I am all confounded as hell. Like I used to be, when I was picked out of my class of fifty-five students to explain a particular problem, by my math teacher.
Let me explain.
We have been having one scam followed by another. Corrupt politicians followed by officials.
Goondaism in the form of religion extremists. Holier-than-thou journalists being exposed as petty deal fixers. Members of the Parliament caught trying to smuggle people outside the country.
Purchasing toilet paper at 50 times its usual cost for an international sporting event. Telecom licenses being given away for a song. Real estate prices booming and crashing along with the share market prices. Corrupt politicians evading the law and corrupt businessmen landing behind bars.
Bomb blasts galore, terrorists everywhere, delayed trains, buses and flights, overcrowded schools, a million beggars and destitutes....
It just amazes me that we continue to function as a nation despite all this. And throw up a few Fortune 500 champions, a few beauty queens and music composers of international standing and world champion sportsmen.
And, to top it all, the rest of the world is looking at India warily. Wondering what surprise it would toss up next.
In the face of high rise buildings surrounded by hutments, billionaires faced off by paupers, this nation is an amazing paradox.
Actually the answer came to me when I was reminiscing about that day in the math class. The math teacher would then look at me expectantly for the answer. My classmates would look at me awaiting the next hilarious Arvind Chenji episode in math. And I would look into myself to see if I could by sheer force of will power turn the question towards some of the others.
I would however speak softly, wave my hands towards the board, which from the last bench could be construed as waving towards the whole class. And then I would throw in words like Pythagoras theorem, add medians loudly enough and get by.
Fifty-five cheerful brats in a classroom, full of beans, and some of them would let us know by our olfactory functions that they were indeed full of yesterday’s beans, none interested in math.......I wouldn’t blame the teacher for producing a photographer instead of a mathematician in me.
And yet we loved the school. The ‘saboon ka jhaad’ which grew in the compound, ‘Maamu ke dukaan ka fatafat, jaamwale ki oodhi chutney, baraf ke gole with khova’ and of course the affection and family-like bonding of all my friends.
And if one is trained to live under such extreme conditions, AND survive and thrive, then we have along the way picked up a tip or two, or perhaps a gene or two from the lowly cockroach. Survival is either of the fittest or the most resilient.
And boy, are we trained to be resilient?
"If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher."
- Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, Former President of India
Month: January 2011.