By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Friends, today is a sad day for me ! I should have been celebrating over the completion of thirteen years of my writing this column. But here I am, feeling sad, while contemplating over where we stand as a nation ! To remain on track of what I had proposed and promised to do ten years ago I should have written this article about eight months ago. But since I had not set a reminder to do this, I console myself today by saying ‘Better late than never’ and feel relieved morally that I am doing it, although a little past the deadline, instead of not doing it at all !
In February 2008, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev of the Isha Foundation, Coimbatore, who actually hails from our own city, was felicitated here on his being invited as a guest speaker at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland for the third consecutive year. As is customary, at the felicitation function which was unusually well-attended by the elite of our city, the sage also delivered a lecture. I did not attend this lecture which was held on a Sunday for my own reasons but I wrote an article about it the next Friday as a part of my weekly column. Here is a synopsis of what I wrote:
Everyone who attended the function said that the sage was a very impressive orator who spoke very sensibly too. This is not surprising, considering the fact that to be invited to address the World Economic Forum on three consecutive years, one has to not only speak impressively but also make good sense. And these days, people who speak impressively and make good sense too are indeed getting rarer and rarer! According to media reports, the gist of what the sage said referred to the bright and powerful future that awaits India in just ten years from now. Describing spirituality too as a science, he has emphasised the importance of binding spirituality and economics together to achieve unmatched prosperity. Now, this is the key point in his discourse that I wish to discuss here.
Many have predicted a bright future for us in the past and many continue to do it even today, especially our politicians, although they are in fact the ones who are continuing to mar it. But although I am a die-hard optimist, this forecast which should have made me happy too like all others, somehow only awakens the sleeping sceptic within me. It is because what most of those who were present there heard at the discourse was only a saint’s vision of what is in store for us and what I heard without being there is what is expected of us to achieve all that he has predicted… the binding of spirituality with economics. I am afraid that without the first and perhaps more vital of the two ingredients, this vision will only remain a vision just like the many prophecies of prosperity that wise men and women have been giving us from time to time and which have unfortunately continued to elude us.
Over the decades, especially after independence, contrary to the spurt that our patriotism should have shown, we have sadly been seeing a very dismal and deep slump especially in our leaders’ commitment to making our country strong and stable. Today their track record as leaders is so bad that we have all naturally stopped expecting any good to come out of the governance provided by them. Yet despite being vested with full powers under our democratic setup to do otherwise, we the ‘wise and well-read’ like the proverbial sheep, paradoxically continue to elect only leaders of mediocre calibre.
Despite all the social and intellectual evolution that we all claim to have undergone over the years, our constant pre-occupation still seems to be only with our caste and communal identities and not with any notion of our nationhood as a whole. The net result is that we are only marking time while the rest of the world is marching ahead. Whatever little we have achieved in the fields of education and industry which are our brightest stars today, is only because of private enterprise alone. I refer to these achievements as ‘whatever little’ because despite the excellence that we have achieved in these two sectors our intellectuals have failed miserably in effecting any change in the leadership we elect and our industrial products have failed to make their presence felt next to all the Chinese goods that we see on the shop shelves abroad and in our own country too!
Today almost all the accessories that a top-end camera, computer, cell phone or car requires are all sourced from China, having been manufactured to international specifications and standards. The faith of international brand leaders somehow seems to be rather weak in our production abilities and quality controls. On the agricultural front we are still way behind the rest of the world, continuously entangling ourselves year after year in counterproductive local and international policies, the long term significance of which our leaders can never fathom while blindly affixing their signatures on trade and patent agreements. Thanks to our culture of ‘Job Security’ our babus need to work briefly, only before getting into their government jobs and never after. Consequently we have the world’s largest ‘non-working’ work force draining our already gasping economy.
Lastly and most sadly, the laws of our land and our legal system too in their existing form with their innumerable loopholes and technical limitations are all too-well known only to favour the transgressors. The result is that corruption that has unfortunately been encrypted into our genes is steadily growing in magnitude. Gone are the days when it used to thrive discreetly at the lower levels of our bureaucracy. It now proudly flourishes even at the highest administrative levels sadly including our defence and security services, nourished by the reassuring knowledge that our legal system behind its tough exterior is only an aged and toothless paper tiger. It is common knowledge today that the seriousness of the crime is nothing before the clout of the committer. So unless his advice about binding spirituality with economics is taken seriously by every Indian I am afraid that Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s prophecy too like Tagore’s immortal Gitanjali, which according to me is still the greatest vision for our country, will fall flat as just another victim of our lack of commitment and patriotism. Since ten years is not a very long time, all those of us who are going to live that long would do well to remember the Sage’s words and mine too and watch what happens. I hope and pray for our country’s sake that he turns out right and I turn out wrong!”
So friends, having placed before you what I had written more than ten years ago and having lived long enough to write today’s piece on the same subject, I would like to invite you to look back with me upon this journey of a full decade to find out if we have bound spirituality with economics and also see what we have achieved as a nation. I would like to point out that for me, this revisit to the past after ten-long-years has not been a very happy experience. To me this only seems like a tearful visit to a cemetery where we have ourselves killed and buried all the visions and pledges that we should have carried patriotically in our hearts and minds like blazing torches, taking them to greater and more meaningful heights of achievement through their realisation. Irrespective of what songs our leaders sing in praise of what they have been doing and what colours they use to paint the future of our nation a rosy pink, to the realist in me the landscape looks just the same drab grey it was a decade ago ! Do think about it to see if it looks any different to some of you !
[This column has now completed thirteen years]