As a child I had had the experience of seeing two wars with our neighboring countries, well seeing would not be right, experiencing is the better word, hearing bombs being dropped close by and tanks rolling through the city, planes flying low. I wondered much later at the futility of it all. But to get back to idealism , from a young age I was idealistic and wanted to change the world, wanted the world to be a place worth living in for each and every living being, Utopia would be nice, thank you. I had some very intelligent friends who were quite cynical( too much intelligence does that), and it made me cynical for a while, but we are ultimately shaped by our own personal experiences,so my idealism prevailed.To make matters worse the school motto had been changed from "Play The Game" to "Others" just about the time I entered the new school.Serious stuff... Others.
I somehow knew I had it in me to bring about some change,it may not be earth shaking but perhaps would have a rippling effect, but I did not for the life of me know what IT would be.
During my early working years I was as never before exposed to corruption, scheming, lies, and all that one requires into trying to get ahead in life more smartly than the other. I did not ... get ahead, although I was as ambitious as anyone else, perhaps a bit more. I knew I had it in me, but the system does not allow for people to be forthright,truthful and straight and disillusionment came faster than I expected. I plodded on nonetheless not without a lot of struggle. I had to be told ever so often to hold on to my job. Maybe I should have listened to my inner voice, I never fitted into the gossipy women brigade or the corrupt practices many others indulged in, but I survived. For many years. Sometime when I look back I am amazed that I actually did. During all this time my idealism was crushed underfoot, the world was not turning out to be as I had thought it would be. I grew up.
Around me the world was changing at a frantic pace, materialism had made its inroads and commercialism was everywhere. Everyone was in a hurry to get THERE.I sometimes wondered what the hurry was, one DID have the rest of one's life to get there, but this thought could be put down to the disillusionment with my working life.Be that as it may, what I noticed that although people were getting on and getting there, something else was happening alongside.Tagore's dream for true freedom was in shambles. Everywhere I looked I saw people who had become pygmies in within their "narrow domestic walls". Caste and creed was more important than being human. The relevance of age old norms were not being questioned, blind following in the name of tradition and culture was the norm, and if anything was questioned it was quickly shushed down. We were progressing, the country was important in the international arena, our voices were heard globally, but as a people we were mired into a quicksand of beliefs from which I for one could not see any way out. I have always been an avid reader, I turned to Indian authors to fathom their thoughts. As a city person, reading about the horrors which exist in villages even today saddened me to an extent which I cannot start to explain. I cried bitter tears at the degradation of this land. Helpless bitter tears, helpless because I could not do a thing about it, only assuage my guilt with some miserable giving to charity. There were people out there working for change quietly and making it happen too. Why was I so helpless? Was giving to some charity or other all I could do? Was I helping at all? I knew I was not... working towards my own comfortable life and like most people turning a blind eye to the child at the signal selling flowers or the young girl washing dishes in somebody's house or the many incidents of dowry deaths reported in newspapers or the apathy of the bureaucracy or the corrupt police force or or or.... the list is endless. Why had my idealism turned into apathy and where was that 18 year old who wanted to change the world, change the way people thought so that the "clear stream of reason" made for an enlightened and progressive society? Had my reasoning and thought been crushed so that all I could do was watch and weep for my motherland? I did not think so but that WAS the reality. I told someone much wiser (than I could ever hope to be) that I wanted to actually work with people who were less fortunate, be the change as it were. I was told that I was already doing that, that by working at my job and giving some of the proceeds for those that needed them, I and so many others like me were actually giving of our toil. I accepted what I was told,accepted it, but my fervor did not die.
A strange restlessness has been brewing within me for the last five years or so. And now the time is coming to do do my bit to fulfill Tagore's legacy,his dream for an enlightened and free India, an India which at its pinnacle gave us our Vedas, the Bhagvad Geeta and the Upanishads. An India which was accepting of all faiths and because of which her cultural heritage is rich and vibrant. An India which shines not in pockets of the rich but in the smiles of the downtrodden, an India for which our forefathers martyred themselves, a freedom which is attainable if only each one thinks with clarity and acts with the conviction. It is a mammoth task but then even the cloth I wear now was once a cotton seed.
It won't be long now.