A few days ago I read an advertisement in The Times of India which began with the question: “How true is our fairness?” This set me thinking. What does it mean? Does it mean that we regard ourselves as fair while we are not? Does it mean that we are so obsessed with our being fair that we fail to notice our ugliness? Or does it mean that we are dark or fair only when compared with some other thing.
Let us take the first proposition: “Does it mean that we regard ourselves as fair while we are not?” How true it is in our daily life. For example, take the case of Shashi Tharoor. He thinks that if he stays in a Five-Star hotel, likes gym and privacy, pays for his stay in the hotel out of his hard-earned money, it’s fair enough. But a vast majority of people think otherwise. The same is the case with his boss, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna.
If Sonia Gandhi travels by Economy class and Rahul Gandhi travels by train, they think they are being austere. But again a vast majority of people think otherwise.
Most of the time this is the case with all of us all the time, whether we are politicians, businessmen, doctors, engineers, scientists, policemen, teachers, man, woman, child, husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.
Let us take the second proposition: “Does it mean that we are so obsessed with our being fair that we fail to notice our ugliness?” Again take the example of Shashi Tharoor. He thinks that if he is paying from his own pocket for his stay in a Five-Star hotel, why should there be any objection to it. But when you think of it in the context of hundreds of people starving and some even committing suicide, does it not look ugly that he should be leading a life of luxury when the very people whom he is supposed to serve, protect and nurture are hardly able to make both ends meet? Many believe it does.
Similarly when Sonia Gandhi travels by Economy class and Rahul Gandhi by train, they believe that they are saving money for the nation. But when considered in the context of the money that is spent on their security and the harassment it causes to hundreds of people on account of their security arrangements, does it not look ugly that they should even pretend to be austere. Many believe it does.
Now let us take the third and last proposition: “Does it mean that we are dark or fair only when compared with some other thing?” Again, how true it is. We are what we are, fair, dark or in-between. We are more corrupt when compared with Western countries and less corrupt when compared with some Asian and African countries. Similarly, we are more secure economically and militarily when compared with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, etc., but we are less secure when compared with China, Russia and the United States of America.
Thus, it will be seen that it is all a question of our mind. Mind is very, very mercurial. It rolls back from one extreme to the other within no time. So let us not waste our time on trivial things such as debate on austerity and continue our journey on the road to progress.
I know Dr. Amartya Sen must be giving his toothless smile and wondering whether all Indians are argumentative!