I am an engineering graduate from IIT Roorkee. For the last few years, I have been working fulltime in the area of education, policy, governance and rural empowerment, with grassroots organizations like Ekal and Vision India Foundation.
In the course of my fieldwork in rural as well as urban India, I came to realize that our society is in shambles. We have no sense of ownership of our resources, much less our heritage, and we are speedily drifting away from our civilizational ethos. As a community, we are suffering from an acute identity crisis and guess what, not all of it can be blamed on biased school textbooks. Further, the poverty across the country is truly astounding and there are numerous communities that have been forced to live a life of extreme deprivation just because they happened to miss the bus of 'progress'.
At the same time, I noticed an inspiring spark in the common men and women of this ancient land that made it hard for me to become cynical and lose hope. I realized that the indomitable spirit of these ordinary people, struggling hard to make ends meet, came from an unshakable faith in the divine. And I found that it was not something that the contemporary generations specialized in, rather it was a defining trait inherited from distant ancestors going back several millennia. No wonder India is the longest surviving civilization, given that grit and cheerfulness are a part of our spiritual inheritance.
I saw broken murtis and dilapidated paintings. I saw looted heritage and predatory land-grab. I saw impoverished priests and languishing sculptors. I saw shameless corruption and shocking indifference. I saw paid-darshan queues and rampant commercialization. I saw temple priests getting paid Rs. 19 per month (no typo error here!) as salary for performing puja. I saw temples unable to render the basic services expected of them like feeding the poor, imparting education to the needy and protection of cows. I saw the funds donated to temples getting siphoned for other purposes by the authorities. I saw an ancient knowledge tradition being trampled by arrogant bureaucrats. I saw Hindu temples under the control of a secular government.
As I connected the dots, I realized that the sad condition of our temples was reflective of the state of our society not just in a poetic sense but was, in fact, one of the major contributing factors to the mess we collectively find ourselves in. In other words, the health of our temples is organically connected to the welfare - material, cultural and spiritual - of our nation. Our temples have been the nerve centers of India's socio-economic life for centuries and without their revival, all ambitions of making India a strong and sovereign nation are nothing but a pipe-dream.
The terrible condition of our temples, though some of them may look nice and shiny on the outside, is directly attributable to the unbridled interference of the Indian state in their affairs. To be sure, the honour of being run by the government has only been granted to the temples. Not mosques. Not churches. Not gurudwaras. But I digress.
Harder than realizing the extent to which our temples have been abused by the state was to come to terms with the reality that no one outside the echo-chambers of social media cared. I spoke to friends, relatives, neighbours and even complete strangers, only to be met with a carefree shrug and a blank expression. These were not people who didn't care. They were genuinely warmhearted individuals who just didn't fathom the gravity of the problem. So, I decided that I would make honest and sincere efforts to raise awareness about the issue. Only when people woke up to its gross overreach would the state admit its folly and withdraw from the sacred precincts of our marvelous temples.
I pondered over this for long and came to the conclusion that the comprehension deficit all around us was not restricted to just temples but extended to history, philosophy, religion, politics, culture and so on. This is a direct consequence of us being products of a broken education system and there is a burning need to fill in the gaping holes in our collective self-image by educating people on various matters of philosophical, spiritual, cultural and political import. To that end, we figured that the best, most-effective and cost-efficient method is to harness the power of technology. We studied many different models of education and arrived at short animated videos as the final choice of our medium of raising awareness.
To sum up, a few friends and I are in the process of creating a non-profit organization (we have named it "UpWord") that dedicates itself to this urgent cause of raising awareness on civilizational issues of all kinds and have been lucky to get the attention of many patriotic investors. However, we want to first make a sample video, a sort of prototype, so that we can show the investors the quality and impact of what we are setting out to do. Needless to say, we want to start from the start and our first video is on the topic of the need to free our temples from state control.