"Being Good" | A lens into our times
The book is an urgent and honest reminder that eternally realised principles of action and morality must never be compromised; discuss Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury & Dr Vinod K Jha
Being Good meets the longstanding need for a book that would capture the contemporary mood and interpret the implications of the changes that have been unfolding before us. These changes are ‘fast and furious’, impacting Indian society in a way that bewilders the common man. The middle class, in particular, has been caught off guard by the pace and power of these changes, whereas the upper and lower classes have somehow held their ground.
The writer, renowned motivator and values and ethics propagator, Dr Nanditesh Nilay, launched his first book Being Good, in a well-attended function held at India International Centre, New Delhi, on February 10, 2019. The book is an honest and urgent effort to remind and warn the present generation about ignoring and defying values which have been eternally realised and accepted as indispensable.
The narrative has raised concerns about the swiftly declining moral values in our society, particularly visible in the middle class. Dr Nilay, the author, has emphasised that our values are important because they help us grow, develop and create future parents who can instil moral values in their children against negative societal influences, laying the foundation for them to become good. In his characteristic motivational manner he said, “If you want your children to become good, then you yourself need to become one.”
A brilliantly original and thought-provoking book, it takes readers on a whirlwind tour through contemporary urban life. Using the technique of live telecast, it lets us watch and share the scene through an ultrahigh definition camera with a very keen and sharp sense of observation that comes from a deep understanding of the subject, anchored by a lean, clean, simple and elegant English prose suffused with a gentle touch of irony throughout.
A strange new world is emerging before us, inexorably driving us away from our moorings, which developed over long periods of evolution and through the ups and downs of history, which have made us what we are today, the moral beings who know the difference between being good and otherwise. This is the central concern of the book and the title makes it clear in no uncertain terms.
The book begins with this question and ends with an answer. Commissioned by Mother Earth, a small bird asks this question. The bird intervenes in an ongoing debate between the mountain and the ocean about who is stronger. Mother Earth proposes the answer – no one is stronger than a Good Human Being. This answer is put to test through the book and the final testimony comes at the end, given by one of the finest human specimens that the evolution of humanity has succeeded in producing, Swami Vivekananda. The answer is shockingly simple and leaves the reader gasping in wonder: They alone live who live for others. What goes on between the first question and the final answer is a sinuous journey that takes readers through all possible pathways of contemporary urban life.
It combines empirical research with concerns about diminishing respect for human values and sounds a warning to the middle class – pause and ponder. The changes across the last few decades are the inevitable corollary of the third wave of capitalism, fuelled by rapid technological innovation. These changes have improved living standards, but at a price. At this moment of dramatic globalisation, Indian middle class stands at an epochal juncture. It not only influences India’s economic, but also impacts India’s role as a manufacturing and services hub. The demands and commands of the market and the corporate world have sucked this class into a routine and lifestyle which is artificial and devoid of morality.
Being Good is an important study of our changing social and cultural landscape. It entertains us but at the same time shocks us out of our complacency, and makes us think in ways we had not thought before. Writing a review of such a comprehensive book is an onerous task. There is always a fear of missing out on subtle nuances.
Articles about the present state of our society are appearing regularly, but they only present a singular, fragmented view of the situation. And, there are biases, political and others, and the profit motives of different interest and pressure groups that many such writings seek to serve. These biases and motives lie just beneath the veneer of objectivity.
At last, here is a book that captures the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, and puts it in the larger perspective of nature and the future of humanity, and it has no other interest to serve but the welfare of mankind.