share with my children today. Though, I used to argue with my parents then but of late I have realized that everything that they said was right. I make my children accept that I am their parent not friend. My duty is to give them information which I think is right. I become strict where I think I need to be. If they don’t like me, it’s okay but later on when they grow up, they will not turn around and say, ‘Mom, why didn’t you stop us and why did you allow us to do so?’ When they are wrong, I make it a point to tell them the reason why they are wrong.
Nafisa Ali on Sex Education
“Today’s world is full of information. The young mind explores continuously. It’s important to give a child a broader focus of life by helping him in his urge of exploration. Take the example of adolescent hormone. Secretion of this hormone is a natural phenomenon which takes place in every human being. If you don’t explain the reason and effect of this hormone to the child, he becomes explorative and therefore creates problems for himself. In this context sex education assumes importance. Understanding love is very important. And giving love to the right person and hopefully one’s life partner is even more important in the Indian context. But if you look around, it’s not happening like that now. But why you break your heart or break somebody else’s heart if you are not old enough to realize the importance of love? After all, love is not a physical word. It is an expression of the human spirit, of commitment and caring and compassion and dependence. You fall in and out of love because you don’t realize the attachments and the responsibilities that love holds. It’s very important for elders to tell this to the children. Love is not about looks. It is also not about lust or passion. Love has a variety. It is a huge prism of life.”