The ancient Greeks, who planned their life on a scientific basis, imparted their education in gymnasiums. They realized that a sound mind could only grow up in a sound body. A weak constitution means an enfeebled intellect Plato regarded the body beautiful which is another name for physical harmony-as an index and expression of a harmonious mind. So, build up your body if you want to build up your mind – that was their slogan.
It is a good thing that in our country we are gradually realizing this, and we regard a gymnasium as the one thing needful in every one of our educational institutions. It is too much to say that we have become completely gymnasium-minded. But the first steps have been taken: schools and colleges have been provided with limited facilities for physical culture, and an instructor for the purpose is a compulsory pre-condition for official recognition. The university also is taking a greater interest in our physical education. It checks up annually, in a rough sort of way, the progress or deterioration in the health of its students. It also encourages athletics and sports and has more than one organization for the purpose. But still very much remains to be done.
The first thing necessary is to compel the idle fashionable class of students to change their habits. Their habit of sitting down in a group at the someplace and spending the time in useless gossip or in a cinema should be ruthlessly eradicated – even with penal legislation if need be. They should all be forced out into the playgrounds and them gymnasiums, and made to sweat like manly laborers, and thus make themselves, useful members of society instead of being parasites.
Then there is another class – equally contemptible and dangerous to society. It is the class of bookworms. Nothing is so irritating as to see a bookworm – short-sighted, thin-chested, and hunch-backed-poring over his books in order to gain prizes and distinctions at the examination. These bookworms should know that the real examination will come after they leave their universities, and that mere book learning will be of little use to them then. A sound health, a good physique, bodily fitness to work hard and long will be indispensable for winning success.
Another enemy to physical culture is the cinema. Really the crowds of idle young men and women that frequent our cinema halls every evening, when they should be on the open maiden, make a tragic sight. To see a football match is not so bad for there you have to exercise your lungs at least and be in the open air, and that is something. But the authorities should close all cinemas between five and seven in the evening, or forbid them to young people.
Physical culture means body-building, the harmonious development of all parts of the body. There are some who take physical culture only to acquire extra-strong muscles and extraordinary powers of physical endurance. In this effort, many ruin their health by imposing too great a strain on a particular part of the body. The body is a harmonious structure. It cannot be the object of any real culture to develop on part of the body at the expense of the others. The majority of us wish to be something better than mere showmen at circuses. A regular course of training under a competent teacher is all that is necessary, and by following this we will make our body what it is meant to be – the temple of the soul.
It is a good idea if the University makes the examination of health a part of its annual examinations. Unless a student passes a minimum test in health, he should not be allowed to pass out, be he ever so good on the purely academic side. At least his pass certificate should be held back until he passes the physical test within a period-say, of six months. A valid objection to this may well be that lack of nutrition goes into poverty. The state should consider this and subsidies a nutritious fare free of cost. After all investment in national health is the only worthwhile investment.
But greater inspiration comes these days from the athletic meets within a country or outside it. The Olympic or the Asian games have roused governments from their apathy. In India, the different boards for controlling sports and games are being gradually brought under state control. It is expected that this would help maintain the reasonable standard and promote the physical fitness of our people.