Random Thoughts

Acting Responsibly in Public Life

In one of the national dailies, there was a news item that an important political party has demanded that particular water born flower should be covered in all ponds, lest it will give undue publicity and mileage to the other party during elections. Incidentally, this plant blooms in winters and is also commercially grown by many farmers in the country in fresh water bodies.

Reaction from the other party was equally swift demanding that in that case a particular organ of the entire populace be fully covered too because it represents a symbol of the party raising objections in the first place.

This is the irony of times that our rational (or irrational!) minds have gone to stooping so low.

This incident reminds me of my university days. Though my parent’s house was not very far off from the university yet for the sake of convenience I was staying in one of the university hostels. There were approximately 200 inmates and it was a fun living with boys from different background, belief, customs and rituals almost daily with new experiences.

It was around that time that University Grants Commission (UGC) started a Faculty Improvement Program, under which lecturers (or shall I call them professors because an overwhelming teaching community loves to be called as professors and actually use this title with their name contrary to the fact that there is a specific grade and scale prescribed for professors in academic and research institutions) were granted leave with full salary to enable them to enroll with universities of their choice to pursue a doctorate degree. The hostel had two residential wings, and two such gentlemen were living in the same wing a few rooms away from mine. As a regular student of a Ph. D. Program in Science, I had developed a good rapport with these two gentlemen in their forties.

One of them was pursuing his doctorate in Chemistry and the other one in Physics. Due to accommodation constraints, they were made to share one room together in the hostel. Apart from the research discipline, there was a sharp contrast in their personalities. One used to be so reserved and quiet most of the time while the other was too extrovert and talkative all the time. It was very difficult to fathom the first one’s mind or mood while the other would be too revealing and boring at times. The one would seldom share any professional matters while the other one will be too eager to speak about his anxieties such as whether he would be able to complete doctorate in the given timeframe or if he would succeed in clearing proficiency examination in foreign language as prescribed mandatory with a Ph. D. Program.

As for as I recall it was perhaps between 1.00 AM to 2.00 AM at night in early winters that there was a loud thumping at my door. As such students living in hostels are in the habit of going late to their beds and I had gone to sleep only around quarter passed twelve at night: so bit irritated with this unexpected trouble, I inquired as to what makes them to disturb me at such a late hour. The boys informed me that there is a big noise and shouting from the corner room and apparently two inmates i.e. two professors are fighting over some issue. Since I was fairly senior among inmates and, in their opinion, pulling on well with these two gentlemen, their coming to me for intervention appeared justified and logical to me.

They were indeed bitterly arguing and quarreling over issues. I tried to pacify them. The gentleman doing chemistry complained that the other fellow has awakened him to enquire as to why streets dogs are barking at midnight, and it is not for the first time, he often disturbs him from sleep at night with such queries for which, obviously, he is neither concerned nor interested. The other gentleman doing physics equally vehemently complained that the former too has on many occasions forced him to read the manuscript of a book on Chemistry which he insists he is writing, and I don’t know what I am supposed to do with his Chemistry. Obviously, it was very difficult situation and to make out sense out of these arguments was beyond anybody’s wisdom or conjecture, but, of course, their arguments had now assumed a low pitch, so requesting them to make peace all of us retreated to our rooms.

During morning, an inmate, not so believer of peaceful means, from their neighboring room informed me that after some time two gentlemen had again started quarreling and shouting at each other. This time, he along with other friends in vicinity discovered an easier and more down to earth solution. They picked up a big earthen pitcher full of water and broke it at the door of their room. The sound created with the explosion of the pitcher and consequent spilling of water inside and outside their rooms perhaps brought in some fear factor and both of them were silenced without any further trouble till morning.

I recall yet another story from certain moral readings during childhood.

There was this saint with two rather arrogant pupils whom he was supposed to teach and groom for governance of the kingdom in due course. During evenings, both pupils used to massage his Guru’s legs and one each leg was allotted to both of them to avoid any confusion or conflict. One day, one pupil had gone on leave and the saint commanded the other one to attend the second leg too. As such, this pupil was quite jealous of the other one and got further annoyed with this command. So he picked up a massive club and hit saint’s second leg which got fractured putting him under severe pain. The next day, the other pupil returned and finding the miserable plight of Guru and the cause thereof, out of sheer anger and frustration, he picked up another club and fractured his first leg too. This way he settled his score and achieved his revenge and in the process their Guru became disabled for life.

When we consider or analyze such occurrences, particularly the one referred to in the opening paragraphs, in the context of society or public at large. Who are the ultimate sufferers of such mindless and unscrupulous thinking or acts? I think even a person of average intelect would agree that it is indeed the public or common man. Should those in public life or with high social or religious offices behave or act with such lackadaisical ingenuity and attitude? For if the quality of our people in governance and imparting ethics or education remains of this level, it is not very difficult to imagine or forecast as to what kind of nation or civilization we are destined (or doomed?) to build in time to come for future generations.


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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