December 09, 2019
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Three Homilies And A Lesson

The prosperity of the nation comes with economic growth and improved quality of life. But, above all, it manifests in the elevation of the minds of its people.

Three Homilies And A Lesson
T. Narayan
Three Homilies And A Lesson
Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation.

The year 1857 was a 'turning point' in the 19th century, signalling the beginning of the end of imperial rule. This resurgence of nationalism started as small streams of dissent against colonial tyranny. It began at 6 pm on Sunday, May 10, 1857, in Meerut, with what was called a mutiny against the foreign troops. In reality, it was a symptom of something far deeper and greater. Soon these small streams joined together to become a powerful flood as a nationwide movement to regain our lost freedom.

When I visualise the events of 1857, I get the real message about the unity of India. How to feel the freedom and how to experience it? Let me take you, the people of my country, to a mission. The mission is: transforming India into a developed nation before the year 2020. That means removing the poverty of 220 million people. Also evolving a new measuring tool to establish the prosperity of the nation through a national prosperity index, or NPI. Let us look at what type of India will emerge from now to 2020.

I visualise this distinctive profile for India by the year 2020:
  • a nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line,
  • where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water,
  • where agriculture, industry and the service sector work together in symphony,
  • where education with a value system is not denied to any meritorious candidate because of societal or economic discrimination,
  • which will be the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists and investors,
  • where the best of healthcare is available to all,
  • where governance is responsive, transparent and corruption-free,
  • where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed, crimes against women and children are absent and none feels alienated,
  • a nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, peaceful and happy and continues with a sustainable growth path,
  • a nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.

To achieve this distinctive profile of India, we have the mission of transforming India into a developed nation. We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) agriculture and food processing;

(2) education and healthcare; (3) information and communication technology; (4) infrastructure: reliable and quality electric power, road and surface transport and necessary quality infrastructure for all parts of the country; (5) self-reliance in critical technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and have to be progressed in a coordinated way that will lead to food, economic and national security.

The major mission is the development of infrastructure for bringing rural prosperity through the Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) by creating three connectivities, namely physical, electronic, knowledge, leading to economic connectivity. The number of PURA units for the whole country is estimated to be around 7,000. Educational institutions can participate in evolving a road map for development of PURAs in their region. I have come across such an example: in Periyar PURA at Vallam in Tamil Nadu, where students and teachers of Periyar Maniammai College of Engineering and Technology are working in the planning and development of a cluster of 65 villages involving one lakh population. With economic development, it is also essential (as indicated by the above 10 distinctive profiles of the nation) that national prosperity has to spread to all the billion people and we have to see the smiles of a billion people.

While we are happy that our economy is in the ascent phase and our GDP is growing at nearly nine per cent a year, it is evident that economic growth is not fully reflected in the quality of life of a large number of people, particularly in rural areas and even in urban areas. Hence, we have evolved what is called the NPI, which is a summation of (a) annual growth rate of GDP; (b) improvement in quality of life of the people, particularly those living below the poverty line and (c) the adoption of a value system derived from our civilisational heritage in every walk of life which is unique to India.

NPI=a+b+c. Particularly, b is a function of availability of housing, good water, nutrition, proper sanitation, quality education, quality healthcare and employment potential. As for c, it is a function of promoting the joint family system, creation of a spirit of working together, leading a righteous way of life, removing social inequities and, above all, promoting a conflict-free, harmonious society. This will be indicated by peace in families and communities, reduction in corruption index, reduction in court cases, elimination of violence against children and women and communal tensions. There should also be progressive reduction in the number of BPL people, leading to its becoming near zero by 2020. All our efforts in improving the national economic performance should be guided by the measured NPI of the nation at any point of time.

While it is essential to make substantial progress on the other two parameters of NPI, we should focus on the third parameter. Moral values coming out of civilisational heritage are required to be built among the citizens from the teachings coming from multiple religions. I would like to illustrate through a few examples: The first is an important lesson I learnt as a young boy from my father, Janab Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen. It was just after India got independence and Rameswaram had its panchayat elections. My father was elected a member of the panchayat board, and on the same day he was also elected its president. Rameswaram was a beautiful island with 30,000 population. Not because he belonged to a particular religion or a particular caste or spoke a particular language or for his economic status. He was elected only on the basis of his nobility of mind and for being a good human being.

I was a schoolboy then. Those days we did not have electricity and we used to study under rationed kerosene lamps. I was reading my lessons loudly and I heard a knock on the door. We never locked doors in Rameswaram in those days, and someone opened the door, walked in and asked me where my father was. I told him that father had gone for his evening namaz. "I have brought something for him, can I keep it here?" he said. Since my father had gone for namaz, I shouted to my mother to get her permission to accept the gift. There was no response from her because she was also doing namaz. So I asked the person to leave it on the cot and continued to read aloud my lessons.

