‘Putting #INDIAFIRST: India Positive Citizen Perspectives, Pp 297, Rs 399.00
I should confess that Smt Savitha had reached out to me to contribute to this inspiring book. But listening to her list of great and noble personalities I flatly refused, realising that I didn’t deserve to be there. Now, reading the book, I know that I was right. Her first book, which began her movement to suggest that if 1 billion citizens do just one act of kindness per week, it will mean 52 billion additional smiles on our citizens’ faces every year and a big push for a better and positive India. It can bring a sea change in our society and the nation.
In her first book she talked about her own experience in doing simple acts of kindness and how it spread goodness around, how that one smile on the face of a vegetable vendor, or a destitute child or a police person made her small efforts worthwhile. In this book, she has done a nearly impossible task of reaching out to wide cross section of outstanding citizens of India and persuading them to write about their deeds and dreams for India that is Bharat. These are the mightiest names to some simple ones whom most of us won’t even know; who have contributed hugely to make our society a better place with their passion for positivity, leading to a better India. Savitha, as far as I know, is not a big PR person, she is not a ‘celebrity’, nor does she have right ‘connections’ to make thistask easy. But her deep sense of commitment to the nation has made it possible to bring the experiences of such diverse people together in a single volume. All this effort has resulted in a book that makes for compulsive reading. One chapter at a time, one positive citizen at a time.
Hearing from each personality is a different experience, but the ultimate impact is same – uplifting and inspiring. Spectrum is diverse. From a child of a poor struggling refugee family from erstwhile East Pakistan, to a child born blind, to a healthy military officer losing his limbs and fire, to a farmer’s son rising to be one of the wealthiest and successful philanthropists, to a successful merchant chucking it all to work for preservation of indigenous cows and promoting organic farming. You have a colourful rainbowof men and women whose lives will inspire you to do something for your own good and the nation.
In these times of highly polarised politics that is out to polarise the society, where hate abounds and radiates through TV screens and mobiles, this book is like a detox exercise that inspires us to focus on the purpose of our lives and brings back our focus to “Why am I in this world?” “How can I make my country and therefore my own life better?” And feel ennobled reading about ordinary people, the handicapped people who have done so well by following their heart and deep commitment to make lives of people around thembetter and worthwhile.
I will not disclose the names of the writers as that would take away the element of surprise as you turn over the pages. I will just give a few quotes that have stayed with me and moved me.“Son, you only have a 9” stomach. And, how much money you make, you can’t eat more than that. You come back and do whatever you want; I will see to it that you get food. As long as I am alive, you will not go hungry.” – A mother to a scientist son in USA.
“God can give you your starting circumstances, but we make our own destiny.” – A blind at birth engineer who runs a successful industry based on recycling waste products, runs a big foundation for people with multiple disabilities,that has given wings to thousands.
“What cannot be talked about can also not be put to rest and if it is not, the wounds continue to fester, from generation” – A psychologist analysing the defeatist, confused psyche of citizens of India that he prefers to call Bharat.
“When a soldier is at the border, he is not focused on himself. He is putting his life on the line for his nation – for citizens he does not know personally. In other aspects of life (in the context of citizens) one does not require putting one’s life at risk. Only stepping beyond the boundary of one’s personal life to think of our collective imperative and good as a nation can we succeed.” – An officer who had been declared ‘dead’ in Kargil, now rehabilitating other seriously injured colleagues of the armed forces.
In these times of highly polarised politics that is out to polarise the society, where hate abounds and radiates through TV screens and mobiles, this book is like a detox exercise that inspires us to focus on the very purpose of our lives
A common thread that binds these noble souls who lighten our path is their deep faith in Bharat. Most of them are inspired by Swami Vivekananda and Geeta and each of them wishes to give something back to the society. One scientist says, “My humble roots have always been part of my life and I never forget my roots, the poor people who made me who I am today.”
I shouldn’t critique minor issues withsuch a feel-goodbook, but as a critic and well wisher, it is my duty to do so. The book could do with better editing and proof-reading. Introductions to the protagonists could be evenly structured. Savitha ji’s messages at the end for India Positive and #IndiaFirst could be scripted tighter.The book cover has too many lines that make the title rather unwieldy. Perhaps her urge to send out a clear message is too overpowering. I can visualise her passion. I believe that the book is a part of her wider initiative, hence she has gone ahead with the tagline too.
Smt Savitha Rao’s approach is very simple, and may sound simplistic too. But, if you read the lives of the people who appear in this volume, you will understand what she wishes to convey.She suggests, “Don’t think of seemingly unsurmountable problems that seem overwhelming. Think, how you can make the life better fora person who crosses your path in life, who is part of your life in one way of the other; with simple acts of compassion, kindness and care.
And these trickles will create a mighty stream, nay river of feel good and encompass us and society with goodness and make lives better.” As individuals, let us not worry about the big problem of creating a Ram Setu, think of the squirrel who helped in her own way by placing soil and pebbles in the bridge under construction. Bridge shall be made, vision of being a great nation again shall be fulfilled. I am looking forward to the next volume of inspiring first-hand tales from the people who usher in change silently for the better.