Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Regional Society indeed are We

There's yet another thought which just keeps making me feel guilty. Its a collective guilt.

As a country, we have been bleeding for decades together, never as a whole but always in parts and bits and pieces. We never cared if Assam was burning; we claim ownership on Kashmir but never feel for the agonies or atrocities being committed there; did we ever start a movement when Ahmedabad was up in flames or Lucknow or Hyderabad or Jaipur. Did we ever react to the Orissa or Karnataka violence. Never, because we never feel ourselves to be an integral part of this land in its entirety. We always reacted regionally and not nationally. We have always treated parts of our country as a distant relative not even a close one, forget about thinking of India as a family. We just know that we belong to this large country called India, but have never behaved or reacted in that fashion. We all have created mini-Indias wherever we live and we think India is nothing but that. Our concerns get limited to that region alone. So much of a difference in the notional and the real Indias that we live in.

If and only if we matured long back n did not have this narrow outlook, may b things would have been different today. (Have we actually matured even now??!!!)

This time, the educated and effluent class got hit, so they have come in front of the media to express their rage. The aam aadmi would never be able to even express if something happened to him. He just immerses himself in his suffering with noone hearing or ready to hear what he wants to say. If the Assamese had high profile people who could capture media attention or if Orissa had dozens of Shobha Deys who could use the media to express their wrath, then the case would have been different.

The aam aadmi has noone to go to, noone to listen to and noone ready to listen to him.
The media may create a story but he will never choose to wage an intellectual battle as the one we are fighting today. Its just that the speaking class got hit this time, n so is this wrath out in the open.
Thats the blunt truth.

Sadly, we are a party to this indifference and disregard in this heterogeneous and regional society.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Metamorphosis

There, not very far away in time, sits a soul- sincere, serious and committed- committted to his work and committed to his own expectations. Anything that makes his work more arduous perplexes him, worries him and sets him on a note of incessant tension. The fear of not being able to execute things as planned or not being able to achieve what he has set out for himself bothers him quite a bit. Most of the times this high level of alertedness helps him being cautious enough to take all necessary precautionary measures or to avert anything avertable.

Pictures keep rolling one after the other. Incidents after incidents and stages after stages roll past as I passively become a part of this journey of self-evolution (devolution ??). The frames change and the settings roll back to the present.

This person little cares for anything wrong that may come in the near future. Believes more in dealing with the present. Cares not to bother himself much by foreseeable hindrances or high set targets. He thinks life is more about living than getting lost in all these worries. He believes in living by the present. Even the disappearance of his baggage for 3 days in this far away land does not affect him and he laughs his way throughout the experience. A sales stint which he knew would be very difficult, never produced sweat on his forehead. Not that he never tried to do anything but never felt bothered enough to try a bit more by anticipating future problems. He felt things would happen with time. And things did happen with time. Was that luck !!?

Sitting in bed at 4 am early this morning, in this shore city of the Mediterranean, having taken this sneak peep into my yesteryears, unfolds this astonishing realization of how life changes us or we change ourselves through life. From one end of this misty timescale I can at best make guesses how time and situations could have brought about these changes in me. Are they for the better or for the worse? The exact answers no one knows for sure. Over time there has emerged a clear change in my attitude toward life. Is this transformation good or bad, I do not know. Keeping cool is good but not being concerned or bothered about work can be harmful as well. Is it really carefree attitude or is it carelessness? or is it carefreeness juxtaposed with seriousness as well, the carefree aspect eclipsing the negative effects of worries- I am unable to figure thatout. For sure, I know that had I been a little more serious, I would have been able to perform much better. Is this 'chill' attitude preventing me from realizing my full potential, is it taking me farther from where I could have been or is my soul searching for contentedness more than materialistic pleasures... these answers I wish I could get.

But one thing I know for sure that though these changes crept in without my conscious knowledge, I cannot say I'm completely innocent. I am party to this metamorphosis as somewhere deep within my system, its me alone that could have given permission to this transformation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

No Dress Rehearsals here….

Its often happened with me and I’m sure it would have happened with many of us as well.

There are times in life when we feel we should do something -offer help, exchange a few kind words, give financial assistance or express our thoughts/ feelings may be praise, gratitude or apologies to people close to us or may be even strangers. Sometimes we just listen to our hearts and go ahead to do it but very often we just miss out on doing it. Not that we get prevented by some binding constraint but that we just don’t have a willingness strong enough to go ahead and do it or may be we become too conscious to do it in front of others.

How often it has happened with me that traveling on my bike, I notice a small child or a man in a condition that touches my heart. I ponder over his condition for sometime and feel I should do something for him but by the time the feeling has grown strong in me, I have already driven a hundred meters away from him and so I simply let it go thinking that I’ll do something on the way back or may be in the next similar opportunity. But most often, I don’t drive back by the same route, or on the way back there’s too much traffic to change lanes or the man may not be there in the location I last saw him or my mind gets occupied by some other thoughts and I simply forget the whole episode. The chance to do my little bit to that man gets lost for ever and it gives me quite a sense of guilt to have not acted at that very moment when I felt I should.

I should have known that moments in life never repeat or reappear, so that moment or chance is lost forever.

Similarly, quite often we fail to express our feelings of joy, gratitude or apologies to colleagues, friends or even strangers. My own experiences are testimony to the fact that a few words spoken even to strangers at the right time can transform strangers into long lasting friends. I never knew that a couple of words that I spoke to a person on the first day of college could transform strangers to friends. Many a time, an act of kindness or a patient listening is all that was required to build relationships. I encountered so many similar occasions but did not act promptly on all of them. Why did I consciously lose out on so many opportunities is what I feel today.

Thinking back we may find atleast some occasions when we could have genuinely thanked our bosses for their support, there would have been plenty an opportunity to genuinely praise colleagues for their good work and several occasions when we could have expressed gratitude to our friends for several acts which we may not have taken notice of at the time they did. Most of the times, we would perhaps be lost in our own worlds and would have possibly turned a partially blind eye or a deaf ear to the world around. Not that we wouldn’t have praised our colleagues on such occasions but that they wouldn’t be full hearted attempts. Strangely but truly, the other person can always see how genuine or whole hearted our remarks are.

Sometimes, though we realize what’s to be done, we simply put off things for sometime and the delay ends up being an eternal one as the context for doing it gets lost with passing time. Everything that we do has a context associated and without the appropriate context things hardly have any significance. There’s no chance of revisiting the entire episode later. Had I been a little more alert, receptive and active at all these times, may be life would have been different- more and better friends, stronger relationships, good bosses that I need never complain of and more cooperative colleagues.

The strange thing about life is that on realizing that you’ve lost an opportunity, 95% of the times, however hard we try, its difficult to find a similar one again and do whatever you wanted to in the way you wanted to.

A recent novel that I read just 2 days back made me reflect over all of the above. It says - life is not a dress rehearsal. Making changes or adjustments in it later is near impossible. Whatever we go through is the final show and so what gets enacted is something that cannot be re-done -its frozen and final. And with these frozen acts, also get frozen our regrets, indifference towards others and with them several lost opportunities. A deed today is sometimes more worthy than an act tomorrow.

And all this only means that ‘now’ is the best time and so we should live every passing moment in the fullest possible way- rejoice to the fullest on our present achievements coz they’ll never come back again, help others whole heartedly and in the best possible manner coz there’s no second chance perhaps, give full credit and praise to people who deserve coz its will make us feel good to make others feel happy, tender apologies to whoever we think we’ve wronged coz we all know its not easy for people to forget bitter experiences and most importantly forgive others whenever possible coz a there’s a lot of joy involved both in forgiving and being forgiven. Once missed, we may never get a chance to do all of it again. Time is indeed unforgiving.

And this reminds me of Rudyard Kipling who said -

“ If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run.…. you’ll be a Man my son”

Friday, October 26, 2007

Importance of ‘Integrity in Public Life’ in Achieving Good Governance

I had sent this piece of writing as an entry to an essay writing competition on Public Integrity and Good Governance. What i talk about in this essay is something very ideal. It may be difficult to reach this state of idealism but a conscious and deliberate movement in this direction is the only option i see to bring about a positive improvement to our society that is plagued with numerous ailments.

