Essay #1. Birds born in cages think flying is a disease.
(Examiner will pay special attention to the candidate's grasp of his/her material, its relevance to the subject chosen, and to his/ her ability to think constructively and to present his/her ideas concisely, logically and effectively).
Question #1. Birds born in cages think flying is a disease.
It means living within the cage like a trapped bird that doesn’t let you have a wider perspective of what you can experience in life. There are many people who settle for what they already have, with the things that they feel safe with. They do not let themselves explore other fields full of new experiences. The environment may induce, inspire or compel to think and behave in a particular way and consider it right even if it is not because we have born to see and believe in a particular way. And if anybody chooses to be different it seems an aberration or disease as seen in the “country of blinds” or the “ugly duckling” or “ward no six”, all great literary pieces.
To see the potential of our limitations we have to go deeper in the context of surrondings and our courage to challenge them. There are umpteen examples how our thought processes, choices, attitudes and perceptions are limited by environment around us and does it affect our individual and social lives. A society where failure is taken as stigma, people are afraid to experiment and try. A society where a few people in power subjugate people by using brute power and creating fear people are afraid to speak out and express which ultimately not only throttles truth but democracy as well.
It could also be seen in the form of overly patriarchal societies where women are stereotyped and their domain of choices is limited in the name of acceptable social norms, mores and conventions. Prolonged exposure to such a system seeps into our veins and nerves, nay our minds and hearts that this is right and that is wrong. And if anybody chooses to differ, it is deemed as disease or a criminal act. This is a great disservice to the cause of liberty, equality, justice, change and progress. It kills the immense possibilities of individuals and society to make things better
Our family, our society and its priorities, perceptions and value system, behavioural traits and belief patterns of successful people around us, especially the role models determine our aspirations and choices. They mould our attitude and approaches. Our modes and methods of action also depend on what is workable and what is not in given time and space. The difference could be understood by a comparison of “khappanchayats’ verdicts on marriages based on individual choices rather than social conventions with Dil wale Dulhania le jayenge, a popular Hindi films’s dialogue “ ja beti jee le apni Zindagi” (go my daughter live your life). It makes a great difference in which environment we live. Our possibilities begin and end within the limits set by existing standards howsoever fair or unjust. We start believing that what is set as standard for us is our limit.
Freedom of mind is vital to transcend the societal, cultural and environmental barriers. One of the most well-known individuals worldwide, Nelson Mandela, believed in the freedom of one’s mind above everything else. Given appropriate freedom of choice and a conducive environment, a child can be Eisenstein, Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci , Sachin Tendulkar, Steve Jobs or anything and not just a doctor or engineer or chartered accounted thrust on him or her as the best choice by family and society- Padhoge likhoge hoge nawab; kheloge kudoge hogekharab” (if you study and write you will be a king; if you will indulge in sports and play, a proxy for all other activities, you will be spoiled). This delimits the immense and diverse potential given to children by god. By defining success as a one way road, all other possibilities are crushed.
Those children who want to explore things that are valued currently by society are treated as good and others as bad. So if you are good go for natural science, mediocre go for social sciences and a duffer go for humanities. The school drop outs like Bill Gates and Wanderers like Steve Job and here the Prime Minster of India all seem to mock at the “golden rules” made by highly obsessed societies with given formats of life and success.
No threat is bigger for change and progress than stopping experimentation, out -of- the box thinking, self criticism, questioning, discussing, differing, dissenting and liberty for imagination and creativity. Thinking differently and wanting more, better and beautiful are not diseases, but these are the paths of progress. Families, schools, universities, firms and companies should not throttle the spirit of enquiry and experimentations. Those who are afraid to break the conventions can never help to make life and society. The envelop needs to be pushed forward. The comfort zones need to be crossed. Inconvenient questions need to be asked. Voices need to be raised. These are not diseases but panacea of diseases.
Moreover, the process of breaking the status quo, bringing attitudinal changes, expanding the vista, speaking out, resorting to self criticism, mustering courage to speak out and act in odd circumstance may seem an aberration and disease, but actually these are the paths of change and progress. From sati to widow remarriage, India’s freedom struggle to anti-racist movement in the US we see how the spirit of defiance and courage to act changed and improved situations. But caged birds cannot think beyond; they cannot fly; and they do not want to allow others to fly. But the change makers or real heroes of life dwarf their constrains and cross the hurdles. They have the courage to see more and see and do things differently come what may. They are inspired souls and not diseases ones.
