Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nostalgia, Cynicism and the Republic Day

I read somewhere that Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect! We all find the past perfect – at least that is how we like to filter our memories. We idealize past even more when we grapple with the uncertainty of the future. Therefore, it was not unusual that when I sat down to write about the Republic Day, the first images that came to my mind are of my childhood . The school function, distribution of ladoos and later on the craze of watching Republic Day parade on TV. I always found the sound of our national anthem playing and people (including the President) watching the national flag with pride very emotional. I still choke at times when the band plays “Jai jai jai, jai he…!” . Then I thought of the last Republic Day. Living in a government colony makes it easy for us government servants to attend a flag hoisting function. In my campus, it is done with a lot of pomp and show as it is an international institute where we have to showcase our national functions in front of foreigners. I found to my utter shock that many of my contemporaries were not so sure about the wordings of the national anthem. One even suggested jokingly if we can sing the A.R.Rahman version of “Jai ho!” Thanks to the schools, the children took the lead in singing. I came back with a bad taste in mouth.
I avoid being cynical about the world around me. So much so, I often ignore the pessimistic facts and sights. But it is difficult to think about the state of affairs in our republic without a tinge of sadness when I find Binayak Sen facing life imprisonment and CBI failing to file a charge sheet in three months after CWG scam. We indeed live in an incredible country. Contradictions that make one shiver with fear. Divisions that defy any logic, cruelity that surpasses mythical devils and the political milieu, which defines all the ills of society. For some inspiration, I go back to the voice of one frail man who took our country out of similar (if not worse) hopelessness about a century back. Gandhi once wrote about Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without meaning. Interestingly we have all the seven present before us – We feel them every day, deal with them every day but do not fight back to come out of them . Mostly, I too think that it is beyond one individual to fight back these ills. Where is that small body of people with unquenchable faith in its mission to alter the course of history, which Gandhi talked about? But if I believe in Gandhi, who talked about the only one tormentor- the quiet voice of his own conscience, I think I know the solution as well.

Think about it. Why do we deserve fair play and life without exploitation? Do we give that back to those around us. People who break the rules to have their way, bribe to get undue advantage, beat their wives and do not do their own duties faithfully- why do we think we should get honest government, fair treatment, no bullying and correct dues. How many times people ask me to put in a word, to twist the rules so that they can get their child admitted to a school, get that license bit early or get the income tax penalty waived off. We have almost come to believe that it is fair. Haven’t we? Many of us even justify this posing as helpness victims of a corrupt state ...but if you look around there is a difficult but honest way always there...well almost always. It's just that our faith is following the honest way is so badly shaken that we do not even want to give it a try. I cannot count on how many occasions I fought with an urge to break a traffic rule, to show my Identity card and get a special treatment, to unduly bend a system for my vanity, my greed and sometimes for even less…to just show off . When I think of it, I do not know how to blame the government, the politics, the businessmen and everybody for doing the same – just at a different level. Look around ...we need not even try hard , we have become a country of crooks so obiviously apaprently . We gladly accept that we break rules, we short circuit systems, we bribe the policeman who cought us speeding and then we talk big about other people's similar dishonesty. I do not say that the world will treat you fine if you follow the right path ....but then, if charity starts at does honesty and fairplay.When I ask myself, if I have been fair to those who are powerless before answer is not an undounted YES. Who am I then to pick up stone on others?

So what do I intend to do this Republic Day? The options are:

1. Feel disgusted at the list of celebrities getting the Padma Award , and getting caught in one scam or the other soon afterwards

2. Getting soaked in nostalgia of the good old days . Days which I will cynically conclude are gone forever.

3. Being cynic that nothing will ever change and making excuses of helplessness to go unfair myself

4. To be what I should be, a moral, ethical , fair human being . One who does her duties honestly, who calls for positive change in the system by following the rules, by being true and fair herself first .
The frail voice of my conscience tells me that the correct answer is 4. So, why to think harder- Lock kiya Jay?


Gautam Kumar Kutariyar गौतम कुमार कुटरियार said...

My recently published poem in लेखापरीक्षा प्रकाश incorporates these feelings.The poem is also available at the following link:

MARCH said...

It’s not so difficult to find people who don’t even think it fit to stand to pay respect to the anthem. The notorious case of Laloo and Rabri is an example. People now think it out of fashion to associate themselves with such symbolism. Please view the video of national anthem being performed by deaf and dumb school children available at the following link. Watch this emotional video alone as I can bet that you will not be able to hold your tears.
This country is indeed incredible. A unique mix of all shades of characters can be found in this big cauldron. On one hand this country boasts of Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and scores like them and on the other had it has traitors like Jai Chand and Mir Zafar. Though, I hate generalisation and being pessimistic, I find the present state of affairs very painful. Now the Chors are becoming सीनाज़ोर too. Constitutional functionaries like CVC, CBI and CAG are being undermined or twisted blatantly. Even soldiers who should be patriotic to the core are in the list of perpetrators of scams like Adarsh Housing Society etc. Isn’t this a matter of grave concern? But this country is still functioning due to several honest people like Satyendra Dubey and Sonawane who do not care a fig even if they have to risk their lives in performance of their duties. Someone has said that if you want to believe in God, go and see India once which is functioning despite all its shortcomings.
If you give a look at the ‘Decline and fall of the Roman Empire’ by Gibbon, you will find that similar reasons were responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire. Thank God still there are people who believe in giving too, who do not believe in arm twisting or following any other kind of shortcuts to succeed. Let’s pray that the numerous silent honest servants of this country do not loose their faith and strength. Let’s do our bit to protect them, encourage them and follow them. Let’s find such people and express our solidarity with them. Believe me; they are not as few as we are made to believe. But please, don’t ‘expose’ them. There are vultures lurking out there.
@Gautam Ji, liked your poem. Keep writing.

Gautam Kumar Kutariyar गौतम कुमार कुटरियार said...

Thank you. I am sure you will also like the videos available at the following link.

Its not too difficult to learn the wordings of Jana Gana Mana.

It’s not too odd to stand up while Jana Gana Mana is being played, instead the converse is.