I have now been working in India for six years and have spent an equal amount of time in services and manufacturing. The one thing I have come to acknowledge is, a number of individuals have overcome humungous obstacles to achieve a standard of living that their parents could only dream of. Some of their stories give me goose bumps, each time I recount them. So whether it is the story of my colleague whose parents could not read and write but she is a finance professional today, or the story of the young man who moved from the village not knowing English, worked as a peon, attended night college to complete his bachelors and learn English, and then joined one of India’s largest private banks; every accomplishment makes me salute their spirit and achievements. The other thing I have come to appreciate is that while we may all have our differences, when any one of us is in need, the rest of us stand behind, solid as a rock. Recently, a colleague lost his ailing mother. He was out of town and sent an sms. That was all that was needed for the team to brave the torrential Mumbai rains, reach his house, help with all the formalities and last rite preparations and on top of it ensure that he took a flight which even with a delay would get him home in time. This extended support system is rarely seen in other cultures.
Having said that, I must also admit, the one thing that agonises me the most is the tendency of Indians (me included, I am an Indian and proud to be one) to find someone else responsible for all the woes. Somewhere, accountability for our actions and responsibility for their consequences misses us by miles and miles. And it was a lamenting on similar lines when I decided to break my rule. On the topic of current GDP scenario, one gentleman started his rant on how Indians are intolerant, how the government is ineffective and how the media is irresponsible. After listening to him for five minutes, I had to ask – who are the intolerant Indians, who elects the ineffective government and who reads or watches the irresponsible media without ever writing to the Information and Broadcasting ministry? And then every citizen turns around and says, “what can I do all by myself”; and every time I have the same response, “every drop contributes to making the ocean”. Why do we hesitate to stop littering in public places? Why do we not go and vote even if it is NOTA? Why can we not stop reading and watching the overtly sensational media pretending to give us news and information? If each one of us takes the responsible step, we can usher in change. If we keep waiting for someone else to lead, then we will just have to make do with what we have!
Single person bringing in a different era - Idealistic? Maybe. Honest? Absolutely. Not impactful? Not at all.
Idealistically, the freedom struggle is quoted by many as an example of how ordinary citizens contributed to the nation gaining independence. Honest individuals have demonstrated, in recent times, how one person’s quest can lead to positive change – so be it Jessica Lal’s sister who finally got the country to rally behind her and get justice for her sister, or be it the story of how Popatrao Baguji Pawar’s foresight and efforts ensured that Hiware Bazar in the drought prone Maharashtra district of Ahmednagar became the only place in this year’s drought to be breathing; there are multiple incidents of one person creating an impact that can improve thousands of life. Yes these individuals could have waited for someone else but they did not. And yes they needed that every someone else to take some accountability and responsibility, and work with them, to achieve the end result!
Historians are writing eulogies about how great a nation we were. I believe, we are still a great nation, with inspiring citizens all around us. All we need is to rise to the occasion and create the consciousness that each one’s prosperity and happiness will only add to that of the others. If there is more money with a larger group of people, there will be more money for everyone eventually (an economic discussion that is for another post maybe). If there is greater harmony, there will be lesser strife. If there is more empathy, there will be fewer intolerance episodes. But none of this can come from the rule of law or from a dictate of any specific individual. This has to come from the individuals who form the civic society and only then will it be sustainable.
Louis L’Armour has summarised my thought beautifully, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers."