A small but educated and diverse group of employees of a business got together last month in their Directors room to discuss the strategies for maintaining and if possible increasing sales. The problems that they were facing was myriad ranging from sharp rise in cost of imported material, to non-availability of indigenous material, to falling sales volumes, to change in consumer preferences, to increasing cost of production, to workers unhappiness, etc. All possible scenarios were analysed and factored in but no satisfactory conclusion was being drawn. I was sitting and witnessing the proceedings. Everybody was disturbed by the levels of uncertainties prevailing in the economy due to a host of national and international reasons. Economists and pundits always seem comfortable projecting the growth percentile for the country but sitting at the micro level there is not an inch of comfortable space. Growth feels distant given the chaos prevailing in the country today. Somebody in the group remarked that the country had set out on the path of liberalization two decades ago, had seen some unprecedented success but the road has ended up now because we as a nation do not know how to handle growth. The thought set me thinking. Are we Indians really incapable of handling growth? What’s wrong with us?
One very big reason that I can see is that we have all become narrow minded and individual centric. We no more trust the concepts of collective wisdom or the good of the maximum. All we want today is personal benefit. Since the beginning of the 90’s many people have become rich but many more have faltered, tried and failed. Over the years people instead of becoming concerned or happy with what they have achieved, were more focused on becoming concerned or unhappy with what others had achieved. They started gauging their personal success or failure by comparing with that of another instead of comparing what they had yesterday to what they have today. What started out in the early 90’s under the phase of need of the nation has now turned into the phase of need of the individual. Slowly the collective national feeling fragmentalised. Everybody found that each one was thinking of their own self. The economically weak people found that a homogenous group identity had some better bargaining power as against the weak individual. The election process came as a shot in the arm for those who could form some sort of homogenous groups and slowly regional parties took shape which transformed the single party majority rule into a coalition form of government. In the end today no one speaks about national interest, each group only have their own interest to focus on. In a way this country has returned to its roots as was visible before the British arrived. A wise sage has once said that little in security is better than plenty in fear but today we have forgotten our wise men and their words. We have transformed ourselves into a nation of fearful people.
Another major problem with us is the level of corruption which we have assimilated in our daily lives in every sphere of activity. As a nation we all have failed ourselves in allowing such base instincts to take control of our lives. As human we have allowed fear to win over faith, over our talent and ability and have adopted the instincts a weak and sly creature. I cannot call it animal instincts also because even animals won’t kill unless hungry. They atleast do have ethics and we have gone even below that level. It is a pathetic situation that we don’t trust each other, we don’t trust the rule of law, we don’t trust principles, we cannot be contented with what we have, we cannot wait for our turn to come, we believe in hiding our faults, we believe in projecting and protecting a false image. What to say about believing in God, we don’t believe in ourselves. Falsehood has become our creed. We very easily accept falsehood in others and contemplate to adopt the same as a natural sequence of events. By extending the logic of the argument an honest person is practically considered to be a fool, a person without any trace of smartness, a non-achiever, and a loser. Such practices do not pay in the long run but fortunately or unfortunately India is a young nation and it will take time for everybody to become old and realize the truth in the statement.
With such a legacy, how far is India expected to travel in the path of nationhood is anybody’s guess. Maybe the Orient was meant to remain mystic, spiritual and poor. My pessimistic conclusion is that we were never brought up to handle material wealth and my most optimistic conclusion is that if we want to progress on the material front then we will have to first mature as human beings and then mature as a nation. How much time it will take will depend on the collective desire of everyone.