When my father came in, he saw a tambalum (brass tray) on the cot. He asked me: "What is this? Who has given it?" I told him the fact. He uncovered the tray and found a costly dhoti, anga-vastram (a shoulder wrap), fruit, sweets and a note from the person who had just left. That was the first time I got a beating from him. I was his youngest child and he really loved me, but he was very upset. I had never seen him get so angry. I was scared and started weeping. My mother embraced and consoled me. Then my father also came and patted my shoulder affectionately, saying, "Never accept any gift without my permission." He quoted an Islamic Hadith, "When the Almighty appoints a person to a position, He provides for him. If a person takes anything beyond that, it is an illegal gain." Taking gifts, he told me, is a bad habit. A gift is always accompanied by some motive, so it is a dangerous thing. It is like touching a snake and being stung by its poison.

This lesson always stands out in my mind, even now when I am in my seventies. It's a lesson one also finds in Manu Smriti: "By accepting gifts the divine light in the person gets extinguished". Manu warns every individual against accepting gifts. His reason: it places the gift-taker under an obligation to the person who gave the gift and ultimately results in coercing a person to do unlawful things. I share this thought with all of you because no one should get carried away by a gift which comes with a purpose and through which one loses his personality greatly.

The second example is the advice given to Mahatma Gandhi by his mother. Gandhiji's mother advised him: "Son, in your entire lifetime if you can save or better someone's life, your birth as a human being and your life is a success. You have the blessings of the Almighty God". This attitude of bettering someone's life is an important message for every one of us.

The third is a story from the life of a great saint, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani, which happened about 1,000 years ago. One day, the child Abdul Qadir heard a cow saying, "What are you doing here in the grazing fields, it is not for this you have been created". Terrified, he ran back to his house and climbed on to the roof. From there he saw a large crowd of hajis returning from Mount Arafat, thousands of miles away. Abdul Qadir then went to his mother to ask her permission to make a journey to Baghdad in pursuit of knowledge. His mother understood the divine call and promptly permitted him to go. She gave him 40 gold coins which was his share of inheritance from his father. She stitched the gold coins inside the lining of his coat and bidding him farewell said: "Oh, my son! You are going! I have detached myself from you for the sake of Allah, knowing that I shall not see your face again until the day of last judgement. But take one advice from me. My son, you should always feel the truth, speak the truth and propagate the truth even when your life is at stake."

Abdul Qadir travelled with a small caravan heading for Baghdad. During the journey, when the caravan was passing through a tough terrain, robbers on horses suddenly attacked the caravan and started looting. None of them took the slightest notice of Abdul Qadir, until one of the looters turned to him and said. "You there, poor boy! Do you have anything with you?" Abdul Qadir replied, "I have got 40 gold coins which are stitched by my mother in the lining of my coat under my armpit." The looter smiled, he thought Abdul Qadir was joking. He left him alone and moved elsewhere. But the robbers took him to their leader, saying: "This poor boy claims that he is in possession of 40 gold coins. We looted everybody but we have not touched him because we hardly believed that he has got gold coins with him". The leader put the same question to Abdul Qadir and received the same reply. Then the leader ripped his coat and discovered that he indeed had 40 gold coins hidden inside the lining of his coat.

The astonished leader asked Abdul Qadir what prompted him to make this confession? Abdul Qadir replied: "My mother made me promise to always be truthful even at the cost of my life. Here, it was a matter of only 40 gold coins. I promised to never betray her trust, so I told the truth". The looters started weeping and said, "You have adhered to the advice of your great mother but we have been betraying the trust of our parents and the covenant of our Creator for many years. From now onwards, you will be our leader in our repentance. " From that moment, they gave up robbery and became righteous persons. Thus the world saw the birth of a great saint, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani, out of a message of truth a mother gave to her child. These three events highlight how moral values, the third component of NPI, can be built among citizens, particularly youth.

In conclusion, to achieve the goals of developed India, a swift and bold national movement is essential. In this movement, every citizen, every constituent of our democracy has to participate. What can be the profile of people's participation in this development movement? The citizen's participation can be in many important areas like reaching the unreached and to create awareness, feedback on service to the people, human resource development, entrepreneurship, homemakers contributing to societal upliftment, environment development, youth participation in the political system with the focus on developed India.

When I participated in the award function organised by Air India in partnership with Malayala Manorama, I asked each one of the award winners about his or her vision. I would like to share with you two typical responses. One from a teacher and the other from a student. The teacher said that his vision was to make each one of his students stand on his or her own feet. That means empowering the students for life. The student said that his vision was to bridge the hearts of people. What a noble vision these young minds have visualised! There is a need for initiatives of this kind to spread through the length and breadth of the country. I would also like to highlight a beautiful incident, which took place on August 3, 2007, at New Delhi. I met a group of inspired youth and students from Pune who are members of Friends' Society. They are working in the sphere of social, ecological and personality development activities. They have successfully accomplished cleaning the water bodies in Pune with the participation of 2,500 students, plastic collection drives, a ban-plastic movement, recycling paper projects, eco-conversion and awareness drive and a grandpa-grandma friends club which are having a direct impact on the quality of life of people in society. When I asked them how they are able to achieve such difficult societal missions, the leader of the group, Darshan P. Mundada, said it was through the interconnecting of minds in their leisure time. I was happy to find that in spite of their participation in a societal movement, all the boys and girls have done very well in their chosen field of education. We need many such empowered youth across the country to realise the envisioned development profile of India in 2020 leading to the "Evolution of Integrated National Prosperity Mission".

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