Disparaging the compassion of Mother Teresa

Mother-Teresa

Acquiring greatness is a long and arduous journey. A journey for which acquiring greatness may not be a goal at all. People have devoted their entire lives to various causes and still remain unknown or less known. I feel disturbed about two trends which seem to be quite prevalent today. One, greatness is being equated with being famous and powerful. And two, disparaging people with a reputation of greatness is becoming increasingly acceptable.

The recent comment by the RSS chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat on Mother Teresa is a case in point. What he said was “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.”

Disparaging is the mildest adjective that can be used for the remark. Mr Bhagwat is not alone in his view point. From across the world people have raised doubts about the beatification of Mother Teresa. Western author and journalist Chistopher Hitchens  used the words “fraud” and “fanatic” for her way back in 2003. These words can be mildly called  polemical but are nothing short of being iconoclastic.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2003/10/mommie_dearest.html

I don’t want to debate the factual grounds on which such criticisms for Mother Teresa are based. Neither do I have any right to infringe on their freedom of free speech.

My point is quite simple. Man is a bundle of errors with a potential for greatness which is rarely realised. The greatest persons that have lived on  Earth have had their share of flaws. When a person acquires fame both – the virtues and the flaws – are magnified by the lens of public scrutiny.

There may be some truth in the allegations against Mother Teresa that she was a glorified missionary. There may be some logical justification in the objections to her beatification. But should that allow us to question her tireless work for the destitute? Did Mother Teresa ask to be beatified?

If she was just another glorified missionary then why in the last so many years the world has not been able to “create” another Mother Teresa?

This is because the principal ingredient that goes into the making of such greatness is passion – undying, lifelong passion – to think about and work for mankind. And such passion is the rarest of rare virtues. No wonder we have so few Gandhis, Mandellas, Irom Sharmillas, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irom_Chanu_Sharmila)  Martin Luther Kings, Baba Amtes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Amte)  and Mother Terasas.

Today people-  especially politicians and journalists – never waste any opportunity to tarnish the revered images. This they may do for various reasons and interests which may be personal or societal.

But I believe that greatness attached to the names of such great people should be preserved. There are so many young impressionable minds who imbibe a sense of responsibility towards the weaker sections of the society by knowing and reading about them. And it’s not only the children but also the grownups with not-so-radical outlook who feel disillusioned with such attacks.

For so many years Mother Teresa has symbolised compassion, service and kindness. Her legacy is ever so important in today’s world marked by expanding corporate influence and contracting sensitivities. To dismiss her service as being solely driven by the motive of a missionary would be an example of narrow mindedness.

I wish we all believed in just celebrating greatness of people as dedicated and committed as Mother Teresa  and believing in the fact that despite and amid all evil,  good exists.

Who is Kailash Satyarthi? My salute to the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Indian Children Right Activist Kailash Satyarthi Won 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Even as a man from India with a pressing social cause is crowned with the world’s most prestigious recognition – the Nobel Peace prize 2014, I as a common Indian am going through a strange mix of pride and humiliation.

I am proud that a country of millions of people with thousands of problems has at least one person who has been selflessly working for a social cause without any political axe to grind. I am also proud that he has been fighting to save the most precious part of the human life cycle- the childhood. I am also proud of the fact that in this journey spanning over 30 years Mr Kailash Satyarthi has even risked his life while facing seemingly insurmountable perils.

At the same time I am feeling humiliated that I came to know about a great man when his efforts and struggle were recognised by the highest award on the planet for such contribution – The Nobel peace prize 2014. I am even more puzzled than humiliated that how his entire contribution has gone unnoticed by Indian media.

As I got the news that Mr Kailash Satyarthi from India has won the Nobel Peace prize 2014, I got overwhelmingly interested in knowing more about the man.

I tried to search for more about him and I could find some scholarly literature on labor rights that studied Kailash Satyarthi’s mammoth crusade against child labour and its significant impact on the same.

Kailash Satyarthi was born in Madhya Pradesh in 1954. He is a graduate in Electrical engineering and a post graduate in high voltage engineering. He pursued a career in teaching in the city of Bhopal.

In 1980 Kailash Satyarthi decided to play an active role in addressing the plight of the child labor especially the bonded child laborers. His goal was to free these children from an exploitative system and also provide them with proper avenues for education and rehabilitation. He founded an organisation “Bachpan Bahchao Andolan” (Save the childhood movement).

