Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | August 28, 2008

Let us realise

Thanks to NDTV online and the Skype sessions with my father, I am quite aware of what is happening back home. Here we have not subscribed to cable television so far since not only it is expensive but also it is all American. Since every where around the world there is a need to save paper that is why newspapers here are quite expensive. It is the other way of looking at things actually where back home newspapers are an integral part of most household. Here, people read newspapers either in the public places like libraries and café or in their respective offices. For us, the online editions work just fine. We were never television addicts and that is why we can safely rely on DVD rental shops and libraries for our movie needs. I am not good at downloading movies from the internet since I don’t possess that amount of patience and thus we have decided to rent our DVDs since these places indeed has good collections.

 

Interestingly, the Tata Nano protests and the Orissa religious violence continue to sadden me despite being very far from all those activities. I am sad because I wonder how sane people can continue to support the protests by certain Ms. Banerjee. I am sure, like all politicians she has put forth some causes but I wonder if they are genuine interests to save the peasants. I am sure they are not. One we have a ruling force which is as callous as it can get by having a feeling that they have become indispensible and thus complacent and on the other we have the opposition which is senseless to say the least. Isn’t it time, to ensure that we don’t vote for either of them? I wonder why meaningless debates on our democratic political choice happen around coffee tables, college canteens when we have been cheated by everyone for so long. Aren’t we ashamed that we are nothing but mere puppets in their hands? The entire political system that we have erected is a farce which blames all external forces for our woes. We along with the entire nation are also party to nurturing a system. I know I may sound very aggressive but I am sorry to say, we are allowing the decay to go much further and it is already beyond our control. It sad, our great Economists (who have not joined politics so far) are not writing anything about it and we hardly get to hear the social scientists that don’t have any vested interests other than well-being. At least in the 60-70’s there were some filmmakers and theatre artistes who dared to take on the system but where are their protégés?

 

What options do we have? Collectively stop being part of this wretched democratic system which is eroding our nation perhaps. I know purists would argue if we don’t be a part then how can we change the system? I have no clue because I feel it is becoming increasingly difficult for people who are trying to clean up the system by being in it. Most people are either tremendously frustrated while going on with the thankless job of cleaning and most have already resigned to their fate.

 

In urban India, we very safely say, religious violence is because of lack of education among the masses. If this is true, do we assume that we (the educated lot!) have absolutely got over our negative mindset regarding people at large from different communities? What is the educated lot doing in order to educate others? We are too concerned with ourselves aren’t we?

 

In a developed country like where I am right now, I get to meet people from different cultures. Recently I was having a chat with a Bosnian friend of mine whose family is settled in Germany after war destroyed their once beautiful nation. It was sad to hear about his memories of war from his childhood. Religious violence and corrupt politicians are the main causes for the on-going war. Despite all these there is an effort to rebuild the state and that is not just through grants – people’s collective initiative probably has been the biggest strength. It is weird when we associate patriotism with artificiality but trust me, patriotism can be imbibed within us even when we are far from our nation. I was learning from him about Germany too – a country which have always made me interested for its unique history. When German reunification happened it was found out that the Eastern part was not as developed as the West. In order to bring parity every citizen who was earning in Germany contributed a specified amount from their salary which was put forth in the fund to develop East. He says, still people are contributing to that fund but the development in the Eastern cities can be seen. No wonder Germany is considered to the country which has the best infrastructure in the world.

 

In India, we can’t be say that we have inherited a lethargic mindset because some of our Asian counterparts like Japan and Vietnam could rebuild themselves even after being devastated by war. I wonder despite being stronger in terms of our natural resources and collective strength why could not we do that?

 

At times I feel, a cultural and academic genocide has plagued our country for long. Our libraries and books have been ill-maintained, we have turned most of our universities into places for hooliganism, we have hardly ever heard or seen a television programme on our history and roots which have interested us, we have hardly have ever seen community living getting any better in our country. We have been taught or told to grow up as idiots who know nothing beyond their course books. In profession, we have been taught to become coolies and admire the facts like we have such a huge mobile telephone penetration! Trust me, most of us are such boring citizens compared to our earlier generations (who did not have mobile telephones), we hardly have any subject on which we can talk using these latest technological gadgets.

 

Why it has to be like this I wonder? I am amazed and ashamed that most of the brickbats shall come to writers like me who shall be told – why don’t you do something rather than earning big bucks in a foreign land! To them my answer shall be, I felt irked of my own existence in my own country because of the dirt that most create when I try and clean it, you stop me when I try and motivate youngsters in work-places and encourage them not to sell them for some cheap money, you make me feel lonely when I find I cannot move freely in my city because there are protests going on.

