“Jodi Tor Dak Shune Keu Na Ase Tobe Ekla Cholo Re…” (“If they answer not to thy call, walk alone.” – Rabindranath Tagore.
I was surfing the net when I came across this piece on Yahoo! Answers, possibly written by an Indian: “They discriminate in the name of caste, regions, colour and anything which anybody can ever imagine. The fact is all Indians are corrupt, ugly and extremely retarded. Nobody wants Indians to live on earth. Everybody wants them to die and still these people don’t die and are going to other countries and making them dirty too. I live in Uttar Pradesh and I agree it’s probably the most corrupt state even in India. But the fact is the whole India is a shithole. No Indian has ever contributed anything for humanity. They all are children of the devil or even worse.”(Note: I have corrected the above for grammar).
Of course, reading the above made me see red. If this was written by a foreigner, I am willing to forgive him or her. However, if this bilge (though it contains a smattering of truth) was written by a so-called Indian, the person is a carper, someone who blames the country, the system and its people while absolving himself or herself of any wrongdoing. And the person’s patriotism is highly suspect. Frankly, I find such people despicable.
Of course, India has huge problems. Yes, it is corruption-ridden. Yes, it has been governed since independence by a set of roguish, self-serving politicians and babus. It still faces several dilemmas and drawbacks that have prevented it from becoming a super power. But the oft-used excuse that India is still young is ludicrous; China changed the fortunes of its denizens in a stunningly short thirty years.
While a lot of India’s ills can be blamed on its prejudices, its odious guardians, its creeping economic development, a lot has also to do with its own citizens who remain, in large part, selfish, unconcerned and lazy. Every citizen of this country has the responsibility to be a model citizen, whatever the cost.
So how does one become a better Indian? Well, here are a few simple ways to get going:
As I write this, the Indian parliamentary elections are on; four phases are over but five still remain. Every Indian who can vote must vote. One of the wonders of the world is that India still remains a democracy and it is our duty, as responsible citizens, to cast our vote. I abhor people who, out of sheer laziness, selfishness and irresponsibility, don’t take the trouble to go out and vote.
More importantly, cast your vote responsibly. Don’t pick up a leader because of his caste or religion, pick him/her because of his/her vision, leadership qualities, intelligence, honesty, reliability and capability to run this vast and diverse country. Do not vote for the party or people who have kept this country backward through false promises. Remember that you will have to live with your choice if you pick the wrong candidate, so vote carefully. If you notice that there are other citizens who are eligible to vote, but don’t, encourage them to do so.
Corruption is so deep rooted in the country that it is virtually impossible to stunt its growth. Black money and bribes flow freely and the only way to curb this is by voting for the right leaders.
Treat everyone equally – be it the rich or the poor, the young or the old, the male or the female. The age-old caste system may still be prevalent in India, but with the positive western cultural influences on the country, this needs to be eradicated too. Caste and religion have been ruling the country and influencing every decision for years and the only way to move forward is to perceive every individual as a fellow Indian rather than by his/her religion, caste or region. In a nutshell, give everyone the respect they deserve.
Do your bit to ensure that literacy is attained to the maximum. Almost every problem prevalent in India is a direct consequence of the booming population. As of 2013, approximately 75% of the 1.3 billion people in India receive basic education, which still isn’t enough for the country’s growth. If you’re passionate about watching India progress, there are several organizations like Teach for India where you can volunteer to educate children from around the country. If you are unable to give your time, you can give funds to institutions that will help you adopt a child and pay for his/her education.
With a majority of India’s population in its youth, it is extremely important to mould children while it’s still possible. If you find it hard to spread knowledge about specific subjects, you can educate children about equality between genders, cleanliness and hygiene, humility and sensitivity towards other human beings, civic sense, population control and respect for the country. Since charity begins at home, you can volunteer to educate your household helps or their children for a few hours a week. Remember, every small action counts.
The basis of all this lies in your own education too. Work on understanding the economy and think of ways in which you can help boost productivity and growth. Read newspapers and books regularly, watch educational debates and discussions and engage in similar conversations in your social circle.
After corruption, the biggest problem India is facing today is a lack of hygiene and cleanliness. What’s worse, some members of the educated class contribute to this issue too. As an Indian, it is your responsibility to ensure that your home and surroundings are sanitary and litter-free. Simply follow the three Rs of cleanliness – reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce use of non- biodegradable substances like plastic, reuse bottles and old containers and recycle paper. Throw garbage in dustbins, don’t spit on the roads, save water and power and plant more trees.
Participate in cleanliness drives that are undertaken by social clubs or you can even initiate one of your own within your societies. Spread awareness in schools and colleges about the importance of maintaining sanitation and the ill-effects of unhygienic surroundings – the spread of diseases and infections. Although you may face a lot of resistance, you can also educate people who spit and litter on the roads by politely telling them to clean up their mess.
Some of the best business ideas lie with the people who can’t afford to put their thoughts into actions. With the lack of jobs in today’s market, the only way to create more jobs is to encourage entrepreneurs. Every large business today started with an entrepreneur bringing his ideas to life and the only way this will continue is if start-up businesses are encouraged. New business ventures will boost India’s economy, bringing in more foreign exchange and giving more jobs.
If you have a smart business proposal, borrow some money and invest in your idea or pitch it to an Indian company that would be willing to invest in the idea. If you are in a job, think like an entrepreneur and offer ideas to your company.
Develop a Network
The changes you make in yourself are controllable, but those that need to be made in others are outside of your power. In such cases, networking with like-minded people will help in terms of coming up with solutions to inherent problems and finding better ways to do things. Social organizations that indulge in charity are also good places to meet people that are looking to make a positive change.
Be a Role Model
Every change you would like to see in the country or in its people must start with you. Be the change you want to see in people and strive to be a role model for others, so that the good qualities can rub off on them too. Be an ideal for people – if you’re a parent, your children must look up to you as their role model; if you run a business, your staff must treat you with respect. More importantly, if you’re a teacher or a leader, mould yourself in a way that your students and followers learn from your actions.
A small step by an individual is a small step. However, if millions start taking those small steps, the results could be quite astounding. Of course, we do need a government that improves the social and civil amenities for its people and fosters idealism, hard work and entrepreneurship. But the problem with us Indians is that we expect everything from our governments, very little from ourselves.