There are no strangers on Christmas

(Published in the Indian Express – December 25, 2016)
It is Christmas once again!

This is that time of the year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and also prepare for the coming of a new year. It is a time of merriment and joy where we celebrate not only with cakes, presents and Christmas trees but also reflect on the year that has gone by.

The message for this Christmas is humility.

The promised messiah entered this world not in the comfort of a palace with several servants, but was born in a humble manger with only shepherds to welcome him. But the shepherds were witnesses to a great event earlier when the glory of the Lord appeared to them in the form of angels. These angels informed them that a holy child would be born in Bethlehem, and that child would be found in a manger.

As the Christ would say some thirty years later –

‘For whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.’ (Matthew 23:12 NIV).

Jesus Christ taught a simple lesson of love, forgiveness, humility and brotherhood – as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.

Just as Christ’s birth is celebrated every year, it should also be a reminder that this is a good time to reflect on the year that has passed by and plan out how we approach the coming new year.

What are the lessons we have learned? What are our successes and failures? What are the things we are proud of and what are the mistakes we made that we can learn from? Christmas is the perfect time to think of these things.

We live in interesting times. There is a lot of strife, violence, terrorism, and environmental and economic difficulties in our times. But at the same time, there is a lot of hope in the fact that we are coming together as a planet. Thanks to technology and media we are no longer on the far fringes from anybody else. More than ever before, we as a planet are faced with challenges and dangers that affect us all. In such times is a perfect opportunity for us to solve our world’s problems together and together take our species into a new era of love, light, peace, prosperity, discovery, joy and happiness as one world, one people.

Humility is the message that we are thinking about this Christmas. We may think that humility is synonymous with irrelevance, but nothing could be further from the truth! Think of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Benjamin Franklin, Swami Vivekananda, Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata, Bill Clinton and our own prime minister Shri Narendra Modi. All of these people began their life journey from very humble backgrounds, but that did not deter them from achieving greatness. Humility is not the opposite of greatness, but rather the path towards it!

It is not ungodly or unrighteous to seek greatness. True humility is to strive for something great and achieve it, but to recognise that whatever you achieve is meant for God’s glory and not your own personal glory. It is up to us to solve the problems of this world. It is up to us to make this world a better place with a brighter, peaceful and prosperous future.

As U.S. President John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961:

‘Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.’

So this year on Christmas let us recognise that we all have a mission, we all have a duty to our world, we all have the responsibility to make this world a better place, but at the same time we need to do it for the glory of God. Christmas is a great day to remember this lesson – God gave the world his son to lead the people of the world to love their neighbour as themselves, to forgive one another, not to judge nor condemn but to thrive and strive towards perfection.

As Jesus said:

‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48 NIV)

In the process, remember that you are a gift to this world and like Jesus or any of the other people who have given much to this world, you have a mission, you have a gift inside you that must be given to the world. Today is a good time to look into your inner self and ask for God’s help to make you an instrument of His love, His light, His peace, His joy, His glory and His power.

We are all children of God living together on a small blue planet in a small corner of our Galaxy and there are no strangers on Christmas or ever.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year 2017.

From A Single Drop To The Mighty Ocean

(Times of India, New Delhi / Gurgaon, Wednesday, August 24, 2016, Page no. 28)

Many people fear that to become one with God means they will cease to exist as an individual soul. But you will never cease to exist; you will always have your identity , awareness and consciousness. What will change are the boundaries of what you are conscious of. In essence, you will become bigger, more aware and gain qualities that you were never aware that you even had.
When two drops of water merge, they form a larger drop. You may think that the two smaller drops cease to exist, but in actuality they have merged together to form a larger entity . That larger entity retains the qualities, characteristics and properties of the smaller drops but now exists as one entity. If you were one of the smaller drops, you would not cease to exist; your consciousness would expand. What happens when this newly formed larger drop falls into the ocean?
It would not exist in its original form, but all its molecules, atoms, properties and characteristics would still exist.But since it would now be one with the ocean without any separation, it would have access to all the resources of the ocean. Its sense of who it is, would expand to infinity.So has its sense of awareness, consciousness or identity ended? On the contrary , it has been greatly expanded. It now feels what the ocean feels, it now sees what the ocean sees, and it now hears what the ocean hears.

