Monday, September 7, 2009

Journey of life: rules of the road

My dear family, students, friends and colleagues,

Describing life as a journey and asserting, “The journey is its own reward” are two common ways of seeing life.

For me these two ways are true, because travelling had been an integral part of my life till the age of 31, when I got married in 1982 and, for the first time, thought of settling down – in Pune. Moving from station to station with our father, a railwayman in the Signals & Telecom Department of the Central Railway, I had become a wanderer, a gypsy.

What are the rules of the road in the journey of life? The first and foremost is: the strong and the mighty shall protect the weak and defenceless.

While at Maharashtra Herald (MH) in Pune, I had the opportunity to interview ordinary as well as extra-ordinary persons, irrespective of their standing. But one extra-ordinary man whom I recall as ordinary and common is “S.M.”. These initials belong to one of Maharashtra’s greatest political leaders of the twentieth century, the late S.M. Joshi and the initials “S.M.” stand for: “Simple Man”.

For an MH photo-feature, with pictures by one of India’s finest photo-journalists D. Sanjay, we had interviewed “S.M.” during an entire day, travelling across the city to the places that were significant in his life.

Towards the end of our interview, I asked him, “Which was the one virtue he felt he lacked in himself but admired most in others?” The simple man replied, “Karuna”, using the Marathi word for “compassion”.

Compassion, above all, is the one human quality that is, for me, at the root of the first rule of the road in the journey of life: “The strong and the mighty shall protect the weak and defenceless”.

Glorifying greed; mocking the poor

Nowadays, this rule of the road must be underlined because the global free-marketeers, like the gamblers and smugglers and thieves of yore, inspired by the politics of Thatcher and Reagan, have glorified greed and mocked the poor, in the name of freedom for the individual and the market.

And though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks of “inclusive” growth, I believe that is mere lip service to win votes, while his colleague Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, executes the brutal agenda of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation; what I call LPG, the poisonous gas which will most surely destroy the weak and poor in India.

Some shocking indicators are the unacceptable number of infants who die every year and severe malnourishment among children in India. Among adults, look at the suicides among farmers and starvation deaths in villages, due to agrarian distress. You must find out the horror of the figures for yourselves.

On the road, this rule translates simply: the first priority should be for the pedestrian, the citizen who walks on two feet. But look at our cities. The pavements are being cut and the roads are being taken over by cars and two-wheelers.

In education, this rule means: priority for primary education in the villages. In health: save the girl child, ban female infanticide.

For the environment: embrace trees to the death, like Shahid Amritadevi and 362 other Bishnoi martyrs at Khejarli village, near Jodhpur in 1730.

In journalism, save and cherish the reporter of facts, the most endangered species in journalism, from the rampage of the advertorial-writers, the deception of the PR agencies, the target-mad circulation and marketing departments –- the whole gang of space marketeers, in the pay of corporate profiteering.

Add to this list. In general, resist the bullying and persecution of the minorities by the brute majority in any sphere of Life and Nature.


I have kept this post brief, down to 600 words, because I want my readers to participate – my family, my students, my friends and my colleagues. Do you agree with my first rule of the road on the journey called Life? Do you have some other rule that you would place at No. 1? What are some of the other rules along the road to Life?

I thank all those who sent me their best wishes on completing three years of my second innings. I hope I can live up to your expectations and make our coming years worth our while.

Your support is my strength,
- Joe.

Pune, India, Sunday, 6th September 2009.


अब्द said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
अब्द said...

Dear Sir,
Thank you for the thought provoking post.
I think 'to be honest to the self' can be the first rule.
It is probably the most difficult to follow.

Harman said...

Your post is truly a sign of the times. I feel, since I too consider the journey being important...a path that is close to being homeward's bound....where "home" does not unravel itself till you reach it.

Mohan said...

Speaking about the death of infants, I remember suggesting a comprehensive story on the huge number of illegal pre-natal diagnostic clinics in Punjab and Haryana, to my editor at HT Chandigarh, when I was there almost nine years ago. He turned it down with the comment that it wasn't much of a story!

feddabonn said...

i like your priorities, joe!

Kirti said...

Lets not get too emotional about 'Rules of the road'. I mean I could be sounding harsh but the reality is one has to stay tuned to the pace of the world. There are too many of us on the road and everyone wants to reach home or office, where ever, as early as possible. This is not an attempt to break rules to be fast, but here I believe in the Darwin's law on survival of the fittest.
There are hundreds of issues that could be discussed here. Tonight, first thing comes to mind is that we Indians have become spectators more and doers less.
How many of you have seen an accident on road? What have you done about it?
I have seen many accidents, major and minor. What have I done? Or rather what should I have done?
Well there should naturally be one answer - take the victim to the hospital. Have I done that? I dare not say a thing. We all know how our criminal and judicial system works. I am more than 90 percent of onlookers at the accident site think the same, but still they crowd around and watch the action. Why? This is my question.

Joe Pinto said...

Abd, Harman, Feddabonn, --

Thank you so much for reading my post carefully and sharing your thoughts with me. I want to tell you how much I value and cherish each word you write.

Mohan - your comment deserves a detailed post on your blog. This is exactly the kind of self-censorship by editors that kills great stories. Our students will benefit greatly, if we share such stories with them. Don't take names; discuss the issue NOT the persons involved.

Kirti - I will take you up at length on "the survival of the fittest" on the roads.

I am writing Part 2 of "rules of the road" this Sunday, in which I will include your comments and others sent to me in personal emails.

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Gauri Gharpure said...

while i am uncomfortable with your linking politics to the causes (and solutions) that are close to your heart, after reading this post i immediately remembered an article that was recently carried in The Times of India, Kolkata.

Prof Dinesh Mohan of IIT Delhi advocates wider pavements, narrow roads. the article would delight you. here's the link:

Gauri Gharpure said...

in case the link doesn't work, the article was on page 2 of TOI Kolkata, issue dated Sep 1, 2009.

Sushant Kulkarni said...

Dear Sir, Thanks a lot for this post. Recently I had an experience when I remembered what you taught us in your lectures. I have written about it in my recent post on मौनाचे बोल.

Veena Jayaram said...

The first rule is fine in principle. But I would have really subscribed to it if it was “The strong and the mighty shall enable the weak and defenceless to protect themselves”, rather than merely protecting them.

Its more self-sustaining.