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Home > News > Columnists > Ramananda Sengupta

Never trust anyone over 30

September 04, 2003

Never trust anyone over 30.'

That was my credo from my adolescence right up till I turned 29.

(Today, of course, I'd be the first to join a "life begins at forty' club, but that's another story.)

No, this is not a paean to years gone by, to days of yore.

Nor is it a diatribe on the nation's recent days of gore.

Over the past couple of months, certain events in the world set me thinking. Interrupted, of course, by the Mumbai blasts, which, like a whirlwind, blew all other thoughts away.

For instance, one was the heat wave in Europe that killed over 10,000 people in France alone, mostly elderly.

Another was the recent power cuts in North America, which some attribute to a grid collapse, and some to Al Qaeda.

Now in India, heat waves and power -- for those lucky enough to have it -- cuts are part of the daily grind, to which one can add floods, droughts, landslides, cold waves, cyclones, and plain old fashioned epidemics. One could also add terrorist attacks to that list. Year after year, each claims its own bounty of heads, mostly young and old, always the most vulnerable.

The death and destruction makes the headlines, and then disappears from the nation's collective consciousness until the same time, next year. Often, particularly in the case of floods, (and, of course, terrorist strikes) the army and paramilitary has to be called in to assist in search, rescue and relief operations.

Many, many moons ago, I had volunteered to help distribute food, clothes and tarpaulins in a flooded West Bengal district. Apart from the government agencies, there were hordes of NGOs and social organizations involved. Most preferred to collect the stuff and give it out to the army, which then went out and distributed them among the stranded population.

Others preferred to do their own collection and distribution.

It was at one of these private distribution centers in a hick town called Malda that I first discovered that there are people in this world who actually make money from misery. Apart from blatantly swallowing huge chunks of relief funds, even the blankets and tarps were actually being sold instead of donated to the hordes of hapless people washed ashore by the floods.

One particular effort, run by a middle-aged local politician, was even known to loot material from other NGOs and then sell it.

Noticing my increasing incredulity and anger over this rampant profiteering from a disaster, a young volunteer who was part of my team remarked: "Come on yaar, after all, look at their age. Don't you know you can't trust anyone over 30?"

Somehow, the phrase stuck. And as I grew older, it seemed to me that the older generation did indeed seem far more susceptible to apathy and selfishness, to cynicism and ennui, than the young. Of course, there were exceptions, and always will be. Unsung as well as celebrated heroes who give back to society more than they take, always believing that they can, and do make a difference.

As for the young, they are blessed with the two 'i's, idealism and innocence.

If India is to grow, it is this idealism, this innocence, that must be nurtured, encouraged and reaped.

Did I say innocence? Sorry. Youngsters today are far savvier, far more mature than we were at their age. Been there, done that, is their constant refrain. Most teenagers today have a clear idea of what they want out of life, and are willing to work for it. But unless it runs in the family, politics is not on that list of hopes and aspirations. Frankly, I can't recall many people from my time being keen on it either.

Today's heroes are athletes, entrepreneurs and software zillionaires like Bill Gates. The last time I saw young Indians empathise with a prime minister was with Rajiv Gandhi, and we all know what happened to him.

Today, most youngsters I meet insist politics sucks, big time. And since they don't have much to choose from, an alarmingly large number prefer not to cast their ballot.

Which is why when asked to name the next generation of leaders across the political spectrum, most people draw a blank.

And therein lies the rub. Because unless we change this mindset, we will continue to be a nation of youngsters ruled by the old. Unless we change this mindset, we will never get a government that really reflects the aspirations and the enthusiasm of the young.

For those who suspect that I am knocking the accrued wisdom of age and experience, far from it. I know that there are certain things which only age and experience can handle. Is running a country one of them? The jury is out on that one. But plans to set a retirement age for politicians would find many takers.

I am definitely not suggesting that replacing the current crop of leaders with people less than half their age will be the panacea for all the ills plaguing the nation, though it might be a start.

Nor am I instigating 18 year olds to run for high political office -- though I suspect we could get some interesting results in such an experiment. (The other extreme, of course, is in West Bengal, where I am told one can form or join a political union in grade school.)

No. But it is important to realise that if our political system needs to be cleansed of its impurities, we cannot expect the present lot to do it. Almost all of them have too much to lose.

There is an old saw which says 'in a democracy, you get what you deserve.'

Surely, we deserve better. Surely, we don't need leaders who make money out of misery.

If we want a young government, young people need to get out there and vote. And remember, never trust anyone over...

Ramananda Sengupta

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Number of User Comments: 40

Sub: Thought provoking article..

I really enjoyed your article Mr Sengupta. However I am sceptical whether youngsters will be interested to join politics except for the jobless and hopeless ...

Posted by Pinaki Pal

Sub: Re: Never trust anyone over 30

Nice article Ramananda. I am in Calif, USA and I agree with a lot of what you are saying with. Have you checked out the ...

Posted by Capriguy

Sub: Never trust anyone over 30

Well-said Ramanand... Hopefully all of us constantly vigil our "country"

Posted by Pan

Sub: Dream, Only dream

Thank you ! Thank you for your observative philosophy ! It is money, money and money which speaks in the third world. No age bar, ...

Posted by debabrata

Sub: Never trust anyone over 30

Iam 67 yrs. old now.I definitely believe that the future belongs to the youngsteres and the old,characterless, selfish,unhealthy bandicoots should keep away from the politics.Like ...

Posted by Vaidyanathan.A.V



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