Nehru, self-indulgence et.al…

It sort of gets my goat to see every Tom, Dick and Harry criticizing Nehru today. 50 years later, it is easy to say that socialism didn’t work, centralized planning sucks, the non aligned movement was bollocks. But one must remember that in his time, these were ideas that people thought would profoundly change the world for the better. It offered the only foreseeable alternative to a dog eat dog world. If Nehru and his ilk were guilty of anything, it was of being too idealistic. Of hoping that people could be lifted out of their poverty within one generation. We probably needed the experience of socialism, planning, NAM etc to understand that each man for himelf produces the quickest economic results. The quickest results, not necessarily the ideal results.

On a vaguely related note, there was a protected post that I had made some time ago during one of my more reflective phases. Making a part of it public here.

We have gone too far too soon in our pursuit of knowledge. We have ended up creating a society so specialized, so suffocatingly restrictive that, but for a lucky few, we have come to define ourselves in short pithy phrases. CRM consultant, SAP expert, embedded systems engineer, project manager, Industrial sales executive, Personnel manager. And yet it can safely be said that this very restrictiveness will lead to a realization that life is not about work. Far removed from it. We will stop working beyond 7, start pursuing other interests, some seriously, some not so seriously. There will always be the aggressively ambitious, the ones who like the designations, the ones who want to climb – up, up and away to some imagined final destination. But the majority, they will at some point decide to stop walking. Or at least stop walking fast. One after another, they will relax a little, notice the benches and sit.

The problem then that will arise is in the benches that they choose to sit on. The US by and large has sadly chosen a bench with a parking sign that says “Self indulgence”. It seemed a fair enough bench when the first ones to stop choose it, now it seems obvious that was a wrong bench to park oneself on. We have to choose different benches. We are too diverse a country, too large a population, too poor a nation and we cannot afford to make the same mistake. We have to consciously choose a different bench. I have though about it, and I believe the bench we choose has to have the word “community” in it. An individualistic economy is good for the economy, terrible for the soul, and in the long run, terrible for the economy. For better or for worse, my generation is a nuclear family generation. We are used to seeing our desires satisfied, our whims indulged in, and most of us tend to believe it is the natural condition of man to be self-indulgent. We are a very fortunate generation. In a sense, we are the baby boomers of India. First generation free market capitalists. It is upto us the kind of legacy we wish to leave behind. I believe that legacy should be a legacy with the spirit of the kibbutz and the ashram. I wish I had an answer to how to make this happen. I don’t, but a few ideas I have.

Urban India is already beginning to demand more accountability from its politicians, but that is not enough. We need to be accountable ourselves. We must be willing to limit the joy of switching on the TV and watching Friends when we get back from work. Watch we can by all means, but we must also put our heads together in our apartment societies, create plans of action to clean up our neighborhoods, set our roads right, work together with our adjoining and burgeoning slums. We need to educate ourselves on our responsibilities. We have to converse regularly with our governments.

Not every generation has the opportunity of setting a direction. We have been given that opportunity, and we have to take it. We have to choose the right benches to sit on when we step outside our workplaces. Our legacy must not be a legacy of self indulgence.

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Posted on April 30, 2004, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. And yet it can safely be said that this very restrictiveness will lead to a realization that life is not about work.

    A profound insight.

    And I’m also beginning to believe that community-based self-sufficient economies may be the only real alternative for India.

    • I think it would be nice if someone would institute a few awards for “the neighborhood community builder of the year”, “the most innovative community” of the year etc.

      I think we need to introduce incentives into the system.

  2. Beautiful post. Plase don’t hide it behind an LJ cut.

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