A friend and I debated a rather touchy topic today and that was surrounding the question, to be (an optimist/pessimist) or not to be?. The dilemma inherent in the topic itself is best highlighted by the recent Lokpal Movement spearheaded by Anna Hazaare and team. The campaign ignited some well founded passions against the existing state of affairs in the state as regards the problem of corruption. In many of the panel interviewers, the pessimists strenuously argued that the movement will fizzle out if not end up crashing and burning. The believers reiterated India truly has had enough with corruption and will see the movement through to its logical conclusion. By the time, Anna Hazare decided to hold a token fast in Mumbai following the 2nd Lokpal Campaign, the answer was obvious, the pessimists were bang on in their assessment of how the Indian middle class in the cities would not see the movement through to its logical conclusion. Yet can we afford to stop fighting corruption?
Personally I am a believer in the middle path, partly out of the safety it offers in terms of avoiding challenge and also out of its proven track record given it lead Sidhartha to become Buddha. Realistically speaking, India represents challenges on multiple levels. The legal system being in desperate need of a overhaul is just one part of the puzzle. On a larger scale, no where else can democracy find itself weakening sensible people as it does in India. Sometimes I wonder if, in a strange way, the bureaucracy, the politicians and the people deserve each other, which notion got enforced in the recent political drama which unfolded in the State of Karnataka. Yet whether pessimists or optimists, we can all concede to the effect that there is scope for tremendous improvement. And somewhere when we acknowledge the need for improvement, are we not also conceding to the probability of it? So who is an optimist and who is a pessimist is really a superficial question.
On a personal level, the onslaught of setbacks and pains have been relentless both in terms of volume and quality. What I hoped to have gotten and what I have gotten are not exactly the same. Yet I have come to realize that the universe has a way of balancing ambitions. It is perhaps with this understanding and also with the pursuit of equanimity that while I am pulled down every now and then, I don’t mind where I am. It is out of the same value system that I did not buy a topaz ring, dip it in milk and worship Lord Shiva besides keeping the said ring under my pillow before sleeping every night; in spite of a quack astrologer offering unsolicited advise to that effect for the purpose of “accelerating” my good luck. In terms of my work I strive to be like the great poet Kabir who chose to be loyal to weaving simply because it gave him peace. Whenever I am disregarded for my youthful appearance or not respected because of an unjustified assumption as to non-existent inexperience (and trust me, I get plenty of those), I just assume that it is not yet my moment to shine and try and not take the detractors too seriously; which for the most part is a successful endeavor. I take what I get without ever stopping to achieve what I had originally set out to achieve. In the process I have gained as much as I have lost, but over all it seems fairly well balanced so as to not instigate apprehensions of bias on the part of the cosmos.
Even for social issues, I suppose I have the same lesson to advocate. Yes, politicians accused of scams are out on bail, yes, we have bad conviction rates and yes justice is slow. But also, an ex-minister got busted trying to bribe a judge. A child abducted in Mumbai got rescued in Haridwar. Baby Falak’s case, albeit its tragic nature, resulted in the quashing of an entire human trafficking cartel. Optimist or a pessmist, we cannot stop working towards improving things. Sensibility dictates that we not make too much of the results of such efforts as long as we learn to keep the efforts going. So my advise, stop being an optimist or a pessimist. Learn to acknowledge the world for what it is and do the best any of us can. The rest is not in our control. That, I am afraid is the only rational way of looking at the topic of optimism v. pessimism.