When the Prime Minister of India started the “Swachh Bharat” or “Clean India” campaign, I was pleasantly surprised. The most prominent individual in the country had chosen to highlight one of the biggest problems plaguing the country. It had been decades since anyone had chosen to regard cleanliness as even an issue worth mentioning. With politicians being more interested in mudslinging or paying lip service to seemingly inconsequential issues, it was highly unusual. But, it was about time. He has, since, used every possible medium in the country to propagate awareness about, what is indeed, the need of the hour.
While this movement has stirred a lot of people into starting local activities along similar lines or contributing in their own small way by not littering or spitting, there are still many of us who have chosen to ignore the message and go on unperturbed. And, the worst part of it all is, that, most are actually educated and intelligent. We spend so much time on social media but have scant respect for the environment. We have all the time in the world to comment on our friends’ posts but can’t be bothered to spare a thought for all the health and safety hazards that our actions are causing. Even if someone tries to educate us, our only retort is, “When others don’t bother, why should I?” or “How can what one person does make a difference?” This kind of herd mentality is the primary reason for all our problems. We often think that our actions, in the face of others’ apathy, have no effect. The problem is – every other such person thinks the same way. And, we are back to where we started. If everyone thinks that what they do, as an individual, has the power to make a difference – the power to effect change, the country and the world as we know it will be very different. That is, indeed, the Power of One.
You would think that it is easier to convince an educated person about the need to be conscientious. But, very often, the answer is otherwise. It is easy to tell people something, but, to convince them is another matter. This is even more true, when they think that they know better. We, as human beings, are not only gifted with the power to think, to rationalize, to analyze and make decisions for ourselves but also with the ability to introspect and reflect on the consequences of our actions. However, it is sad to say that, very often, we refuse to exercise these gifts and instead make our decisions by simply following what others do – either because we deem it to be easy or acceptable or because it seems like a safe option. This attitude benefits no one, least of all, ourselves. It is futile to be pessimistic and say “Things here will never change” when we make no effort to change.
Our outlook, as individuals, is rooted in our upbringing and our values. This is often formed at an impressionable age as a product of our learning, experiences and observations. After several debates on a range of issues with friends and colleagues, what I can surely say is that the only way a person can change is if he or she truly and deeply wishes to. There is no other way. In Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”