 

Sad but true we had to wait till the Americans came and erected Business Process Outsourcing centres and named them Centre for Excellence but we could not create a Centre for Excellence in our city libraries, most colleges and schools.

 

There is no doubting the fact we as a country possess tremendous strength. We have retained ourselves in this diverse culture, but it is time we take a big leap forward beyond the GDP figures. We must I feel ensure we are ensuring a general social well-being by being cleaner,  less corrupt, less lethargic, and getting over the mindset of ordering helps! We can start being that in our homes – these are basic tenets of becoming a civilized human being. 

 

Here I read a magazine called BBC History Magazine (http://www.bbchistorymagazine.com) and surprisingly though this is a British Magazine, it sells quite a lot out here. When we would have such interesting magazines for our own nation?

 

Here I see most shops selling the New Zealand National Flag mounted nicely on a wooden frame. I have never seen shops selling Indian flags in India. Aren’t we patriotic enough? Why do we need to even search for our flags?

 

Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport and they are not only world beaters but they innovate continuously to make the infrastructure better for the sport. We did not take care of our hockey heritage, isn’t it true? We blamed the authorities in our coffee table discussion but I wonder how many of us have ever bothered to watch a Hockey league match.

 

How much do we know about our national bird, fruit, and animal? Are we aware and have ever thought of contributing a penny to save the tiger or even write about tiger conservation? No, we haven’t but we have blamed the poachers endlessly.

 

I have not being sarcastic but I am just trying to highlight what perhaps I would like to do and I am not doing currently.

 

I love my country and want it to be better. I wish that children don’t fall prey to religious violence and at least some people are sometimes brought to task! I wish the vegetable grocers and truckers don’t pay the price that an well-known insane politician is trying to create an issue out of nothing just because the helpless mass of ours can’t prove that these people in politics are regularly financed by business houses. I wish we stop ourselves from being cheated so often by each other.

 

I do feel, problems that plague India are much lesser when compared to many other nations – that have seen devastating wars. It is just that we need to collectively work towards it otherwise it shall be very late, I am afraid. Corruption, bad ethics, lack of awareness and education are few ills which can be so dangerous that one cannot imagine. Let’s realise that before it is too late.

  

 

 

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Responses

  1. You have raised a lot of troubling issues, Tanmoy – all held together by your admiration for how well things are going in the land of your adoption vis-à-vis your dismay over how badly things are going back in India. I won’t try to address them all in one comment, except to say that

    1. Most people (especially the educated young – your age and younger) in India would not read your posts at all, or if they do, they would either call you names for criticising India (as if that is enough to show how much more patriotic they are!) and forget, or else they would shrug and say ‘what’s the point in wasting your time thinking about such things? Get a job, make some money, burn it all on living the life of the mindless consumer… who cares what happens to India, as long as they don’t throw a bomb at me?’ This universal and cruel apathy for all that is good and desirable is, I believe, the single most important reason why things are continuously going from bad to worse here, no matter what the economic indices show.
    2. In fact, (as I have hinted in my last comment) culturally there has been a massive degradation over the last half century. People have forgottten to read, museums and art galleries and libraries and even good cinema have become irrelevant to the idea of good living, most of us can no longer use our native tongues well while never having mastered the English language (most of us speak what I have termed the ‘Indian National Khichri’ – a mix of Hindi, Bengali, bazaar slang and wrong/stilted English…); we can no longer judge people by anything other than their money; most of our people below forty are happily ignorant about everything that was good in our heritage; congestion, filth and rudeness in public does not bother us, and nobody seems to be troubled by the pervasive corruption, except fleetingly when we are its victims! If, as I have noted in my own blog, a nation full of such ‘do-numberi’ people manages to become an ‘ek-numberi’ nation someday, we shall be the first nation in history to make it happen.
    3. You are right, a complete lack of collective will to make things better – even in our own little circles – lies at the root of why things don’t keep getting better. The reason, I believe, is that my generation and yours have been brought up to be entirely passive about doing things except those which affect our narrowest of self-interests, such as passing examinations and getting jobs. Let the government do everything for us, so that we can enjoy lifelong the luxury of blaming the government for everything that goes wrong: never once pausing to think that, after all, government is composed of people just like us!
    4. I wish you hadn’t brought up the Tata/Singur/Mamata Banerjee issue up in the same article. Without apportioning blame, I shall only observe that the whole sorry imbroglio is a perfect example of how things are muddled (deliberately and through callousness, carelessness and apathy, dragged over a very long time) until they become virtually impossible to solve. On a much bigger and more serious scale, what is happening now in Kashmir reflects the same sad reality. Unlike, say, your example of recent events in Germany, our problem is that we often choose to let troubles fester for too long, preferring inaction and confusion to carefully-thought-out, reasonable and prompt action: my dad used to say that not taking a decision is a decision too, and that, as a nation (not just a government) has always been our preferred option!

    Keep writing.
    Suvroda

  2. Dear Suvroda,

    Thank your comment and putting up a note on your blog. It is an honour!

    As regards to your observations, I agree completely.

    I would not have brought the political topic but I find it surprising we are a democracy (and take pride in that!) but we hardly have any choice as regards to policies. Myself as a Economist have hardly ever regarded the Indian stalwart Economist (including Dr.Sen) when it came to even writing a constructive column about our country. Yes I have read most of his work and I know how superficial Development Economists from India are! They have never ever bothered to make noises about how social life is subjected to humiliation by these politicians and it in turn harms our country the most. WB’s industrial decline for whatever reason have made us leave our homes. I did not want to leave WB ever but then I had nothing to do there as a practicing Economist and now when I see for whatever reason industry is trying to come back, useless people are resisting the same. It hurts me when International media makes mockery of our nation. Tata’s did not face as much problem in taking over Land Rover in UK as they are encountering in WB – do we want to say in UK labour laws are so lax that they had it easy that is why?

    I believe as citizens we have become absolutely powerless and since we are a democracy managed by “sane” individuals we don’t react. We shun violence but we even don’t know any non-violent mean too.

    I wanted to stress on the collective will part only. Unless and until people are aware that what we are missing out on and react we shall remain the “back office” of the world!

    Trust me, earlier India was known for snakes on the streets (foolish westerners had that idea) but now i feel it is worse – India is known by Bollywood dance and BPO’s.

    Haven’t we done enough already then why are we allowing these things to continue without raising them.

    Regards

    Tanmoy

  3. Dear Tanmoyda,

    I have seen and understood too little of the world to comment on your mature thoughts. Alas! Our middle-class Bengali society lacks people like Sir and you to teach the right things to the new generations. Therefore, needless to say, your thoughts not only communicated to me the kind of person you are, but also ignited a dream in my mind to have a taste of those lands far away and also give my best to make my life better than that of an ordinary corporate professional.

    To be very frank, we Indians are a race of shameless fools who would never learn until a huge disaster strikes us – huge enough to make us realise what are the truly important things. We need several earthquakes, or eradication of a few of our cities with atomic bombs, or a huge war, that would bring down the rich (upper middle-class or millionaires – whatever you say) on the streets suffering side by side with farmers and factory laborers. Cooperation and understanding would develop among each and every man and woman, no matter from which place or from which class they are. Money and property of the ‘stinking’ rich will be destroyed or stolen in vast amounts by the deprived and the homeless. Several lives will be lost to make us realise the importance of human lives and how important it is to live. The value of money will be understood and realisations would dawn regarding proper utilisation of money, knowledge, or any resource for that mater. The parenthood plagued by eccentricity regarding the education (the true meaning of which they hardly understand) of their children, would revolutionise their thoughts and principles, and thereby moblilise their children to be proper ‘HUMANS’, in the true sense of the term, rather than to be cats and dogs who merely feed and breed and add nothing consequential to the human race. Health, hygiene, and need of proper hospitals for the financially week sections of the society will gain paramount importance. The most important but terribly neglected and miss-used professions will be given due respect and importance; like the professions of fire-fighters and police. We really need a few more tsunamis, earthquakes, or a third world war to make us realise these things. Otherwise there’s no hope. It is in harsh ways that man, specially an Indian, learns best.

    Regards,

    Subhanjan.

  4. Dear Subhnajan

    Thank you for visiting my site. There were so many visitors like yourself when I started writing way back in 2003 but sadly we all got busy in their profession and the process of interaction ceased! We thought of helping India at least collectively with our thoughts. The posts remained but readers ran away. I have also ceased to market my posts since the whole day I market services in my profession anyway!

    Good that you realise. Having said that, it shall be good to start with small things. Never underestimate your family, roots, school, alumni. If without any expectations we can ensure a community living – we will do well.

    Just now, (it is 8 AM now in Auckland), I went down for a small walk and saw our property manager (the guy who manages the 20 storey building where we stay) was cleaning the street adjoining the apartment with a water hose. He is 70 year old an ex-school principal, a science teacher.

    I was ashamed to say the least that I have never dreamt of doing that in my own country.

    I know why! We have taken our space for granted. We need films like Munnabhai just to get entertained but trust me you find mostly Munnabhai in these countries. Yes, bad people reside everywhere but not so commonly.

    Take care


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