Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Thin Red Line

Humanity and Religion have many overlaps. Since childhood I had heard of incidents where religious organizations have been immensely helpful during dire situations. These are examples to show that religion in its proper form upholds the virtue of humanity and preaches a need to serve all. Irrespective of his/her faith a human is always guided by an inner conscience that transcends the little religious beliefs. Humanitarian organizations and religious organizations thus have an important role to play in this world. Every such organization can work towards ending religious radicalization by advocating humanity as part of religion , whatever it might be.

The recent spate of bad incidents all around the country in the name of religion are a cause of concern. From the incidents as large as the Mumbai terror attacks to the recent attack on the girls in Mangalore , each of them stand as an indicator pointing at the problem that is looming large – religious fundamentalism. It is nothing new that religion is being taken too seriously in this part of the world. The subcontinent has seen so much history; starting with the vedic times to the current modern age , these areas have seen the dominance of Hinduism , Islam, Buddhism , Christianity and other religions at various points in time. This to a large extent is a positive history to have. The prevalence of so many different life styles and faiths should have influenced our own upbringing and should have made us certainly more tolerant than people from any other region in the world. However, the fore mentioned incidents make one doubt if people here really know what their religion means. It makes me ask if any of the so called preachers have a greater understanding of the scriptures that they believe in.

There is nothing new to write about the terror attacks in Mumbai. I remember reading an article by Sambit Bal on Cricinfo where he says that writing about cricket at this point , when one of the most cherished landmarks of Mumbai is burning , looks irrelevant. The audacity with which the attacks have been carried out are indicative of the brainwash that the attackers went through. An attempt on such a big landmark is clearly a one way door. The attack on the Mangalore girls is a much worse incident for me. Mumbai terror attacks reflect a problem the world faces at large. However, the Mangalore incident is a case where a little known group tries to get a national recognition. Can one really think that this incident is not politically motivated? This is a dangerous scenario which doesn’t augur well for India’s image and one that needs to be handled carefully.

This is where I feel a humanitarian angle helps. A fundamental ideology that by harming any human being, one is going against the very teachings of any religion is what humanity is all about. Incorporating this attitude in as many people as possible should be the priority of humanitarian organizations and this can be done through various activities such organizations undertake. As a human being one has a basic responsibility to live and let live. It is not in one’s control to decide on killing other people. An idea that there is a power that is above everyone, which decides upon these aspects of life would be something that a religious organization can teach. If the fore mentioned approach can be put into practice it would go a long way in helping the subcontinent grow and improve it’s image in the world. The Thin Red lines of Mumbai can be erased and other’s elsewhere can be prevented.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A great mosaic called India

I have been thinking hard about one particular question that i saw in Insead MBA application. How do you introduce your country to a foreigner who is planning to shift over there ?. Coming from India , having travelled out of the country twice it hurts my pride that i dont really have a concrete answer to this question. I did answer similar questions many times , i had explained to n number of foreigners what it is to grow up in India, trying to stay within a million contours in life posed by the vastly diverse society and yet trying to develop a sense of oneness. Yet i didnt really have an idea on where to start the answer , untill today.

Courtesy a friend of mine i had a chance to look through some of the old issues of a magazine by "jpg magazine". Magdalene Rzymanek contributed some photos from Varanasi and in the comments wrote the following lines which in a very apt and succinct way describe India for every one.
"When I think of India, I think of a disordered puzzle: jumping between reality and sleep, dream and nightmare. Plenty of colors not able to be recognized; a floating mosaic in which every person and every thing has no constant place. Pictures, colors, shapes, scents, and voices swell in front of my eyes, put on each other, whirl around my head, cause faster heart beating, sweating. I want to close my eyes, ears, and nose and be alone just for a second—but at the same time I get a burst of feeling, so I delight in this wonderful mosaic of life, I become part of it, one of the elements of the puzzle."
There in the fore mentioned lines is an answer to what to say about India - It is a floating mosiac , ever changing and trying (certainly successfully) to achieve orderliness in a completely chaotic environment . From the blue ocean in the south to the snows of the Himalayas in the north, from the dense forests and cool climates of the east to the hot and red deserts in the west, India encompasses a land mass that is an amalgam of various geographic features. In addition to this the various languges that people speak and the many dialects that they use add a tiny but bright shade to the entire fabric. The cultures and dance forms vary completely throught the country adding a unique flavour to the society; and then there is the " Indian Food " , now made famous all over the world by the diaspora, Indian food is one of the most diversified cusines on the globe. The idlis and dosas from south , the vada pav from mumbai , the parathas from the north to the rasgollas from the east, Indian cusine contains umpteen number of dishes each with an authentic flavour enhanced by the spices unique to the subcontinent. The various religions , customs, costumes, mannerisms contribute their own pieces in making a colorful fabric.

India's place in the world economy leap frogged after the reforms of 1990-91. Crippled for a long time by socialistic politics and the problems of a newly independent country , Indian business captured it's oppurtunity after the economy opened. The economy boomed leading to a flow of investment into the country thanks majorly to the IT and Telecom sectors. Indians' comfort level with English and the low cost along with their position geographically made the country an ideal target for companies in the west to outsource work that is out of their core competency. Today you can easily find a piece of code written in India enabling Nokia in Finland to decide on procuring raw materials for it's factories in China. Presentations delivered to a customer in Boston would have been prepared by a Indian working out of Mumbai the previous night. The fore mentioned factors make India an ideal destination to do business in. Hard working, talented and low cost labour along with an abundance of natural resources enable India to be the ideal center for people with the right technology to invest in and reap benefits. Automobiles , pharmacy, retail and other sectors soon followed the lead provided by IT and Telecom sectors and today you can see a thriving economy with a large middle class population with a good chunck of disposable income. The number of Indians travelling abroad has increased which lead to a vast mix of ideas and today the Indian customer is knowledgeable about the importance of quality in a product / service that he / she pays for. This changing attitude of the Indian consumer provides an excellent opputunity to provide goods combined with a good service , that has been missing till now.

However , the picture is not as rosy as it appears. Inspite of its vast diversity and beauty the mosaic still has patterns that are not entirely pleasing and comforting. A large section of the Indian population remains under poverty and the lack of basic eminities and a proper infrastructure is hindering the country achieve it's economic objectives. A lot of work remains and investments in proper infrasturcture development, Education and Health care facilities would not only yield returns but also give a moral satisfaction that is unmatched.

A growing economy with a great potential hampered by the problems of the developing world and yet at the same time blessed with a natural diversity, skillful and hard working people, India presents the world with a collection where every person , race , community and religion can find a parllance. It is a colourful and yet fragile mosaic.