In the world full of caged birds flying is always seen as a disease, and governance and administration also try to stop flying in the name of disorder and anarchy. But there are societies, especially the post renaissance western societies where human liberty and freedom of choice are being allowed and accommodated by social and government institution and so research, innovation and progress in these societies are prospering more than other places.
Nevertheless flying must have a genuine purpose and this should not be allowed to wild proportions amounting to indiscipline and anarchy without being convinced “Sirf Hungama Khada Karna mera maqsad nahi, ye tasveer badalni chahiye (I do not intend to creat trouble... let there be change for better)” should be the reason behind our “flying”. The “causes” and “purpose” of our “flying “say, “don’t love me for fun, but love me for a reason.”
Question #2. None other than we are responsible for peace and happiness.
“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The desire for peace and happiness are real. We all want to be peaceful and happy Peace is a mental state of equanimity, calm, freedom, fearlessness and a sense of security. Happiness is a sense of joy, blissfulness, contentment and an overall feeling of well being. Happiness and peace pertain to a mental state and we can be only be aware about it or feel it. We usually seek peace and happiness from outside i.e., material well being, power, authority, success, love and recognition.
Before proceeding for an enquiry about whose responsibility peace and happiness is, there are a few questions that need to be kept in mind. What is the purpose of life and the right path? What drives our lives? How much control do we have on our lives? Who is responsible to what happens to our lives? In fact if we are able to find answers to these questions, it become crystal clear that howsoever important the external environment is in our lives, our inner world plays a great role in how do we feel and respond and that eventually determines the extent of our peace and happiness.
Many of us believe that the external environment determines our peace and happiness. This is an incomplete or mistaken understanding of life because peace and happiness have to do a lot with our inner “make”, “attitude”, “perceptions” and “wisdom” that help us to set right goals, priorities, moral and ethical principles and standards for “good life.” We are often confused about how to achieve it. Can anybody make it happen for us or only we are responsible for it? Does external environment determine it or our inside? Is peace a means to happiness or outcome or vice versa? To set the direction of our enquiry let’s recall the statement of a thinker ‘we may be poor, our shoes may be broken, but our minds are palaces.’
Apparently, it may seem that peace and happiness depend only on external things because our lives are so interdependent and entwined with the “external environment” that we cannot get it until the external circumstances are favourable. However, being a state of mind, the extent of our peace and happiness has to do a lot with our “insides”. Dale Carnegie rightly points out that it isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.
Human beings have a tendency to shift the responsibility of their plight on others because they lack the courage to take the responsibility of what happens to their lives. Shifting the onus of things happening to our lives is an easy way to find a pretext and to satisfy our ego. In actuality our “thoughts” and “karmas” (actions) determine what happens to our lives- the former has to do a lot with our inside and the latter with our outsides. Are they so detached? of course not. Whether we believe that peace and happiness depend on our outside environment or inner world, both ways we and none other is responsible for it.
Our lives are driven by our needs, desire, impulses, imitation etc. on one hand and wisdom, motivation, inspiration and love on the other. Our choices as to what we choose to derive our lives matters. And certainly it is not an either or choice. To begin with let’s take desire. Desire is the beginning point of all the journeys of our life, but should it remain untamed lie a wild horse? If untamed, desire may lead to irrational greed, selfishness, material acquisition, self indulgence, pleasure seeking etc. But when we have control on desires, we may refine them to be more human, to love and do service to others, to aim at realizing contentment and satisfaction as the main pursuits of life. In fact our desires are tailored on the basis of the purpose of life that we choose.
