What does India truly need?

Is Economic success the only measure of a Nation’s growth? Are we just mimicking western civilizations without using our strengths? What would it take for India to be seen as a great & all round successful nation?

This breakthrough article by Mr. Prakash Seshadri challenges stereotypes of Economic well-being as the primary measure of success and provides a view of how India can leverage its heritage to blend the best of East and West.

A must-read for every citizen of India who has an interest of coming together to build the Nation and practicing the true spirit of ‘Unity in Diversity’.

The British rule of 200+ years of India, despite all it’s brutalities, did bring in a western-mindset to the Indian psyche in terms of our thinking, infrastructure, political system and Economic foundation which continues to form the basis of the Indian Political and Economic system. The liberalization of the 1990s opened the gates for increased investment in India and resulted in multiple decades of economic boom – where a significant population of urban India (if not all) is experiencing western-style benefits and lifestyles. Certainly, this has been a positive moment in helping the Youth of the country take on opportunities which were previously unheard of or were difficult to get done.

But, at the same time, we see an increased trend towards ‘blindly aping the west’ and increased focus on a model where everything seems to be measured by Economic Indicators alone (at an Individual and a National level)! But such a single dimensional model of measurement, built over centuries, is no longer working. In addition, such thinking does not tap into the rich Heritage of India, which goes way beyond materialism. Hence, we need to ponder over the question of “What is it that India really needs” (or even the world for that matter)? What is it that makes a country like India truly great in the long run? The hint lies in digging deep into the rich Heritage of India and taking a wholistic/360-degree view of the nation beyond just the economic component.

Taking a broader view of Nation’s Success

Measuring the success of a nation purely on Economic factors – is akin to a student passing in only one Subject and we overlook all his other Subjects. In a scenario like that what happens to his all-round growth? In the same manner imagine a Sensex based on only one script; would it reflect the true value of the market? It needs a basket/multitude of scripts to make the Sensex score! Or imagine a person having only one person in his life to socialise with! What kind of diversity would he have in his life? Likewise, what kind of thinking would it be to link the growth of the nation to only one factor – Economic?

Infact, there are many more to consider than just Economic growth alone. Let us imagine a pie of 100%. In that, economic growth can’t be the full 100%. In fact, ideally, it must be just 20% (or in that range) and the rest of the pie should consist of other factors such as:

  • Culture – India has had a rich heritage and diversity when it comes to Culture. The culture of India refers collectively to the thousands of distinct and unique cultures of all religions and communities present in India. India’s languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country. Our progress as a nation should also be measured in terms of how well we are preserving and nurturing this kind of wealth so it can remain for future generations. We also ought to fine-tune these cultural aspects for the modern generation, while preserving the original sanctity for what our culture stands for.
  • Literacy – India has always had a rich set of dialects and languages allowing for citizens to communicate based on their upbringing and choice. Many centuries ago, our own Nalanda University was the “Model University” for the world! The ability for all citizens to read/write (and not just the urban population) is a critical foundational skill for day to day living. In addition, it is about educating citizens to read/write in their own languages and other languages used for business (such as English). Increasing literacy rates, especially in rural areas, is a key indicator of progress around intelligence of the nation.
  • Education – In addition to Literacy, the level and extent of Education imparted becomes a critical factor as well for a Nation’s growth. Especially in Rural areas opportunities must be expanded so that current / next generation is making strides and not just stopping at primary level of education. The higher the level of Education adults / children of India can have – the more empowered they will be to lead the nation out of challenges like poverty etc.
  • Character – Theodore Roosevelt, one of the leading Presidents of USA, said that “Character (in the long run) is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and nations like”. It is easy to see why this is the case. If individuals demonstrate sound Character in their daily engagement, the same will percolate to communities / villages / cities and the entire nation – as nations are nothing but a conglomeration of people. A sound character helps individuals lead a responsible life and thereby influencing the creation of a responsible nation.
  • Values – Values and Principles are the bedrock upon which individuals build their Character. Values help rally us around what we stand for as an individual, Family, Society and as a Nation. As an example, ‘Unity in Diversity’ has been a core Value for India in historical times, despite interference to the contrary by foreign elements. The extent to which Values have been ingrained in the lifeblood of the nation is an important indicator of the kind of harmony the nation exhibits.
  • Happiness / Peace – Is there any value in just being an economically rich nation but lacking in fundamental Happiness? This has been a challenge in many western countries where we see all the prosperity, but individuals are unhappy at the core. Hence, we need to go beyond mere GDP and begin measuring a ‘Happiness Score’ – which is a measurement of how Happy the individuals of the nation are and having Programs to support such a movement.
  • Spiritual Well being of the population – India has always been a leader when it comes to Spiritual quests. Since time immemorial, the ‘Yogis’ of India have explored the Inner journey and left behind detailed treatises, such as Patanjali’s Yoga sutras, which offer a structured roadmap for Spiritual well-being. Western nations, especially over last few decades, have woken up to the immense value of Yoga and other contributions from India (recall the International Yoga Day of 21st June being observed across the globe every year?). Alas, we Indians have not adopted it to the degree that we should. Spirituality must become ingrained and integrated into our material life, which will then be a true success of India as a nation. This is the main way (only way?) in which we can learn to live a balanced, happy and peaceful existence in the longer run.

