image source: pinteres
During the time of this pandemic, when everyone is talking about corona deaths and its aftermaths. Some people are researching on how people of different countries are dealing with this pandemic? We must acknowledge that India has done exceptionally good work in order to control the situation as compared to other big nations of the world. Several people have written articles on medical departments, police officials, media and government’s role in controlling the situation, at this difficult time of crisis. But I want to highlight or mention, one more factor here, which has also played one of the most important roles in saving the lives of Indian citizens, and that is the family system of India.
Yes, several researchers or academicians might ignore it but it played an important role in saving lives across the world. When the whole medical department and governments were in a panic situation, people were losing jobs and lives, all the shops and shopping malls were closed – the only family came to rescue. Family members supported each other not only psychologically but also monetarily. In countries like India, people use to save money so that they could use it when needed, and this money has saved so many lives, when banks were crowdy & people could not afford to go out of their houses. Husbands started helping their wives in homes while children started helping their parents in several days to day activities. When several European countries enter into deep depression and anxiety, India was mostly cool and calm. According to one report of BBC – Xenophobia and racism has increased in their people due to pandemic. On the contrary, Indian people were helping each other, families were making food packets from homes, while social organisations and common people were distributing these packets to poor people and migrant labourers.
One of the news report of CNN (8 May 2020) quoted – “75,000 Americans at risk of dying from overdose or suicide due to coronavirus despair”. This was the situation of the world when Indians were watching Ramayana and Mahabharata along with their families at homes. Family system and joint family system is still relevant in India, some of the families include more than 20 members in a single house. For some modern liberal thinking people- it might be disturbing but for Indians who believe in Indian culture, it's normal. Most of the Indians still keep family ahead of anything else means they can do anything for their families. This is kind of love, faith and support Indians have in their families.
The family system is the backbone of Indian society. That love, support, caring and faith in each other comes from the great Indian culture of ‘VasudhaivKutumbkam’, when they treated the whole world as a family then it is not required to mention that how much they could love to their own family. In this era of capitalism, liberalism and market economy when everyone is heading towards individualistic lifestyles. This is the time when we need to stop and think about the family system again. Because, the family is the smallest unit of society and if the smallest unit will get disturbed then whole society will get disturbed and eventually nations will face these disturbances.
China is moving towards a market economy, and its economy is also booming from last few years, but when we talk about the personal relationships or family system in china, then we must read this latest report of MSN news which says – “The divorce rate has soared compared to before [the coronavirus outbreak]," explaining that "Young people are spending a lot of time at home. They tend to get into heated arguments because of something petty and rush into getting a divorce." So, this is a common trend across the world where societies are turning into money-making machines ignoring their family system, culture and moral values. Unfortunately, this is what most of the education systems in the world are trying to inculcate in young minds. Here also, the family is the only institution left which still teaches moral values to their children which makes them a good world citizen. Imagine a world without family system, in which every individual will be fighting for money and power without knowing where it headed to be.
When Indian prime minister is talking about Swadeshi and the whole world is looking inwards, this is the time when everyone should Rethink about rebuilding the organisations like WTO, World bank, IMF and WHO with new set of rules and regulations which are more eco-friendly and more humane. This is the time when we need to Rethink about the concept of GDP (ie Gross Domestic product). We live in a world in which, we are dealing with plants, animals, trees, natural resources and most importantly with human beings. While, on the contrary of that we are judging the growth of a country on the sheer basis of only economic growth, that’s ridiculous. This concept of economic growth and GDP has now become too old and obsolete. We must accept this truth now, that communism (state-controlled industrialism) and capitalism (private controlled industrialism), both of these have proved to be useless models today because they do not consider nature, natural resources, human values, cultural values and moral values of the society. They only think in terms of monetary value and economic growth. This mentality needs to be changed otherwise it will destroy our beautiful planet.
India’s friend and neighbour Bhutan has come up with this unique idea of the Happiness Index and they are using it in their country successfully. The phrase ‘gross national happiness’ was first coined by the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme SingyeWangchuck, in 1972 when he declared, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. What a beautiful idea, Isn’t it?
It is not necessary that every nation or world should copy the idea of ‘Happiness Index’ as it is from Bhutan. But this is the time when, we must seriously think about some alternative of GDP and the notion of developed and underdeveloped nations. Because, families and societies are not industries and human beings are not machines. They do have emotions; every child needs their mother who can feed and love them a lot. They do need a caring father who could come back home and spend some time with his children. Every husband and wife need each other so that they can enjoy that money which they earned by working the whole month. People are important, families are important and last but not least nature is important. This corona pandemic showed us one more interesting thing that- when we (human beings) stopped working, nature started flourishing. Ozone layer depletion had stopped, river got cleaned naturally, the air is fresh, animals are happy and those people who are living with their families are enjoying these moments because they did not get this personal time while working in corporate design.
So, this is the time when we need to rethink about the fundamentals of life. We must protect those institutions and factors which saved us, not only from this pandemic, but they are always there with us from centuries.
(The writer is Research Associate, Vision India Foundation, New Delhi)