During the course of the last decade, Indians appeared to have regained some of their pride and self-confidence as a nation which is the culmination of a 5,000 years old civilization steeped in values of tolerance, openness and adaptability. Right from the evolution of Zero to the genius of Ramanujam, from the profound concepts enumerated in the Vedas to the spiritual wisdom expounded by the likes of Swami Vivekananda and Shri Aurobindo, from the literary depth of Sage Vyasa to the artistic achievements of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, from the invincible arrows of Lord Rama to today’s Brahmos missiles, from the evocative poetry penned by Kalidasa to the genius of Satyajit Ray – our repertoire as a nation is pretty rich.
There is absolutely no harm in enjoying the limelight and speaking high of our true strengths. If the world looks upon us for spiritual wisdom, we have an inexhaustible supply of it. If we offer a unique marketing opportunity of this century to the world at large, we might as well bask in the glory of the moment, derive maximum advantage of it and be better prepared to delight our customers.
But the risk is that of becoming complacent and leading ourselves into a lull, which could well boomerang and lead us into a phase of decadence. The need of the hour is to be objective about ourselves, plan our affairs accordingly and set our house in order.
The World Bank ranks India at the bottom of its list of countries in terms of ease of doing business. We can count on our finger tips the number of home-grown brands that have emerged out of India in the last sixty years or so. Admittedly, there are marketing innovations and truly home-grown solutions, but these are the exception and not the rule.
It is an open secret that as many as 70 percent of our so-called educated youth are not employable. Our prestigious management institutes continue aping management models adapted from the west. The wisdom contained in the words of our seers – like Chanakya, Tiruvalluvar and Mahatma Gandhi, to name a few – is equally applicable to the area of management. But it remains a neglected domain the time for which is yet to come.
Our cities are bursting at the seams. In terms of creation of fresh infrastructure, we not only lack vision and resources but also the will to implement schemes which could make them truly world-class. Garbage segregation at source, its effective treatment and handling remains a distant dream.
If we host a sports extravaganza of an international stature, thereby investing in our civic infrastructure, our corrupt ministers and babus ensure that their pockets get thickly lined up. Corruption is on everyone’s mind these days, so the lesser we talk about it, the better it might be. Gone are the days when a Minister would resign owning moral responsibility for a lapse in the area of his concern. The norm today is to cling on to one’s seat until one is proved guilty and is literally hounded out of office.
Our railways rarely run on time. There is not even a single railway station which can be called world-class. In place of Bullet trains, we boast of many Rajdhanis and Durontos. However, the sight of people defecating in the open on the side of our railway tracks is a very sobering one. Barring a few Metros that we have to show, public transport is in a shambles.
On the farm front, the long-term perspective is rather grim. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide. But we have still not woken up to the reality that the Green Revolution essentially favored rice and wheat, neglecting healthier millets, jowar and bajra. Ground water tables have plummeted all across, and our dependence on the south-west monsoon continues unabated.
At the end of the food chain, we now have an epidemic of sorts in place, with an exponential increase in lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiac complications. With rising levels of affluence, incorrect eating habits and unhealthy life styles have become the norm; this alone threatens to retard our progress on the economic front.
As a country which aspires to make it to the top league in the decades to come, what we need to gift to ourselves is a vision and a will power. The government, the political class, the business houses and the society at large – all need to put their heads together and work towards achieving perfection in their respective fields. Being satisfied with the second or the third best would no longer do!
It is said that Mr. R. M. Lala, an editor, writer and publisher of repute, once commented to Mr. J. R. D. Tata that the latter believed in excellence. The great man is said to have retorted thus: “Not excellence. Perfection. You aim for perfection, you will attain excellence. If you aim for excellence, you will go lower.”
Rabindranath Tagore, in his Gitanjali, captures the same concept thus: “Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection”. Even though “perfection” may not be attainable in reality, what matters is the “tireless striving”, which could well prove to be a reward in itself. “Perfection”, like happiness, need not be a station one arrives at, but a mode of travel, making the journey worthwhile.
As a country, we have a lot of positive developments and accomplishments to claim credit for. We now have an opportunity to build on the same by stretching our capabilities and by managing our limitations, with a clear vision to succeed in our mission. Our basic struggle is attitudinal – to adopt a Culture of Perfection and to give up the Culture of Mediocrity. Our collective chalta hai attitude is passé.
On the occasion of the upcoming Independence Day, let us rededicate ourselves to shun mediocrity. Let us demand perfection from ourselves and from those around us in all spheres of our lives.