Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Republic Day Post

A few days back there was this controversial issue in Belgaum between the MNS and pro-Kannada organizations. The MNS felt that since they held power in the Belgaum city council, the building should hoist the Maharashtra flag or the “Maratha” flag. The pro-Kannada organizations were dead against this. They argued that only Karnataka flag could be hoisted on top of the council since Belgaum was an integral part of Karnataka. Both the parties were relentless in their stand and this led to violence and unrest in the region. The battle was taken to many local courts, district level courts, Karnataka high court and finally to the supreme court of India. The Supreme Court’s verdict was outright, clean and clear – “if any flag was to be hoisted on top of a government office, it obviously had to be the flag of the union of India

For all the parties who were involved in heated debate against which flag was to be hoisted, the verdict was a tight slap in the face. But the summary of the verdict is even bigger. It is slap in the face for all the politicians across the nation who try continuously to divide the nation along regional, linguistic or caste based lines. It is big slap in the face for the clan of Thackerays who say people from other states are unwelcome in their city because the city belongs to them; a slap in the face for all those who say they need more states because that will help them get their own identity in a nation which is already flooded with an ocean of misguided identities.

The union of India was declared a republic state on the 26th of January 1950, exactly 60 years ago on this day. We all pledged that ours would be a nation where the governance was “by the people, for the people, and of the people”, we would be the largest democratic nation in the world with every citizen of the nation having a right to choose his/her leader. A verbose constitution or the rule of the land amounting to 90,000 words had already been penned down beautifully by the finest intellectuals of our land. It had the best parts from many countries and some features unique to itself. Inspite of our cultural, regional, linguistic differences we would demonstrate unity. All the other identities like our religion, race, caste, language would come a far second compared to the national identity.

But even after sixty years of being a republic nation, the very multiple identities continue to haunt us. People still demand a separate state because their region needs a different identity than others; native people in the country’s largest city consider few people “outsiders” who come to take away what belongs to them; religious fanatics still believe that government is acting against the interest of the majority community and indulge in large scale communal violence; river water that flows across states is constantly disputed as belonging to the state of origin leading to chaos in downstream states… the list goes on endlessly. We see new cases like these emerge almost everyday.

Our constitution was framed by borrowing the best from all the parts of the world. It is one of the finest written rule of law in the world with clear demarcation between the powers of legislature, executive and the judiciary. It also controls the power of the central and state governments clearly. In spite of having such a finely written constitution with us, the reason we are still lacking unity and development is because of the short-sightedness of our leaders. We have created a form of governance where it is easy for our political class to keep us divided and get votes without taking any steps towards betterment of the nation. The collective will of the rulers as well as the people towards a developed nation is missing today.

Putting national interest ahead of any other vested interest is one of the foremost requirement in today’s scenario. Especially the leaders who use the emotions of the people to trigger violence and spread unrest must realize this first – progress can happen only if we stand united in spite of all diversities and not by demanding segregated development of isolated communities. Be it the Thackerays of Maharashtra who want to deny taxi permits to non-marathas, the TRS who want to have a separate state for sake of a political identity – everyone should realize that true growth and development can happen only when it is inclusive, ie, each and every citizen in the country feels part of the whole and willfully participates in the nation-building process.

On this occasion of India’s 61st republic day, we all should introspect on the reasons that have hindered progress in the nation and give a nice, tight slap in the face to all those who are against the unity of whole nation. I wish that we reach reach our rightful place at the top of the world soon. I hope to write more on issue of nation-states in the coming days. But for now, I just wish you all a Happy republic day! Jai Hind

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Ma Phaleshu kadaachana !

The field is ready for a great battle. The people on the other side are all your kith and kin. And yet, you need to fight them for the sake of your own dharma, to reclaim what is rightfully yours. But the champion warrior in your team is reluctant. He is filled with deep emotion at the thought of slaying his own grandpa in whose lap he played as a child, his own guru who taught him how to hold weapons, his own brothers with whom he grew up. He is toying with the idea of leaving everything else and running away to do penance. What do you do?

It is exactly at this point of time, the lord of the universe comes in the form of your friend and charioteer and guides you with lessons so powerful, so true that the whole world admires even to this day. It is during one of such lessons, he comes up with these magical lines:

Karmanyeva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadachana |
Maa karma phale hEturbhoo maa te saMgostvakarmani ||
{Bhagavad-Gita 2.47}

Yes, these lines are taken from the holy Bhagavad-Gita given to us from the lord himself. When Arjuna was in a dilemma whteher to fight his own kin or flee from the battlefield, Lord Krishna gave him these words of wisdom. The Bhagavad-Gita is a treasure house of knowledge. Each and every shloka in it is truly a masterpiece and its teachings are valid even to this day. But sadly, most of the teachings are often misinterpreted either because of utter ignorance or failing to see the larger scheme of things.

For instance, let us consider the above shloka itself. It is literally translated thus – “You have rights to perform your karma (duty) but not entitled to its results. Never consider you are the cause of the results, and never wrest from doing what is your true duty”. It is very easy to interpret this as “You are not entitled to the fruits of your action” and many people actually do so. They fail to perform their actions in full faith and blame it on fate/almighty when things don’t bear expected results. A student does not study well for the exam and then says after the exam that he has no control over the result. A team does not give its full commitment to a project and then say they are not really responsible for anything going wrong.

This is actually only half truth and not the real meaning of the verse. In this world where everyone thinks “what’s in it for me?” it is impossible not to think of the results of your actions. And it is imperative that we should always be concerned about our actions and even be responsible for it. What we should not be thinking is about how the verdict is delivered. This is a little complex to understand. So let me make it clear with few examples.

A student’s action is to study hard for the examination and put in his best effort. He should always aim for the highest rank while preparing for the exam. He cannot give up preparation thinking that external factors (like erratic evaluation, competition, etc) might influence his result. But at the same time, he should not be too dejected if he does not get the rank that he aimed for due to some external factors. The preparation and the efforts that he has put in will definitely help him in some way or the other. Similarly, a cricket team must always enter the playing arena hoping for a win. They cannot be thinking of their tough opposition, weaknesses, past records, pitch conditions, etc which will influence the result. If they give their 100% and still lose the game, the effort that they put in will definitely help the team in the long term. At work, you should always give your best in delivering a project on time, regardless of whether the client will ultimately take it or not. The efforts you put in will definitely be recognized and help you in your career. In short, the result of your actions will come in ways that you might not expect. And yet, you will always be rewarded for your efforts.

Now that we know a better interpretation of the shloka, let us try and understand the context in which the shloka was delivered. While asking Arjuna to concentrate only on his duty and not on the results, the lord was referring to the results with regard to “moksha”, i.e., liberation of the soul. Not even for one moment did Arjuna or the lord think that they were going to lose the war. They were surely confident of a win in the war. Not even for a moment did Arjuna doubt whether the arrows shot from his bow would kill the target or not. He was concerned only about the long-term result of his actions, i.e., whether the killing of his own kin would grant him moksha or not. So, the actual result which the lord asks us to be ignorant about is not the results of our short term actions. It is the ultimate result in life for which we all crave for – the truth of life or salvation when we become free from the happenings of the world.

So, the next time you say that you are not responsible for your actions because the Gita says so, please be forewarned - The Gita never said it. It was your interpretation which made you think so.

1. The example of a student is taken to be that of a boy just for ease of explanation. It could as well be a girl.
2. The vast amount of knowledge contained in the Gita has been hotly debated/criticised/praised due to its various connotations. This explanation reflects the author's simple understanding of the lines. There can always be better interpretations.