The pursuit of success has remained the single most obsession of the homo-sapiens and so complete and so over-powering has been his thirst to be successful that he could be most ruthless on this voyage. For he believes that success by itself is the only reward for all the efforts that he puts in, be it towards an idea, a process, a mission, a discovery or a philosophy. Success, for him is not a possible outcome with all the uncertainties associated in its actualization, but an absolute necessity without which there isn’t any justification, either for his past pursuits or his future plans. Success has a multiplier effect on him; for he believes that it breeds more success and as such is most uncomfortable or even dreadful towards the very notion of the so- called failures.
But history is replete with anecdotes of failures that have provided mankind with great knowledge, priceless insights and definite roadmaps for the future generations on the principles to be adhered and the pitfalls to be avoided. Without these failures the evolution of the human mind would have been stunted and the many scientific, technological, social and historical revolutions that form the core of our common heritage would not have been realised. And it would be only prudent to recall some of those failures without which our destiny would have been different.
The great Indian uprising of 1857 is a classic case of a seemingly failed attempt to over throw an oppressive regime and instil a nationalistic dispensation through the coming together of varied princely states under a central command. Though the movement was ruthlessly crushed, it sowed the seeds of the idea of a nation and a quest for freedom that found fulfilment ninety years later. It also exposed the many social and religious ills that plagued our society then and acted as a catalyst for many reform movements to take root and work towards their eradication. The cohesiveness of the later Indian social order that formed the bedrock for achieving national unity could largely be attributed to the yeomen work done by these reform movements of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. All these would not have been realised without that mutiny, a failed one, which triggered introspection and concerted action. The saga of failure in our independence struggle continued when Gandhiji called off the paralysing Non-Cooperation movement of 1921 at the hint of a slight deviation from the vowed path of non-violence. The freedom was within grasp but such a freedom was non-acceptable if it was to be gotten by means bereft of principles and the nation had to wait for another quarter century to realise its aspiration. And the raising of the INA by Shubash Bose, though failed miserably to defeat the British militarily, had and continue to have an electrifying effect on the youth of the nation to dare and to defy unbridled authority.
What seemed to be great failures at the individual level have also turned out to be grand successes in opening up new vistas of opportunities and heralding new frontiers of knowledge. When Christopher Columbus set out to discover a sea route to India sailing westward, little did he realise that he will fail in his stated objective but succeed in discovering a new world, The Americas, that was to become the new continent for the Europeans to colonise. And the discovery of Penicillin was the result of many failures, mistakes and accidental coincidences as was also the discovery of X-ray. “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” commented Thomas Edison on his vast array of experimental failures to develop a storage battery.
While failures of movements and individuals are innumerable, there are also been gigantic failures of great political ideas. The communist philosophy of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, though at one point of time had more than half the globe under its influence, ultimately failed to address individual aspirations and got almost wiped out from the earth. But it compelled nations and governments to incorporate the concept of a welfare state on socialist principles and adopt policies to guarantee minimum standards of living to all citizens. This has been the singular contribution of the great idea that Karl Marx propounded as nations struggle to find ways for a more equitable society.
In the business world, the one Indian experiment that held great promise was that of the Deccan Airlines. The no-frills flying concept of Gopinath, offering air tickets at as low a price as Rs. 500, contributed immensely in the democratising of the Indian skies and in de-glamorising air travel. Though the airlines got sold and tickets are now available at much higher price, it irrevocably brought in a whole new class of air travellers and contributed in the expansion of our aviation industry.
Failures are not just limited to humans but even gods at times seemingly fail in their tasks only to achieve greater success in their ultimate missions. When Krishna as a messenger and negotiator of the Pandavas failed to convince their cousins to part even a handful of soil, he was only preparing for the final assault and annihilation of unrighteousness. And he lovingly reminds us not to harp for the results but to singularly focus on the task at hand.
So the next time you have the urge to do new things, try out new ways of making a living or implement new ideas, just go all out and get immersed in it. If you succeed , be happy and if you fail, be happier!
Entry filed under: To reflect.