At a time when people are passing through a critical phase of uncertainty and humanity as a whole is dealing with an invisible enemy, they need a ray of hope too to live not just food and healthcare, towards which a lot of attention is already being paid.
ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya |
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya |
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
This Shanti Mantra from The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad roughly translated means:
“From ignorance, lead me unto truth;
From darkness, lead me unto light;
From death, lead me unto immortality
Aum peace, peace, peace ”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi apparently had this mantra in mind when he called upon 130 crore Indians to turn off all the lights for 9 minutes at 9 pm on Sunday, April 05 and light candles, diyas or mobile flashlights with the avowed objective of invoking our latent strength and collective resolve to defeat the Corona virus.
Within seconds of his video address to the nation, critics were on their feet launching a scathing attack ridiculing it as gimmickry and a stunt without any substance while supporters including many saw in it astrological calculations and an effort to strengthen our national resolve to defeat the dreaded virus which has crippled the West and so far remains contained in India, thanks to the pro active steps undertaken by Central and State Governments.
Coming to the criticism part, first and foremost, the Prime Minister himself is interacting online and through video conferencing with all stakeholders including Chief Ministers, industry leaders, senior journalists, Radio Jockeys, doctors and even patients (as in Mann Ki Baat). Ministers including Nirmala Sitharaman and Dr Harsh Vardhan and the RBI Governor have been taking major decisions and communicating the same. The Health Ministry is briefing the media on a daily basis. Why should the Prime Minister be repeating the same in his address?
Secondly, Modi is the leader of a billion plus population. He is not a bureaucrat. His job is not just to administer but also inspire and from Swachch Bharat to Beti Bachao to Ujjwala scheme, we have been watching him exhorting people to contribute their mite to the society and the nation. It’s sad that his style of functioning and communication still confounds many.
Symbols and symbolism are important. They are not to be confused with tokens and tokenism. At a time when people are passing through a critical phase of uncertainty and humanity as a whole is dealing with an invisible enemy, they need a ray of hope too to live not just food and healthcare, towards which a lot of attention is already being paid.
The lights that would be lit on Sunday also needs to be seen in the backdrop of the darkness of ignorance shown by sizeable sections of people including the Tablighi Jamaat, those who attacked the medical staff and security personnel, those who came out on the streets to express gratitude to caregivers despite clear instructions to stay home from the Prime Minister, those who indulged in panic buying despite assurances from the administration and those who mismanaged the migrant exodus.
With death staring humanity, the lights also symbolize our collective resolve to defy even Yama, the way Nachiketa and Savitri did. The Prime Minister’s clarion call is only a reiteration of the Shanti Mantra Indians have been chanting and practicing for centuries.
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