Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ask what India has done for you, and...

Sixty years after freedom, India is growing younger by the day. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam’s vision of turning India into a developed country by 2020 cannot be shrugged off as a mere fading dream of a well-wisher; statistics prove that the world’s largest democracy is leaping forward, despite minor scars it has obtained in the form of unrestrained population growth and communalism/casteism.
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.,” John F. Kennedy had asked Americans. When my daughter read this quotation aloud, it switched on my own thought process.
What has my country done for me?
Well, a country and its citizens share a give-and-take relation. A citizen cannot exist without a state and vice-versa. A typical example is a bomb blast that kills several people. While individuals die, the scarred society mirrors the wounds. As everything is in a system, as long as people and the state follow a procedure, things function smoothly.
The first and foremost thing that a country gives to its people is an identity. In a foreign land a person is known by the nationality he holds. The basic needs of a person are fulfilled by the state he/she lives in. Food, shelter and clothing are facilities bestowed to us by the place we belong to.
Our great nation not only provides us with these basic necessities of a human. But it also has given us grand traditions, culture and a glorious heritage. We co-exist in a country which is fifth largest in the world and makes us residents of a truly cosmopolitan and diverse state. We belong to a beautiful mechanism called democracy wherein an individual possesses the right to choose his own representatives. Thus, we are allowed to choose who rules us irrespective of caste, creed or sex.
In a way, India’s progress is my progress. When India shines, I shine. When India marches ahead in various fields, I can see that myself, my children and all citizens have a bright prospect. The progress is clearly mutual and the figures are indeed encouraging. Just consider this:
In 2000, India had about 30 million telephone connections. That is now up to 225 million and rising by over 7 million a month. India is the world’s fastest growing telecom market and has left China behind. The traditional Indian bazaars are giving way to luxurious malls and supermarkets. At the dawn of the century, India attracted pitiful levels of foreign investment with about $2 billion trickling in. That zoomed to a record $17 billion by March 2007. Literacy rate has improved from 16% in 1951 to 63% in 2005. The list can go on.
Have I contributed to India? Well, let me tell you a story. A number of starfish were washed ashore and struggling for life. A man was seen picking up and putting them one by one back into the sea. “You fool, it will take a lifetime for you to put them all back,” commented a friend. “Well, at least I have made a difference for the few I have put back,” replied the great soul.
I feel each citizen contributes in his/her own small way. But what in my estimation we all must do is that we should enshrine the principles stated in the glorious constitution of our country. As per the constitution a citizen has fundamental duties to fulfill. We as Indians should all deliver the responsibilities like respecting the national flag, preserving monuments of historical importance and so on. We must follow the various rules and regulations like timely payment of taxes. We should all be law abiding citizens and go by the book. We can thus serve our motherland in professional and personal capacities as well.
For instance, a teacher can teach the students with honesty and dedication and his/her part of the job is done. As a humble contribution to the society, I also recently decided to offer free coaching to those who want to enter journalism. With 26 years’ experience in the line (The Times of India Mumbai, 17 years in senior editorial positions) and The Gulf Today Sharjah (8 years) I prefer to help those who are economically disadvantaged. It may be like saving a single starfish, but at the end of the day, I can go to bed with a smile.
Are you surprised why a guy who claims to be a global citizen and a fan of Socrates wields an Indian tag? Well, Vasudeva Kudumbakam (All humans are linked like beads on a thread). Charity begins at home. Let's make India the springboard for globalisation of virtue.

R. Ramesh

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