When we become One with God, we do not cease to exist; our consciousness expands. We will still retain every memory, thought, feeling, idea and emotion that we’ve accumulated over several incarnations. And all those others that we have loved and felt close to ­ even those who have passed away ­ will once again be with us. In the Oneness, there is neither death, nor separation. We will have access to all those we have loved and lost.
We are all made in God’s image. We are all a reflection, a representation of the Infinite Creator. So just like our own image in the form of a photo, reflection, portrait or video is a symbol of us, so too, we are the symbols of God. We are all drops in the Ocean called God.
This is why it is so important to have compassion towards each other. Not because of a subjective notion of being good but because truly when you love others, you love yourself. When you harm others, you harm yourself.Because in the final analysis, as we evolve as spiritual beings having a human experience, we will realise that we are all One in actuality . As we evolve spiritually , we will actually feel a lucid, knowable and realisable oneness with everything else.

Love is the energy of oneness. Love is the feeling of compassion. Love is the stuff out of which consciousness is made. Love is the raw material the Creator has used to create the cosmos.When we love others, we are truly loving ourselves and when we truly love ourselves, we are truly loving God.
So never again let the fear of oblivion enter your hearts or minds, for you will always exist in fullness, but that fullness will just keep getting bigger and bigger.
It is expansion towards infinity .

After The Dark Night, The Sun Shines Bright

 

(Times of India, New Delhi / Gurgaon, Friday, October 20, 2015, Page no. 26)

Unless we experience darkness, we will never value the light. Everybody has experienced or is experiencing some kind. Sometimes it is a lonely place to be in. You get the feeling of being alone and disconnected. Worry and doubt seem to be ‘solutions’ when in reality they only make you sink further into the hole of misery.

The truth is: You are never alone! Worry and doubts are not the answer and always remember that this period of darkness will pass. But the first thing you must do is to recognise your situation for what it is. In Reality it is nothing but one of the many experiences that we have signed up for on this journey we call life. And whether we know it or not, God is always with us on the journey with all its ups and downs.

Unless we participate in life’s battles we will never succeed. We must approach all our problems in life as opportunities to grow and learn. Just as the on who wants to build his body needs to exercise, so must we go through problems in life for our souls and characters to grow. Just as lifting weights makes our muscles stronger by overcoming resistance, our soul need some resistance as well to become stronger. we are here to learn lessons; and many more lessons are learnt through defeat than through victory. This does not mean that we are here to fail; far from it. We are here to win; but often times victoryis not complete without lessons learnt and no matter how much we wish otherwise, most lessons are learnt through our defeats more than our victories.

Hard times should be learnt from and accepted as a part of life but should never lead to unhappiness.

faith in ourselves and in a power higher than us is the key element to both happiness and success and through that, moving from darkness to light. Let that peace, hope, happiness, contentment, love, joy and abundance consciousness permeate our subconscious minds so that our circumstances appear to manifest these into our living reality.
To climb the highest mountain, you often go through a series of hills and valleys before you can reach th summit. For that to happen you must keep on moving, navigating the valleys and thorns as a matter fo course in order to reach the goal. Let us take life in our stride and deal with whatever cards life has dealt us. No matter how hard it may seem, faith can truly move mountains and you can overcome every difficulty or obstacle in your path.

It is only when we have known the darkness, do we realise the value of light. Despite seeming elusive at times, light could be just around the corner. Like the light at the end of the tunnel, or the dawn that follows the darkest night, or the sun that appears from behind the clouds-your light is there, too, even though it plays hide-and-seek. These are the moments in life when you need to sit it is you are here to do.

When you believe that you will find light, when you believe that the darkness is only a phase and treat it as nothing more, your light will become visible and you will shine as a beacon of hope to many.