He visited rug manufacturing units in the eastern Uttar Pradesh and saw the child laborers working in appalling conditions and having an uncertain future. The eastern end of Uttar Pradesh state, in a triangle from Varanasi to Mirzapur and Bhadohi, is the center of the carpet belt, where it was estimated that several hundred thousand children were at work, mostly under conditions of dismal servitude and bondage. Despite the denials of government and industry about bonded child labor in the carpet belt, Kailash Satyarthi’s crusade, aided by the Indian Supreme Court, caused the liberation of thousands of children who were discovered in raids by these activists.

ks1

Kailash Satyarthi realised that the problem is not exclusive to India and therefore the solutions cannot be developed for India in isolation. This is because while the production of lot of goods happens in the poor and developing countries like India, the consumption of these goods is at a global level and particularly in the developed nations. Due to attention by a foreign TV channel which captured the plight of the child labor in the rug industry in eastern UP, the issue was noticed by the International labour rights organisations. It also resulted in the extension of Kailash Satyarthi’s network. He started collaborating with similar NGO’s from the other South Asian countries.

He also realised that conducting raids and rescuing the child laborers cannot be the complete solution and there was a need of some disincentive for the use of child labor.

He envisaged incorporating the “child labor free” aspect to be necessary requirement for a product to be accepted by the  domestic and the global buyers.  Thus he came up with the concept of “Rugmark” – the child labor free certification. The factories without the Rugmark certification would face problems in selling their products.

rugmark

To read the entire struggle you can visit: http://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/CARPETRugmark.pdf

Rugmark is now known as “GoodWeave” label.  To know more about the GoodWeave concept and be associated with it you can visit the following site:

http://www.goodweave.org/home.php

GoodweaveFINAL11909web

According to a blog by Kailash Satyarthi his profile states the following:

“In 1998, Mr. Satyarthi organized the Global March against Child Labour (GMACL) across 103 countries with participation of over 7.2 million people and 20,000 civil society organizations. It is the largest peoples’ campaign on child labour that led to ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour. It has been successful in the formation of the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education, which is a working committee of UN agencies and GMACL for policy coherence and concerted action on child labour elimination, education for all and poverty alleviation.

Global Campaign for Education (GCE) – The education initiative led by Mr. Satyarthi is the coalition of civil society networks, foundations and teachers association campaigning for the implementation of Dakar goals of ‘Education for All (EFA)’ through international advocacy and lobbying work.”

The complete profile can be read at http://kailashsatyarthi.net/blog/

According to Wikipedia: “Satyarthi has been the subject of a number of documentaries, television series, talk shows, advocacy and awareness films.[27] Satyarthi has been awarded the following national and international honours:

 

Although I believe that such a man is not driven by any awards or recognition, I truly lament that none of the awards in the above listed is from India.

Today India needs more NGO’s like Bachpan Bachao Andolan. I salute Mr Kailash Satyarthi for winning the Nobel Peace prize 2014 and hope that he will inspire many more to fight the malady of Child labor.

Understanding the Villain – III (Concluding part)

Why is it necessary to understand the villain? Or as I ended the last post “where do we find villains apart from the fiction and movies?” Before I answer this I would like to sum up in one line the essay so far. The villain is characterised by some indomitable and creative spirit which is at odds with the standard idea of “good”. To answer the above questions,  we need to look for these traits in real life. Today the news papers are filled with news of crime, terrorism, corruption. Who are these people? Don’t they realize where the world is heading! Where are these people found? To find them let’s look inwards. Human beings are naturally infested with some villainous traits.

  1. Anger: Anger is the real villain. It can possess. It is creative and indomitable. It manifests itself in ways that are often destructive.
  2. Greed: Greed is really stealth. It is almost impossible for a person to detect and/or accept that he/she is driven by greed. And yet under the influence of greed a person turns creative and adventurous. Greed for power, money, love can make people behave in the most unexpectedly devious ways.
  3. Arrogance: “Humans are equal and deserve the same basic rights”. This is a good guiding principle which I have rarely seen implemented. This is because in form of arrogance a person has the antithesis to idea of equality. Arrogance is usually driven by lineage or achievements or by both. A person driven by arrogance is capable of tyranny.
  4. Religious Intolerance: My God is the real God. My religion is the best religion. When these rather innocuous ideas get translated into “God of other religion is a devil” and “every religion other than mine must be wiped off the world”, it can imperil the entire world.

In other words I am trying to say that villain inhabits all of us often in a dormant stage. So does it mean that we should not bother about all this.?

Actually no.

In movies we often see that the villain is often humongous. It engulfs and destroys entire cities or civilzations. In real world the villain manifests itself as a collective form. It is not visible as a particular individual like “the Joker” or “the Megatron”.

When a number of people get greedy we witness the monsters called  “Corruption” and “Crime”.

When a number of people feel arrogant about their color or race, it is manifested as “Racism”.

