When conventional wisdom takes a headstand, we are forced to come up with new concepts to suit the situation. Thus far, we have had one too many books instructing us ‘how to’, many of them topping the bestseller lists. ‘How to make a million’ may not have helped any of the readers make that sum. People like me who would be satisfied with a hundredth of that amount after reading the masterpiece would be nonethericher. I suspect that only the author collected his cool millions. There certainly appears to be a case for coming out with a few books on “how not to.” For this, in the Indian scenario, you need not be a genius at innovation. All you need to is read the headlines regularly.

Stock markets have had their day, and teak plantations and goat farms and the like which promised a fast buck have run dry. Now they hardly elicit a yawn from the public. Then come the futuristic ‘solar panels’. They conjure up pleasant images of something like the IT boom; maybe like hundreds of tiny bubbles rising up from within and bursting merrily in your head. What’s more, they were promoted by winsome young women, and it became headier than sparkling champagne. My countrymen fell hook, line and sinker and lost a good chunk of their fortunes in the bargain. In fact, to paraphrase Sir Winston, “Never before have so many lost so much to the charms of so few.” Some wag came with the suggestion, “Not only should there be books on how not to invest your money; our universities should have short diploma courses on how to keep your wits around you when confronted with deviant, pretty women!”

While on the topic, last month, in God’s own country, we had a dharna of epic proportions with as many as 50,000 from the opposition laying siege in the capital, only to be called off in a blink. This imbroglio saw both the Opposition and the ruling front scoring political zilch. How about us commoners? Someone came up with the figure minus zero. Yes, that correctly summarises what the general public gets at the end of all mudslinging matches between the treasury benches and the Opposition. After all, if we Indians can come up with the concept of zero, why not an even more emphatic minus zero?

Yes, India is a vast land with more than its share of complex problems. Even the best of planners get it right only partly, and it is so easy to run around in circles. I was reminded of a great ruler of yore. Muhammad Bin Tughluq was to my mind a brilliant man. Think of it this way. What a bold idea to shift his capital all on a whim? How much employment it would have generated for his rural “parivars”? Even John Maynard Keynes, who advocated breaking up and rebuilding public utilities, would have approved of this genius.

I see a hint of common sense, now that our TVs show a pop-up warning “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health” when scenes of heavy drinking and smoking come up during serials and movies. Why not more admonitions which could go thus, “Believe this at your own peril” or better still, “Listen full, believe half” or even more to the point “This channel discussion is mostly for entertainment value.” For our “garib log”, which may lack the sophistication to make out these nuances, we can simply have a small beacon flickering in the corner — all too familiar green, yellow and red. I wholeheartedly believe that our Hindustan is sarei jahan se achcha. Why don’t we make it even more achcha with a few timely innovations?

(The writer’s email: Kuruvila2004@yahoo.com)

Keywords: Indian society

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