Here is the full transcript of Bollywood actor R Madhavan’s speech on India in 2030 at India Conference Harvard 2017. This event occurred on February 12, 2017.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: R Madhavan Speech at Harvard University America On India in 2030
Thank you, Amit and Wilfred. Our next speaker is perhaps someone who doesn’t need any introduction but I’ll still make an attempt to give him one. Apart from being a stellar [superstar] actor, he’s been an NCC Cadet, he’s someone who’s received training from the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. He’s been a teacher, a professor. He’s represented India at the Young Businessmen Conference in Japan. He has a degree in Electronics and he’s also served as a cultural ambassador to India. Please welcome Mr. Madhavan.
R Madhavan – Bollywood actor
Oh, well, let me just get set up right now. Big speech.
So, first of all, thank you very much for having me here at the Inspire Series. It’s worked dramatically, I’m already inspired to be addressing this really August intellectual gathering of people from Harvard, a place that my mother thought I will never reach.
But you know what, lot of people have spoken before me and eloquently and described their dreams for India and given figures and facts that either are skeptical and like, Mr. [Omar] says aspirational. But I’m just an actor and I’m going to just give you my dream shamelessly, because that’s the thing that I can do best.
And by that, I mean when we talk of dreams we have one of our greatest scientists and philanthropists Dr. Abdul Kalam, and he said something which is very interesting. He said, “Dreams are not what you have when you sleep. The true dreams are the ones that don’t let you sleep”.
He said, “When you have that dream once it’s a dream; when you have it twice it becomes a desire. And when you see it for the third time consecutively, it becomes a passion, an aim and a goal”, and that is the passion with which I want to see this fantasy that I have for India 2030.
And Abraham Lincoln also was a dreamer and you know, but he said one thing that makes most sense in trying to achieve this goal that I have dreamed for my nation. He said, “If I have six hours to cut down a tree, then I would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” There’s a great philosophy in that.
In this era of instant gratification we just keep thinking we can achieve all these goals by just tweaking this, tweaking that, it’s not true. I really believe that a missionary zeal is required to make that quantum change, that can make 2030 of what I’m dreaming about right now.
And just let’s look at India as a country, what a unique nation! Seriously. Thousands of years old of culture and tradition, many many invasions, being ruled for many years and we still somehow managed to maintain our identity.
We still somehow have managed to maintain our Indian-ness — our beliefs, our faith and you know, yeah, there has been — we have our drawbacks — there is corruption, there is violence, there is differences between the different religions and sects and caste and everything.
But I can’t help but think looking at India at the geography that we’re not doing really that bad. Look at all the other nations around in the world. Look at our neighbors, compared to that there is somebody in India who’s doing something right for us to be called a growing economy and being projected as the third largest economy in 2026 and the most educated and young nation in the world, it’s still functional democracy.
So let’s first accept the fact that there is somebody, some people in India with the right ideas and the ability to lead the nation to where we are today.
Under that assumption — under that assumption we are also very capable of finding very unique solutions to the problems that generally the world faces. And one of them, of course, is the fact that we found freedom through non-violence and non-cooperation; who would’ve thought that was possible?
We have some other – no, seriously I mean it was as radical of thought then as it is today, and one man in a loincloth would believe in faith and complete conviction was able to do that for us — you know, Mahatma Gandhi, and it’s an amazing country of people like Mahavir, Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi and then Bhagat Singh who also had a dream.
He dreamed then 85 years ago, that I dream of an India where no infant cries for the want of milk, no youngster is deprived of relevant education, and no youth goes door to door finding a job. Sadly, it’s still a dream today.
And I dream of a 2030 when this dream becomes irrelevant. I dream of a 2030 when everybody is so equally satisfied with what they’re doing, that they’re able to actually devote about more time back to art and culture which is another great important aspect of our country.
Now we need to be – for that to happen we need to be a healthy nation. And when I say healthy, I remember preparing for a film of mine which was released recently where I had to look like a boxer and I had this biceps and triceps that had to be there.
So I decided just to work on the parts that is seen outside my clothes. So I was just working out of my biceps and my triceps and my shoulders but you know what I suddenly realized, the strengths that I had in my arms and biceps was not actually enough for me to look even fit because it is disproportionate growth.
It is the kind of growth that will not make you fit or strong but actually make you look inadequate. And that is what is happening to India today.
Everybody says we are the largest economy — we’re going to be the most populated country in the years to come and you know with economic superpower and supremacy in rocket and space technology which I am privy to and then the IT giants and smarter cities.
But ladies and gentlemen, I really believe that more than smarter cities we require smart villages. And this is going to be primarily what I talk about today.
You know, a nation is only as strong as its weakest link and rural India is our weakest link. See, it’s important that growth and progress goes hand-in-hand with villages also getting onto the same train towards economic freedom, super-powerdom, all terms that has been coined for a successful country but that is not happening, the reason being we’re beginning to ignore them, we’re beginning to actually believe that —
This is a very interesting line that I have found, where they say that everybody believes that they know what is required for getting the underprivileged and the poor up to speed with the rest of the country. OK, and we always start assuming that this is what they want; this is how we can help the poor and the villages and this is what they need.
And we can’t be more wrong, because when you assume, and as the spelling goes you make an ass of you and me, let me tell you how that happened to a friend of mine.
His name was — he’s a very profound doctor, a gastroenterologist, and he got a call from his patient Mr. Abdul, who said, “Doctor Saab, my wife is really really ill and she’s got a big stomach ache and she can’t sit and she can’t sleep and she’s in big pain, can I come and visit you?”
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