Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Journey from the Past, through the Present and into the Future - Part - 3

Stopping to ponder over the Future …

As of now, we can consider our nation as a young country. We have a very low average age for the population, which means that we are looking at modest growth prospects in the future. However, the disposition of the present, which is the breeding ground for the future seems to be rotten in moral values while rich in facilities and economic freedom. I do not believe that economic freedom alone can lead a nation to be a regional leader. Cultural and moral education and practice is a very important part of growth that societies ought to inculcate in the youth who would be torchbearers of tomorrow. Culture is not the pseudo culture that the ‘American Idol’ or the ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ cults are propogating in the nation now-a-days. We have a much richer culture from our ancient past. We ought to embrace a path that takes us deep into that culture. Making money is not success. Aiming at excellence would naturally bring success along. Excellence is when we have a deep rooted understanding of a profession of our choice and a general knowledge on everything else that would help us take wise decisions when we have an opportunity in front of us. Our decisions have to be in line with the cultural fabric of our nation. One should not make the mistake of recognizing the latest glitzy TV shows as the true image of our cultural fabric. It is not. We ought to take the time out to go out into the hearts of India – at an individual’s level, one might chose to delve deep into his / her own village and its cultural make up and then broaden oneself to higher levels. Once we realize the pulse of India through our travel and interaction with people, we would be able to touch the lives of people around us with a meaning. Then our decisions and actions would give us more satisfaction and we would derive profits out of it. Success would come automatically.

Another important thing the youth should attempt and succeed is to remove politics from centres of learning – schools, colleges and universities – entirely. There may be firm resistance to this, but it is essential to remove politics from centres of learning if we want to look at progress of some kind. Think of the numerous lives that have been ruined because of student politics. I myself have witnessed meaningless fights and relegations and wastage of precious time in campuses due to stupid political games that political parties play inside campuses. Of late, we have had incidents of teachers being man slaughtered by gun-wielding psuedo-students as well as political hooligans inside college and school campuses. We also have incidents of politicians throwing public faith to dogs to tow the line of imperialistic and ingenuine world leaders, short-selling our great nation in some way or the other under tremendous international pressure. We have also witnessed with awe the shameless roles the so-called Opposition played at various stages behind the backs of the common man to short-sell their part of the share of India's sovereignty in some form or the other understandable only by the higher bosses of power and bureaucracy. During the time of Elections, we ought to apply genuine sense to decide on who should come to power – would we want to abet some traitor who would never be seen around until the next elections come, but would eat away all the concessions and priviliges we will be providing him based on our vote or would we prefer the honour to have voted a man who stands by his principles and for progress and not bound by stupid political party mandates and who can bring some kind of change in the daily life of ordinary people.

It is not only the political setup that has to wake up from their hangover from feasting on the honey pots seized from the common man’s bounty. The Industrial leadership that covers all sectors of development – which also funds all political parties irrespective of political ideology – needs to wake up to the needs of the modern Indian. There is an important part that the Industrialists and their partnering stakeholders need to practice in our times. They ought to provide decent wages and congenial work conditions to their workers. Putting boundless pressure on individuals will not only reduce their life, but also ruin their family life. In their pursuit to meet deadlines and please their bosses, they will lose out on precious time with their family, their parents and the all round growth that societal interaction provides to them. The industrial job-providers have conveniently disregarded one good thing that the White man practices. The white man hardly works on weekends and after office hours. He values his personal time and the time he allocates with his family and for leisure with as much passion as he would devote to his time spent on work. He believes on quality time at work and quality time for personal affairs. However, the Indian private industry has conveniently put personal affairs of their workmen in the back burner. The tactic is to lure the worker with carrots and ensure that his presence in the office premises is almost round the clock. I have had opportunity to witness and make a mental assessment of the work pressure to which professionals in the IT industry are subjected to. They hardly have any kind of quality family life, let alone a sprinkling of societal togetherness. Although the office spaces have grown swanky, clean and workable, what matters at the end of the day is what takeaway other than money and skills the individual has acquired so that he could contribute meaningfully to the growth of the society and community that he belongs to and thereby to the nation. Instead of professing and practicing an individualistic growth pattern akin to that practiced in the West, these industrial sectors – where the majority of skilled manpower of our country is absorbed – can do much better to improve relationships and brotherhood among their workforce. Some industrial houses have emerged on missions to empower rural India, but many still keep their corporate social responsibility to a bare minimum or even limit them to charity and trusts which are actually a part of their own large corporate structure so that the capital and efforts that is circulated largely remains within their own areas of interest.

