A thought crossed my mind and made me sad. I suddenly came to realize that most of the sincere well wishers of Punjab do not have the right model of development of the state in mind. I think we are wishing for something incomplete. Are we at all thinking and worried about the culture and art that we are building in Punjab at the moment.
I think of men like Picasso, Michael Angelo, Hemingway, Mozart etc. and wonder; where is our share of talent and impression in this world? Where is our music, our paintings, our writings? Where is the base of it all and what is it evolving into? Where will we be in a few decades in terms of literature and art? Are we all about singing and dancing to handful of tunes?
Even when we think of a developed Punjab what is it really that we aspire to gain? More money for everyone? Better schools that could teach us how to earn more money and to equal or beat rest of the world? Would we rather not build a pristine world that gives piece of mind and isolation to think and develop? Will we never produce philosophers and scientists? Where are our Maxwell, Einstein and Newton?
And even when it comes to new technology and industry, are we just going to feel bad about not having enough IT and BPO companies in Punjab? What if these companies were in Punjab? Is it enough to be back office of the world? Where are our Steve Job and Walt Disney? Where are our Google and Microsoft?
I think our educational system (schools plus everything else) have given us the wings to fly but have not taught us the art of flight; only a few learn on their own. Most of us need, but don’t have, contemporary role models to learn from.
The bottom line is that we need to give our kids a chance o develop into world class thinkers, artists, players etc. The schools are going to fall too short of the challenge. This will take transforming our entire society, our ambience to make this work. And we have to take the responsibility to make concrete steps in this direction. Only then can we leave a legacy, even if modestly comparable to the one we are so proud of.
In a sheer coincident when I was thinking all this I came across an English translation of Dante Alighieri’s Italian masterpiece “The Monarchy”. I could not have found more appropriate words to express myself than these poetic verses. Here is how Dante opened up his first chapter:
“ALL men on whom the Higher Nature has stamped the love of truth should especially concern themselves in laboring for posterity, in order that future generations may be enriched by their efforts, as they themselves were made rich by the efforts of generations past. For that man who is imbued with public teachings, but cares not to contribute something to the public good, is far in arrears of his duty, let him be assured; he is, indeed, not “a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season,” but rather a destructive whirlpool, always engulfing, and never giving back what it has devoured.
Often meditating with myself upon these things, lest I should some day be found guilty of the charge of the buried talent, I desire for the public weal, not only to burgeon, but to bear fruit, and to establish truths unattempted by others. For he who should demonstrate again a theorem of Euclid, who should attempt after Aristotle to set forth anew the nature of happiness, who should undertake after Cicero to defend old age a second time – what fruit would such a one yield? None, forsooth; his tedious superfluousness would merely occasion disgust.”
Yes, we are proud of our Tansen, Galib, Varish Shah etc. but they are buried a little too far back in time. Moreover we have not given them a chance to lead us today’s world. We admire them like old coins from a foregone era but seldom use them to transact with our world. Our kids are going to need their role models from contemporary times. And if nothing else, we better put a decent enough educational system in place what will ensure that at least this longing to contribute to the humanity in a meaningful way remains intact. And if some people like me can do something more than just writing, may be we will do slightly better than that.