As India celebrates her 65th Independence Day, I feel a mixture of emotions. There is happiness and pride over the several achievements spanning varied fields in the past decades. Yet there's that regret, a knot in the stomach, that tells me that there's something that has gone terribly wrong.
Collectively speaking, we have become far more educated and skilled but on the way we seem to have lost character and simplicity. Note that I don't refer to corrupt politicians or inveterate criminals in third person. 'They' are also part of 'us'. They are the products of the same society and system that has produced us. They are an exaggerated reflection of the negative qualities that reside in us. There's especially one negative quality that spawns a plethora of problems. It's called greed often confused with its harmless cousin called need.
Today, greed is promoted in the name of progress. Blindly following the glorified western model of reckless consumerism has had a deeply pejorative effect on the country's resources. There's an ever increasing craving for more - more money, more power, more food, more fuel, more land, more what not.
There's a quote on the subject of road expansion that beautifully captures the essence of many of the problems that plague the society today. It says "Widening of roads to counter the traffic problem is like loosening the belt to counter obesity". It's the growing belly that's the problem and not the belt around it! Everyone's consuming more than what is required. I just don't understand the logic of associating a higher level of consumption with development. Where's simplicity gone?
You might oppose this line of thinking by saying 'what about the poor and down-trodden?'. Yes, they need to be given access to more resources to improve their quality of life. But that extra demand can be easily met if the privileged ones were to use their resources judiciously. It's possible to meet the needs of the underprivileged without a significant increase in the total consumption of resources.
But are we willing to lead a simpler life, to be more careful with our consumption patterns, to 'reduce, reuse and recycle' and to go a step further and show compassion? Only if there are enough answers in the affirmative can we say that we may achieve freedom from the many children of greed - crime, corruption, pollution and others.