India’s prodigious scholar Adi Shankara, in the short span of life that ended when he was barely 32 years young in eighth century, is featured in many witty dialogues with his ardent disciples and peers. In one such instance, a disciple sought to be enlightened by the peerless philosopher about myth and realities in life. The matter, which seemed to catch the teacher on the wrong foot, was about his running for life when chased by a wild jumbo. He put it across to the disciple saying while the wild jumbo was a myth, his running for life was also a myth, leaving the disciple speechless.
In the context of the top brass in successive governments, both at the Centre and in the States across the land, particularly the incumbent Karnataka government, informing the citizens, supported by official statistics, that the country has no cause to doubt a healthy and sustained growth of the economy, the administration would have bailed itself out if they could avail the services of the Saint delineating the oneness between myth and reality — the government riding on myth and the citizens reeling under realities of life.
Livelihood and adequate food to every family in the land are the obvious realities to be achieved but remaining a myth in respect of the officially declared 22.7 per cent of the country’s estimated total headcount of 135 crore. The rest of the population is battling with a plethora of other realities — societal unrest, disruptive acts of rogue elements, uncivil conduct of elected representatives of people turning reality-claims into mythical-realities.
An edited text of interview featuring a former Union Minister published in a section of the press last week not only disturbs one’s mind but also serves as a narrative laying bare the challenges before the nation’s diaspora but being addressed with kid gloves. The interviewee recounts the remark made by the famed writer Khushwant Singh “Whether this is the best image of democracy?” after the victory of a former dacoit (Phoolan Devi) over a veteran bureaucrat (Dr. Manmohan Singh) in the Lok Sabha polls of 1998. The most deplorable joke being played on the land’s electorate of nearly 800 million is the boastful description of the nation as a secular country but selecting candidates to contest elections at all levels using caste, faith, creeds and regional sentiments.
Without resorting to impressive rhetoric, the highly rated thinker Prof. John Kenneth Galbraith, who served as ambassador of the USA to India during 1950s had perceived the country as a functioning anarchy. As long as it is functioning, whatever the term may mean, people of the land don’t seem to be unduly concerned about its myth and realities, the former as claimed by the top brass and the latter as experienced by the ordinary brass.