Transforming India: Mystic heritage to economic miracles

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First you fight for survival of the fittest, then a civilization that creates a world around resources, then for freedom to stake your rightful ownership. And then, when you think you can now take it easy in a planned ecosystem, you start all over again. Why? Because there is a constant war about upstaging others and creating your prominence. Maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s a need. But definitely, it seems to be a ritual of existence for the mystery called the human mind.

India as a country has undergone this battering over and over again. In fact, it’s not just a country, it’s a consciousness, that has evolved in many frequencies, many times.

Spiritual juggling: The old India. The world’s favourite place for snake charmers and rope tricks, made its first announcement as a thinking community over 5000 years back. When sages and mystics’ thought revolution echoed along with the foundation of science itself. From the game of Chess, postulating the number Zero, creating the World’s first University, masterminding strategy the Chanakya way, to the excitement of Ramanujam mathematics, ‘thinking’ flourished here.

Identity churning: The lost India. Modern history knows that it has seen conquest after conquest of its abundant land, then a bigger part of Asia. The region was made to work hard on its resurgence many times, from Mughals who made it their home to the British, who took back whatever they could (Check the Sotheby’s auction list for India artefacts). In the meanwhile, Columbus’s discovery and the other part of the world started their transition to being called ‘developed’ over a hundred years earlier, while here English was sown as a link language.

New frontiers: The new India. Today, as an economic revolution is helping India stake its place in the world, it’s a huge cauldron of emotions, cultures, systems, and an imagination that’s humongous. Just as varied political will rule different countries, there is a variance of culture and languages stretching from the north to south, east to west. So a union of over 26 states with even more languages, but who identify with one spirit is today called India, and is over 66 years old. India has already made its mark in many areas, technology and world enterprise to name a few.

It has the onerous task of treading forward, balancing the hopes of a billion people, and shredding the tag of a developing country, overcoming malnutrition, wealth disparity, racial discrimination and citizen safety, amongst others. Pangs, that even a western world has. On the other hand, it’s equally interesting to see the need of the west to import oriental practices and glorify Buddha, Yoga, Vegetarianism, Ayurveda, Meditation and more, for true world oneness.

So what’s new and different now, that’s set to catalyse the next level of recognition and benchmarks? A growing war against corruption and the jostle of many leaders from different political approaches claiming or aiming to play the next action hero. As India goes into its general elections in April, the nation is watching many intentions at play. Gullible, intellectual, informed, opportunistic, all kinds of voters will decide on India’s next sojourn with destiny. In the fray are billionaire industrialists, passionate revivalists, seasoned politicians and political heirs. Yes, April 2014, nationwide polls hysteria sweeps India.

Picture the diversity of the leaders at war:

–        A billionaire industrialist, who essayed his vision in his book Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation, and also spoke at a TED conference in 2009. He also led a mission to digitize data of a billion people and help the Government of India connect benefits to citizens spread across 3.3 million square kilometers.

–        A seasoned bureaucrat, who has taken his ride on the anti-corruption war to a nationwide level in a dramatic one year. As an outsider, was part of the team who lead the Right To Information bill to be regularized. As an insider, struggled to put his point across as the Chief Minister of Delhi, albeit for a short month.

–        A hard-nosed politician, who promises to extrapolate the prosperity of his home state, also the home state of Mahatma Gandhi, to the whole of India. Today, as he erases allegations of ethnic hate and leads economic resurgence, he is also a poster boy of industrial India.

–        A heir of family tradition in politics, and destiny’s child, is playing his cards safe to his party’s chest. Depending on his performance, he may emerge as the next Gandhi, a surname that guarantees clout in the business of politics. His claim to fame is his young image.

As this war for identity and establishment of ideals from people of different parties is waged, voters can only hope that good karma works. What will be the impact on new policies, people, unemployment, business, exports, FDI, markets, diplomatic relations and even price rise for the common man?

Whoever wins, hope India doesn’t lose.

 

Distancing disparity from the age of innocence

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Govt School No. 92 Sanjeevni Nagar Bangalore

No one gets to decide where one is born. Very often, the life an underprivileged child leads, also comes with a trail of societal prejudices, that draws the line between the haves and the have-nots. Even if it’s as elementary as going through primary school education. But sometimes, we can make a choice of changing that equation for a few children. If we want to. Spend some time with little ones who hope to be better off than the family they come from. Sometimes teaching or sharing, sometimes just cracking a joke.

This is not the choicest of public schools that would be granted a second look when you pass it by. You may not even know, there is one hidden in the by-lanes of a lower middle class neighbourhood. You may also overlook the fact that, at a stone’s throw away from the school, a sewage line overflows onto the road and is not considered a health hazard for the school children. No fancy boards, no reception area, no play-area except for an open ground full of small stones and rubble. Here, little feet are forced to feel happy for more reasons than one.

Come lunch time, and the children rush out to be fed by ISKCON’s noon meal scheme Akshay Patra. Hygienic food with balanced nutrition, through charity. The government puts in some grants to keep the school running. The teachers and staff put in their best to see at least one bright hope somewhere, one child who will be a proud alumni, maybe, from a mix of all kinds of students, some creative, some notorious.

In-between all this struggle, there is the beauty of hope. You get to meet little minds, who are also brimming with ideas. Many of them may not speak english the way the western world wants to, but these little minds also have the spark to open your eyes. Like when a little girl comes up to you and appreciates the paper bag you are carrying. Before someone thinks that she wants the contents, the little angel is just happy to know that civilized society is using paper bags, and reducing plastic!

Then there a few others who have surprised the teachers so well in art, that their work adorns the office of the headmaster, who is due for retirement in 2 years.  He shows us the stationery a software company has given for the kids. He preserves the pencils and the geometric boxes with care under lock and key, for the next batch of students. It also opens our eyes to small needs that a student in a government school may have, something, which our kids just take for granted.

It is easy for us to feel good when we leave the school and thank the forces that be, for the prosperity that many enjoy. But we have more to do. We have to go back and tell our kids that there is a sea of children who are not so lucky, but delightfully smart and waiting to be taken care of. Maybe, they already know. Some students in our apartment complex approached us for collecting toys and books for underprivileged children! One couldn’t just help wonder, that maybe our kids are now more thoughtful than many of us.

We could call it a choice. We could call it a commitment. But if there is a little bit that we can push ourselves to think for others without an iota of prejudice, it could be to provide an equal platform for young underprivileged minds and tell them that they are all beautiful inside.

Artworks by students adorn the school office wall at Govt School No. 92, Sanjeevi Nagar, Hebbal, Bangalore

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