What remains to be done in Education is phenomenal. Instead of training young boys and girls to be weightlifters by loading them with numerous text books and note books, the idea should be to minimize books and broaden their outlook and knowledge using practical systems of learning and put emphasis on educating them. Some effort is in vogue in reducing the pressure on the children by removing certain examination patterns. However, it does not reduce the workload of the children. The emphasis on outdoor activities and sports are very much less than what it used to be earlier. Very few schools adopt a proper physical training programme for their students that would mould them to good team players by the time they finish their higher secondary education. I have seen schools that operate out of hired flats with full state government recognition with not even a decent airy dining hall, water facility, bathrooms, recreation spaces and playgrounds for children. When enquired of such state of schools, the responses I got from teachers as well as parents was that there was no time for play for the kids as they got to prepare for entrance tests of all sorts and get good marks. This notion is absolutely trash. Work and play has to happen in balanced portions. Only then could a centre of learning boast of an education that has been provided. Otherwise they are merely training children and not educating them.

Community living and a life that has compassion to fellow human beings is getting eroded day after day in our society. Community is made up of families and individuals and it is one of the most basic units of the nation as a whole. It is where inter-personal transactions as citizens of a country takes place between families and households; between people of different professional, economic, religious and cultural backgrounds and where the interpersonal needs of people are provided for by each other. These kinds of interactions have reduced to annual affairs in most semi-urban and urban dwelling units. We hardly find active participation among people on community initiatives. There is a lot that we can learn from our country men of the North-eastern states on community living. It is interesting to note the natural ability of people in these areas to live together without individual egos overarching community needs. If this virtue could be learnt and practiced by the people of the rest of our nation, we would be much more ahead of any other country in the world.

The End of the Journey...

Doubtless, our great nation is poised for impressive economic growth and is emerging as a name to reckon with in international fora. However, at the end of this journey, I feel that unless we truly recognize our inner self, identify individually and collectively our strengths and weakness and put in sincere efforts to overcome our weakness to win over opportunities, we would long be overtaken by other emerging economies in our neighbourhood. We have a lot to do within and the very first thing to recognize is to look within and cleanse ourselves and our surroundings to healthy community living practices and build up our personal, professional and familial life on ethics founded on the strong foundation of our own splendid heritage. Let us be proud of what we are and lift our heads up high. Only then can we see better of the world around us and know where we are and go where we ought to go.


Rohin said...

Hi Ashish.

It was accidentally I came across your blog. I already read a couple of posts here.. I must say they are all well written with a good focus. And most of the posts are quite deep which one does not come across often. But I also have some differences or require further elaboration to get the crux :)

Talking about the richness of the Indian culture. I am convinced that we have a rich culture which is probably more than 7000 years old.

One of the vices of our society today is the caste system. One should remember that this was inherited from this very old system( correct me if I am wrong.).

The Indian culture has this strict hierarchical structure, where one cannot question(doesn't mean violent agitation) the authority of the higher orders of this structure. This would mean, to say the least that an individuals freedom of thought and expression is severely restricted. As an example look at the scientific system we had. These are all Shaastra's which are rules written down by some authority, without giving reasons.(contrast this with the renaissance idea of science, which is more democratic and hence appealing and approachable and has a wider room for expansion)

So the bottom line is, to be clear about what should we take from this rich ancient culture and what should be thrown away. And in some cases this choice could be quite subjective. So I am confused as to how much emphasis should this ancient culture have in our present day system.

Secondly I am not sure whether politics should be banned from Educational institution. Politics is certainly something which broadens the outlook of students. Hence it contradicts with your view on "What remains to be done in education". Of course student politics in colleges sometimes get dirty. But banning is certainly not the best strategy. When student politics is handled by responsible individuals, things will be fine. We need to create an atmosphere where students can grow into responsible individuals. [What we see today is too much parenting, policing, instructions, What to do , what not to do.. what to think, how to think !!!]

