Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Independence Day 1999, looking back

As the nation gears up to celebrate it's sixtieth birthday, I wonder what my fellow Indians are really thinking. Are they too preoccupied with the drudgery and desires of daily living? Or are there the dreamers and thinkers who try to rise above this? I had written the piece below in 1999. It was exhilarating to disocover so much thoughtfulness in the playful boys and girls next door.

OH! TO BE YOUNG AND FREE (published in Times of India, Aug 15,1999)

The future of free India holds many promises. Acknowledging substantial progress in technology and the standard of living, young Bangaloreans are concerned about patriotism's new avatar in the current commercialized and westernized atmosphere. Corruption in modern public life, direct external threats to our security, and the invasion by foreign industry and culture, emerge as major areas of concern.

The transformation of the world into a global village has surely broadened our outlook. Freedom for Sanjukta Haside, 14 yrs, Std.X, Innisfree House School, is expanding her horizons far wider than earlier generations. Elders are becoming more broad minded, and offering more freedom to youngsters, she feels.

Our own heritage seems to recede into the background. Preserving our culture and integrity is a motivating force for the young. Earlier generations had lived through the freedom struggle. But for today's youngsters, "it's something remote" as Deepak P. 15 yrs, Std XI, National Public School, notes. "Freedom is definitely important. Especially because of the present threats to our country, we must maintain our integrity and culture."

Is hyped up patriotic fervour replacing the sincerity of earlier generations? Piyali Chakravarty, 18 years and doing C.A. articleship, feels that " we too are sincere, but there's a lot of commercialism, as in the response to the Kargil war. Now, the media is playing a bigger role and hyping up patriotism. Western cultural influences are increasing. It can affect your patriotism. How you deal with it depends upon your values and upbringing."

Today's fun loving youngsters are aware of their duties and responsibilities. Ranjit Kumar, 22 years, software professional, feels that "freedom is important, but so is control and discipline. Some rules pertaining to conduct within the family, society, and the country, are important. As the son of a serving Air Force officer, my upbringing means a lot to me. Patriotism is ingrained in my blood. At home, we frequently discuss about war and related matters. Maybe I am not contributing at the moment, but the desire and motivation to do something for my country is there."

The gap between the promise of 1947, and the disappointments of 1999, is keenly felt. Youngsters like Dr. Ahmed Hussain, 24 years, and doctor, are concerned and wish to improve the situation. "Our grandparents were very optimistic about the future of India as a free country. I'm sure we have achieved a lot, but that innate pride and patriotism is sometimes missing in us. There's a lot of superficial hype, but are we truly convinced of our patriotism? In the past, educated people entered politics and inspired confidence. Now, it's the domain of criminals and ruffians. Moneyed people with manipulative ability are accepted and respected. Seeing recent political and social trends, and given the disappointment, I am tempted to wonder how things could have been better. But in spite of the disappointments, I feel there's light at the end of the tunnel."

After half a century of freedom, why are we still lagging behind? Mudit Agarwal, 25 years, software professional, feels bad that "Indian enterprise is being sidelined while MNCs are capturing the market. I am worried that foreign money may control us some years down the line. Indian experts are developing advanced technologies outside India. What prevents them from achieving their potential here? What is causing the brain drain? Overpopulation and illiteracy are our biggest problems, which must be overcome."

Proud to be born in free India, our young friends are asking many questions. Perhaps their intelligent, inquisitive, and sincere minds will come up with solutions for a better tomorrow. Meanwhile, it's fun to be young and free. Some glamorous gals and cool dudes are busy organizing a fun 'n fashion extravaganza to celebrate Independence Day in their friendly neighbourhood. They haven't a moment to spare to offer their comments. Another public holiday means freedom to freak out on another jamboree. Yippee!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

drive to freedom, or be driven?

Ads on TV and gigantic roadside hoardings clamour for attention. Milling crowds, human beings losing their unique identities as they rush to chase money. They say one needs drive and ambition to get ahead. In the scramble to reach that elusive place where you can get even more and even better, do we in fact lose our true selves?

On rare moments, work can combine with true inner satisfaction. I got such a chance when an editor asked me to interview some young professionals who volunteer for social causes. This was for the India's sixtieth Independence Day special feature, and while interacting with my interviewees, I realized the true import of independence.

I listened to highly educated young people who have worked and studied abroad. They've been exposed to the best the world has to offer, and they're now quietly at work. They aren't talkers, but real doers who work for the betterment of the world without even thinking that they're doing anything special.

I saw the will, the caring heart that wants to give;
"I wanted to help, to give back what I have received from my country and society," said Vikas.
"I want to see a developed India right now," said Vijay. "I want to encourage others and speed up the process in my own small way."

I saw the clear thinking which can lead to progress and growth:
" With a systematic approach," said Vikram, "we can see better and more effective results."

The clear thinking that urges these altruistic young people to "be comfortalbe with who I am." The willpower and strong character that makes Nanditha say,"I don't understand why we look for excuses to chase money. We don't need to blindly follow others. I want to stick to my roots and think for myself."

And oh yes, that saving grace of modesty was there too. "Why do you want my picture?" Anitha asked. "I'm such an ordinary person doing my small bit."

Through their eyes, I saw a world far removed the rat race of modern life. These youngsters are in it, yet have risen above their fellow mortals rushing to nowhere on their treadmills.

I am getting an idea of what true independence means. It's jsut that I can't find words to describe it.