The salon convenes: 19th December 2015
The theme was discussion, the agenda conversation. As I walked into the Salon, 7 others were present already. We were a diverse and large group of 8 people that met. Equally represented by both genders, professionally ranging from the corporate to entrepreneurial, covering marketing, strategy and finance in between.
The ice breaker
"What worked well for you in 2015?" was the question thrown open to the group in an attempt to break the ice. I found the responses interesting, and very varied - joys derived from a spousal relationship, happiness in becoming a parent and focusing with single minded devotion on that new entrant into their lives, improving as a person and identifying what's important to oneself, volunteering to teach a child and learning from that child how intelligent and curious kids are, making new friends. It was interesting to see how all of us placed importance on things that cannot really be quantified or bought, joys that need to be experienced and internalised.
Business of politics
We got down to serious business, what the salon called the 'medium' topic, in between drinks and pizzas. "Do you think this government is performing to your expectations. If not, what will you do better if you were the PM?"
I was thrown off a bit by the suddenness of the question, because it isn't everyday that I think about becoming the PM and doing something for the country. But, really, as citizens who do take a keen interest in our nation's welfare, we all had dreams to share with each other.
We were all aligned on the fact that there have been disappointments with the performance of the government, after all the hoopla about Achche din and promises on development.
Each of us had our pet topics that we believed the government should take accountability for and focus on - infrastructure, education, environment, foreign policy being a few.
On foreign policy primarily, one group member did feel that there was a lot that could be explored on the trade / business front with Pakistan, which might be a long term fix to the troubles we face on the border.
I mentioned the importance of calling out focus areas so that we as citizens know where the Government's priorities lie - just like a CEO of a corporation, there would be 2-3 things they would focus on and call out to the nation instead of dabbling with everything ranging from foreign trips to Swachch Bharat to GST to development.
How little and one sided is communication today? Is the unrest and the unhappiness over every day things like beef bans, lynchings, and hate speeches questioning our core proposition on secularism due to lack of communication? As PM, I would perhaps communicate more and give comfort to my people that things haven't changed, that we are still a country committed to the principles we started out with when our constitution was drafted. That was yet another thought that came across.
It is definitely difficult to reach a conclusion on topics like these, but I do believe I came out of the discussion much the wiser, about my fellow countrymen and what we believe is right.
The God delusion. Or acceptance?
The next topic the salon introduced amidst us is what was termed "heavy" - our thoughts on God and our beliefs in an external entity. God is personal, prayer even more so. But, I was intrigued by the varied responses.
For all, the concept of God had started as one that we were forced, bribed or coerced into by our parents at an early stage. However, with age and maturity, our thoughts have become more erudite, our beliefs more discerning, our choices clearer. Many did strongly subscribe to the idea of God, only the form and shape have a difference. There seemed to be an underlying thought that God is an entity we are answerable to, and that we can ask things of.
While jokingly mentioned, the thought was serious - that those who pray to God consider God as an entity that gives when asked. It is really not a meet and greet and socialise and be thankful for relationship.
While the theists, many of them, still follow rituals if not out of complete belief but at least to keep their families happy, the atheists' point of view was driven by multiple factors - the very fact that God and religion have taken us apart more than brought us together, the constant reminder that science and nature are more reasons than an unknown God for our existence, conscience and the inner soul are more God than an external form of God.
We could have gone on and on, but the clock was striking the midnight hour and the day had to be called to an end, albeit with the hope of renewing the topic and the session soon.
Overall, it was a food for the soul evening for me, and I look forward to many more of these events, with some stimulating conversation, and some new perspectives that will widen my own view of the world.