“Study the past if you would define the future” – Confucius
Recently, I saw a Ted Talk, delivered by Michelin Star Indian chef Vikas Khanna where, he shared an inspiring story. In the year 1893, in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi was asked to disembark from a first-class coach even though he had a valid ticket because he was not “white”. The bias which he faced that day ignited a spark in him, changed his belief, compelled him to rise to the British Raj and eventually lead the nation towards freedom.
Listening to these thoughtful words it dawned on me that determination and bravado are two wonderful values which can compel any man to alter the course of upcoming generations and forever make a mark in history!
1) Watching a decrepit old man, a sick woman and a dead body compelled Siddhartha to leave the comforts of his palace and attain enlightenment. He became Lord Buddha and discovered Buddhism. A religion which originated in India and is now followed all over the world.
2) Educated and encouraged by her husband Jyotirao Phule; Savitribai Phule became the first women teacher in the country and established numerous schools for women and Dalit education in 1840’s. People threw cow dung and mud at her as she used to walk towards her school, but she didn’t dissuade. She broke all the stereotypes and became a crusader of education and empowerment of women. She also campaigned against child marriage, sati pratha and caste system. Savitribai was indeed a lady ahead of her time.
3) Contrary to Sir Frederick Upcott’s scorn who promised to “eat every pound of steel rail [the Tatas] succeed in making”. Tata’s not only built the plant in 1907, they even assisted the British Raj by providing steel during World War II. TATA steel is now the second largest steel plant in India and has manufacturing operations in 26 countries.
4) Launching the first successful rocket from a church in Thumba in 1963. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai is aptly called as the father of Indian Space Program. He played key roles in several initiatives like establishing of Indian Space Research Organisation, Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), launching of our first satellite Aryabhatta etc. He was a mentor of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam as well. From Aryabhatta in 1975 to launching of 104 satellites in 2017, India’s space program has come a long way. Gratitude to the visionary, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.
5) In recent past, something stirred inside a 9-year-old Nilay Kulkarni when he heard about the loss of lives due to the stampedes happening at the mega religious festival of Kumbh Mela. At the age of 16 Nilay and his team designed ‘Ashioto’ a Japanese word meaning ‘Power of Footstep’. A sensor mat built on cloud-based crowd system. It designs a heatmap basis on the number of people stepping on it and shows their density, rate of movement and direction. The authorities can take suitable action if the density is beyond threshold. As a result, 2015 Kumbh-Mela held at Nashik was stampede free and soon stampedes itself will be history!
Thus, our past has and will continue to affect our present and future perennially. However, the onus lies on the present and future generations as well on How they perceive their history & What lessons are they gaining?
Unfortunately, many of us are conditioned to follow the herd and not have a difference of opinion because ‘That is the way it has always been done!’ We embrace the illusions as they are embraced by the majority. The following story very aptly describes this thought process:
Once there was a little girl who was watching her mother prepare fish for dinner. Her mother cut the head and tail off the fish and then placed it into a baking pan. The little girl asked her mother why she cut the head and tail off the fish. Her mother said, “I’ve always done it that way – that’s how babicka (Czech for grandma) did it.”
Not satisfied with the answer, the little girl went to visit her grandma to find out why she cut the head and tail off the fish before baking it. Grandma thought for a while and replied, “I don’t know. My mother always did it that way.”
So, the little girl and the grandma went to visit great grandma to find ask if she knew the answer. Great grandma thought for a while and said, “Because my baking pan was too small to fit in the whole fish!”
Thus, today is not the same as yesterday and tomorrow’s horizon will bring new endeavors. The world is constantly changing, and we must adapt to the change. In the words of Sir Issac Newton “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants”.
Hence, use history as a reference, but be free to Mould your own life and Make your own rules to design a great present and a glorious future for yourself and your Nation.