Eyeing the 'I'

A story of old tells us of a land of plenty. Then came the year when it was hit by a severe drought. Crops withered, livestock died and famine stared the people in their face. The king consulted his astrologers. They advised him to conduct a ‘paal abhishekam’ (milk ablution) for their presiding deity.

The participation of the entire populace was necessary, so the king ordered a large vessel to be placed outside the palace gates and every person was asked to pour in a cup of milk. The king expected the vessel to be full to overflowing the next morning, but when he looked into it the next morning, it was completely empty and dry. It did not take the king long to guess what had happened. Everyone had said to himself, ‘How will anyone know that I, of all people, did not contribute my cup of milk? What does one cup of milk matter when there is so much milk?’

The story is ancient and so is the king; but the mind-set of the people prevails to this day. Rare is the individual who weighs his actions carefully, keeping the welfare of others in mind. Self-service more often than not takes precedence over the service before self. It is common knowledge today that lawmakers are often law-breakers. Esteemed judges are seen to be in need of judgement and punishment.

The rich have no qualms in becoming richer by depriving those in need. Take the case of garbage segregation, a topic that has hit the headlines in a big way. It not only offers a solution to the pollution and stink that has overtaken this once-beautiful city, but is also a way to wealth. It is possible by adopting appropriate methods to produce valuable manure and restore green cover that has been lost. Unfortunately, the will to do this is all but absent. Even those who take steps to maintain separate bins are thwarted in their attempts because eventually all the rubbish is gathered in one heap and deposited in an unproductive manner.

This is but one example of self-centered behaviour. Each one expects discipline from others but turns a blind eye when it comes to his or her own self. Witness the way we spit on the streets, deface public buildings and tear down vegetation in parks. Parents order children not to tell lies, but hardly have hesitation in indulging in it themselves. They are told not to watch too much TV, but it is often on from break of day.

There is paucity of electricity, but streetlights are often seen burning throughout the day. We call ourselves a country of Ahimsa, but our attitude to animals is nothing short of cruel. The list is endless but as long as one’s own backyard remains clean, it seems that it is nobody’s business what goes on outside it.

It is time we cast an eye on the ‘I’. Change, it is truly said, begins with one’s own self. Unless we shape ourselves for the better, our country at large will remain what it is – corrupt and far from clean!

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