“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.”
-T.S. Eliot
Even as we struggle to limp back to normalcy from the onslaught of Covid-19, we seem to be bringing home an infection of another more dangerous virus – a virus of hate, intolerance, dishonesty, greed and deception – cautioning us of a plight, one that we can ill afford, that led the great Swami Vivekananda to describe Kerala 125 years ago – a lunatic asylum.
A septuagenarian, I feel sad to see our deliberate, persistent departure from Christ and His message. Yet, I would rather avoid any controversy, for truth is the first casualty in any controversy. Let’s fix the problem, instead of fixing the blame. Prisoner’s dilemma does not take us anywhere. Restoration of mutual trust, and respect for one another, is the need of the hour.
As a Civil Servant, who has had the onerous tasks of controlling communal strife, I could see for myself the unimaginable frenzy and fury of this satanic evil, which originates from our thoughts, magnifies into words and hardens into deeds. Seeds of violence, once planted, develop deep roots and spread its lethal canopy preventing access to the bright sunshine of reason.
That is precisely the prompt for this note. When dark clouds portend assaults on our cherished edifice of communal amity, what is needed is a reinforcement of our traditional harmony of societal life that has remained an integral part of our history and culture. In fact, it is this aspect etched in our social fabric that makes Kerala so different, indeed God’s own Country.
We are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness… If we don’t live the gospel, who else would? Christianity is all about knowing, understanding and following Christ. All of us know Christ, most of us understand, but few, very few follow Him. To love Christ is easy; to understand Him is not difficult; but, to follow Him is too hard. For, we need to carry the cross ourselves. His compassion is too costly in a world that is driven by worldliness.
How many of us are prepared to forget and forgive? We may forgive as if it’s a favour; but never forget. We look at the speck of sawdust in our brother’s eye, and pay no heed to the plank in our eye. How many of us are willing to turn the other cheek, too?
Tolerance is a bad word. It means putting up with something we dislike. It is compassion that we should inculcate in us. Jesus on the Cross, forgiving everyone, is our best example. No better talisman in any crisis!
If only all of us pray the Lord’s prayer, following each word! If only we recite the meaningful prayer of Francis of Assisi, and translate it into our daily lives:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,…”
After the Babri Masjid incident, Malappuram, too, witnessed serious law and order problems, perhaps the most trying after 1921. However, thanks to the extremely sagacious and prudent stance of the late Panakkad Sayyid Muhammadali Shihab Thangal, the situation was brought under control soon enough, without giving room for any escalation, as apprehended. As District Magistrate, I am personally obliged to him for coming out, on my request, with a stern call for restraint, which I believe substantially helped calm down an otherwise volatile situation.
(Excerpt from an article of mine in 2012 to commemorate the 20th year of publication from Malappuram of the Indian Express)

Kuruvilla John IAS
A former Principal Secretary, Higher Education