Looking at a protesting crowd on the road, raising slogans, holding placards and flags, my friend’s young daughter asked her, “Mom, what are we? Are we Punjabies or Haryanvis or what?’ My friend replied assertively, ‘We are Indians,” and hugged her daughter. Her daughter’s query made me think where are we heading to? 2023 saw the intolerant Indians in more than one way. We became bigots, harmony was lost.
The pace of time never changes. Minute by minute, hours, days and years go by.
What is so beautiful is that every new year gives us the blank space to fill it up with hope and happiness. New year comes as an opportunity with the possibility and promise of beginning afresh without grudges and protests. We Indians should come together as one strong social, economic and political structure that can touch the greatest heights of happiness and harmony. Let us suffuse ourselves in a perfect amalgamation of the ancient, old and the contemporary living structure, where every human being has the right to live freely!
Given the march of exclusive nationalism all over the country in recent years, one can conclude that a secular inclusive nationalism has few takers now. What is most needed today is a vision of inclusive nationalism and secularism progressive in truth and spirit, that takes forward not only man’s intelligence and material life but one which instills in us dominant values of sympathy and serenity, tolerance and togetherness, patience and peace, brotherhood and bliss. Gandhiji wrote in one of his letters, “All our prayers and observances are empty nothing so long as we don’t feel a live kinship with all life.” Brotherhood accompanied with empathy leads to peace and justice which is perfect prescription for harmony.
Can we make patience and peace mantras for the year 2024? Yes, it is possible with our judicious thinking ,rational actions and commitment to achieve them. Some of the greatest Indian inspirational icons at once come to my mind- Buddha, Kabir, Nanak, Tagore, who have been beacons of peace and positivity. We need to revive ‘a concept of India’ in which brotherhood and kinship were our greatest cultural ethos, sympathy and peace for all were inculcated in our psyche.
Tolerance and peace generate foundation of a state of serene dynamism: calm on the inside and energetic on the outside. Attributes of peace and tolerance have been engraved in our civilization but we still have to make the choice to access them. As a teacher, I feel youngsters are always yearning to have more and peer pressure makes them restless. Traditional hierarchies, power structures, disparities in social setup further make them betray our highest civilisational ideals. Peace and contentment alludes them and they indulge in wayward protests.
The small girl asking her mother, ‘what are we?’ clearly manifests the need to clarify and create a blue print for the legacy we wish to build and set the trajectory for coming generations. The decisions we make today are for our children, a future that we should create and carve for them. Will they lead peaceful and congenial lives than we do? Will they approve of our choices and actions? Are we building an inclusive and secular world for them? We have it in our hands to shape the winds of change to propel our collective destinies forward.
It’s time to revamp our thoughts and actions. T. S. Eliot aptly writes “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language /And next year’s words await another voice /And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
Seep this in new year’s spirit and spread the cheer! Happy New Year!
Dr Ritu Kamra Kumar