Let your light shine and bring love to the world

 

(published in The Indian Express – Dec 25, 2014)

Christmas is that time of the year that most of us think of Christmas Trees, cake, presents, Christmas carols and Santa Claus. But this is the day that billions of people around the world celebrate the birth of the Messiah who was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

Jesus Christ or Yeshua as he was actually called by his peers was born to a humble carpenter Joseph and his wife, Mary. So powerful was his presence on Earth that three wise men from the east saw his star in the heavens and were led to him. They presented the blessed babe with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

When Jesus was 30 years old, he began his holy mission on Earth to bring the good news to the world. His message was simple – love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Simple as it sounds, this was a very powerful message and still is in today’s world where there is so much violence, strife, war, poverty and hunger.

The Good Samaritan
When asked by someone who is their neighbour, Jesus answered in the form of a parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).

He recounted how a man was beaten by robbers and left for dead on the road. First a priest comes and then a Levite, neither of these helps the man. Then a Samaritan comes and helps the man and nurses him back to recovery. Then Jesus asks the questioner, “Which of these was the man’s neighbour?”

“The one who helped him,” said the questioner.

What should be remembered is that the Jews hated Samaritans. For Jesus to tell his Jewish audience that the Samaritan was his true neighbour, was a big step in those days when Jews didn’t even want to talk about Samaritans, much less talk to them.

This message of love and neighbourly conduct is as relevant today as it was then, perhaps even more so. We live in a world where there is so much discord between people of different faiths, nationalities and other divisions. The world is suffering tremendously by gruesome, heartless acts of terrorism and violence.

It is in these kinds of conditions that this Christmas we should endeavour to spread the seeds of love into the world. We cannot afford to do otherwise. The power of love is the most powerful force in the universe and if enough of us seek out God’s love and light and try to live it in our daily lives, we will surely save the world from self-destruction.

Love, peace, joy, forgiveness, service and hope are the qualities that will help us to continue to spread the message of the Christ on earth.

Jesus was a man of action. One of my favourite verses is –

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

Let your light shine! How lovely that sounds! Through prayer and meditation we can all increase our own soul’s light and that mixed with “good work” will bring God’s glory to the earth. By doing the works that Jesus talked about during his life on Earth, we can truly make Christmas a festival to celebrate with great joy.

This Christmas let us not only think about his birth, but also let us once again allow the message of love to be reborn in our hearts again as it was in Jesus’ times.

We do not have to do big things to make a big change. When we do small things also which are good and filled with love and light, they will create a ripple effect of goodness. When that ripple of love and light touches enough people, they will also feel like spreading it forward and so on until the darkness in the world ends and is flooded with the light of God.

There is one God and throughout the Ages he has sent his messengers to earth to spread this message of love and compassion. Every human being on earth is a child of that God. We each have a divine mandate to fulfil. We are all co-heirs of Christ as it says in Romans 8:17.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Romans 8:16-17 (NIV).

Let the spark of Christ’s love bloom in your heart and then do the works that you do in your everyday life, but fill those words, thoughts and deeds with love and you will be contributing to the healing of our world and those people who inhabit it.

There are many paths that lead to God and it is not in division, bigotry and hatred that we should walk that path. For if we are true to our own selves and our path then we must also respect the paths of others. God is not interested in which path we take. For sometimes those who consider only their path to be correct end up like the priests and Levites of the Good Samaritan story, where in the end it was the one who actually acted on his love and mercy became the true neighbour, even though he was a Samaritan who was despised by the entire Jewish community. The fact that Jesus chose a Samaritan in this story is significant because it shows that even if people do not share your religion, your nationality, your views, they may be your true neighbours and blessed in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ.

God’s love is a love that transcends all divisions. It exists in every atom, every cell, every human being, every animal, every plant, every rock, every drop of water, every breath of air, every spark of fire, every grain of sand, every planet, every moon, every star, every galaxy and every universe, every plane of existence either physical or spiritual, every dimension. God’s love is inside you! It is inside you in the form of light. Look inwards and find that light and then let it shine so brightly that it compels you to act upon it and all people will look at your good works and glorify the God inside you. For as Jesus said clearly, the Kingdom of God is within you! (Luke 17:21 KJV)

This Christmas let us honour Jesus by acting upon his message of love, peace, forgiveness and action and service towards others.

