Friday, January 18, 2008


On 10 Jan 08, the world was eagerly awaiting the launch of the people’s car by Ratan Tata. I had my TV tuned to NDTV to watch live the historic launch of this much talked about ‘cheapest car in the world’. I watched the true to life presentation by Mr. Tata that also included a slide of the very familiar sight of an Indian family of four on a motorcycle. The presentation was followed by Mr. Tata driving onto the display platform in his ‘dream’ car christened as the ‘Nano’. He came out of the car and spoke. His talk brought many emotions to the forefront; elation, pride and joy. ‘A promise is a promise’, he said. This statement brought tears in my eyes; tears of joy on the face of it. On introspection these tears also symbolized the fact that in a land where a majority of the promises were made to be broken, we still had people who lived up to their promises. What’s in a promise? A promise is ‘an assurance that one will or will not undertake a certain action, behaviour, etc.’ Assurance is the keyword.

Each one of us makes many promises, verbal as well as written, during our lives. It starts from the time we start thinking. Promises to parents, siblings, friends, teachers, country, spouse and so on. A majority of these are positive promises made by a majority of us that are considered good. ‘I will always speak the truth’, ‘I will not harm anyone’, ‘I will earn an honest living’, etc. are promises that would be familiar to nearly everyone. It is said that life is a great teacher. We all learn from our surroundings and then realize that living would be tough if we continue to hold on to the promises that we made, and so we tend to overlook our promises because it is most expedient to do so. Thus, everyday millions of promises are made only to be broken. Can you even imagine what would happen if we all could live up to the promises that we make. I am very sure that India would then be a much better place to live in. India is a country that preaches ‘Praan jaaye par vachan naa jaaye’, and yet we are also the country that never seems to live up to its promise. How is that?

An analysis brings me to a conclusion that we make promises to others, as also to ourselves. The promises that we make to others fall into many categories. The lowest on the list of ‘kept promises’ are the kinds that our politicians make; promises that are made to perfect strangers; strangers whose faces do not even register on one’s memory. These promises are the easiest to break, without any guilty feeling. A study of our professional politician would help one understand this phenomenon. Highest on the list of ‘kept promises’ are the ones that one makes to oneself. Even this would not help if one does not devise a foolproof system to ensure compliance. Also, articulation of the same to one’s closest conscience keepers helps a great deal. The promise made by Ratan Tata, I am sure, would fall into this category. So, in my opinion, the difference between ‘kept’ and ‘un kept’ promises is ‘who the promise has been made to’, and what effort has been put into the ‘how to live up to the spirit of the promise’. I wish we could emulate Ratan Tata on matters of keeping one’s promises.

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