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     Volume 7 Issue 18 | May 3, 2008 |

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One Off

There's a Lot to Learn from the Way Side!

Aly Zaker

I was once cycling towards the road that leads up to Ashulia. Those were the days, only about 6/7 years back, when one could traverse the road on a bicycle without much fear of heavier traffic knocking one off the road every now and then. Bicycling used to be a passion with me. This passion served two purposes. Just as it took me out of town and in the midst of nature as and when I wished, it also gave me some physical exercise. In those days I used to live in Uttara so it was also easier to access the Ashulia road. Well, the reason for my indulging in this narrative is not to share personal habits with my readers but to share some enlightenment picked up from the wayside. At times how insightful they can be!

There's a point on this road where it bifurcates to Ashulia to the right and Mirpur to the left, I came across a group of tiny tokais engrossed with their game of danda guli. I was curious to know if the road to the left would take me to the Mirpur Botanical Gardens. So I went to them and asked if the road would take me to my destination. They said, “Yes, it would." I asked them how far it was. They said, “very far.” I asked how very far. They said, “very, very far.” I was trying to measure the distance in terms of miles, kilometres etc.. They were not used to such definitive answers. When I had decided to move on, the tiniest of them came near me , looked into my eyes and said with a lot of conviction , “ It is so far that you would become terribly hungry by the time you reach there." This, I was not ready for. The reply came to me like a revelation. I thought how simple yet how profound this statement was---using such a simple yardstick of a physical need to describe a distance! It was absurd yet so real! In the line of my work we often speak about “insight” and refer to hundreds of researched findings on it. But 'lo and behold', it is always there 'round the corner of your own home. This insight may make such a great lot of difference in every decision we make in our private as well as public lives, more importantly in the public life. In a small way I also have to do with decision making in my work almost on a daily basis and I work in the communications business. The decision making process in our own world of business has always disturbed me. This is truer now than ever before. Because we now have a crop of the new generation of business-savvy young people who, in most cases, either go by their own experience of the small world they live in or, if they had decided to do a bit of looking around, confine their research within their peers. More often than not they would refrain from venturing out to see what really happens beyond the confines of the cubicles they occupy, the restaurants they frequent, the neighbourhood they live in or the language they have evolved for themselves. This not only creates a phenomenal distance with the vast majority of the people that they deal with in their every day business but also gives them a lop-sided perspective of the world they are called upon to address.

I dare say, you would also find that our decision-makers at the national level as well, almost as a rule, suffer from a lack of insight. This has always created a dissonance between what they do and what they should do. It leads to wrong prioritisation, anomaly and chaos and may often end up in catastrophe. Well, the quandary may also be created by other considerations. Consideration of pecuniary benefit may be a very good reason. Even if we give them a reprieve as benefit of the doubt on that count, our decision makers have most of the time acted without a sense of direction, with utter confusion and a woolly state of mind. The children that I was surrounded by that morning on the Ashulia road did not have any such confusion. They knew exactly what they were talking about. “It is so far that you would become terribly hungry.” What a profound statement. I think there's a lot to learn for all of us, than we think, from the wayside. And there cannot be a better time to learn than now when hunger seems to have become so invasive in our societies and we are baffled by the swirling of the price metre every morning after yet another dreadful night of anxiety.

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