When a number of people are driven by religious intolerance we suffer from communal disharmony and genocides, Sectarian violence. 

In movies the villain is overpowered or killed by the author. But in the real life, the seemingly dormant villain inside us feeds and immortalizes the invisible but pervasive villains around us. All “good” people feel bad and criticize the state of affairs. But they feel helpless too. Because, to kill the bigger monsters we need to monitor and cleanse our inner selves.

And that’s no mean task  for a civilization as busy with progress as we.

Understanding the Villain – Part II

In the previous post I tried to outline the origin and emergence of the villain.

https://theopiniator.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/understanding-the-villain-part-i/

In this post I shall answer the question raised in the last post:

But what are the oddities  that breed the villain and make some cross the second check?

There can be three possible scenarios:

1. Physical Anomaly

One of the biggest human desires is to be accepted and loved. Any individual at any level cannot live happily in the state of rejection from the society. The problem with a person who is physically at odds with most of those around is that he is most often rejected. Sometimes he may get attention/sympathy/ awe of some docile persons.

So what does a person with a physical anomaly do? He/she tries to impress people and win appreciation and with each attempt finds himself/herself even more isolated.

In some cases isolation is aggravated by insults and insults grow to an unbearable extent.

Then the person is left with two choices. One, to learn live the life of ignominy and two, to create a different world in which more and people willingly or unwillingly not only accept him but also respect him. The latter path leads to the emergence of the villain.

2. Alternative spirituality

God is the supreme power in this creation called the universe. We have to be good to please him and if we do something wrong He punishes us.

What if somebody does not believe in these ideas and rejects them summarily? Instead, he identifies a different purpose of life which is completely at odds with existing notions of right and wrong. Of course the moment the world comes to know about it, it will try to reform the person and try to instil in him the “right” notions of right and wrong.

When alternative spirituality is coupled with superior communication skills, it is possible to attract people who are weak followers of the mainstream faith. Once a person realises the latent power of the masses, he takes it an opportunity to prove that his conception is the true way for meeting the real purpose of life and the villain may be born.

3. Alternative theory of creation or creativity

“Destruction is the end of creation” is the normal notion. Destructive kids are feared and sometimes detested.

What if someone believes that destruction is not the end of creation, it is the essential beginning for a new creation. If he believes that anything that has existed for long must be decaying and must be destroyed to allow and facilitate a new beginning.

Or some other alternative theory of creation or creativity.

The chances are that education and counselling will try to direct his / her creativy in the traditional direction and may succeed. But if such a person is capable enough to move out of the theoretical realm of alternative creativity to devising something destructive (creative) the chances are that (s)he will be unstoppable and the villain would emerge.

But where do we find the villain apart from the fiction and movies?

A simple one but I will answer this in my next post.

Understanding the Villain – Part I

The world hates the villain, probably much more than it loves the hero.

I often wonder about, where do villains come from? How does a person become a villain? Are villains any good to the society?

And in this series of posts I try to answer these questions.

Let me first begin with my definition of the villain in literature.

Villain (in literature): A character that is physically and /or intellectually superior to the rest and dominates 95% of the plot, until (s)he is reformed, tamed or killed in the last 5% of the narrative primarily because the author – in order to please the world – betrays him/her.

However, hence forth the emphasis will more on real life villains  (if we may call them so).

The origin

I have not encountered a villain who is not extraordinary in at least one way – physically, intellectually, ambition wise or even spiritually. I would compare it with a over grown fruit in a bunch of average sized fruits. Only that unlike a human being, a fruit is not an aware about its oddity.

So the credit or the blame of the origin can be fixed primarily on genes.

The first check

But there are people who are suppressed by their oddity without realizing its potential and are rendered useless or rather harmless. Thus the life conditions, nurture, company determine whether an individual realizes the potential inherent in his/her anomaly. This is the first check.

 The second check

Once that potential is sensed, it is tested at rudimentary level and the individual realises the devastating potential.

This is the second check where the individual under the burden of the acquired ethics may abort the journey to become a full blown villain.

Once an individual realizes the potential and is unapologetic about exploiting it to explore the extent of devastation it can cause, he is on course to metamorphose into a real villain.

But what are the factors that make some cross the second check?

This I will answer in the next post.

Why Narendra Modi should lead India.

In the history of Independent India, there hasn’t been a political figure more polarizing than Narendra Modi. People either adore him or abhor him. They see him either as the saviour or as the terminator.

I have read the articles of lots of learned minds articulating on why India should avoid Modi in General Elections 2014. Some of these articles I tried to dismiss as being influenced and patronised by Modi’s powerful detractors. This is much like the people who find pro Modi articles being patronized by Modi himself.