Here goes the essay:

Integrity is something that makes you do what is right even when there is no one watching you. It comes out of ones value system and is something deeply ingrained in us such that it rules out the negative influences of greed or sin wherever it exists. We all worship our gods and goddesses little realizing that all these prayers are fruitless if we cannot follow the very basic principles of social and personal integrity in life.

Intellectual integrity means our intellect does not cheat us with varying situations and circumstances. Our views and opinions on any issue do not change given different situations to suit our own interests. As educated people, we have a lot of responsibility towards our society. We should have an opinion and be able to sift the right from the wrong without seeing our vested interests in matters of public importance. It is we who hold positions in the society and as members of societies or social organizations we should voice our opinions in an unbiased manner. Public pressure has the power to shake governments. Good governance therefore starts from every citizen and not from the governments.

Financial integrity is about not becoming corrupt, not to get sold to others’ mean interests for some amount of money however big or small. Even the little speed money that we use at government offices to quicken any process or to have our work done faster is a failure of our financial integrity.

Public integrity actually stems out of personal integrity because its afterall the same value system which resides in a person that lets him make decisions even in public situations. Public integrity requires us to go and cast our votes, not give bribes, not to do or say anything that may harm the society, pay our taxes regularly etc.

Good governance is not the responsibility of the politicians who design the laws and systems for us. We should not forget that the system is in its present state because we approve of it. True, Governance is about developing good mechanisms in a society by fostering transparency, but this responsibility does not start and end with the policy makers alone. The policy makers do whatever we want them to do. By remaining silent, the politicians take us for granted. Basically we are busy in our own personal lives and our jobs. We are content with what is going on around because it does not bother us or hurt us. The brunt of all wrong policies is borne actually by the poor. And if we think we have nothing to do with them, then we are violating all standards of public integrity.

All public services are the windows to a good governance mechanism in any society. The more transparent they become and the more cordial and receptive they become, more will be the ease with which they can transact with the society. Governments need to understand this. As India gets more and more educated, politicians will realize that they can no longer fool the innocent and ignorant village folk by making false promises. Integrity to ones political ideals will eventually become the competitive edge for any political party. And for this to actually become true, we as a society have some great responsibilities to uphold. There has to be an initial kickstart somewhere to give momentum to this rise of consciousness.

Can we make a promise to ourselves that we will always go and cast our votes? If 100% of the population goes to cast its vote, can the politicians ignore any single section? Can people continue to bask in the warmth of their petty interests? If as a society, we are aware of our basic rights, behave responsibly and turn away unethical practices; these selfish politicians would have to come out in the open and endorse what is right They would have to follow the principles of integrity because we as a society like integrity. That will be the beginning of good governance.

One good idea would be to form pressure groups to reiterate our views again and again. A very significant portion of the educated youth in cities today has internet access. With such a huge educated population base, can we start an online pressure group that continuously mounts pressure on the governments? Through internet its always easy to get connected to a common discussion forum where people can share their views.

In fact schools should take the first step in producing students with integrity. Moral science is one subject that we all were taught as children. Can this course be actually taken to the higher classes and if so in which form? Can we emphasize the need for social ethics and business ethics in the school level itself. Why wait for management institutes to take this role. And can ethics and integrity be taught at the age of mid twenties when our value systems have already got developed- that’s a question we need to answer. In my view, intermediate levels in colleges, all professional education institutes and especially 10th standard classes should start incorporating this course in their curriculum. People should be made to realize that integrity does help build businesses and brand equity for organizations. History tells us that corrupt organizations have not been able to last long.

If we perform our civic duties responsibly, if we voice our opinions whenever things go wrong, if we can form pressure groups, if we do not accept opaque systems and policies, if we allow the press to perform its duty without fear and force, if we can educate each other, then we can definitely build a society that thrives on integrity and then good governance will not be the only result but will be a part of a larger system that thrives on goodness and fairness.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gathering my thoughts..

Im overwhelmed with the response ive received for my earlier writing and that is also the reason why i write again.

Ive got something to share.

