Saturday, 1 October 2011

Anti-peristalsis : Surviving Gandhi

He groped and groped, but did he grasp the truth?

What makes India weak?

The zeitgeist of a post-colonial era, till now, just seems to be an irrevocable continuum, burdened, and short of any reprieve the way we are going today. Our potatoes are blighted. Our pesticides adulterated. Our petrol prices soar. Our politics smacks of dualism. Corruption is rampant. Judiciary is a farce. Red-tapism abounds. Our Bhopal still stinks with the obnoxious smell of flesh and enmeshed blood fibres. Bureaucratic turpitude gives anything but solace. Social organizations have donned the role of remittance services. We think we are the best. We envision India to be a Superpower in the years to come, which, however, as epochs translate into eras, never happens. We bask in our past glory, glorify ourselves beneath a conceited facade and dream one such glory will visit us in the future. This future evades us, somehow. Our country squirms in her shoes. If "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny...", we should have had a fair idea of our Destiny by now. 'India Shining' is an Utopia, am empty verbiage. It is Sir Thomas Moore's perfect society on an imaginary Island, or a leviathan melodrama tantamount to a ridicule of the self. Applied the best of polish, India is not going to shine this way.

To extract ourselves of this morass and do anything commendable, or derive sporadic blinkers of even slight repute, we need to come out of an idea called 'Mahatma Gandhi'. I am not here to objectify Mahatma Gandhi's contributions, or accomplishments, or character. Neither do I have the wherewithal of my own to quantify them (which is again impossible), or extrapolate them to create a shadow-and-effect diagram probing the contemporary world affairs. I am not here to conclude a dissertation of a research fellowship on his status as the 'Mahatma/Father of the Nation' or what it means to our people, or to contest or investigate his (non-) nubile aspirations and concepts on Brahmacharya. Nor am I here to delve into his martyrdom in conjunction with Indian Independence, or for that matter his austere or self-effacing living. It's immaterial I love him or hate him.

What matters here is that in the real world, the angle of elevation doesn't quite equate to the angle of depression. It never does. Real life is not trigonometry, or else simple matters of life would have been really simple. The dictionary defines 'idolatry' as 'the worship of idols; the worship of images that are not God.' Our society, by virtue of its pluralistic ethos, maybe, is always in a need to find a common ground as to be able to see a single image while perceiving itself in the mirror. At the time of Partition, when the people of different princely states and sections looked forward for a common thread - there were two things in the firmament. One, a shared history. Second, Mr. Gandhi. I am not trying to belittle his tumultuous participation in India's freedom struggle - nobody can. His contribution was immense. But the way our history books have been portraying India's Freedom struggle is demeaning to the struggle itself. Self-defeating. India's freedom was not the labour of love of Mr. Gandhi alone, portrayed as the absolute pacifist. He is not the only person who got India freedom. Multiple factors, intrinsic or otherwise, as with the tide of the times and turn of events then in the 1940s, plotted themselves onto a swathe of miscarriages on the part of the British, colluding with the timeliness of the same.

The Indian National Congress's history alone is not the History of India, neither their ideologies can be construed to be the paradigms on which people of an entire Nation would rest their beings, views and identity. It's not an eternal dogma begotten from enlightenment of all and sundry. We can contort and falsify texts for consumption by the 4 year olds who are taught Mr. Gandhi as 'the Father of the Nation', but my point is - why is it needed? Rather, is it needed at all? India's freedom was not Mr. Gandhi's personal property, though people around him, a world full of sycophants and yes-men, tried to make it seem or look so, even post-Independence. Why do we have to have the 2nd of October celebrated each year? What happened to the other freedom fighters and the unsung martyrs who laid their lives at the pious feet of their Motherland? Remembering our ancestors for their extraordinary feats and impeccable deeds and emulating them is one thing, idolatry is another. We believe in hero-worship, and that's the feeder for our cannons – and in heart of hearts we know we wouldn't be able to do without it. Blind psychoneurotic hysteria pepped up to rever an exalted Demi-God is our grass for existence. Idolatry calls for an abject abnegation. India today needs to come out of the shadow of Mr. Gandhi. An ubiquitous allegory will not do anybody good.

Has telling 'India' as 'Gandhi's India' helped us all these years? We know the answer is an emphatic 'No'. If one doesn't agree, then how can one account for the immense corruption, scandalous misappropriations, wilful negligence, monetary embezzlements and misdemeanour evident in our society ever since we got Independence? We are sure Mr. Gandhi's ideology and the wisdom it implies can never be related to these vices, not even made an oblique reference to, but if our society believed in his principles there would be meagre chances we'd be what we are today. True? Are we not being hypocrites then? How come then that to get our sewage line cleared, we need to pay bribes right from the overseer in the local Municipality to the Chairman, which will anyways be siphoned off, in measures exacting to the appropriate proportions based on the designation of the public office holder. The christening of "Harijans" for the lower strata of the Indian society was itself whimsical, not even idiosyncratic. The very name fragmented the Indian society into a million parts, never to be reconciled to a one-ness that was many a vision for a Dynamic India. If non-violence was an inbuilt feature, why were our countrymen sent out to clench their fists and drink their own blood at the war-fronts in the Zulu, Boer, World War I and II wars, which did nothing but enhancing the Queen's stamina to continue colonization. Would we, then, allow ourselves to believe it was a means to sabotage the Indian freedom fight (there's a thin-line demarcation between 'fight' and 'struggle'), or defeat the ideologies and purposes of the rightist wings championing aggressive nationalism? The foremost question here would be - did we ever dare to question ourselves? 'Thou-holier-than-me' can be devastating, in equal measure, as 'me-holier-than-thou' attitude.