When life is driven only by material desires like wealth, power, control, dominance and recognition, we are good and normal only till things happen our way. The moment things happen otherwise we lose balance, become angry and anger leads to frustration. Then all kinds of negativities start engulfing us such as a sense of fear, insecurity, loss, failure and even guilt. Our self esteem and confidence are shattered and finally we start in hurting others or resort to self hurt. It is where the role of our internal world comes into play. We also need success in our pursuits because a sense of achievement, satisfaction and fulfillment is necessary to feel happy and happiness is a sure ladder to peace. It is not that material achievements are bad. The acquisition of wealth and power provide wherewithal to be happy and happiness brings peace. But without restraint they turn to be a never ending game and after a point in this game we lose our leisure, peace and also values and principles. Peace and happiness should never wait for these things to happen.
Introspection and wisdom help us to understand life. Life is a running mirage if we reduce it just into a race for material well being, power and control (dominance). In the process we may lose peace and happiness. We must beware of unbridled desire for these things to the level of obsession or fetish. The race for wealth and power is never ending and after a time it turns into a vicious cycle. Also life is a theatre in which numerous exogenous factors are at play and many of them are beyond our control. We are not the only dreamers, there are many. We are not the only aspirants, there are many. And there is stiff and cut- throat competition among all the stake holders. In such a world, things do not happen always the way we would like it to be or the fair and ethical way. This may induce us to compromise on our ethical and moral standards in the name of being pragmatic, realistic and strategic believing that everything is fair in love and war, which is not. Life falls into a vicious race that brings more and more stress, tension, negativities etc.
Thus, if we do not set limits to desires and moral and ethical standards and just be driven by the exogenous factors, many of them beyond our control, life becomes miserable. Peace and happiness eludes even if we win in this race because by then we would have made more enemies than friends and compromised on our ethics and values dear to our hearts in the name of strategies. Then our conscience cries within us, a sense of sin and guilt prevails and alcohol and drugs or nasty entertainment would never be enough to help. It does not just depend on the outcomes of our efforts alone, but how do we take it. Winning gives a good feeling and failure gives us a bitter feeling. But if we see these things with wisdom only then we can be happy. According to established wisdom the ideal way is that success should not overwhelm our minds and failure should not break our hearts. It is because when we are overwhelmed our sense of gratefulness, politeness and ethics goes away. We make enemies and lose friends. On the other hand we can take failure as an opportunity to learn and improve and try again and again. In such a case failures become stepping stones to success. It is possible only if we have capacity to introspect and use inner wisdom.
This understanding can come only by self communication. Our inside that is constituted by conscience, introspection, wisdom, contentment etc. plays a very important role in determining peace and happiness in our lives. We can control or learn to control our insides more than our outsides. And even if we have fair amount of wealth and power to control the outsides and fair amount of mundane success, we may still remain empty and stressed. There are umpteen examples in real life of people suffering with insecurity, fear, stress, tension, depression, dissatisfaction and bad health despite their power, wealth and success. Wealth or power may be a means to achieve an end, but not an end in itself.
It is our understanding and choices regarding the purpose of life, means and ends and ways to respond that determine the outcomes in our journey of life and extent of peace and happiness. Much of peace and happiness depends on our sense of purpose and expectations from life, our world view and how do we perceive things, our attitude towards events and things and how do we respond to external stimuli and provocations. Helen Keller rightly points out that true happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. The moment we not just have dreams, but a purpose, we become responsible. Responsibility drives our thoughts and actions and wisdom guides us. The purpose of life matters and it is necessary to be clear about it..
If ‘dil mange more’ is about excellence, progress and change the dictum serves an important purpose. But things in reality are far more difficult to realize than imagine. Patience helps to remain peaceful and this is important to be satisfied as long as we are moving in the right direction. One of thinkers said that the greatest impediment to peace and happiness is that we always want more of it.
From the above discussion it is clear that wisdom, clarity of purpose of life, introspection and self communication, control and discipline are important factors for peace and happiness and no amount of material well being and success can be a substitute for these factors. Peace and happiness therefore depend on us in both the cases whether we are dealing with the external world or exploring the inner world. We should take the responsibility of our thoughts and actions. Only then peace and happiness prevail.
Note: You have to write your answers on an A4 size sheet leaving margins on both sides based on UPSC pattern. Mention Your Name on 1st page and Page Number on each page. After writing the answer, Click pictures of each page of the answer sheet and upload them altogether (in JPG/JPEG/PNG format) in the comment section of the same question.