Crowdfunding is slowly becoming popular though not regulated yet

 

(published in The Economic Times, The Times of India – Dec 10, 2014)

The real estate sector in India, despite its many impediments, continues to be a favoured investment option for many. Urbanisation has been rapid in the past few years, with ‘upwardly-mobile’ buyers keen to invest and reap dividends from the real estate market growth real estate investment has proved to be a good investment in the long run.

The current year and its developments have laid the path for strong demand in commercial real estate, debt and equity markets. This will also lead to an increase in demand for infrastructure from every other sector like manufacturing, education, health, industries, auto, etc., which, in turn, will lead to demand for residential as well. Some recent developments like the introduction of REITs and relaxation of FDI norms have raised market expectations, but then REITs are yet to take off and gain momentum and crowdfunding is slowly gaining ground and becoming popular though not, regulated yet.

People need to be aware about the project along with the operators of the crowdfunding platform

Despite the time delay, REITs will bring in globally accepted practices to real estate finance and will also attract domestic as well as global investors by providing them with a transparent and risk free investment opportunity to invest in completed revenue -generating properties. Crowdfunding has raised many eyebrows in India. Currently most of the reward -model crowdfunding projects are in the social and creative area currently, but slowly entering other sectors as well. The Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is in the process of finalising a legal platform for crowdfunding in India.

Until now, SEBI has considered three types of crowdfunding options namely equity -based (EbC), debt -based (DbC) and fund -based (FbC) for implementation in the first phase.

Crowdfunding is not entirely a new phenomenon, but once in motion it will enable investments in small sums of money, lucrative for people who have limited cash to invest. Even though crowdfunding eliminates most of the hurdles associated with traditional real estate investing, it needs to be organised, monitored and regulated.

A spark to set us afire

 

(published in The Economic Times, The Times of India – Nov 15, 2014)

We all have in us special sparks of love and creativity. These sparks are not meant to remain trapped in our hearts; they need to be released into the world. That is the basic purpose of life. As we go about our lives, let’s love and create with God so that we pitch in to making life brighter, happier and more joyous for us all.

As you go about your day, look around at everything that you use, almost without thinking. The car, mobile phone, sunglasses, internet, aircraft, fridge, air-conditioner, the shower — you get the drift. These are no longer novel objects; we take them for granted. Just imagine, every one of these things, like many others, began as a spark in someone’s brain. What if that person dismissed the idea as a fleeting thought or let it remain hidden inside for fear of ridicule or failure? Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Good for us. I wonder how many more unseen sparks got snuffed out before they could become dazzling possibilities.

Have you ever felt the sizzle of a spark in you, howsoever faint? Let it out, become a creator. It’s not God’s copyright, you know. We can co-create. Lessen the divine burden, eh? Well, you may not be an Einstein or Edison in the making, but perhaps a Gupta or an Iyer who could transform your and our lives.

So don’t kill that spark. Fan it, release it, share it. We’re waiting, with bated breath.

Life, The Greatest Show On Earth

 

(published in The Speaking Tree, The Times of India – Jan 11, 2014)

Imagine a story without conflict. Would it even be called a story? Every successful novel or drama has to have conflict in order to be interesting. Imagine a novel about a mundane ordinary existence, a tale of only happiness, of only love and bliss, a tale of only light and no darkness. Would it be interesting? Would anybody want to read it? What if the hero of an epic would be able to get whatever he wanted without an iota of challenge? It would indeed be a boring exercise to read such a tale.

So if we like challenges and conflicts in our fiction, why do we shy away from challenges, hardships and problems in our own lives? Why is it that when we are faced with tragedy, betrayal, loneliness or sorrow in life we ask ‘Why me?’ Our lives a drama in the theatre of the Divine; perhaps we have been created for His merriment and pleasure! We are immortal souls that have voyaged to this Earth plane to experience what we call life. And if that be the case, how can we learn and grow as souls without getting rattled by problems in life?

If there were only light in this world and no darkness, an image would never form. There can be no creation without the duality of good and evil, pain and pleasure, laughter and tears, light and darkness, prosperity and poverty and so on. If we, as lovers of creativity, literature, drama and art, can marvel at the contrasts between various shades of light and darkness, we ought not to be so reluctant to accept bad times in our own lives. Let’s not feel wronged, abandoned and deserted by God in times of trouble.

