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Friday, August 19, 2005

Long Live India ! (but hopefully in an upgraded version)

It is a trifle late to post Independence Day musings, but newspapers are still flogging the topic (on websites at least) and I was reminded of a statement by my grandfather: wo waqt behtar tha. kam se kam jo maarta tha woh angrez tha, ab to apne hi log kaisa bartaav karte hain. Zyaada chot lagti hai. [translated - those times of the British were better. If the white man was hitting us, we knew he was an outsider who could not be expected to feel for us. But now it our own who exploit us - and it feels worse]

I've heard him say this just once, and it is the only time I have felt annoyed with him. I felt like arguing with him at his blasphemy - to say that pre-independence we were better off! The shame of it! To admit to the 'better' rule of people who tortured us, impoverished us, brutally killed us - those who left us to suffer bloody riots in a partition that they fuelled as well as they could!

The line goaded me for quite a few days, and I hotly answered back in my head many times over - though at some level I wondered if he knew better what he was talking about. After all, his knowledge wasn't a result of just movies and history books like mine.

I finally realised the true import of his words during my daily religious reading of the newspapers. Littered with every abominable exploitation that you can think of, they slapped me with the answer in every headline. Woman forced to march naked in her village. Rapist asked to marry his victim. Thousands of crores of welfare money eaten by Babus. Schools without teachers. Jails with innocents. Corruption. Corruption. and then some more corruption.

It wasn't my grandfather who was insulting freedom fighters - it is the powerful of today. And I grudgingly wonder - would the independence heroes still have made their efforts if they'd known that the crimes would still persist, only some of the victims would change?

Perhaps they would have still, in hope. And I guess, despite his statement, my grandpa will not be welcoming the Brtitish rule back, far from it! But I do wonder - where will India's next freedom revolution come from? The first one could not quite make it to its destination all the way, so how can it inspire the next? [It was not just to overthrow the British - it was a desire for a better India, without persecution, poverty and the ills of a heirachical society with an exploitative powerful class]

I'm sure many will suggest killing off all the politicians we have. It's a good start indeed, but not quite enough. Coz ironically, though we are quick to see how politicians are milking us to their advantage, we're quite blind to how we treat those below us in the earnings ladder.

Read this piece by Sainath, whom I've been lucky enough to be taught by a few years ago. I am not sure how many of you will agree with his words against slum demolitions that took place recently in Bombay, but I am hoping you will see how callously we think of decisions that affect those below us. It seems so black and white, that illegal occupation equals legitimate kicking out. But is it? Would you have thought it all right if the British, through their negligence, caused poverty, which then forced the poor to live in illegal slums in a city to find work, and then burnt down these slums overnight? That's not justice, that's nightmare, and we're the ones who're standing by and cheering.

1 comment:

traveller said...

You go woman...alive and surely kicking.

A perpetual middle path straddler, I kind of agree with both you and your grandpa.. I think you are both reacting to your experiences...

But before we lose all hope and look around to place the blame, lets look around us at existing communities - human, canine, feline.. and find some that exist perfectly in harmony.. we wont find too many.. well whales maybe :) But then they are special and exceptional and exceptions prove the rules.

We bind ourselves in artifical groups - country, religion, sex etc and then expect that bond to be somehow stronger and loyal. Why? What do we base these exectations on? Common language, common values, common experiences or just plain familiarity?

Whatever it is, all it leads to is disappointment when we are let down.. so am I too jaded and impractical to say, don't expect?