The Lost River called Discipline


Germany. Mid 1940’s. A horrific defeat and surrender in yet another world war.

Germany paid reparations to victorious nations in the WWI as well as the WWII. After surrendering in the WWII, the reparations were heavy in form of forced labour, coal, dismantled factories, etc. along with ‘intellectual reparations’ such as all patents and technical know-how snatched away amounting over 10 billion dollars. According to Time magazine’s article ‘Cost of Defeat’, dated 9 April 1946, Germany’s standard of living was reduced to that of early 1930’s, which means the war pushed Germany 15 years back in time. 1500 large manufacturing plants were destroyed post the war, reducing industrial output to less than 50%.


2018. Germany, the country slightly larger than the state of Maharashtra, is the world’s fourth largest economy, is the third largest exporter and importer, is widely regarded as one of the countries with highest standards of living with exceptional social security system, universal healthcare and free university education (in most universities).


Japan. 1945. Multiple air raids by USA and UK destroying more than 67 Japanese cities, infamously noteworthy among them the two atomic bombings. A total of over 2 lakh people killed, which was around 30% of Japan’s population. Billions of dollars paid in reparations, GDP and overall financial state terrible.


Japan. 2018. GDP per capita is 377% that of world’s average GDP. It is a country with largest percentage of citizens having a tertiary education, is one of the largest exporter of high quality machines/products; is widely respected for its extremely high standard of living and extremely low rate of crime.

India. 1947. British exit owing to rising protests and their drained resources after WWII. India is left in a disorderly state with a half built or broken systems of administration, education, transportation, infrastructure, etc.

India. 2018. 33 crore people are illiterate. 28 crore people are below poverty line, over 20 crore people do not have electricity, over 3 crore educated people are unemployed, close to 100 people are murdered everyday, more than 100 persons get raped everyday.

I know you will say that I am highlighting positive points of other countries and negative points of India, but, I am only highlighting the extremes, and India still seems on the wrong side of extremes to a large extent. Yes, India is a diverse mix of developed areas and undeveloped ones, but the proportion of the latter is much high, in comparison to that for Germany or Japan. Of course there are good things happening, but in a family of 10, if above mentioned things happen to even 1 member, are we going to focus on that one or the rest. As a nation, our first priority should be a safe, secure and comfortable society for every last citizen.

Let us speak about why the stats and facts about India turn out to be so different than Japan and Germany, although around the same time in history all three of us were reduced to a broken state. What exactly was the difference between what we did and what they did in these eight decades that separated us so far in terms of development?

Does a country develop only by amazing political decisions, foreign policies, governance, etc.? Is it logical to assume that a government, which includes of a few thousand servants of the nation, can single-handedly transform the entire population of 1.3 billion? I think it is far from possible.

So then what is the factor that separates Germany and Japan from us, if it is not governance? The answer is this – ‘DISCIPLINE’.

I remember a Marathi movie a few years back named ‘Shaala’, based on a beautiful novel, wherein the school principal, who’s actually a grumpy old guy, is giving a speech in the morning to the students gathered in the small ground, and he is stressing on the importance of discipline, when he says that countries like Germany and Japan have gone so forward only because the immense discipline of the common man. That scene comes to my mind repeatedly throughout time.

On my way to work, there are two such traffic signals on crossings where there is no RTO officer placed to take care that traffic regulations being followed by citizens. On both these crossings, which are quite busy, around 80% people on average break the traffic signal, every… single… day. Why?

In a normal day, I travel for about an hour and 15 minutes, to and fro to work. I see an average of minimum 10 people spitting on the roads or elsewhere everyday. Why?

A few days ago I happened to be in a social gathering where a few of us were standing and talking as one of us said, “My boss is off to some family holiday for 20 days, so I am completely relaxed at work, I hardly work an hour or so in total and spend the rest of time doing nothing”; and a couple of other guys went “Wow man that’s cool!” or “You’re lucky dude that’s awesome”; and I stood there wondering why a guy should proudly declare that he cheats his employers in a way or other, and why others should say that is awesome?

All the above, are a shameless display of indiscipline at the individual level. A nation can never become a superpower, until a majority of its citizens are disciplined in whatever they do. When you are doing some work, whatever it may be, even if it’s cleaning the streets, doing it sincerely or not is affecting things on a national scale, believe it or not.

Discipline, rooted at the most basic level of every individual, may not even need a strong and effective government, because the nation will improve on all factors automatically; also on the governance part because it is an extension of the same individuals in this society.


Look at the following image:


This is what Japan does in 6 days after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake destroys the road like a cake. 6 days! There is a patch of road repair going on about a couple of kilometres from where I work, and all the barricades and tar mixers and equipments are lying there obstructing the traffic since over a week. For a work that requires half a day. Why?

I firmly believe that all this can be solved in no time if majority of Indians become disciplined, unfortunately, we do not have a button on pressing of which all of India will become disciplined. However, we do have a button that takes longer to press but works for sure! Education!

It may be difficult to reshape the adult brains in India who are mostly self righteous about what they do (try telling someone not to spit on the road and see the reaction, or try stopping someone jumping a red traffic light); but it is possible to shape the brains of children which are still forming, through the most common medium we have for reaching them, and that is education.

We are spending so much time on teaching them what they are forgetting a few days after they write the exam; could we reduce that portion and include an activity based practical syllabus for the subject of discipline?

I can assure you, if all of us want to live like ill-mannered undisciplined idiots, nobody will be able to make us a superpower, but, if we are a force of sophisticated, disciplined and sincere humans, nobody can stop us from becoming a superpower!

We have been, and are, a land of knowledge, art, colours, abilities, youth and incredible potential. We have given great people to the world, great things to the world, and all of it was possible because of discipline. We have stories where a young lad stopped King Shivaji himself because his task was to stop anyone from crossing that point, or the myth of Eklavya who taught himself everything without a guru. We have had people like Vivekananda who inspired generations by his igniting philosophy about doing the impossible through discipline. We are a village through which a beautiful river of discipline used to flow giving us diamonds every now and then, we have turned into a dry junkyard of selfish and undisciplined people.

It is time we stop being idiots.


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