When there is a storm, we know that even after the darkest of storms, the sun will come. Why is it then that we doubt God’s will in our own lives? There is no need to feel doomed after a bout of darkness for this is actually the time when our faith, patience and perseverance are tested. We can only learn lessons from these times. Generally, we only surrender to God in such times of perceived hopelessness. These events in our lives are reminders that we are not alone. We have never been alone and will never be alone. A grand celestial audience is watching our drama on planet Earth!

Our lives are a living story; a story that was written by us along with our Creator in order to experience different feelings, learn different lessons and dream different dreams. Like all dramas, our lives also need their share of conflict that we, as spiritual protagonists, must overcome challenges to achieve our goals. We must never lose our faith in the Divine Director of this Earth Drama, who will ensure that things will go as planned. Things will not always be easy; but no one says that life is meant to be easy. We have to work hard to earn the Divine Oscar for our efforts on Earth.

As William Shakespeare says in ‘As You Like It’, “All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players:
/They have their exits and their entrances.”

So when tragedy strikes or hardships come – whether in relationships, career, health or anything else remember that the greatest of heroes are not those who didn’t face conflicts (for all heroes have), but those who overcame them.

When we overcome and leave this Earthly stage, we can have comfort in the promise of Christ in Revelation 3:12 “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.”

The Difference in Doing and Being

(published in The Speaking Tree, The Times of India – August 29, 2013)

The simple art of passive observation is something that is becoming a rarity. In today’s world we are many times obsessed with ‘doing’ something. In the car, we are either driving, listening to music, reading or talking on our cellphones. Or we are thinking about yesterday and tomorrow with our minds totally absent from the herenow. An experiment was conducted where instead of always trying to do something, the passenger in the car was instructed to just look outside the window and observe. No thinking, no worrying, no communicating, just observing. The result was amazing!

The daily route to work taken more than one thousand times over the years revealed many surprises unnoticed before. The observation yielded new alleys, lanes, signs, trees, structures and other things never before seen. The simple but not easy task of eliminating all thoughts from our minds during the observation also yielded strange results. Suddenly from the silence within came forth a form of communication with the Divine hitherto heard but rarely. A feeling that asked, ‘Have you never observed these things before? You pass by here every day but have seen these never before. They have been here all along, but you have seen them not.’

The observer then realises that though he had travelled on this route perhaps thousands of times earlier, he had never noticed so many of the things he saw that day. The fact that he could even hear the Divine voice talk to him could also be an indication of the same phenomenon – that sometimes the mind has to be still from the thoughts of yesterday and the hopes or worries of tomorrow and just be in the here-now. The Divine voice itself could be calling out to us all the time but perhaps could never be heard because of this same lack of observation of what is. Our minds are now caught in a virtual web that comprises constant communication with other people, constant bombardment with information, constant worrying or thinking about yesterday or tomorrow but very often never with just being in the here-now.

But there is another aspect of the experiment that needs mentioning. After a few minutes of observation and the hearing of the Divine voice, it continued further, ”All these things you see – love them and you love me!” God wants us to see the world and observe it. From that will come the lessons that need to be learnt and the love that needs to be loved.

With all this constant race and pursuit of material things, we forget the simple things. The butterflies and flowers, the leaves swaying in the trees, children playing in the park, the setting sun, the wind blowing through your hair, the joy of seeing a baby laugh or simply sit in the rear seat of a car and observe the world as it passes by.. there are so many things you will notice if you just look and see. It is not a ‘waste of time’, for at the end of the day, what are we really here in this world for? Sure, it is important to do also. It is important to work and play and laugh and cry and love and hurt, but it is also very important to process all that information. It is important to feelthe moment. It is important to live in the herenow and just be! After all, we are all human beings not human doings.

Studying is not mugging

 

(published in Millennium Post Edit page August 27, 2013)

Education in India needs to be more learning-oriented and less examination-centric.

