Actor Kamal Haasan delivered a speech at the Harvard University on Saturday.
This is what he said:
People of my larger global family.
Good day, good evening and much more.
I come from a global village called Tamizh Nadu. Part of a cluster of villages called India. That’s all we are -we can be nothing more or nothing less except in arrogance. Tamizh Nadu as a state has many things to be proud of ranging from our rich heritage, culture, language, architecture, food, social justice, pioneers in world trade and many such remarkable achievements. However, all is not well. More on that later.
As I stand on this podium, I can boldly say I dare to have a vision. The new Brave is being “bold with a purpose”. My true purpose today is to “challenge the status quo and mediocrity in a polity that is plaguing our state of Tamizh Nadu”. I have often said that when avaricious businessmen and politicians set mediocrity as a standard, then rubbish becomes acceptable, ordinary becomes extraordinary and extraordinary becomes genius. Genius itself, if it exists at all, is relegated to a state that needs psychiatric monitoring. Fortunately, my vision in these climes is just extraordinary. Extraordinary only when compared to the policy paralysis and the lack of imagination that exists in Tamizh Nadu today.
To make this address specific rather than a wandering generality, the three big things plaguing my state today are:
1) The apathy showed by the political class on the state’s financial health and management, with the revenue deficit at its all-time high of Rs 160 billion and a growing state gross fiscal deficit which stands at approx Rs 405 billion (the 3rd highest in the country) in 2016-2017. A large part of this deficit is driven by ineffective public spending and the lethargy and the lack of vision by people in government
2) Inability to manage our state treasures namely our waterways which for decades have been neglected. If only we have managed this better, we would be water self-sufficient;
3) The gradual lowering of the bar in every aspect of society, from education & skilling to healthcare to social justice to creating employment.
To move on, in these regressive times, what I propose may just be a dream, but it is much akin to that sheer necessity that led our ancestors to come up with the wheel. The new wheel is an old concept, eons old. It is an idea of creating virtuous cycles to weave its magic on the populace. A cycle that we have to re-craft and maybe humbly re-invent. My firm belief is that the business of a new age politician should be to set a context and be an enabler to embed this new wheel within our society. However small that wheel, maybe, it should ripple across our placid social lake.
My mentor once stated, and I quote: “If the villages perish, India will perish too. It will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost”. For him, the rebuilding of the nation could be achieved only by reconstructing self-reliant/ self-sustained villages. My mentor was none other than MK Gandhi.
I am shameless in plagiarising his idea for the benefit of my people and my society. On February 21, 2018, as I embark on my political journey, I am announcing a plan to adopt one village in every district of Tamizh Nadu with the vision and aspiration for them to be “the best villages ever in India and later why not in the World”.
An exemplary of sorts for my state and country. These villages will be planned with an intention to be holistically sustainable, economically, ecologically, sociologically, technologically, and high on education, skilling, and health”. All key faculties for a healthy society. With this, we will set in motion a series of virtuous cycles in Tamil Nadu by “being the change”. I truly believe that a strong Tamizh Nadu augurs well for a strong INDIA.
Now, I am practical enough to understand that every journey begins with a single step. Therefore, as a first measure, we will take one village and re-imagine it for excellence. Later, we will scale it across the state. Let’s re-imagine our villages, let’s reimagine society and let’s leave a lasting impact on Tamizh Nadu and India for posterity.
All Indians and even global citizens are welcome to contribute to this idea. Being a Tamizhan is not a prerequisite or a condition, but as I have often said is merely a postal code. some skeptics might think, “Oh! you rookie politician, I know where you are taking this. You are here with a begging bowl for money”.
Begging bowl? Yes. For money? No.
I seek something more valuable than your money, your IDEAS, your IMAGINATION your INTELLECT to re-imagine our villages, your TIME and PARTICIPATION in pursuit of EXCELLENCE. My political campaign begins here with the aspiration of forming a BRAIN TRUST with my Tamizh women and men here at Harvard.
It is my firm belief that immediate action with good intent is better than theories of utopia and armchair politics. I have embarked on a journey towards electoral politics. I used to mimic the wary intelligentsia that looked down with disdain at electoral politics and later through learning and kind tutoring understood that politics need not be something below us. On the contrary, it can and should be a civic duty. A duty that we have neglected and hence, are suffering its atrophying consequences. I am fed up of complaining about governmental inaction. Demanding good governance is my right and no government need take umbrage.
This address is only a preamble, a primer for that dialogue that I want to have with my people. I am actually rehearsing it with vibrant minds, hopefully, kind critics and partners in attendance here.
Help me help Tamizh Nadu! I am, just the medium, a tool offered for your use, sharpen me, shape me to sculpt our little village. The time for lamenting is over. Everyone is in agreement that Tamil Nadu has touched its Nadir. It is time to recraft the polity. I recently signed, in a college’s guest register, as “Politician”. On second thoughts I should have signed as a “Polity-Culturist” – someone cultivating a new Polity.
Enough said, I guess to indicate the direction of my journey:
It is simple.
A slave called Spartacus who dared to think of freedom when slavery was a social address and norm in Republican Rome.
A man called Genghis Khan who dared to dream of an Empire knowing fully well he was nothing but a nomad tribal.
And closer home, to my forefathers, the Tamizh Chera, Chozha & Paandiyan Kings who domineered the spirit of language, administration, and world trade.
Each of them over time has left behind some great ideas, some faulty, yet it is there for us to improve upon. Even recent leaders have left behind lessons to be learned. Their endeavours, success, and failures, are specimens in our socio-political laboratory.
I have the humility to learn and keep learning. Partner with me on this epic journey of re-imagining & re-building Tamil Nadu and hopefully one day our country for a better tomorrow!
To watch the videos of the speech, click the link below: