Be the change you want to see in others

Be the change you want to see in others

On his second trip to India from South Africa, Gandhi attended the Congress session in Calcutta. The sanitary condition of the Congress camp was horrible. Some delegates used the verandah in front of their room as latrines, others did not object to it. Gandhi reacted immediately. When he spoke to the volunteers, they said; “This is not our job, this is a sweeper’s job.” Gandhi asked for a broom and started cleaning the filth. The volunteers were astonished but none came forward to assist him. Years later, when Gandhi became the guiding star of the Indian National Congress, volunteers formed a bhangi (sweeper) squad in the Congress camps where, once, even the Brahmins worked as bhangis.

This is one of the many examples, where Gandhi ji took the lead in doing what he asked others to do. He always believed in transforming himself first before asking others to change themselves. It is not thus surprising that Mahatma Gandhi is considered one of the greatest leaders of the world and given the honour of the Father of India. People of India trusted him since they knew that he really meant what he said; because he did what he said. American writer John C. Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

We all want change, since no society is perfect. We all have many ideas on how we can create a good society only if people change. We all are good at advising others, but rarely implement the change in ourselves. Indian poet and the writer of ‘Ramcharitmanas’ Tulsidas said very wisely, ‘Par Updesh Kushal Bahutere’ (Most people are experts in advising others). People want others to change, but do not change themselves, when it does not benefit them.

We have many problems in our society and we want it to change for better. But we as individuals need to change first. For example, India is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and all Indians want to get rid of corruption. However, the same people when they are in government don’t hesitate in taking bribe to do even the legitimate work of the citizens. The common people, also, instead of reporting the acts of corruption, prefer to pay the bribe. It is not uncommon to see the traffic violators offering bribe to the traffic police when they are caught violating traffic rules; or the passengers without tickets paying bribe to the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) to board and travel in the reserved compartment. The businessmen instead of paying their taxes honestly, often prefer to evade it and yet remain protected by paying bribe to the tax officers. Policemen often close investigations relating to the serious cases of crime after taking bribe from the offender. Even the ordinary man often votes for the candidates who give them money, gifts or liquor during elections.

Indian society is inherently patriarchal. It gives rise to many bad practices in society which will change only when individuals change. Women are treated as inferior to men and are limited to the boundaries of their homes for taking care of their husbands and rearing their children. While the birth of a boy is celebrated, a girl child is still unwelcome in many families. Female feticide as well as infanticide are still committed, violating all laws. It is common to pay a huge dowry at the time of a girl’s marriage, which is resented by the girl’s parents. However, the same parents often demand dowry themselves for their son’s marriage.

While India is proud of its old culture and traditions, it needs to change many obsolete ones among those. Casteism is a social evil which India must get rid of as soon as possible. Caste and nationality are incompatible with each other. Caste divides the society and militates against the national ideals of equality and justice. It is unfortunate that caste is still an important factor in the elections and politicians often misuse caste and religion to create their vote banks. Without an awakening at the individual level, this social ill will not go.

Every Indian must also develop scientific temper and rational thinking if they are to see a developing society. There are numerous superstitions and rituals prevailing in Indian society which retard the growth of the nation. It is common to see people worshiping trees and animals to fulfill their aspirations rather than working hard. The self-styled spiritual gurus often exploit people by suggesting weird solutions to their problems and promising them a better life. People still spend huge money on marriage ceremonies and numerous other rituals connected with birth and death.

We must not only seek to overcome our personal weaknesses but also work to cultivate human values, honesty, equality and justice in our fellow citizens. We must strive to make people educated and develop scientific temper. We must ensure punctuality, professionalism and honesty not only in government departments but also in every other organisation. We must implement the rule of law to ensure that everyone complies with the rules and procedures and pays their taxes honestly.

However, it is not easy to change people. Most people don’t want to change themselves, but want others to change to create a better society. The famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Our leaders give impressive speeches guiding others to become honest, patriotic, selfless and law abiding; but, they themselves follow none of it. It is common to see senior politicians and government officers violating the traffic rules and find them engaged in corruption and crime. It is not surprising, thus. that their words have no effect on the people. The following story illustrates that we must change first if we want others to change.

A mother was extremely worried about her child’s habit of eating sugar. She went to a saint and asked him to counsel the child. The saint asked her to come after a week. When the mother visited him after a week, the saint asked her to come after another week. When she visited him the third time, the saint advised the child, “Don’t eat sugar.” The mother was surprised and she wanted to know, why the saint had not said this on the first day itself. The saint replied that he himself used to eat lots of sweet then; so, he could not preach to the child what he himself was not practicing. He first changed himself and gave up his own bad habit, only then did he feel he was morally qualified to advise the child to do the same.

If we wish to change the society, we have to change ourselves first. Whom are we waiting for? Former American President Barack Obama advised, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

It is difficult to change others, but easiest to change ourselves, if we make up our mind. We can take the pledge that we shall be honest, truthful and law abiding from this moment itself. When we change, everything around us starts changing. When we become good to others, people become good to us and we create a better world soon. The famous Sufi poet Rumi said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

When we change, we inspire many others to change and this way, a better world takes shape. By becoming good ourselves, we become the role model for others. Lord Krishna explained the power of transformation that can be brought by us by doing the right things, “Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” Let us walk the talk and be the change we want to see in the world.

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