Becoming agents of change

| | in Oped
Becoming agents of change

While India can be proud of the advances it has made, there has been a severe deterioration of public respect for elected representatives, who themselves have the power to lead the change

Homo-sapiens are the only species among living beings blessed with the power of ideas, imagination, curiosity and creativity. These attributes continuously and persistently keep human beings aspiring and striving for ‘change’. Change, as the cliché goes, is the only constant around us. All changes, be it in science, literature, arts or in ideological formulations, are weaved around humans’ desire to create a better future for themselves and more importantly, for the generations ahead. Every human effort is essentially directed in this direction. Every area of human endeavour and activity finds some great luminaries who leave a lasting impact that enhances the quality of human life on a wider scale.

In gratitude, they are remembered, venerated and admired for generations together. Civilisations grew in varied directions on the basis of ideas perceived, envisioned and articulated by brilliant and committed human minds. The Indian civilisation and culture is venerated for their pursuit of spirituality, as also for making it a part of their philosophy of life.

Today, materialistic ideology impacts through its glamour and glitz. It has brought most nations under its umbrella, India being no exception. Consequences are being faced in terms of violence, wars, climate change, nuclear weapons in the hands of men of doubtful human intelligence, knowledge and wisdom. Has the ‘change’ led to the spread of turmoil and tension around the globe?

Every nation requires competent, committed and performing persons to lead the change in the right direction. Accordingly, education is now being universalised. Every nation is keen to prepare talented young persons who have the foresight to broadly anticipate socio-economic and cultural changes, as also the aspirations and expectations of the generations ahead.  The expectation is: It will prepare educated, young persons, who will lead the change and ensure an ideology of progress suited to the country concerned. Nations march ahead on the sound base of their talent pool and committed professionals at the implementation level. Inadequacy on any of these fronts leads to retardation at the ideation level and impediments at the implementation level.

Epoch-making changes have been brought about by individuals through their own initiative and endeavour. They realised their own potential and were confident of their own idea and its success. Whether it is Ayurveda or the discovery of the Penicillin, or the discovery of electromagnetic induction by Michael Faraday, all were intended to make life better for everyone. Yes, one could say the intention of most of the talented individual is invariably governed by ‘Sarva Bhuta Hite Ratah’ and the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’. It would be best illustrated by a couple of examples.

When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was humiliated at the Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa, it was just another instance of racial arrogance against an individual. And discrimination against coloured people was officially acceptable, legally permissible.

Young Gandhi was transformed beyond imagination that very night. He suffered personal insult, realised the pain that body and mind had undergone; analysed it, thought of others who had been undergoing the same agony for centuries together. He extended his horizons to all colored people across the globe and decided to fight against it.  And what a change it brought about! Today, across the globe, apartheid is legally banned! Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Ho Chi Minh and  many others acknowledged their debt to Gandhi, who, in turn, admitted that Pietermaritzburg had indeed transformed him.

The achievements of Gandhian approach and those who followed the principle of non-violence over a period of around a century are so well articulated by Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  The Civilizational journey from legalised slavery and cruelly practiced apartheid has indeed been remarkable.  Those who spearheaded this transformation across continents could succeed only because of their listening to the inner voice and their spiritual strength. Every reformer and achiever of great change would invariably show the power of Abhaya: Fearlessness. When the Non-Cooperation movement was at its peak, the Chauri Chaura revolt occurred on February 5 of 1922. Gandhi suspended the movement, went on a fast to atone for the violence that has crept in to the non-violent movement.  Most of his senior colleagues were opposed to suspension as, though tragic, it was an isolated instance. Nothing could deter Gandhi.  The manner Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam humbled the mighty Americans is another story of courage and confidence unbounded and that of unparalleled leadership that brings about changes.

 There is another category of changes brought about by talented and adventurous people under instructions from others. What they achieved was not for the welfare of all, but only some! The case of Christopher Columbus illustrates this category. Back home, Thomas Babington Macaulay thought it fit to change the Indian education system not only to suit the British rulers of the day but also to ensure their long term presence in India as rulers. He proceeded to bring about an educational change that would ‘delink’ Indians from their history, culture and heritage.

Further, it would also bring  an attitudinal transformation amongst English-educated Indians that all that is Indian is to be discarded, all that is Western is superior must be accepted.  The strategy was so superb that even after seven decades of independence, the Indian education system remains imprisoned in the web woven by Macaulay.

Over the last seven decades, India has changed. It can be proud of its green revolution, advances in science technology, space adventures and ICT and several other sectors. It has witnessed severe deterioration of public respect for elected representatives.  They are supposed to have the power and authority ‘to lead the change’. Most of them may not know what Benjamin Disraeli once wrote, “All power is a trust that we are accountable for its existence that from the people, all springs, and al must exist." The essence is so clearly enunciated by Swami Ranganathananda: “When power becomes humanly oriented it becomes spiritual and the man and woman who handles such power becomes a spiritual person with a socially oriented will.”

The term ‘political will’ is often recalled in discussions on changes; their success, slow pace or failure comes under scrutiny. Collective leadership remains an enigma in a democratic set up. The way out is not obscure: The great scriptures that the Indian tradition of knowledge quest have clearly given us the way to achieve collective aspirations and transformation by all concerned while staying on the path of Dharma. This is so well illustrated in the Mahabharata: “The conquest of the self leads to: forgiveness and reconciliation; to patience; non violence ; an attitude of equality; to truth; to simplicity of character;    control  over one's physical senses; gentleness; modesty; generosity;  to freedom from anger; to a  feeling of contentment; pleasant speech; and not seeking fault in others.  These are manifestations of conquest over self.” Only a man-making education could lead to general acquisition of such values. That would bring the desired change India needs.

(The writer is former Director, NCERT and an educationist)

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