Too much Outcome focus!

As a result of westernization and sustained economic focus, the pendulum has swung too much in the other direction of focusing on “End Results” forgetting that the focus on process / journey is equally important, if not more. To illustrate this, in the Corporate section, there is a tremendous pressure on a quarterly / annual basis on Profits. While that is alright in the spirit of Capitalism, we see Companies turning into ‘Greed houses’ and going after Profits at any cost. In that ‘rat race’ to outsmart competition and earn more money, concepts such as Ethics, doing the right thing, taking care of employees, communities, nation and environment are lost. If the focus turns to the overall process of running and managing a Company in an honest manner, then the mad rush for “results alone” will tone down.

Even at an individual level Children are asked to get high Rank / Test scores. This kind of purely ‘Outcome focused’ approach robs Children of the joy of the process of Learning and building a solid foundation, which is more important than just getting good Grades; getting good grades again based on “Outcome Focus” of Jobs, Comfortable living etc. The Process and Journey of Education has to be given good importance.

Drop the separations – seek Unity!

India is a complex nation, as we have a rich diversity in religions, cultures, political affiliations etc. This diversity is our strength and offers choice to our citizens while still remaining under the spirit of One Nation. Unfortunately, we see Political Leaders take advantage of the differences between people and trying to drive a wider wedge between them. Our Political Leaders, Bureaucrats, Religious & Spiritual Leaders, Media, Press etc. need to spread the messages of One-ness and Unity among us brethren. It is nice to see that some institutions are taking the lead in this space in India.

The spirit of ‘We are Indians first’ and our religious and political affiliations are next, needs to seep in and percolate. How long can we keep playing the jingoistic tunes and forget that “Working together” is more important than ever before? We got our Independence in 1947 but have we got True Freedom yet? India successfully fought against the British with one unified voice; but, alas, post-independence, we continue to see divisions driven by petty things such as Caste, Creed, Economic status etc. We, as a nation, have tremendous potential to lead the world in all spheres, if we can put aside our differences and come together for the common cause of Nation building.

Learning from Ancient Proven Wisdom

India is a land of diversity of language, ethnicity, food and its people. Yet, we don’t make use of the best our resources as party lines and affiliations to our ideologies seem to divide us than unite us. Let me take a detour to share the great inputs of Chanakya here. In today’s world, we often talk about Chanakya as a shrewd, master statesman, manipulator, and strategist, who was able to overthrow the enemy. What we don’t talk about is Chanakya’s ability to rise above petty enmity and see talent in the enemy camp (like in the case of Rakshasas/Demons, as he wrote in his excellent work ‘Arthshastra’).

When we look at the modern corporate world, we often see CEOs prefer loyal people working with them. The same is true when parties switch powers. We see rivalry in camps in the corporate and political world and when one camp wins, the other camp is forced to resign or is gently side-lined out of the organization or administration. However, if we really valued Chanakya over and above his strategies to defeat the enemy, and accepted Chanakya’s ability not to bear grudges and use talent from every camp, we could create a great Nation.

At times, our leaders are busy destroying the wealth of resource just because it is “on the other side!”, whatever the field of knowledge be. This is one part of Chanakya that we need to highlight in current times, where we are too busy wanting to destroy enemies (rather, those in other camps, though they are Indians; our own brothers & sisters in the true sense), rather than recruiting talented enemies. There is a need to rise above the concept of enemy, for the larger good of society and the nation.

The time has come…

It has been 70+ years since we got Independence and it is our moment to seek ‘True Freedom’. The time has seriously come for a paradigm shift in how we think about what we are as a nation, or even a world, for that matter. We ought to put aside our differences and work together in the interest of the Nation. We have an opportunity to transform our nation into a collection of individuals who live by the ‘mantra’ of ‘Western Mind and Eastern Heart’.

Let us imagine “A World (and India) of wealth & spiritual abundance; a world sans wars; a world of peace; a world without boundaries; a world where all are treated as true brothers & sisters”.

Let there be a healthy debate and exchange of ideas so that we set the base for the next few generations to work upon. We sincerely and seriously owe it to ourselves and for the future generations who will come after us.

Thank you.

S. Prakash

A note about the article’s author:

Mr. Prakash Seshadri is the CEO of See Change Consulting, India, with more than 3 & 1/2 decades of diverse experience. He is a nationally acclaimed author, coach, behavioural trainer, motivational speaker & an organisational turn-around expert. He has been writing on Human Behaviour, Business Success and many other related topics for over 2 decades now. He has close to 10 books published to his credit (in several languages) and he has authored close to 1,000 articles on self-development, spirituality and varied topics. He is a practitioner of Heartfulness Meditation since 1992 and takes lots of active roles in spreading the message of Heartfulness for Human Integration.

He can be reached at prakash@seechangeworld.com

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