“Be the change you want to see in the world”, said the man born on this very day 144 years ago. And though his has been a quite controversial life, with an equal number of devotees and detractors, what he said really hits the nail on the head. If we want something to change around us, we have to go ahead and make it happen. Nobody is going to do that for us while we indulge ourselves with armchair activism. However, before changing anything (in the world or ourselves), we ought to know first what is it that we want to change. This is exactly what I seek to do here today. And though there are many things that I would want to see changed, I am going to focus on the top three that matter most to me. Obviously, everyone will have their own top 3, and that is very welcome.
At the top of the list comes what I call “discrimination”. Now the reason I put that word in quotes is this – the dictionary defines it as unjust treatment offered to people on the basis of race/age/gender. I look at it as unfairly treating someone based on anything that does not/should not matter in the given context. It could be any of the above factors or it could be something else like that person not belonging to the same social/economic class as yours. Hence, my view of it covers reverse discrimination as well. I am equally unhappy whether the man in the car shoves away the man on the street or whether the man on the street aims a stone at the car, both operating on the simple premise that anyone who is not “one of us” is meant to be hated. I see so much of it around that I can’t describe it and not feel sad about it. To take a very simple example, in our country itself, we have this whole “classification system” based on factors like religion, caste, (and finer sub-divisions). This system is pretty elaborate, and takes so many things into account, like where you were born and brought up, what flavour of religion adorns your birth certificate, and so on. If you notice, all these criteria have something in common – these are something over which a person has little or no control at all. And yet, not only we merrily continue judging people on this basis, many of us also leave no stone unturned in propagating this system to the future generations. This discrimination is what I want to see going away. I want to see a world where we (well, at least most of us) will be wise and willing enough to value people for what they are and not judge them on the basis of where they hail from.
Up next is respect. No, I don’t want to change its meaning, or ascribe any additional meaning to it. All I want happening is to see more of it. Respect for ourselves (instead of the pride that we more frequently carry), respect for others and their being, will definitely make this world a lot easier to live in. When someone is sitting in a vehicle and a kid taps on their window, begging for alms, all I want for that person is to politely decline instead of going ballistic on them or even shooing them away like they don’t even exist. No, I don’t want you offering cash or food (unless they look famished) to them (the reasons behind these will make for a separate post), I just want you to treat them with the respect that anyone (or anything) around you deserves. Just because you are privileged enough to have a safe roof on your heads and a vehicle under your bottom, it doesn’t give you the right to treat someone less privileged like dirt. The same principle applies when we deal with people around us. Many a times, we feel that we are the only ones facing (or overcoming) difficulties in life, and by that token, are entitled to a feeling of superiority. Well, let me break it to you – you are not. Every single person on the face of this earth was given a unique set of issues that they have to deal with, struggles that they have to undergo, and challenges that they have to overcome. To make that possible, they were also given their own unique set of abilities, strengths and circumstances. Just because their abilities and achievements are somehow “inferior” to yours by some yardstick, it doesn’t give you the right to look down at them. You don’t necessarily have to be kind, just be respectful.
Last, but not least, comes love. Certainly not of the “ishq waala love” kind that we have all but commercialized around us today. The love that I speak of, and seek, is love for the life that we have been blessed with. The love that helps us to see this world and the people in it in a kinder light, not constrained by what we have been conditioned to see. This is the love that makes the above-mentioned two changes possible, and without which we have no hope of carrying out those changes. This is something much more fundamental to our existence, and doesn’t need cards to express itself, or relationships to prosper. It is quite simple really – we have had enough of hatred and prejudice, and it has not done us any good. Now is the time to give love a chance.
I just realised that I am sounding much like Mr. Gandhi here, and I hope you haven’t dropped off to sleep. If you are awake yet, perhaps the first thing that you are going to say is that all this sounds very good in theory, but is not so easy to practice. Well, from personal experience, I can say that I have been practising this for some years now. I haven’t been perfect, and have faltered at times, but I have kept myself on the path. That will call for another post though. For now, all I will say is – if you want something around you to change, don’t wait for someone else to do it. Just do it yourself.
P.S: The last sentence above was not sponsored by Nike. 🙂