I recently acted as driver, PA, helper, coolie and general admin-boy for Ramashish Joshi (my mama) on one of his excursions to the innards of Konkan. He was on a tight itinerary covering the village of Harihareshwar and surrounding hamlets espousing the cause of the newly setup Government of India's biodiversity committee plan to various gram panchayats (village councils). To give you a brief introduction, Ramashish Joshi works with Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (An organization engaged in conservation of marine turtle, whitebellied sea eagle, vulture, Indian swiftlet and other birds in the Konkan region). He is also involved in various other activities of a socially collaborative nature in Chiplun, Maharashtra and is active in ecological conservation activities throughout the Western Ghats and Konkan region.
On that trip, as mama stretched our (I was accompanied by my wife who stood up to the challenge as well) physical endurance to it's limits with his seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, I realised a simple fact - it takes a little bit of crazy to make a difference.
He and I share the same birthday. People feel we also share a lot of other characteristics. But I think the similarities end at our birthday. I really wouldn't have the guts to live the life he has led to this point. We've often disagreed on various things. We've had our differences on many, many, many issues (particularly on matters of my behaviour through college; yes I do come off looking rather bad), but one thing we can both agree on is his "craziness" quotient. No arguments there.
And boy can I attest to that! Over the years, I have seen mama get into inexplicable scrapes with people all around him on matters of principle. Over the years, I have seen him change from a corporate honcho to an activist (he still denies both these stereotypes). Over the years, I have seen the "craziness" increase. By all "social" norms and definitions, only a crazy person will return to India leaving a high-profile, cushy and well-paying job (the so-called American Dream) in the "US of A" to do something different. Only a crazy person will deliberately choose 15th August as his date of return. Only a crazy person will then leave another similaly cushy job as a corporate IT honcho to turn to environmental conservation. Only a crazy person will leave behind a net of safety and security and set out to do something that we all see as a lost cause. Of couse, kudos to his wife too (my mami) on standing by him through all this craziness (that too must have been quite a difficult task). Only a crazy person will continue to fight the odds of a massively indifferent political system, an even more indifferent general population and a similarly indifferent audience (the wild animals and indigineous flora/fauna that he seeks to save) despite knowing that his efforts will most probably end up as "too little too late" (not because of any lack of efforts on his part but because of our ennui). Only a crazy person would do all this . . But then again, maybe crazy is what we really need.
Why am I writing all this? Because I realise that only in a flawed society is this behaviour called odd or "crazy". Only in a flawed society is social awareness taken as sign of naivety rather than of intelligence. Only a flawed society hinders such a man's activities rather than help and promote them in every way possible. Only a flawed society will create role models of criminals and spoilt movie stars instead of men and women like him. Only in a flawed society will we find "crazy" men fighting these odds. Perhaps it is time that we realize that civic sense is a good thing. Perhaps it is time we realize that we need to set our petty differences and vested interests aside and listen to what these people are telling us. Maybe there's more sense in it than what we've been considering as "good sense" all these years.
Maybe it is time for all of us to become a "little crazy" ourselves . . Maybe crazy is what we really need.
Mr. Joshi, hat's off to you.