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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Learning from the past


Tuesday, 11 November 2014 | Ashwani Lohani | in Oped
Human ego is the biggest stumbling block to progress and growth in today’s era. Bigger the ego, the lesser the delivery
The national penchant for re-inventing the wheel and invariably showcasing efforts as the first of its kind is as damaging as it is hilarious. I vividly remember the beginning of my tenure in the tourism sector when I was asked to take steps to prepare State-level master plans for the development of tourism. I tumbled upon a bookshelf and found that similar reports were prepared many times over in the past.
Yet, in our efforts that are directed towards self-perpetuation, we never learn, nor seem to be inclined to, despite the fact that there is really much that can be gleaned from the affairs of history. Napoleon’s conquests and his emergence as the emperor of France when he was merely 35, the rise of Germany as the most powerful nation in the world within 70 years of its being totally vanquished during the World War I and the ejection of the British Empire from the sub-continent almost single-handedly by Mahatma Gandhi, are classical examples from history that should  inspire us towards achieving greatness.
And it is not merely these great examples. There are many other equally important examples, albeit on a lower scale, that are within the realm of realisation by mere mortals. How many of us know that the great architectural masterpiece, Red Fort, took only 10 years to build — that too almost four centuries ago — and the iconic Howrah bridge took just five? That the three hill railways, namely, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Kangra Valley Railway and the Kalka Simla Railway, each took less than three years to build, is also beyond the realm of comprehension. Unthinkable indeed in the present era, when the skills, technological as well as managerial, are far more advanced than the time when those masterpieces were created.
Perhaps then delivery was as sacrosanct as processes are today. And therein lies the folly of the systems of present times. And it is also about ego. “The bigger the ego, the lesser the delivery”, a statement that symbolises the working of all the enterprises today, says it all about the causes that underline our most glaring failures. That human ego is the biggest stumbling block to progress and growth is a fact that needs appreciation. Yet what really surprises me is adjustable egos that do not even whimper when a superior pulls one up but flare up in the presence of a subordinate at the slightest pretext. And the tantra is perhaps the finest example of egos that remain elastic throughout ones lifetime. What a great waste of life, human life that according to the Hindushastra is conferred after passing through 84 lakh life forms.
The great Indus Valley civilisation of the 5th century BC is an outstanding example of what our ancestors were capable of even in those days that were bereft of technological advancements of the kind that exist today. The strides that this civilisation made in the fields of town planning, trade and culture are really an eye-opener and make us wonder with awe — if so much could be achieved in those days, why not now?
Perhaps it is all about our ability to dream and having a single-minded focus and determination to convert the same into reality. Yet the same would not be possible without three things — leadership, absolute integrity and ethical behavior, the void of which this great nation had been experiencing for quite some time now.  Yet we remain engrossed in trivialities, things that really do not matter in the long-run or even in the short-run. Moreover self-gratification and an absolute lack of concern for the collective can never propel a nation forward.

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