“To Rise Up and Succeed, Youth Should Understand That There Are Different Civilizations in the World”

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Interview with well-known Indian activist, journalist and publisher Chanda Singh.

Chanda Singh began her professional career at an advertising agency, where she worked as a copywriter. In 1974, Chanda was invited to serve as editor with a newly launched women’s magazine. But after two years, she felt disillusioned with the enterprise, since the magazine’s owner insisted that they mechanically copy Western journals rather than create original content with specific relevance for Indian women. Shortly thereafter, when her family moved to Delhi, she got a job offer from “The India Magazine” – a popular monthly magazine focused on India, her people and culture. Since the late 90s, Chanda also collaborated with a public organization devoted to women’s and children’s issues in the disturbed terrorist areas of Kashmir. Through the trauma of terrorism, many women were left widowed and children orphaned. So the issue was to integrate the children to normal education and teach the women embroidery skills and marketing to make household money. in 1996 she started a journal called World Affairs.

What personal and professional qualities should a young leader possess?

An open mind and the realization that all people are different. Hence the need to understand each other. Since we are talking about youth, it is important to understand the errors and compulsions of previous generations mistakes so as not to repeat them.

Then are young people to pay for the actions of previous generations? What ought they to do?

No, absolutely not. Young people should not be held responsible for what their parents’ generation did, but must nevertheless understand the motives and reasons behind errors which were committed, as well as the implications these have for their generation and all future generations. Western culture has been imposed on society regardless of its will and in diverse ways, through the media and through the promotion of consumerism. There is nothing wrong in accepting this culture and participating in it, provided that you are rooted in and understand your own culture and its supports. “Know yourself” before you know others. This can be compared with a kite, in flight which soars higher and higher only when the string is controlled and released. If the string breaks, the kite is thrown into disarray, blown everywhere, its direction lost. To rise up, to succeed, you need to know your values and cultures and be grounded in them. Young people should understand that there are other cultures and civilizations and be interested in them. To appreciate othersand benefit from them, you must know and appreciate your own.

Under what conditions can a person obtain influence over others and achieve power?

I do not like the word “power”. It has negative connotations for me in this context. You need new ideas, imagination, not tired stereotypical thoughts and concepts. There is yet another tool—the ability to bring people together, uniting various ideas into a complete vision. Young people are very curious and strong-minded but they are weary of much of what they see around them. It is important to be able to ignite their imagination. If we can do that, we will take them along with us into tomorrow. I am sure that your generation is much smarter and more capable than mine. You know more than we did. It seems to me that you are overcome by boredom with what the media thinks and what movies portray.

There is an active campaign for the transformation of values which is going on right now. How do we keep what we already have while, at the same time, integrating new values into the old framework so that they help us to develop, not giving up one for the other?

I don’t think that there are contradictions and conflicts here because core values are eternal. They will always exist and you can only add to them.

During a conversation with Mr. Kapur, he said that money is presently more important than man. And he said that we need to change the world so that humanity is at its center.

He said it and he believes it.

And you?

Yes, I absolutely agree. We have all been losing our humanity. The human being has turned into a means of profiting and making money. Instead it is necessary to use money for the sake of man, to allow man the ability to achieve a higher plane.

Do mechanisms exist which can help to alter this situation? What should be done so that money serves not just as a means to acquire new comforts but also helps to develop man’s spiritual world,  strengthening the fundamental values which one generation passes to the next?

We are now at a crossroads. And most surely realize that the path which we are on is leading to catastrophe. We need to change course. But how do we make this shift? This has been the focus of all the discussions which we have conducted over the past eight years within the framework of “Dialogue of Civilizations.” This is a very difficult road but I think that the mechanism, in a sense, is dialogue itself. Meeting people from different parts of the globe and interacting with them. During these meetings, young people, regardless of their geography, discover the existence of certain basic values and ideals, which are actually common to all. This is religion and spirituality, culture, co-existence and communication. Perhaps this is the common thing that binds humans together. And the most remarkable thing about a youth forum is having the opportunity to meet young people from different corners of the globe. The ability to communicate on the same level is paramount. When you come together around a common issue and a common goal then you have the chance, even if the process is slow, to arrive at a solution. We must put negatives like war out of our minds and work on peace. Let global sanity prevail over all else.

Considering our present circumstances, how do you see the world of the future?
At the moment I’m afraid of this future world. I think people globally share the same fears and so I hope this common concern will help us change direction. But our current leaders are in crisis. I have my fears but still I want to be positive about the future. And it is your generation’s responsibility to ensure it. Take the best from the experiences of past generations, not the worst, add to it and run with that.

How can we help our leaders to get out of this crisis? Or should we find other leaders?

We must change minds, attitudes, ideas. If we can succeed in that, then the leaderships around will also have to change tracks. We need to mould a younger generation who will grow up in line with new ideas. We discuss such ideas here in the forum. The world must keep going but we want the world to be more wonderful in its manifestations, characteristics and dimensions not a world destroyed. The question is how to achieve this. I remember having a conversation with Mr. Adkov (Oleg Adkov, cosmonaut and hero of the Soviet Union. – Ed.). I asked him what the Earth looked like from space. He said: “It looks beautiful and fragile.” We must ensure that it remains intact.

Speaking of the cosmos, does human energy and consciousness interact in some way with cosmic energy? Do we influence each other?

Sure. Because we are part of the cosmos, one of its many many ingredients. You can’t separate the universe from the human being. We need to understand that we are inseparable from every other thing. We are connected with the land, soil, trees, plants and the cosmos. Yet today the path that we have taken separates humanity from everything. Possession, ownership and greed are the new mantras. Mahatma Gandhi has spoken extensively on this, two of which deeply affected me:- ‘there is more than enough in this world for each man’s needs, but not enough for even one man’s greed’- are the second- ‘that we are all trustees of this world for future generations’. When my father said that humanity should be at the center of life, he also meant that man is part of everything around him. And it is our duty to nurture, not destroy everything around  and this includes thoughts, ideas, cultures and civilizations.

Does science promote the development of civilization or—on the contrary—destroy it?

I think the ideas of science are beautiful. The question is how the results of science are used, for constructive, positive purposes or negative and destructive ones. Science, the cosmos and the human being are inextricably linked.

What would you wish for our readers?

I would like the youth of the world to achieve a world better than the one we have now. But for this they will have to work hard.

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