The roller coaster weather pattern finally got to me. It was during this period of forced rest that an old friend, who is a confirmed optimist, came to see me. We spoke of ‘this and that’ and ended up doing what we as a nation, love to do most – debate our national health. My visitor was of the firm view that all bad times were apt to end sooner or later and he expected the same to happen in the ‘Land of the Pure’. While I fervently wished this to be true, a voice inside my head kept telling me that this could only happen, if good men of action bestowed with the gift of common sense were steering our ship. So far such ‘men of action’ were far and few and the latter were languishing in remote slots as punishment for the ‘crime’ of trying to break the status quo and in so doing stepping on some bigwig’s toes.

The English dictionary has a word for the state we are in and that is ‘apathy’ – “absence of any wish to do anything”. This is a disease that has engulfed both the Government and the Nation, where the former must bear the bulk of guilt.  This apathy is embedded in ministries and departments from top to bottom. It is manifested in flouting regulations, proliferating corruption and shirking an honest day’s work. It is reflected in the nation’s refusal to reject and disown politicians and representatives, who have failed to deliver.

We excel in short sightedness and pragmatism and in the attainment of our shortsighted and emotive goals we create and nurture genies. And when these genies grow too big to remain in their bottles, we initiate bursts of activity to reclaim lost writ. Even in this scenario, our actions are not taken to their logical end, for no sooner have the ‘flames been doused that victory is proclaimed without realizing that smoldering embers may yet be fanned into another conflagration’.

I am often amused by the news that the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister has taken note of such and such event and have ordered an investigation. I am amused because the efficiency of the government’s reporting network is so keenly honed that even ‘the trembling of a leaf’ does not go unnoticed and unreported. Then why is it that media furor over a gang rape or an abused child is required to bring the atrocity ‘to the notice’ of those mandated to know, what is happening in their domain.

I once had the opportunity of interacting with a VVIP along with a group of colleagues. Our discussion lasted a good five hours during which our group highlighted national issues and recommended how they should be tackled. As the session ended, the ‘big man’ was requested to give his views and summarize the proceedings. I could hardly restrain my mirth, when I heard him say, “Today’s discussion has been thought provoking and comprehensive, but I need to know what is to be done at my end”. I had just witnessed a classic example of the adage wherein someone spent the night listening to the tale of ‘Heer’ and ‘Ranjha’ and come daybreak enquired if ‘Heer’ was the male or female in the story.

It was during a break in the aforementioned activity that I spoke to this particular Chief of the Executive and told him that the problem lay in the fact that his ‘office’ (not the brick and mortar one) was surrounded and cocooned by people, who gave him information that he ‘wanted to hear’. I suggested that what he needed was a group of people, who had the courage to say ‘NO’. I don’t think that my comment penetrated the fog in the man’s apathy for he just smiled and turned away. It is after encounters like these that my thoughts turn to the great Chinese philosopher Confucius, who said, “A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions”.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.