But that suspicion apart, I find most of these articles being a mix of dismissive and alarmist. They list certain instances which they label as supporting top businessmen, or selling out to capitalists. They raise questions on the possibility of replicating the “Gujarat Model of development”. They point incriminating fingers on his role as a perpetrator of the Godhra riots.

What I find most amusing is that even people from within the BJP try to warn of the pitfalls of having Modi as the PM.

The run up to General Elections 2014

Just a year ago the nation was witnessing a complacent government failing on almost all fronts – domestic and diplomatic. Interestingly that complacence was gaudily adorned by a strange air of arrogance. The reason was simple: there was no political outfit on the horizon strong enough to challenge its supremacy. It felt increasingly confident having mastered the art of coalition and alliances. It had the trump cards of Telangana and food security up its sleeves. It had left the biggest opposition party for dead. The BJP was just a party with an aging leader too weak to bind things together.

Then it happened. For some reasons which a non political person like me is still unable to figure out, Narendra Modi was declared the Prime ministerial candidate by the BJP. This was despite the opposition of senior party leaders and the RSS.

Congress leadership was confident enough that Narendra Modi was a soft target given his “non-secular” record.

But as it turned, out lot of political calculations seemed to go wrong. And suddenly the political equations started changing quickly.

Today Narendra Modi seems to be a formidable claimant to the post of Prime Minister.

As a common man here is what I see as reasons strengthening his claim.

1. Ability to lead from the front.

That the BJP was in shambles was no secret. Despite having some big leaders, party morale was down. In Narendra Modi I have seen the zeal to take charge in the most straight forward manner – making no secret of his aspirations to lead the country. He silently went about working really hard in balancing his responsibilities as the CM and task of  galvanising the party ranks and winning the support of the masses. India has not seen a leader of this intensity since the death of Indira Gandhi. Of course I am not comparing the two in terms of their political achievements because it’s early days for Mr Modi. But the intensity of the desire to lead and of the confidence that he will be able to bring about a change is very impressive.

2. Combination of Political leader and business leader

There was a time when the most desirable trait for a top post was administrative skills. It’s not so any more. Today people at the top posts across diverse fields including medicine, engineering, law etc. are expected to have sound business acumen.

In Narendra Modi I see that combination which a developing country like India desperately needs. Every sector – agriculture, technology, services, manufacturing – is brimming with potential which if tapped with vision and aggression can fuel the economic growth that can be real engine for poverty alleviation.

3. Reputation of a hard task master

Over the last decade as the CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi has earned an image of a hard task master: a man, who means business at any cost. In doing so he has earned enemies too. But that has not made him change his style of functioning. One good thing about any hard task master is that he has kept the standards high. This helps the entire system.

4. Ability for Personal Branding

Strong leaders have  a knack of self branding. Narendra Modi is a carefully cultivated brand. He has also cultivated the brand “Gujarat”. For many this is  quite negative but I believe that the personal brand of a leader goes a long way in deciding the brand of the organisation or the country he/she leads. A weakened brand of Obama has meant a weakened image of the US. It’s high time India was led by a figure with the image and credentials of a decisive leader.

 

5. Fighting the most negative tag of “communal”

I have yet to meet a Muslim friend who out-rightly supports Narendra Modi. This is a proof that they believe him to be anti Muslims.

Here I would like to make it very clear that I have deep respect for all the religions and I respect individuals for what they are and not because of the religion they follow. I also believe that the most of the common people like me are convinced that Narendra Modi is not anti Muslims. It is simply not possible for anyone with a narrow minded outlook to achieve anything politically in a country like India. I am also convinced that economy driven priorities that Narendra Modi has exhibited, will ensure the safety of one and all. This is because it is impossible for economy to thrive in an environment of mistrust. Also a leader like him would never play with religious harmony which is an integral part of identity of India.

It was because of the communal tag, that his opponents had written him off. So, I consider his ability to fight this grave allegation with a single minded focus on economic agenda to be a strength.

But what about his flaws!!! 

There have been some sharp criticisms against him. As a common man I don’t have any authentic data to factually counter them. But I have logical point.

There is no single charge against him which is not shared by many politicians. These include:

1. Providing favours to the industrialists.

2. Being autocratic so much so that people see a Hitler in him.

3. Indulging in self praise.

I am sure that we all can think of dozens of top politicians who can be associated with these flaws. In fact it won’t be difficult to think of many more with far far graver flaws. Although Modi’s flaws are shared by all and sundry, his strengths or rather the combination of these strengths is rare and unique to him.

We often credit Chinese growth to a strong leadership and long term vision.

As a common man, I want to see India led by Narendra Modi. Not only because he is strong but also because no one else comes even close.