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It’s an observation I picked up from Twitter – that teamwork doesn’t have an “i”. And while that’s simple to understand, it means the making or breaking of a country. Sounds monumental? It is. Let’s start with what triggered this thought. Actor Imran Khan’s column in HT today (see excerpt below) on teamwork in movies and my catching Raajneeti on TV last night.

Imran Khan talks about how movies are made by teams, even if they are temporary, they are loyal:
“I wanted to talk about how we all come together for a few months, work till we fall down from exhaustion and then go our separate ways. You see, most people never realise just how much teamwork plays a part in what we do. An actor could be giving the performance of a lifetime, but if the cameraman doesn’t capture it correctly, nobody will ever see it. Each and every shot depends upon each and every person from each and every department doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment. It’s stressful and demanding… but it also creates a kind of bond that few other things can. For example, as I sit and write this, there is a game of cricket underway. The actors, director, ADs and light boys are all taking turns batting and bowling, and there is no hierarchy. Or, when we’ve been shooting for hours and it’s past lunch time, no one complains, because we’re all in it together. Nobody starts eating until everyone has broken for lunch.

The fate of a film can never be predicted; it may do well, it may disappear without a trace. I’ve seen both happen. But that can’t change the way we approach our work. We still have to give it everything we have, and we still have to come together and work as a team. And that’s reflected in the term for an entire cast and crew of a film; it’s called a unit.” (Full column here.)

On the other hand, there is politics, where there are teams and more teams and even more teams that spend their time bickering, playing games, manipulating and buying each other out. While some people thought Raajneeti was a bit extreme, I find it quite a relevant movie of the time – where politics today is not what the Greeks intended it to be when they coined the term.

Ref: Wikipedia: “Politics (from Greek πολιτικος, [politikós]: «citizen», «civilian»), is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to behavior within civil governments, but politics has been observed in other group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. It consists of ‘social relations involving authority or power’ and refers to the regulation of a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.”

What is the problem with our country, or many other countries today? Is it really what we learnt in civics and political science and sociology, the things we rattle off, the terms that NRIs sit back in their la-z-boys and shake their heads over while munching betel nuts? Corruption, over-population, illiteracy…these are the buzz words. Yes, these problem exist, and yes, there are important issues that need to be solved for our country to move forward. But is this the real problem at the very foundation of our issues? I think not, I think it is a genuine lack of team spirit. We don’t think like one nation, one people. Whether it is because of religion, caste, money, social structure or an age-old belief in hierarchy…or even just survival of the fittest (because we’ve had to survive to make it here – fight to get anywhere), it has made us individualistic. At the very most, we may include our family in our concerns, but that is also getting few and far between and we find ourselves largely driven by selfish concerns. Some of our wealthiest people do not contribute to charity, rather build towering monuments to denote their status. Recently, while visiting the Jai Vakeel school for the mentally challenged, I learned that the government hasn’t paid salaries there in four months. So even when something good is being done, they can’t simply cough up the change to keep it going, but they can pocket the change from CWG and other big projects. While lining one’s pockets, can’t one at the very least ensure that some good comes of some of the tax payers’ money?

Another quote popularised on Twitter, “Indians are privately smart and publicly dumb” – is exactly the same thing, we don’t believe in treating our country like our own. The streets are not ours, we can trash them. The public loos are not in our house, we can leave them filthy. The movie theatre isn’t our own, we can mess it up with food and drink. Publicly, we notoriously behave like pigs in a pigsty, and yet, we follow stringent hygiene and cleaning rules in our homes – remove your shoes before coming in, they will track germs from the outside in! Is it that we believe that someone else will take care of our mess? Is it simply because we don’t care enough about anyone else that it doesn’t matter?

The reason we admire sports so much is that as humans we crave bonding and togetherness – and there are very few places that show mutual respect and warmth for other humans than in teams that come together for a common cause. I admire the film industry – despite their bickering and issues and camps, a group of people come together and work hard to make a film – even if they never see each other again once it’s complete, they gave it their unselfish best when required. In fact, the movie Chak De is a metaphor for Indian society – we are too mentally segregated to think like one, and when we do, we can possibly reach heights we have never considered possible.

Why can’t we as social citizens do that? Why must we treat other people as “others” and not a part of our own team, own country, own race? Why can’t we think like “we” rather than “I”? If we were to, everything would be very different. A simple shift in perspective would make a huge difference in thought and a huge difference in where we are as a race or nation.

Short-sightedness – where we can’t see beyond our own noses and houses, is what makes us an ultimately selfish race. And this is the root of the trouble – global warming, social evils, unhappiness all boils down to being able to think as a bigger identity than oneself. Can we be bigger than we think we want to be?