So what was the set of gathered evidence that were prompting me to a pause in 2006? In no particular order, the list ran thus: A NGO industry financed largely from abroad. A neglect of natural resources. Anofficial passion for industrialisation. A middle class so preoccupied
with its participation in the economic boom that it had little time
for public issues. An economic boom that failed to produce the
promised trickle down effect. A wealthy class that has a despicable
record of philanthropy. A vast poor population that is left to its own
devices. And finally, there was goodnewsindia.com putting out its
stories for a growing readership accustomed to a diet of feel-good tales.
Was GNI’s purpose being served? Can it hope its stories will throw
up a great number of people who will stand up and ‘do-it’ for India?
Does GNI have that potential or was I running the GoodNewsIndia Bar to
which regulars came for a drink and pleasant tales by the barman and
slept it all off when they went home? Or changing metaphor, was GNI a
cruise ship that took you to well selected locations, to lead you to
the conclusion that all was well with India and that you needed to do
Things were falling apart inside me. I had some questions for myself. They
went like these: Is your current frame of mind conducive to producing
stories in the GNI genre? And if you continued to put them out, would
you be true to yourself? What do you make of your inclination to pick
and do mostly stories that had to do with nurturing the environment? What
message does this have for you? And finally, all your stories are
about other people’s good work, the good news they put out; what is
your good news?
I decided to take a break from GNI and be in silence for a while. I knew my decision to suspend updates, would disappoint GNI readers. Several wrote to ask if I was well and if yes, why weren’t there new stories. I remained silent save for some references to personal setbacks as having led me to pointReturn. I reasoned in 2006, that saying all this as I now do in 2008, would exactly be what I most deplore: to criticise without offering a creative alternative. I decided that until I had personally evolved a visible answer, I had no right to throw charges in the air. I decided to discover what personal deed of mine can one day amount to some good news.
Given India’s history of throwing up influential people, waiting for a Gandhi is not an unrealistic act. But we can do something while we wait and do a bit of what he counseled: You cannot change others; but you can change yourself. If bad news depresses you, you can do something that radiates good news; so, become the good news and you begin to change the world. Indeed Gandhi deemed the greatest change we can ever seek is the change in ourselves. Feel the power of his insight: “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” [How I love this man! He knew the modern age was a myth; it believes all the water we need can be delivered in bottles.]
I had done my reporting of the good news; I had personally stood up for
causes and fought to the end when necessary; I had signed scores of petitions and internalised reams of ideas that can make a difference. What remained was to go beyond knowing, writing and protesting. I said I had started GNI in 2000 to combat ‘bad’ news. In my reading, the news in 2006, had gotten worse. The disregard for the land, its resources and for the poor surviving on the margins are what made the news worse. It was not going to go away without personal action. I wanted to reflect deeper on the world around me before I chose a line of action.