An individual’s personal traits, habits, thought-processes, innuendoes and even fetishes have a direct link with society and the environment around him. Given this, his thoughts, actions, deeds and mores also have linkages and a cause and effect relationship with the society of which he is an interminable part. Of course, the relationship is deeply symbiotic with both (the individual and the society) living and feeding of each other. The purpose of this piece is to focus on certain individual traits/habits which have an immediate potential to provide for a more harmonious, balanced, stress-free, clean and even progressive society.

The habits/virtues that immediately come to mind are “cleanliness”, “courtesy” and “punctuality” which in an Indian context have deep relevance, particularly, as society grapples with the effects of a burgeoning population and economic growth, rise in disposable incomes, fall of the joint family system and rise of nuclear families and other multiple factors which have exponentially heightened/multiplied social tensions.

Talking of “cleanliness”, it defies all tenets of rational thinking as to how a society having such a vast ancient civilization has lost its moorings and the ability to appreciate the virtue of having clean and orderly surroundings. The cleanliness that we are talking about here is not some esoteric or abstract cleanliness of mind but of our immediate physical surroundings. It seems even more paradoxical that it would need a state sponsored “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to invite attention to and deal with such basic issues. The issue perhaps lies in our inability to expand our horizon beyond the confines of our homes, to our neighborhoods to practice and propagate this habit. Not just from an aesthetic, angle but also from the point of view of hygiene and health, inculcating the habit of cleanliness as a part of our daily routine would really work wonders for our mental peace also. If only one were to expand our horizon beyond the narrow confines of our homes and aided by some individual/collective effort take immediate steps to clean up our immediate neighborhood, the multiple problems that we face in our daily life would tend to dissipate. Apart from the physical improvement and the aesthetic aspects to the issue, such a step also has the potential to aid in the improvement of air quality, a subject which has been the topic of animated discussion recently.

Coming to the question of “courtesy” again the rapid decline of civility and absence of basic courtesies in our interpersonal dealings is something which has been noticeable. Perhaps a direct reflection of the stresses and strains that we are increasingly subject to or whether it mirrors a trend of general decline in societal mores, the lack of basic courtesies in the way we communicate and deal with people, issues and problems has only got compounded. Forget about basic greetings, the increasing use of swear words, the tremendous increase in our ability to frown, a perpetually annoyed countenance accompanied by a scowl and the near disappearance of that most effective facial exercise “smile” from our routine are all symbolic of this changed attitude. Perhaps its time to embrace the “Jadoo ki Jhappi” made so famous by Sanjay Dutt in his Munnabhai avtar. Such an effort not monumental by any standards, but rather simple and effortless beginning with having a more positive countenance on the face and developing an ability to appreciate the works of any person we come across in our daily life again has the unlimited potential to aid better societal conditions.

The third limb of our discussion is “punctuality”. Sadly, and I may be forgiven for sounding self-deprecatory, Indians are intensely loathe to be punctual and in fact are perpetually prone to a general lack of sense of time, bordering sometimes on irrationality with an accompanying extreme disregard for the value of some other persons time. Admittedly being punctual is not always dependent upon the self, with external factors such as traffic conditions, dependence on others coming into play. But even discounting heavily the effect of such factors, our ability to be punctual comes at a heavy premium. This utter lack of importance attached to punctuality sets in series a cycle of negative effects with corresponding linkages to effectiveness, performance, production what to talk of the attendant tensions and strains on the mind. Again, while extreme adherence to punctuality might again not be desirable, a basic attempt and effort to adhere to times and resultant schedules would surely help matters.

The above discussion does not give any specific suggestions on how the virtues of cleanliness, courtesy and punctuality can be achieved since such suggestions abound all around and any reasonably socially conscious person would be well aware of them. Further in the kind of society that we live in and the information that we have available on such issues, that would not be proper. However, what needs to be emphasized is the need to make these virtues a part of our ethos, psyche and daily life to have a concomitant effect of our emotional, mental and physical well-being and again to use a cliché, to make the world a better place to live in. Of course, the attempt is not to sermonize for I am scarcely capable or competent to do that, but to entreat everybody to make those habits an inalienable part of our daily routine.