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Talkers Or Doers, It Helps Staying Grounded

Talkers Or Doers, It Helps Staying Grounded

December 9, 2010: Ultimately the system decides if it will allow one to be part of it, but it cannot really stop one from trying to reform it.

One cannot change the system from outside. One can keep criticising it but to really make a difference one has to be part of the system. I am not sure who offered me this piece of wisdom for the first time. Probably it was my school librarian who, though always exceptionally kind, used to resent a pointlessly rebellious streak in me. The years have hopefully made me less annoying but the first memory of that nugget of wisdom still wafts, perhaps because I have been confronting the same commandment every now and then ever since.

So last week it came from an eminent conservationist, the big boss of a green NGO, who divided fellow humans into the talkers and the doers. Talkers or critics, he said, always had it easy. The doers, on the other hand, roughed it out risking failures and criticism. But, at the end of the day, the doers made all the difference.

There was, however, a sub-text. The doers, in order to get the opportunity to do something and thus qualify as doers, must not utter a word against the system that decides who gets to do something and who does not. The commandment seems watertight because the talkers anyway forfeit their chances of becoming doers the moment they become talkers by opening their mouth against the system. Quite a neat little postulate that warrants the doers total immunity because even if they fail doing whatever, not even a fellow doer can hold them accountable. The moment a doer tries doing that, the doer becomes a talker and gets kicked out of the system.

I tried to put the big boss in context. He was referring to the recent setback to the tiger reintroduction project in Sariska. I understood that reintroducing tigers to a reserve was always a high risk proposition and death of a reintroduced tiger was always a possibility. Of course, it was sad, worth a stunted shrug, but anything more, certainly a few harsh words spoken in despair or anger would make one a talker, a useless critic.

I looked around. This was the big boss presiding over a function in his own plush office. Still someone somewhere in the gathering had to flinch. Surely, a few pairs of eyes caught mine. It was unfair that even the big boss could not have sorted those eyes in his two slots. Those wicked eyes were actually doing the talking.

But then, even Jairam Ramesh, minister for Environment and Forests, offered pretty much the same stuff the other day at Roosevelt House at a dinner hosted by the US ambassador. He noted that though people often criticised the Sariska experiment but the show would go on because nothing ventured, nothing gained. I did not remember if any talker had actually wanted the show closed but the doers at Sariska were certainly not ready to get over with their dumb clown act and display a few true skills.

Then, the minister decided to turn the table. As the ladies and the gentlemen in the audience looked in indulgence and awe, he nudged his critics, the talkers, by complaining that they never talked about so many tiger cubs born all over India.

I remember gulping down my drink. Was the honourable minister demanding that the talkers give him credit for those cubs in an equal measure to offset the criticism for frequent poaching and poisoning of tigers? I admit I was at a loss. The criticism in question was triggered by too many unnatural tiger deaths. But tigers breed naturally; in fact, like all cats, they are quite prolific. But then, only unnatural births, I wondered, could fittingly compensate unnatural deaths. Did I miss a story of test tube cubs or something? The minister would not tell.

But I did not resent the minister for pulling another fast one. Why, he even manages to remain a doer while being a talker. Is he not the rare one who takes measured pot shots every now and then at the very system that lets him do, and talk, so much.

Our big boss, though, is nothing like the minister. He worships the system that is generous enough to let him do this and that, and he talks only to defend the system against the talkers. But he has always been a gentleman host. So after his defining speech that day, he also offered the gathering some tea.

Halfway down the cupful, I met an old acquaintance known for his revolutionary angsts. Minutes into a conversation, he quoted someone he did not remember. It went something like “knowledge required to change a system must come from outside that system”. Demanding, I thought, as he looked around for a patty.

In a brief debate over another cupful, he dismissed my argument that one needed to be part of a system to understand it and that there is no changing a system without understanding it completely. He proudly told me he was better off being a talker and would never be a doer if that required doing something wrong. I felt it was a good choice but not an argument. Now the unpronounceable names he was quoting started confusing me. I told him as much. He gave up and started munching on a samosa.

Back home, I got a call from him. He said he had figured out how to convince me. Newton, it turned out. He reminded me that one could not move a chair while sitting on it. I did not want to get into electrodynamics to force a debate. So we laughed and hung up.

Late that night, I sent a brief text message, telling him, yes, one could, if one had one’s feet firmly on the ground.

Now, now, I do not have anything against high chairs or short statures. Deep, yes, metaphors usually are.


Source: Jay Mazoomdaar, The Bengal Post.


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