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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 75

Measuring Development and the life of our friend Billy Gallon.

Author - Shani Calyaneratne Karunaratne

The United Kingdom stands at No. 16 on the Human Quality Life Index. Norway is No. 1. Sri Lanka, where I come from, ranks 73rd. Having lived in all three countries plus some others I wonder whether it is a true indicator that reasonably measure Development. Countries, Cities, Townships, villages’ exhibit different levels of development. In fact, within a city, one always find the affluent areas and not so affluent areas. According to one definition “The factors determining development is a combination of economic, social, cultural or technical”.

The access the population has to wealth, jobs, education, nutrition, health, leisure and safety - as well as political and cultural freedom. Material elements, such as wealth and nutrition, are described as the Standard of Living. Health and leisure are often referred to as the Quality of Life.

When studying economies, cultures and people, Geographers use a series of development indicators to compare the development of one region against another. A sense of security, Life expectancy at birth, access to education and Health facilities, and numerous other statistical indicators are meant to culminate and bring to a single measure of Economic Development and Human Development. This is called a Composite Indicator. The definition says a composite indicator is formed when individual indicators are compiled into a single index, on the basis of an underlying model of the multi-dimensional concept that is being measured.

While these indicators are not to be undermined, especially for a person like myself who has been dabbling in measuring Development for some time, one sees that many important factors are taken for granted. For example, how a person’s children turn out to be is a major factor of a person’s happiness and contentment but there is no way to calculate it or add as a variable. I once met and befriended a couple, Sri Lankan origin, living in North America, very well educated and living very comfortably in a huge house and having a lot of assets. They were parents of a girl 19 and a boy 20, who were living on the street of that town. They had fallen out with the parents. They both were drug peddlers and addicts, both had not completed high school. But the parents both had PhD s, wealthy, had many assets but were, obviously very unhappy.

They loved their children, no doubt. They were very sad when they spoke of their children to me. They sent the children for rehabilitation a few times, but the children have gone back to their addiction and they fund it with the peddling.

Beatles, in there famous song says “All you need is love” and I believe that. Long ago, when I was reading towards my bachelors, I read a component on modern English poetry and I looked at many lyrics of Beatles among other.

Love is, without doubt very important. Love makes the world go round. But, How do we measure an act of love. How do we measure the happiness we feel when things are done well? I would like to give an example which I was fortunate to witness during the cold winter of January 2016 in Kings Lynn in England, UK.

The date was 23rd January 2016. A surprise birthday party had been organized for a wonderful 70 year old man by his son, daughter and in Laws. A good few hundred people, including us, (Shani and Andrew) waited patiently at the Kings Lynn, Town Hall where its history going back to the previous two centuries, awaiting the arrival of Mr. William (Billy) Gallon, the birthday boy.

While waiting, I remembered that I have read somewhere that “waiting is a sign of true love and patience” that any one can say I Love you but it is not anyone who will stay patiently to prove it is true. We waited about an hour, and unsuspecting Billy was under the impression that he was going to someone else’s party at the Kings Lynn Town Hall.

Came in Billy, who was indeed surprised and overwhelmed with happiness and tears jumped out of his eyes. I am sure he would have looked back at his entire 70 years lived as an Englishman of Norfolk and he would not even consider changing places with anyone in the world at that moment in time.

Let us look back at Billy’s life.

Billy was born on the 23rd of January 1946 in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, just after the end of the World War II while the UK was going through economic and social hardships. Essentials were scares. At young age, he went to work, first as a delivery boy, and subsequently as an apprentice to a Brick layer. He met Janet, his wife of 48 years, when she was 17 and he was 19 through Janet’s brother and got married to her two years later. They have a son and daughter and 4 grandchildren.

Here is one success story of a 70 year old man looking back.

It is my observation that Kings Lynn is a very happy place. When I stand in the bus stop, many little children who are from the neighboring school wave their little hands at me, a total stranger. If I ask for directions, many people have walked me to the right place before continuing their journey. According to the list of best places to live in the UK Kings Lynn does not rank but Peterborough in the neighborhood ranks 67 place to live which is 52 places up from the previous year, Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland ranks 1st .

Would you agree with me that when you are in a country or a city, if you can feel a sense of being in a place that is a “good” even though you have no idea what the Economic and Social indicators are?

I as an independent observer see some merit in this listing according to the variables used. However, even better indicators would be that the Kings Lynn town is clean, almost no graffiti, people are sociable, and greet each other whether they know them or not, that the local papers have no indication of major calamities.

In this wonderful town, where many you see contentment of people amidst the green wooded areas. Our friend Billy, a Builder by profession, has every reason to be happy. He has beaten major medical issues and now healthy.

His surprise birthday party attended by almost every one he knew to which invitees received printed invitations delivered months ahead was probably the best kept secret from Billy for in a small town, everyone knows everything.

From the age of 21, to 70 he has been with Janet, his wife of 49 years. His children and grandchildren are with him. Billy is educated in the University of Life and experiences, is warm, kind and his children have inherited it.

How do you measure a persons’ contentment? I really do not know the answer. Many important things in our lives on the other hand are never said but felt. And we all felt it and I felt fortunate to be in a town where the Human Values were upheld. I also think that no matter what development indicators measure, what is immeasurable is the most valuable.

- Asian Tribune -

Mr. William (Billy) Gallon,
diconary view
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