Friday, February 08, 2008

A confused Country and a conditioned Soul; the state of affairs in India today

India has been at the helm of spiritual discovery for over five thousand years, long before many civilisations were yet to be born. And yet, today, the average Indian is not aware of even a single verse of The Upanisads. He/She is so occupied with the daily toil and trouble, and is blissfully unaware of the diamonds that lie beneath the physical surface of this great country. Our economists and policy makers are the most confused lot - unaware as to how they would be able to transform this heaving giant - leaking at her sides from unfixed sewers and the beads of sweat from the brows of labouring children. What kind of a curse is this, you may ask, that has put an entire country under a spell of ignorance?

All we are left with is the legacy of the old, the symbols of a glorious past - `Om's freely adorn our houses and tikas adorn our foreheads (said to be the doors of illumination), beautiful sacred geometric patterns decorate our courtyards, and Krsna is found to make his appearance more popularly on saris and as home furnishings than in the Bhagavad Gita. Daily existence is fueled by the need to survive, based on systems that barely coordinate. A typical life looks like this: baby -> gruelling school -> wasted college -> pointless I.T. job -> marriage and kids -> diabetes or high cholesterol related disease -> pointless death -> cycle continues through progeny. What makes the average Indian so bloody ignorant??!

My appearance in this country is not any less of a mystery, and makes for a fascinating story. A country liberated from a western army is now in the throngs of hollywood films and is draped in denim fabric rather than khadi - our education has gone beyond `Convent' to the all exclusive `English-medium', as long as it delivers the necessary results. I myself was educated in an all English-speaking school. I would have to thank the stars that at least in my school we did not have a rule against speaking in our native language of Tamil (as some other schools did). Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the world, and is beginning to die in the hands of the present young generation, in the very state/province it first originated in. Middle and upper class Tamilians these days cannot talk Tamil without sprinkling a few English words in between!!
I grew up on a steady diet of classical English literature and American poetry at school, and Archie comics, Nancy Drews, Enid Blytons, and (later) Hollywood movies and music from the Backstreet Boys, at home. Here was a girl, who had heard of the bravery of our `freedom fighters' more like a fantasy tale...patriotism was put into our heads more like an obligation, than as an understanding, waiting for the time when a generation grows older and does not find the need for it any longer (today Gandhi makes his appearance in Indian pop culture). My idealism stems more from literature I read written by American poets with liberal tendencies, than by the Indian freedom movement!
We now are moved by Bollywood films and cricket more than by Bhakti movement poetry. This is the same land that was once home to Sufi saints and Hindu mystics alike. So many thousands embarked on the journey of their inner soul. So many awakened on the banks of the great Ganges that is now so polluted and choked with the toxic wastes of the present civilisation.
Our solutions lie closer to the heart than we can ever imagine. Spirituality has to be brought into the Parliaments, and talked about with an ever increasing urgency and as the need of the hour. The solution for India does not lie in the western concepts of economic development. We have to seek higher solutions. Solutions that originate from a Divine mind, a Divine soul that is this country. We cannot expect to lay more roads and extinguish poverty. We need smaller communities, education within these communities, and an education that finds its foundations in spirituality and self-enquiry rather than on useless historical facts that are forgotten right after the students exit the exam halls. Solutions lay sprinkled in our past. The gurukula system, the smaller townships that were governed on a basis of Dharma, these are the symbols we need to adopt for today.

As for the individual...we cannot stop the influx of western materialism and idealogies, but we can instil in our young minds, the greater spiritual secrets that have been opened up and laid bare in the recent centuries. When a solid foundation is in place, it is difficult to shake it, in spite of any kind of external disturbances. We have to teach our children to follow their hearts and Divine guidance, rather than listen to people who talk from their selfish egos. We have to cultivate in them an independent attitude and the thirst for truth, rather than a conformist attitude and dependency on conventional thinking. This is the solution for the `modern' Indian society and today's `modern' Indian individual. Old is indeed Gold, but can be flexed to be adapted to provide solutions for the New.

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