Coming to the work culture of Indians. Its true that we take work to home. But believe me this is not only prevalent in industry. This is a common thing among young Indian academics also (PhD students). They fail to put a boundary between work space and personal space. Hence I believe this is more of our Indianness. Needless to mention if you are ready to take work home, your employers will always push you for that.

Now coming to community living.This sort of living strategy existed in all the cultures of the world. But when the individual units starts becoming prosperous, rich(not necessarily monetary) and could stand independent( against the forces of nature) they dropped out from the community and started making their own living spaces. People always had a reason to stay in communities. It greatly depend on the climate, geography and prosperity. So I can't imagine how can we get back to community living, given the way our society is becoming prosperous ( i mean middle class )

Ashish said...

Dear Rohin,

Thanks very much for reading my article and coming out with very interesting and positive critique. I really appreciate your patience and the thought you have devoted to bringing to my attention certain aspects relevant to the discussion.

Permit me to put forth my thoughts on your points ad seriatim

1. On the point on what takeaway we need to cull from the richness of Indian Culture, I would say, primarily, we ought to take the importance it gives to heirarchy. When I say this, I am fully aware of the modern culture that is amalgamating into our present. I am not advocating for a complete acceptance of a 7000-year old ancient tradition. What I am attempting is to put across the point that we ought not forget the hierarchical structure which is how our genes have been tailored to think and not accept the horizontal structure which the West has adopted and followed as a more convenient form of communication as it evidently is faster and less bureaucratic.

2. About the point on banning politics from educational institutions, it is purely my own outlook from a thought process generated from the ills I have observed from my schooldays. The school in which I studied had politics from class V onwards as an inseparable evil. I have seen my friends treading the wrong path when their minds were immature and being moulded into individuals with a mental make-up which were not constructive. In later life some of them left political activities and concentrated on academics bowing down to parental and peer pressure and did well in their future. Those of whom who preferred otherwise are nowhere to be seen or known. From a few sources I know that some of them are still struggling with life. I do not know the kind of student politics that you have seen. We never had classes for half the year in our first year plus-two phase owing to mad student politics related strikes. That is definitely not constructive. Thinking of your proposal of able men and women handling student politics, I must say that in today's world, student political leadership is considered as an internship for proving your competence as a youth leader and as is common in all businesses, those who would be charged to handle it would go all the way down to extract their pound of flesh, shedding the blood of innocent goats.

3. Taking work home - This is entirely left to the individual. You are right about PhD students. Perhaps that is the first place where it ought to be curbed - at the higher levels of academic training. Professional institutions somehow clandestinely encourage late night studies and work on assignments and this gets carried forward like the trail of ants when these students pick up a profession and continue their pratice which by then would have become a habit. I presently work with a lot of westerners - I know you are a student in a European University too - and I have seen none of them taking work home irrespective of their professional education.

4. I agree that accumulation of wealth would proportionately take away much of one's free time. What I am proposing is that while accumulation of wealth is good, one must not be too much involved in its management so as to forget his compatriots. Whatever be the case, a weekly meet at the local playground or a casual visit to your neighbour's house on a Friday evening should be practiced and must become a habit. As a young boy I learnt a lot from such visits to and fro our neighbours and families about what camaraderie is all about. It helps strengthen human bonding which is quite a necessity as much as food and water.

Rohin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rohin said...

Hi Ashish.. I would like to carry on this discussion further

(1). Could you please elaborate on the positive aspects of our hierarchical society which you think is relevant for the present day. [I would include the caste system also in the hierarchical structure of our society]. From a scientific point of view I differ in accepting that this Hierarchical system is tailored into our genes. [ I think it is sort of dangerous to say so ]

(2). Throughout my education I have never been introduced any students politics. So this might be the reason why hold this view :)

(4). Well I have no doubt about the advantages of social mingling. I was just sharing my idea of the nature of community living. And from that understanding I believe that it doesn't help much to mandate such social interactions

Just Sharing Thandie Newton's TED talk in connection with hierarchy

Ashish said...

Dear Rohin,

Thanks for coming back to me on this discussion.

I had indeed penned down a long reply, but somehow I am not able to post it in. If you could send me you mail id or alternatively visit my facebook page, I could then send you my views on this to take it further.

Thanks for the link on Thandie Newton. It is quite an interesting thing that she discusses in her talk.