Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Character Certificate

I am sure none of us here has forgotten the days when it was mandatory to get a "character certificate" when we left school to join college, or left college to join a job or wanted to apply for a scholarship and so on. And the words generally went "ABC XYZ has been a student of this school/college for the past XX years and has been an outstanding student. blahdiblahdiblah and to the best of my knowledge bears a good moral character".

Note the words "to the best of my knowledge" and "moral character". Highly variably definable. The first caveat shrugs off any responsibility for any inaccuracy in the statement or change in status of the said persons moral fibre . The second, according to me, badly needs to be defined. What does "moral character" mean? 

Does it mean that ABC did not indulge in theft, robbery, gossip. philandering ways, did not talk or look at members of the opposite sex, did not copy in the exams, did not tell lies (how could the person certifying this know - maybe that is why the first caveat), or just what? 

I am equally sure that almost all citizens of this country (except a handful of really hopeless cases) have collected at least 4-5 such certificates. I am sure all our netas have hundreds of them. Then why do we have so many problems (not natural calamities, but man-made problems) confronting us?

How come there is such widespread corruption, intolerance and blatant indiscipline in this country (i do not imply that it does not happen anywhere else - but as they say, people who live in glass houses do not throw stones). Is this any indication of a high moral fibre?

What happens when there is a natural disaster or major accident? We see a few people trying to help and others who utilize the opportunity to pocket some valuables and personal effects of the victims and others who see them do this but say nothing. We jump queues and fight over water at communal taps, try to get everything first. It is always me first. If anything goes wrong, we wring our hands, and blame everything and everyone in this universe from shani, the moon God and our neighbours for our misfortunes.

In this backdrop, a news item I read about the way the Japanese are conducting themselves in the face of an unrelenting spate of disasters is absolutely heart-warming and restores one's faith in human kind. The article talked about the resilience of the Japanese people in the face of the calamities. It stated that

"unlike the scenes in natural disasters in Haiti and New Orleans, there is little anger, no looting. Food and electricity are in short supply, but neighbours are willing to share with others and are cutting back on energy use on their own to limit the need for rotating blackouts". Ron Provost, president of Showa Boston Institute for Language and Culture, a campus of the University of Tokyo says "These are tough, strong, strong people.... That strength and resilience are rooted in a culture that has historically relied on social organisation. People have opened up their homes to others . I heard someone say they had two bottles of water and gave one to someone else". On a daily basis - in tragedy and in good times - the Japanese have "come up with a system to accommodate each other. They are kind to the neighbours and look out for their neighbours That's why the crime rate is low. You see someone doing something and you go to the local police". Alex Thompson, a journalist with Channel 4 News, who was the only Western reporter to make it to the pulverised coastal town of Minami Sanrikuin his heart-rending account for Daily Mail wrote of the resilience of the Japanese people. "the first thing you notice is the silence which seems to hang over the place. There is no sound as we approach this once-thriving coastal town." The war correspondent who has covered more than 20 conflicts and several natural calamities says "I have never seen anything on this scale. There is no crying, no hysteria, no anger. It is in the psyche of the Japanese people to do what they have to do in silence and with dignity". - Bangalore Mirror, Wed, March 16, 2011

How the Japanese built up their economy after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and where they were after just 60 years speaks volumes for their character - more than a million words. The same is to be said of the Germans and more so for their "trummerfrauen". After the second world war, when the entire country was in shambles and when most of the men were taken prisoners of war or dead, it was left to the women of the country to rebuild it. And what a job they did of it! Talk of national character, talk of woman-power.

We as a country have miles to go before we can get anywhere there. Just a booming economy and a population of a billion, or a satellite sent up to the moon are no indicators of the state of a nation.

This, then, my friends is what speaks of the highest grade of moral fibre, which we, starting out with ourselves must strive to achieve before living up to all those "character certificates" we may have lying in our portfolios.