My morning began with three emails: One a quote from my great benefactor and teacher, Ml. Sayyid Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (May Allah be pleased with him), the other the column of my friend David Bullard about Twitter and Facebook and the third the news (how predictable) that Narendra Modi has been able to sign up a record number of MOU’s for an astronomical sum of promised investment into Gujarat with everyone who is anyone in Indian industry, cheering him as they signed on his dotted line. I have pasted the two emails below. Modi is all over the papers and my computer doesn’t like his face so I will leave you to look at it in your own time.
Why these three things together?
Because the message is the same – it is money which makes the world go around.
And so what kind of world is it that is going around where the only consideration is ‘dollar value, net worth and bottom line’? Where human values, morals, ethics, compassion, consideration and kindness are all signs of weakness.
Modi is one face of it – a man who engineered the slaughter of 2000 innocent men, women and children and in case you didn’t get the message, announced it from the rooftops and as a result, got elected with thumping majorities in three subsequent elections. A man who the people of his state, Gujarat and most of India look up to as their ‘savior’ because he can attract the high and mighty (from our epitomes of honesty and integrity, who talk values and travel economy class on planes to our wheelers and dealers who do it openly and without apology, who institutionalized corruption in this country and forged the Corporate – Politician – Civil Servant nexus and everyone else in between) to sign on his dotted line and promises of billions in investment. Nobody more materialistic than the normal, garden variety Indian and so you promise money and you can have my body and my soul in the same shrink wrapped package.
Another face of it is the news today that when they tried to unclog a blocked sewage drain in the women’s hostel of the English & Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, they discovered what was blocking it – a few days old fetus (read: baby).
Another face of it is the scene I saw when I was having my annual lunch with my friend Anil Sood at the Westin hotel in Hyderabad two days ago – two young men and two young women attired in a green colored uniform pulling a steel roller on the lawn. Why do you need four people (gender equality to boot) to drag a roller when a John Deer or Massey Ferguson mini-roller would do it better, faster and cheaper? Because it is actually cheaper to use four people in India and who cares about faster and better anyway? So what are we seeing in the ‘Shining India’ that is being touted to us?
5% or less of a population of 1.2 billion working in the service industry (ITES, IT, Call Centers) creating a bubble of apparent prosperity – propped up by easy credit and complete freedom from any sort of value, chasing a fantasy created and peddled by Bollywood – easy money, easier women, all for a song.
What does that mean in plain language?
The vast number of ‘jobs’ being created for those who are not computer mechanics and keyboard jockeys are symbolically like the one I mentioned above – people dragging the dead-weight of their lives behind them – jobs in gardening and cleaning in 5-star hotels, security for shiny steel and glass offices, labor to build those offices and the elevated highways connecting them to shiny airports and the like. Where did such people work before we started ‘Shining’? For one thing they didn’t exist – the effect of the population explosion. For another they used to work in the fields on farms. Some of them sold farm produce in cities – small retail. Still others worked in manufacturing companies – which actually make things – not just answer phone calls in bad English with worse manners.
Today manufacturing is what China does. Small retail is what the likes of Reliance and ITC and others grabbed and created humongous retail chains on the model of Wal-Mart, in the process wiping out the livelihood of millions of poor people who had no other means of earning a living and no other skill. Farms are where our politicians go to gather votes on the basis of unsustainable promises, where micro finance companies go to offer loans at astronomical interest rates and where the desperate farmers eventually commit suicide. What about the labor who construct those beautiful offices (if you call something of steel and glass beautiful, that is) and elevated highways and shiny airports that less than 1% of the population will ever use? Well, after the office is up and well before inauguration, lo and behold, they don’t exist. They are made to disappear. They vanish without trace as if they never existed in the first place. Maybe the building is a current version of the Indian rope trick – it arose out of the earth when someone played the flute.
In closing let me narrate a story – that the engineer in charge told me at a major hydroelectric generation plant in Tamilnadu in the beautiful Anamallai Hills more than 20 years ago. This project was designed to pump water from a lower reservoir during off peak times into a reservoir on the hilltop and then during peak times this water is sent down steep penstock tunnels onto turbines to generate electricity. The project engineer was taking me around and we were walking in the main tunnel off which the penstock tunnels fell away at an angle of 30° or less – onto the turbines.
The man cautioned me and said, ‘Sir please don’t go too close to the edge. If you slip, we will not even be able to get your body up.’ (laugh). I noticed of course the complete absence of guard rails or holding nets or any form of safety when there were hundreds of workers working on this site. Their gear? Rubber slippers, beedi in the mouth and an attitude of fatalism. So I asked him, ‘Don’t you have accidents? What happens if one of these workers slips and falls?’ He said, (laugh again – this time albeit a little embarrassed), ‘We take attendance in the evening.’
That O! People, is the nature of the world that money makes go around. They take attendance in the evening. Your call.
The lifestyles of the Ulama have to be distinguished from the awaam (general masses)
Hadhrat Moulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (rahmatullahi alaih) once mentioned:
“Our lives have to be distinguished from the awaam. Onlookers should be able to fully understand that these people are not seekers of the world, and wealth and riches are not their goal in life. Our work should be only for the sake of Allah Ta`ala as was the way of our aslaaf (pious predecessors). As long as a marked difference does not appear in the Akhlaaq (manners,attitude) of our Ulama fraternity and they do not instill within themselves the quality of serving others, they will not be able to influence others nor will they be respected. They will not be able to implant within the minds of others the respect and honour for Deen. Respect for Ulama will never be created by reporting the size of the madrasahs they run and the large number of students studying under them. Rather, the honor for Ulama is created by the way they portray themselves. When the awaam notice that these Ulama consider it taboo to lay their hands on that which they (awaam) will sacrifice their lives for (i.e. material possessions etc.), nor do they show any concern for them, they will eventually say to themselves, “We thought that riches were the ultimate in life but, in the eyes of the Ulama riches hold no weight.” (Tuhfat-ul-A’immah, p. 77)