It is the children of any nation that are the biggest resource of the future and India is no exception. The population of India is around 1.22 billion and more than 50 per cent of the population falls under the age of 25 and around 65 per cent under the age of 35. Among the hundreds of millions of children in our country, some could be the next Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Gandhi, Newton, Bill Gates or Abraham Lincoln. Somebody out there amongst the children of today are the national leaders of tomorrow. But what are we as a nation and as a society doing to gear them up for the challenges and opportunities ahead?

What kind of education system are we giving them? And how much of a priority is education to the national leaders and governments of the day? The education ministers and education secretaries of all Indian states may not be the most powerful or even well known amongst their peers, but one thing is for sure – for the long term welfare of the Indian Republic, they are the most important people in this country. For in their hands lie the future development and growth of India’s most precious and important asset – its youth. They also have the power to formulate and implement new policies that will improve the quality and quantity of educational institutions. So now we are in 2013, 66 years after the British left our shores and left us with the responsibility and destiny of governing our own land and preparing our own youth for the challenges of the future. But let us examine our own selves and ask how have we really changed the education system that the British left us with? It has been said often that the British system of education was designed to create a nation of clerks amongst the Indians and perhaps that is true. All of us remember the anxious nights we had cramming for an examination the next day. We all remember trying to memorise dates in History, formulae in Physics, Chemistry and Maths, trying to remember important latitudes and longitudes in Geography, trying to remember all the Latin associated with Biology and so on. But is that the right way for youngsters to learn?

The system needs an overhaul and fast. We have to move far away from the system of clerk creation that the British left us with and introduce a much more interesting, fun approach to education and we also need a totally new approach towards examinations.

Education in India needs too be more learning-centric and less examination-centric. At the very least, it needs to have a completely different approach to examinations. Instead of having voluminous textbooks that are meant for purely cramming information into the minds of our youth so that they can go and take an exam, there needs to be a much more practical research based approach to education. Children at a certain age need to be able to choose their subjects according to their interest and capability instead of according to a pre-defined curriculum.

We live in a rapidly accelerating Information Age. Can we possibly keep stuffing all this information into our brains? And why should we? The very term Information Age implies that we have access to information of all kinds accessible instantly through the Internet and other digital forms, yes also physical books and papers as well.

But in such an Age, is it not more important to know how to access that information quickly and easily and to be able to use it as and when needed. Research needs to be encouraged where children will be encouraged to actually research something and use whatever information tools are available for the task. This is how our youth will learn how to learn and think. Education is about learning and thinking and not memorising! When are we going to understand this simple fact.

Examinations should also be such that children can have access to their research materials and use them so that their answers will be more accurate. But of course within a prescribed time limit.

Evidence of this lack of thinking and innovativeness is seen around us. Just think of how many Indian products or brands are available globally. Products that were invented in India. How many inventions and discoveries in general are made in India? Very few. This is because of this lack of research approach in education and a lack of research and development of science and technology in general.

Children will learn more when they experience things and do things on their own. In the US, schools regularly take their students to zoos, museums, planetariums, aquariums and such places. They have outdoor excursions to the forests where kids can experience plants and certain animals face to face.

I remember as a child (I studied in the US as a kid) in class 2, we were taught about the Mayan civilisation. I remember that we hardly read anything in a textbook. We were shown a Discovery channel type documentary in our classroom and were shown and physically held artifacts of the Mayans. We were explained things through maps, diagrams, etc. Generally, the information was portrayed in a very interesting and meaningful way, so much so, that I remember everything clearly even now 34 years later!

But there is another thing that needs to be highlighted. Education is not only about science, social studies, etc. It is also about morals, ethics, civics and ideas. Imagine a subject called ‘Ideas’ where children are encouraged to think and try to discover and invent new concepts. This is how a nation will grow into a great nation.

Our children are tomorrow’s leaders. They are the only hope for this country. If they learn to have respect for society, for country, for women, for environment, for rule of law, for research, for entrepreneurship, for poverty reduction, for education, for lofty and noble thoughts and ideas, for honesty, for truth – then we have an education system that is worth it.

We need more schools, colleges, adult schools and adult colleges, more museums, more libraries, etc. The private sector’s participation is needed more. Allow schools, colleges, museums, libraries, etc. to be profit making bodies. Let them be run by companies listed on stock markets and pay teachers well. Why not? Which is better – that a company provides quality education and makes a profit in the process? Or that governments continue to allocate budgets to education and yet not be able to provide quality classrooms, teachers or teaching.

