Jaipur, India – In Salt Lake City Utah, our driver Richard, an elderly gentleman with discovery channel style narration and visual portrayal of culture and history, had pearls of wisdom very first day for us, when we were in town as fellows of Indian Visitor’s Leadership Program of Department of State. He said “Like Bollywood is not all about India, Hollywood is not complete truth most of United States of America.’ Film Directors like Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra object to the term ‘Bollywood’ and in an interview asked me to refer to it as Indian Cinema instead, much before narrative of nationalism started building in India.
After all, it’s all how we relate to an idea. And in this idea of life, in India or any part of planet Earth, cities, towns, villages, homes, are real time celluloid with action, emotions, drama happening all the time and stories that take shape and await projection. The world is made up as much of stories as matter and energy. In my quest for new stories when I was looped in for an outsourced case studies collection work for Ministry of Culture, I also realized how much energy and vibrations touch you and make story casts so special, from ordinary to unique.
I vividly recall when we in a small group had a chance for freewheeling with former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Such opportunities could have been extreme learning experiences but a few fellow journalists couldn’t resist questions about China policy, relations with neighboring countries and more perhaps for a genuine peep into his thoughts made up of affairs seen from bird’s eye view. But he fiddled with each uncomfortable dart and dragged all into his vision about humanity, education, and science wherever he could. And that stayed with us all as happy moments. We could all feel his intent.
Most intriguing is the courage and compassion of common people, under most difficult circumstances. I sensed it while recording a TV show with a Mother of a boy with complicated set of disabilities. But, my knowledge about her was beyond the show, as an active participant on policy issues that pertain to people with disabilities as part of our social drive on the theme. She knew that her husband was the carrier of the gene responsible for this crippled state of their son. But father abandoned both and this young mother, till then unaware of the complexities and stigma of raising a child with disabilities all alone, not only carried on with grit but defied medical science by sheer love and care for her son named Nirbhay (meaning without fear), who she refers to as her Guru (preached) now. Highlight of my confab with her, “Nirbhay added purpose in my life, he guided me”.
Victor Frankl, a neurologist and psychiatrist, and a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, writes in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning” that ‘those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with any ‘how’. Injustice and deprivation is an everyday reality for millions who face different levels of social and economic challenges and traumatic life experiences even in powerful and comparatively fair democracies. Even people with better socioeconomic backgrounds are sick of jobs and life as they find it meaningless but have no escape from this trap. Political environment and policy making ought to attend to mental or physical sufferings faced by the voiceless/less privileged/marginalized by engaging them into constructive dialogue and fast action solutions.
The Happiness index is a fancy idea for many but working toward it requires bigger spiral of positivity and spirited steps. India has a central state which had announced in previous regime a happiness ministry which has no achievement to its credit yet, and UN sustainable development solutions network report 2018 ranks India at 133rd among 156 countries on the parameters of equality, life expectancy, GDP per capita, social freedom, and trust (meaning lack of corruption and social support). While India has fallen from previous rank of 122nd, US has also slipped from 14th to 18th position.
We need to stir our systems to rise above the benumbing radicalism and appreciate what Roman king Marcus Aurelius writes in his work ‘Meditations’ – “Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy”. It’s a choice for us to have motives which define us and drive us toward happiness.