No one wins when willing to lose it all for that elusive life

The earth has made another rotation around the sun. A random day in the middle of the winter that does not herald any change in weather or anything else is celebrated with considerable fanfare.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

The earth has made another rotation around the sun. A random day in the middle of the winter that does not herald any change in weather or anything else is celebrated with considerable fanfare. Humans need celebrations, and there is nothing wrong with celebrating a day.

It gives us a pause button that zips away too fast and a time to reflect on our past and plan the future. By the time you read this article, however, we would be entering the second week of the New Year, and many of our resolutions would have already started diluting themselves.

Life would have caught up with most of us. Many would have secretly started regretting the gym membership, the new yoga mat or the online weight loss programme purchased in the heat of the first week's enthusiasm. Some will drag themselves to the same dreary office, sweating and swearing in the rush-hour traffic for hours and wait eagerly for the weekend to repeat the same action again and again. 
India is going through a painful period of transition.

We find that many countries in the West had gone through the same phase of social churning and environmental crisis in the previous century. Dickensian novels talk about the smog in London. Sample this passage from the Bleak House: ‘Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.’

This could be an apt description of Delhi or Mumbai of today. Every country we see as prosperous, well organised and developed has gone through what we are going through now. 

Our vehicle ownership is still one of the lowest in the world as a percentage of the population, yet our roads have the worst traffic congestion. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are all polluted and will get more polluted in the future. At the same time, we are leaving a vast population in the quagmire of poverty, leading to considerable differences in wealth.

Take this quote from John Steinbeck’s famous novel The Grapes of Wrath: ‘The migrant people, scuttling for work, scrabbling to live, looked always for pleasure, dug for pleasure, manufactured pleasure, and they were hungry for amusement.’ He could be talking about us. Blind aping of the western development model is taking us through the same horrible path, but it will not stop there. 

We have a population of 140 crores and no colonies to exploit, unlike Great Britain, or no slavery and war profiteering like the US, when they were in a similar condition to ours. As many developed countries have sucked away most of the earth’s resources with gay abandon and without a thought about the future during their quest for prosperity, we do not have the luxury of mindlessly exploiting Mother Earth like how they did.

If this is our state on a collective level, at a personal level, we are finding that more people are getting into depression, and many are finding life meaningless. The modern gizmos were supposed to make life easier and provide us with more leisure time, but ironically, we are more hard-pressed for time than ever. 

We must overhaul how we think and work at all levels. At the individual level, we need to take life more easily. Don’t fall for the cleverly advertised definition of good times. It isn’t mandatory to get that promotion, fancy car or the next home if one has to sacrifice mental peace and slog the skin of one’s back to achieve it. A healthy body is more important than having the impossibly sculpted body of a professional model.

If your work doesn’t allow you time to stroll in the park, watch the sunrise and sunset or listen to the bird sing. How does it matter if it lets you have a better car than your neighbour? Laziness is a good thing. Being bored is a luxury. Unless you are so passionate about something that you are willing to lose everything for it, it is not worth sacrificing your limited time to please your bosses or employer. 

At the governmental level, we need better public transport and a significant tax on private vehicles. Parking personal vehicles on public roads should cost one’s arms and nose. Cities need more public parks and spaces. The thrust should be given to having more multi-storey buildings and skyscrapers so that more ground area is left for public space, and independent bungalows in cities should be discouraged.

We have the technology for it, and there is no reason why a city like Mumbai should not have hundreds of Burj Khalifa-size buildings that could free up lots of open areas for the common good. We are an ancient civilisation with thousands of years of history. Suppose we can achieve our prosperity without hurting the environment, without conquering or exploiting any colonies and without slavery or war profiteering. In that case, it doesn’t matter if we are delayed by a few decades or even a century.  

Anand Neelakantan

Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy

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The New Indian Express