Just like we had an economic liberalisation process that started in 1991, we need an education revolution starting now!

Wake Up Call For Citizens

 

(published in Millennium Post Edit page August 2, 2013)

India is destined for greatness. But where will this greatness come from? Is it only the government of a country that can lead it to greatness? Is it only the political leaders that can forge the destiny of a nation? No. The true greatness of any nation lies in its people.

There is potential for greatness in every citizen of the land. For the true owners of our nation are its citizens. Government is only the custodian of the nation and is there exclusively to serve the people of the country. This is what a true democracy should be like. However, for a true democracy to thrive, the citizens have to play a larger role and fulfil their duties towards the nation.

The most famous line from US President John F Kennedy’s inaugural address is, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ What is this but a call for citizens to rise to the occasion and do their duty? What we in India many times tend to forget is that while the Constitution of India gives us several fundamental and other rights, it also has prescribed a set of Fundamental Duties in Article 51(A).

The purpose here is not to list these out as a simple Google search can reveal them in more detail to anyone interested. However, what is important is for us to understand the concept of citizen’s ownership. If you go to any of the world’s great countries and look at the progress and development made in these places, you will see that it is not just the role of government, but also the role of citizen. It is from the citizenry that political leaders emerge and they cannot be divorced from people. In a true democracy, the leaders that the people get are the leaders that they deserve. If we simply sit in our drawing rooms and debate about the quality of leadership this country has, we will achieve nothing. We have to take an active role in creating a new type of leadership in the country.

As mentioned earlier, it is the citizens who are the owners of the nation, but they need to act like owners. Here ownership means to play their part in building the nation. It is the citizens of any nation that are the true nation builders. Leaders are not only political. There are leaders in the fields of business, education, social service, science and technology, literature, arts, music, sports, entertainment, etc. They are all doing their duty to the nation by using their talent to not only bring glory to the nation, but also to highlight important issues that are important to tackle in order to make the country into a better place.

How can this be achieved? It can be done in a variety of ways. Just strive to live each and every day with the intention of using your talent and resources to help improve the nation in any way.
For the concept of duties to become strong, educating the youth of the country is of paramount importance. Here education is not only formal education in schools and colleges. Education means focusing on youth at home and in the workplace as well. In formal education, civics and moral science should be taught with the same fervour and importance as maths, science, economics and English. A sound foundation of good citizenship and ethics is crucial for the better future of the country.
Parents need to teach their children the importance of obeying laws and being patriotic. Being patriotic is not only about respecting the national anthem and flag, it is also about living your life for the betterment of your world and in particular your country. Children need to learn and be encouraged to express their talents and skills and consider themselves as a national asset. Every citizen is an asset that needs to be developed.

Our citizens could be the one discovering the cure for AIDS, finding cheaper and cleaner ways to produce energy efficiently, discovering ways to solve the problem of water and food, inventing new technologies in various fields, creating new industry that can provide employment to millions, and so on. This is why it is important to inculcate the spirit of creative thinking and entrepreneurship keeping in mind the development of the nation at the foundation of any endeavour.

All this will happen when people start to think about their country first. Instead of envying other countries, they should strive to make India prosperous. Things you do for your country do not have to be big, small things can lead to bigger chain reaction.

Whether you start a small business, write an article, teach a child, shop at local stores with local goods, not pollute, participate in cleanliness drives, create a work of art, volunteer for some social cause etc, you are performing your duty as a citizen. You are contributing to the consciousness of community development and this will begin the process of change. Considering that most young people spend most of their time at school or work, it is also important for teachers and employers to inculcate a sense of patriotism and duty into the hearts and minds of young people.

For it is the youth who is the future of the country. Some day, the older generation will be gone and it is today’s young generation that will be tomorrow’s leaders in various fields. Do not be discouraged by the present state of affairs in the country. Don’t let anybody say that things cannot change. They can. Do your bit starting today. Plant the seed of greatness now and some day it will blossom into a tree of national pride.