One of the comments that ive received is that the main issue is not about life getting more n more complex but about
1) setting ones priorities right in life, and that
2) people find fault with the current system of expectations when they r unable to perform, therefore take recourse to faultfinding with the current system.

I see an inherent paradox here!!

U set ur priorities right in life but becoz ur priorites in life may diffr from those of ur parents, family, friends, spouse, peers etc.., u may end up feeling the so called social pressure. now this pressure may or may not lead to dissatisfaction and frustration depending upon how strong the person is internally n emotionally.
Not all people are equally strong emotionally or internally coz all r not genetically the same. Some may successfully dismiss the social expectation as needless n irrelevant while others may succumb to it.When we talk of society, we never talk of those only that have actually been able to make it big in life or r emotionally very strong to fight all odds.
I feel setting ones priorities make sense wen one is able to lead a life that he/she intends to, wihtout getting subjected to the pressures of the surroundings. Now the validity of this very hypothesis that people can make an unbiased and un-influenced choice is itself under doubt bcoz man is bilogically a social being n he cannot alienate himself completely.He will live with people around n so the direct or indirect pressures will hv their own good or bad impacts.
And since one may not b able to make an independent choice, so one may eventually endup blaming the system for his failures too. Thats my opinion.
The answer perhaps lies in rising above these material levels and b able to see the greater picture or sense the greater design that governs life, to be able to disassociate oneself from this material chase, and thats nothing but self actualization.
Easily said than done.!!??!! :)

Its true that these things may hv always existed but is there anything that we can do to make life bettr fr the generations to come??

Just see the little kids around- at the age of 3, they rush to schools with loads on their shoulders. Is that a choice that thye hav made? Even before they grow big enuf to decide for themselves, society has done its part of initial damage to a sapling which would otherwise chart a creative growth perhaps. Schooltime is no different with parents trying to presur their kids into performance. and this series of pressures n influences continues well into ones life as if its an accepted necessary evil.

If u drill the issue deeper, ull find that technology is only one of the outcomes of somethin mankind has always strived for n thats progress. but the real choice that we need to make is what kind of progress we want? do we want progress that makes us more n more machine like or do we want the kind of progress our ancestors made but in a different way. they could master the body's inner strenghts- they could communcate across distances (telepathy), they had the best of medications which we still do nt hav or r still trying to decipher, their immune systems wer far stronger, they cud do astronomy n all without the complex gadgets we possess.. The still existing remnants of Adam's Bridge is proof of the high levels of technology they had achieved.

Science is important but the direction is equllly important. Shud science help us in becoming stronger by making us self -reliant and self-dependent or shud science help us in becoming more and more dependent on this material world. Well our present day science has also done wonders and the intent is nt to disregard those contributions.. but just wanted to induce this thought.. its afterall a choice tht we as a society have collectively made.

Wen i talk of complexities, i never actually mean to dismiss the positive side of technology, but what irks me is the vicious loop that society is unknowingly or knowingly but helplessly getting into. Our parents had a merrier childhood than what we had and We had a merrier one than our children will have...We cannot give our children the carefree existence that we or our parents had. Sadly we have no choice but to let our children face this harsh reality. ...
After all we as a society have decided to tread this path.

Simple, yet so complex!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What is this life if full of care, We hav no time to stand and stare....

I often wonder what we r leading ourselves to?
This world of greater complications where we crave for the smallest pleasures of life,
A world where work takes centerstage pushing leisure and personal relationships to the backburner,
Where money alone is a panacea fr all troubles,
Where the smallest moments of joy that life brings go unrelished,
Where friendship is reduced to electronic conversations,
Where proof of a family exist only in ones name n not in living together
Where neither family nor closest friends are physically ther to be a part of ur celebrations...

This life where everyone is literate, but none educated enuf to understand the ever incresing shallowness of our lives,
Where technology boasts of bringing people closer though it has tossed them miles apart,
Where a happy meal ends up in a pizza corner or a McDonalds happily forgetting the simple yet stimulating homemade food.

I actually wonder- who is better off,
We or our civilized ancestors ?
The urban community or the simple n happy-go-merry village folk?

The answer is no rocket science, yet its difficult to accept, internalise and implement..