Some of the most beautiful things in our lives took years to build. The fabulous Matrimandir in Auroville, a modern architectural wonder, took 40 years of loving care and a vision and patience to build. Johnny Appleseed’s planting of trees went on for decades before the East Coast of America was covered with apple trees. Research too is like that. It takes years of patient and untiring research to make a breakthrough that gives us a deeper understanding of nature, or of a cell, or one that leads to a cure for cancer or TB. Parenting is a long-term task, one that requires long-term planning and vision.
It is tragic therefore that the vision for a nation, for her people and place in the world be reduced to the tyranny of a five-year cycle, one ruled by the cycle of elections. In today’s cut throat race for power, be it here or in the United States as evidenced right now, decisions for a nation are taken on the basis of who will reap the benefits. No one wants to do the right thing for the country, for if the seed sown will flower after the current rule of the incumbent government, it is likely that the opposition will reap the benefit and take the credit and the kudos.
We have all been watching the farce that our parliament has become in recent times. Anything that is proposed by the ruling government, however good for the country or her people, however beneficial for the weak and needy, is automatically opposed by the Opposition. Is an opposition’s role only to oppose? And when a government tries to bring in structural reforms, or plan infrastructure development, is it not only thinking of how this will reflect on its own image and standing? Who then will think for the nation?
India has played no significant role in world politics. It has rarely taken a proactive stand on foreign policy issues, or spoken up when people are being massacred or exploited or treated cruelly. It takes no stand when countries go to war. It is always cautious. And spineless. This is true of whichever party is in power. Can such a weak player ever lead the world? Why, our voice remains muted and we remain ‘also ran’s in everything, whether it be sports or the economy, science or literature.
What has been lacking for many years now is the vision for India – 10 years, 20 years or 50 years down the line. Over the last 30 years, the only person in public life who has tried to lay down a vision for the nation is ex-President Kalam. And to my mind, that too was a vision of India without an emphasis on its role in the world of the future. By thinking only in GDP terms, we are reducing the very civilisation we claim to be proud of.
Our ancient civilisation, the many strands that made it what it is, the philosophies, the view of the world and of ourselves as a tiny fragment of eternity, gives us, if understood correctly, and in a long-term perspective, a strength and clarity of vision that is not offered to other countries with shorter more homogenous pasts. But where are the thinkers committed to charting a course for our ship? Where are the statesmen and women? Where are the leaders?
We have become a nation with the mentality of petty shopkeepers, counting our shares and investments, hearing only to the music of the banking industry, seeing the trees only for the bank notes and cheque books they will produce when destroyed. The possibility of a different world, of being the leader in that different and better, more sane and humane world, escapes us. We remain a nation enslaved in thought by the foolishness of chasing material dreams and following the lost paths of the West. And in remaining here, we look forward to a bleak and defeated future.