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'Small town India is where aspirations grow'

Last updated on: October 14, 2013 13:14 IST

'Small town India has more zeal, they want to achieve something'


O saare jag ke rakhwale
Nirbal ko bal dene wale
Balwano ko de de gyan...

These lines by Sahir Ludhianvi ask the One who empowers the weak to give wisdom to those who wield power.

I think it is one of the greatest lines ever written. It fits so well in today's scenario.

If India has to change, each and every one of us has to make certain changes in our lives, says lyricist-writer-director Swanand Kirkire in our continuing special series where well-known Indians speak to about their India.

India is amazing in so many ways -- the various languages we speak, our cultural and geographical diversity... yet, all of these are tied together by a single thread.

India, with its mayhem and chaos, is always interesting.

India, at the same time, can also be disappointing.

There are many things that we still need to work on. The three things that are dragging India down are the caste system, the class system and our abysmal education system.

We are a very passive people. We pontificate and complain -- for example, about our government -- but we are not willing to do anything about it.

We are greedy and selfish. We don't hesitate if we get a chance to steal four annas, but we don't like it if someone else does the same thing.

We have a strange way of interpreting freedom in this country. We want freedom for ourselves, but are not willing to share that freedom with anyone else.

I find it very, very, disheartening that we don't know how to live and let live.

We are so willing to blame others. Overall, we seem to harbour this belief that we are good and everyone else is lazy and bad.

We forget that 'we' are 'them' and 'they' are 'us'. There is no difference between 'us' and 'them'. Each and every one of us is responsible for the problems we are facing today.

Right now, we are in a very sorry state where we are not aware of ourselves. Nor are we aware of our history.

I am a musician. If I have made a tune, that tune has a history. Someone in our past has made those seven notes that help us create music today.

Someone in history has invented musical instruments. Someone in history has made melodies. We are just extending that pattern.

We are not the creators of this world. Every thought that comes to our mind has a history. Our problem is that we are not ready to accept this history.

At the same time, not being aware of history has its advantages.

Take our younger generation. The fact that they don't have an understanding of history works in their favour; they are not laden with any baggage from the past.

Our younger generation is cool; much cooler than any other generation in this country.

They are the Internet generation.

The Internet is dismantling all boundaries and bringing the whole country together. Everyone has access to the same kind of information, at the same speed. And the manner in which they use this access to information is great.

In a way, it has blurred the lines between a city and a village, a big town and small one. It gives me hope.

As does small town India.

If you look at the way India has grown over the last 60 years, everything is focused on the city.

Small town India is where aspirations grow. Small town India has more zeal. Khwaish zyada hai unke paas (They have greater aspirations.)

They want to achieve something; they want to reach where the cities are.

India will change for the better only when the politicians and the aam janta work towards this goal together.

Aam janta aur politican alag thodi hai. (The public and politicians are not different from each other, they are drawn from the same society.)

Yeh aam janta aisi hai is liye politicians aise hain. Yeh aam janta jab badlegi toh politicians bhi badal jayenge. (The politicians will only improve when society itself changes for the better.)

India is not ruled by a king or a dictator. We are a democracy -- of the people, by the people, for the people.

We cannot look at politicians as if they are a species separate from us. They are part of us. We have elected them and given them the right to rule us.

If they are bad, we deserve it because this is the choice that we have made.

The great Indian middle class has always been the most passive class in our country. They are not willing to come out of their little cocoons. They are in an aspirational space where they just want to make Rs 20 more from their salary; they will do anything for that.

Now, this is changing.

People, especially the educated middle class, have started coming out on roads to register their protest against certain issues. This is very, very important.

Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to think of protests like these.

So what if the protests die down after some time -- yeh shuru toh hua, yeh kya kam baat hai (isn't it commendable that at least a beginning has been made)?

It is a good sign.

People are slowly beginning to realise that if they don't speak up, if they don't do something, then the situation will not change. Things will only get worse.

If India has to change, each and every one of us has to make certain changes in our lives.

First and foremost, you have to get out and be involved in the politics of this country.

This does not mean you have to stand for elections. It means you have to go out and vote.

If you are not happy with the choices you have, make your unhappiness heard.

Don't be helpless. Don't wring your hands and ask what can I do?

Be the change that you want to see. This was one of the amazing things Gandhi said and the West has grabbed it with both hands.

It is time for us to remember this line and implement it. So, if you want clean roads, stop treating the roads like a giant dustbin. Stop littering.

Stop cursing the municipal employee who cleans the roads daily. After all, he is a salaried employee who is doing his job. Why are you complaining that he is not doing his job well? Look at yourself first: Are you doing your job well?

Everyone wants glamour, everyone wants fame and everyone wants money. These are the three heroes of our times.

And they want all of these without putting in any effort. They do not want to work hard for anything.

The overall aspiration of this country is Bollywood. Everyone wants to be in Bollywood and be like Bollywood.

At the same time, they want Bollywood and television to drive change.

Change is not any particular medium's responsibility.

Television is a reflection of the society; as is Bollywood. They will only provide people with what they like.

Yet, they are important mediums and can definitely convey messages. And they do.

There is this beautiful song written by Sahir Ludhianvi that I sing quite often.

Allah tero naam
Ishwar tero maam
Sab ko sanmati de Bhagwan...

This song has a very meaningful verse that I want to quote:

O saare jag ke rakhwale
Nirbal ko bal dene wale
Balwano ko de de gyan...

These lines ask the One who empowers the weak to give wisdom to those who wield power.

I think it is one of the greatest lines ever written. It fits so well in today's scenario.

I am not just talking about politicians here.

In our country, a Mercedes and a beggar share the same road. It is the responsibility of the owner of the Mercedes to ensure he does not crush the beggar.

Swanand KirkireSwanand Kirkire is one of India's most versatile writer-lyricists. He has won two National Awards for his lyrics in the films, 3 Idiots and Lage Raho Munnabhai.

An alumnus from the National School of Drama, he spoke to Savera R Someshwar.

The complete series: Why I love India

Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar

Image: 'Small town India is where aspirations grow,' says Swanand Kirkire. 'Khwaish zyada hai unke paas.'
Photographs: Archana Masih/