A serious crisis of decency, decorum, discipline and dignity from India’s public space

Anantha Nageshwaran wrote this piece in 2012 titled: ‘A Purposeless Nation’.

In 2017 he revisits it again.  He says:

I felt sad writing it and I feel sad now recollecting it.

In the 2012 piece he said:

Yours truly logged about 1,000km in the last four days visiting ancient temples in the Tanjore-Kumbakonam-Mayiladuthurai belt in Tamil Nadu known for their architectural splendour. The temples that I visited date from around 1148 BC to 1012 AD. The oil paintings and sculptures pack so much of creativity and artistic expression that even non-believers can lose themselves for days and months exploring and marvelling at their beauty, even if the divine tales behind them leave them unmoved. The tales will reveal their deep spiritual meanings for those who care to reflect on them.
Now, the sculptures and pillars carry messages of love from boys to their girlfriends with mobile numbers. Otherwise, they serve as receptacles for the so-called devotees to deposit the sacred ash and kumkum they receive from the priests. The well in Gangai Konda Cholapuram (a UNESCO Heritage site) is murky and filled with filthy water. Not long ago, one could spot a coin clearly even when the water was 50 feet deep. It is a temple where the sunlight that falls on the holy bull Nandi is reflected on the Shiv Linga that is located 200 ft away, illuminating it.
Our behaviour on the road is not merely a question of etiquette. It captures most things that are holding us back and are going to hold us back. We are happy to get off from a moving bus at a traffic island, be sandwiched between two lorries belching copious quantities of black smoke, while trying to cross the road to the other side. It is not our lack of concern for collective but the disregard for personal safety that leaves one stumped. It is almost as if we tell the rest of the world that our safety is their problem. It is a life of blissful ignorance of priorities. Instant gratification at its worst.
We comfortably ride three or four on a motorbike with the right hand on the bar and left cradling a mobile phone on the right shoulder. We do not dim the headlights in consideration for the vehicles coming at us. We have no hesitation in riding on the wrong side of the road because we need to reach a tea-stall or find a bush to relieve ourselves. We yield to none even when we face off each other on a narrow bridge through which only one vehicle can pass. We stake our egos on petty and trivial issues.
The same pettiness makes us construct mosques, madrasas and churches in granite and marble in the villages and in the three temple towns mentioned above. Imagine how cheap it would be for a Hindu temple to steal the limelight and be a source of distraction near the Velankanni St. Mary shrine or near the Nagore dargah. Think about it.
It is a nation that has no pride in the past, does not identify priorities for the present and hence no sense of purpose about the future. It is a nation with no sense of history. Such a nation may still achieve spurts of economic growth, but it is unlikely to realize its potential ever.
The obsessive pursuit of instant gratification has resulted in the flight of decency, decorum, discipline and dignity from India’s public space. Anything that is scarce becomes more valuable. Therefore, there will be a natural scramble to possess them. Those who possess and display scarce commodities are rich. But not in India. These Ds are in short supply not because they are increasingly in demand, but because Indians have become incapable of generating them.
A hard hitting piece by all means and provides a food for thought. There is little one can disagree wit the piece/ Just a few years of growth and we start thumping our chest.
On lack of pride in history what can one say. It could only get worse as the new generation is not made aware of the history around them. You travel to Cochin and ask what to visit, you are told Lulu Mall! In most other cities history is pushed down your throat in all possible ways and they involve you in the entire process. In Indian cities which have so much history, you are asked to go to to all these shopping malls.
On flight of decorum front, the decline is even more serious. For instance see the manner in which this tweet is celebrating death of an Indian film/TV serial director (who made some really interesting stuff). We can no more discount this as just an exceptional case. There have been quite a few recently with even more amazing choice of words.
It is not about this government or that government. We need to think about this as a society on where we are headed. We can keep making noises over fastest growing economy/economic superpower and all that. But without the key Ds in place mentioned by Ananth, it is all purposeless….

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