Archive for June, 2011
As I get up after a leisurely sleep, I smell the faint aroma of filter coffee wafting in from the kitchen. The birds are merrily chirping outside. Gentle sunrays are streaming in from the window. I look out of the window and find the flowers in full bloom. The sky is a pristine azure, with a couple of cirrus clouds lazing about. A flock of parrots is making its way towards the beach nearby. It appears that God is in heaven and all is well with the world.
Having spent thirty five years in the private sector, I had recently taken a voluntary retirement. I wondered if I had really lived life in those thirty five years. Sure enough, it was a useful phase. It brought in not only material gains but also immense learning at all stages. But when did our children grow up and fly out of the nest? Did I get to truly enjoy their company? Did I share their pangs of growth? I wondered if I really spent much quality time with my family!
As to the better half, we have been married for close to thirty three years now. When I look back at those years, I realize the invaluable bond that we have built up between ourselves. The unspoken word often conveys what we want to say to each other. A mere gesture is enough to communicate. Through the crests and the troughs of life, we have sailed together, facing many challenges and pursuing our goals in life. This is not to say that we have not had our share of differences and quarrels. Possibly, that is how life got spiced up at frequent intervals!
Realization dawns that I have so far not cared much for my life partner. Work was always top priority. One was predisposed to bring into the home a lot of emotional baggage – one’s attitude, work habits, frustrations on the job and personality clashes. There was a ready explanation for all the cancelled vacations. As a business executive, one was always used to being waited upon, rather than being kept waiting. It was a birth right to get annoyed at a minor delay in food being served, or in case of any minor aberration in the conduct of domestic affairs.
For a parent teacher meeting to be attended at children’s school, it was clear who would volunteer. Right from caring for aging parents and looking after the needs of all family members, my wife had handled it all. Parties thrown by my friends could never be passed up. However, as to her friends, there was neither any mention nor any trace in all these years. She always ensured that there was never a stock out of tea leaves in the kitchen. If there is ever a MBA course mooted with specialization in multi-tasking, she would surely merit a gold medal!
The initial years were spent in understanding each other. In middle age, family concerns took over. Children’s education, parent’s health, stints abroad to beef up financial resources, creation of a modest assert base and such mundane concerns took centre stage. Eventually, parents passed on to their heavenly abode. Children got married off. Annual visits by them and our grand children are times we both now look forward to.
Sure enough, the past cannot be undone. Perhaps there is an opportunity now to make some amends and to rediscover each other? The future can surely be used to re-bond and to revisit our likes and dislikes. By spending some quality time with each other, we can start realizing the contours of our spirits and our inner beings.
Breaking my reverie, a gentle call emanates from the kitchen. I realize that I am being summoned to pick up the tray containing two steaming cups of coffee and some cookies. The day’s newspapers are already waiting in the front porch. I resolve to give her a surprise the next morning and get up earlier to make the morning coffee. Her happiness would be much more than worth the effort. With this resolution, I troop into the kitchen to do my bidding.
Our spiritual honeymoon has just begun!
Ashok Kumar Bhatia
Gone are the days when India used to have illustrious intellectuals leading it from the front, shaping public opinion and carrying the masses with their line of thought. The stature of our leaders – whether spiritual or political – like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, had left a deep impression on the public psyche. But the effect seems to have got completely obliterated from our collective conscience and memory.
It was Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan who had once coined the phrase “Crisis of Character”. As a common citizen of India, I think this is what we are facing today. Probity in public life is at its ebb. There is a vacuum at the top. On issues of corruption, we are not being proactive. Instead, we appear to be reacting to self proclaimed public activists and godmen. The last example of high standards in public life was possibly witnessed by us in 2004, when the President of the largest political party in India declared her intention of not assuming executive power. Today, we are a mute witness to a hapless Government conceding the demands put across by a section of the society, thereby compromising the fundamental principles on which our Constitution is based.
The root cause of some activists trying to usurp executive powers is the widespread public disenchantment with the lowering standards in public life. What is necessary at this juncture is the statesmanship of our top political leaders, including those who do not occupy the treasury benches. The opposition parties need not gloat over the recent turn of events – they would do well to set their own house in order and provide constructive support to the Government to clean up the mess.
Some basic steps which the powers-that-are may consider taking may sound utopic but make eminent sense.
Major political parties can come together and voluntarily declare their sources of donations and their expenditure pattern from 2011-12 onwards. Admittedly, there would be red faces all over in the short run, but a basic cleansing of the system will begin in right earnest.
Political parties would also do well to treat themselves like publically listed companies, thereby bringing them at par with private businesses, declaring their financial and corporate affairs to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs year after year.
Top political and business class can declare the assets and bank accounts held by them abroad, thereby giving a clear signal that probity in public life is a desirable trait. Even if a few selected top honchos take this initiative, the message will percolate down to the rank and file and bring in better transparency in our affairs.
The offer of the Swiss government to share information on the tax deducted on interest earned on deposits held in their banks must be purposed vigorously, thereby leading to realistic estimates of the money stashed abroad. Strictures against trading with countries which act as tax havens should get expedited.
Electoral reforms, specifically linked to disqualifying political aspirants who have criminal cases pending against them, are the need of the hour. So are judicial reforms, on which we only hear some lip service once in a while, but no concrete action on the ground in terms of fast tracking the disposal of cases.
By sending out an unambiguous message to the Indian public as also the world at large, the leadership today can ensure that our developmental plans gain momentum, we rekindle the interest in India as a favorite investment destination and we move towards a growth which is more inclusive in nature.
Would the political class rise to the occasion and seize this historic opportunity? Does it have the will to bring in radical changes in the way run this country and our lives?
Let us clean up the mess our individual and collective greed has led us into. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had exhorted us to hold our heads held high and having a mind without fear. Let us practice it. Let us demonstrate to the world that ours is a unique democracy, based on a spiritual paradigm which is millennia old. Let us rediscover ourselves and restore our national pride.
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