When so many non-issues have occupied the mind of the youth, to plead for sensitivity to what appear to be real issues may be a vain hope. But, symbols matter. Despite many statements criticizing the decision to move cricket matches out of Mumbai because of water scarcity, it did focus attention of the urban middle class on the scarcity of water in many parts of the country. To argue that how would a few lakh litters solve the problem when the gap is so huge is actually very irresponsible. Even one drop counts.
I will repeat a story I have narrated many times but will do it once more to remind how the sages in our society have looked at such symbols. Once a teacher asked a student to bring a glass of water 2000 years ago. The student brought the water, the teacher took it and gave the empty glass back. The student took the glass back to the kitchen. The teacher called the student and asked him what did he do. The student replied that he brought the glass of water when asked and kept the empty glass back in the kitchen. The teacher asked him again the same question. And he repeated the same reply. After repeated questioning, the student realized that he was missing something. He reflected for a while and then answered the teacher, ‘sir, you had asked me for a glass of water. While taking the empty glass to the kitchen, I had thrown just a few drops on the ground’. On referring to the drops as just, he got his zen. Two thousands years ago, there was no shortage of water. Probably for the next 1800 – 1900 years, there was still no shortage. But imagine the sagacity of the teacher, who knew what arguments would be made in 2016 while referring to the need of conserving water. He had given us a criteria to evaluate our choices. We should not conserve resources only when they become scarce. We should conserve resources to prevent them from becoming scarce. Will the youth reflect on our current practices of using natural resources and begin a dialogue to change the wasteful ways everywhere, at home, work and while going around.
We should debate the wisdom of the policies followed in the last six decades making it easy for the resourceful people to exploit and misuse the ground water as well as the surface water. Drought in some places and water logging in others are two sides of the same coin. We are losing our sensitivity, which in turn is making us behave irresponsibly. How do we redefine the sensitivity of moral compass?
Can during the summer the students audit the practices of using natural resources in particular water at home [while brushing teeth, washing hands, taking bath, etc.], work [using drinkable water for irrigating lawns in office spaces, degree of recycling or repurposing waste water] and at other places? It will be very useful to document the positive, creative responsible and sensitive practices being followed.
I will look forward to hear about such practices. Let me give one more assignment to my young friends who are having summer vacation. Observe the degree of discrimination practiced against girls, workers, particularly those belonging to schedule caste and schedule tribe, or anybody else including people following a different religion than one’s own. Identify the roots of this discrimination. Question the beliefs by engaging with the people. Many times when we are discriminated against in different roles in our life. But we keep quiet or participate actively in discrimination. Sooner or later, the discrimination leads to alienation. It is inevitable that after sometime alienation may evolve into anger. It doesn’t take too long for anger to become a basis for aggression and aggression and sometime violence. The tolerance for discriminative practices leads to inertia and introgression or what is also called as involution as against evolution. Our society is passing through a very critical time. Many extremist forces on all sides of social spectrum are asserting their righteousness. The silent middle is legitimizing the extremism. The middle, moderate and accommodative path is the one that has sustained us so long. It is not for nothing that India has been known as an extremely tolerant, inclusive and appreciative society during the golden period of our history. The young people should ask the question about who were the rulers at that time? What was their belief system? How did philosophy, science and other institutions evolve so much at that time? Can we learn some lessons from the history and revisit the story a teacher told during that very time? Teachers are useful only if they remind even the unpalatable truth. If they also become practical, passive and too polite, the youth may then lose the sensitivity to their own unique purpose in life. I hope we will all find such teachers and try to make them break their silence.