If non-violence could be the answer to all ills in this world, why has violence ruled the world, as if for Eternity? It is a crammed piece of idle thought - "Non-violence won India its freedom. Not a drop of blood was shed." No lie can outdo this mother of all lies. With the number of people dead fighting for India, you could well have created an entire civilization of millions. Why did we let go of our soldiers for the World Wars - because we couldn't convince the British of the fruits of non-violence? If non-violence could do wonders, why did Jallianwalla Bagh massacre and Noakhali, though discrete incidents and non-related, happen? Would you have parroted the same tall-talk if your own mother, or father, or brother or sister would have perished that day? Chances are that you might have - for it takes men of mettle to rise up like a Phoenix and construct a World Order.  Without compromising, or acceptance of servitude. Nobody in the world has felt the need for peace unless and until violence taught them a lesson or two. Be it a clan, a group, or entire nation of people. Right from the Early Man. Peace descends only when violence comes to a logical conclusion, and a genuine need is felt for peace. Not within, nor without. It is acyclic. Not that Mr. Gandhi was wrong in his pursuit - he might have been right, or wrong. It was just his improvised methodology employed seemed to work out what he thought was correct. Men do mistakes. They correct that on contemplation, on self-introspection, sometimes. At other times, in a society, the message for correction might come in the form of a negative mandate or vibes from the people. Mr. Gandhi, oftentimes, fell short of any compunction or thoughts hovering on how something could have been done better. Mr. Gandhi is an epitome in himself, but then, he was a human afterall.

Sartorial cultivation of our text books won't help either. Government after government comes and goes, and the Truth remains to be told. Hinging the entire spectrum of India's freedom struggle on just one person has left too much to be desired. It is a matter of disrepute and disgrace that India is still economically unstable, its status of being self-sufficient in agriculture has been eroded, and its Army can only pray there's no war in the future. Our volatile neighbours still pose a threat to us, and we have an eunuch's wherewithal to treat them to contingencies and hammer off the threats raised by them. Non-violence is a good dictum, but is circumstantial. Mr. Gandhi believed in Gita and the Ramayana. How can the acts of violence manifested by Arjuna in Mahabharata and Rama in Ramayana be corroborated, explained? Mythologies are myths - yes, true - but when you believe in them, you try to base your day-to-day ideals on the working principles of such text, advertently or otherwise. This applies across a religious plane, though the amount of such transpositions might vary, constraint to conflicting personal convictions. In Mr. Gandhi's case, it pretty much seemed to be in conflict.

In the last sixty years of Independence, we have acted weak. The present generation has been crippled with overbearing references made to the preceding generation. We seem to devalue self-worth, and demoralize our young men today against anything constructive to bring light to this world of, mostly darkness. This generation cannot operate when it fathoms a shadow of many an excessive, each vying to outdo the other in order to grasp the limelight for a few insignificant trivialities. By doing so, we present ourselves a blithe jeopardy of real issues taunting our country today. Mr. Gandhi will live in our hearts forever. Let us not make a mockery of him by allowing individuals and parties trying to interpret him as their sole property and vouching by his ideology. For the simple reason that, like India's freedom struggle, Mr. Gandhi can't be tied, his spirits prisoned, or his personality obliterated, howsoever one might try. We would do great service to the Nation if we leave him to rest alone, and not imbue him with our worries of contemporary connotations of ill-repute. To be strident and take a step forward, a step backward has to be taken first. We, as a Nation, would need to come out of Mr. Gandhi's shadow.

India is not weak because it was made weak over the years. India is weak today because we have preferred to remain weak. Self-introspection as a Nation is the call of the day, which we haven't felt at ease enough to attend to. Till date. We don't heed it at our own peril. We need to derive a conclusion on our next course of action, and again, not harp on what Mr. Gandhi, if alive, would have thought, or said, or done on the same. Times have changed, and that calls for objective and contextual solutions. Truth itself is not absolute. Mr. Gandhi had deep faith in the caste-system and views against population-control, and the same are not commensurate with the times. There's a need to delineate our past, and only carry forward the limited 'filtered extract' spun out as a balancing act between the relativity of Truth and the immeasurability of Time. To achieve this, we would need enlightened visionaries more than ever before. To control the damage, to decongest, and to envision a New Era of a strong India, our own wishes should morph into the greater vision. The preceding generations have to stop garnishing and amalgamating the accomplishments of yesteryears to see what they make out to be the future. This mix-up doesn't help. Mr. Gandhi's shadow is the first, if not the last thing, to be done away with.

Today, how else would we account for one of the lowest HDI (Human Development Index) that we subscribe to, when a population of one billion billows-and-fumes to get anywhere close to even a fraction of a gold medal at the Olympics, inflation spirals up as if it's gone utterly berserk, the judiciary can be bought, the legislature can be manipulated, the executive can be held hostage to a ransom, long-standing foreign policies butchered at the altar of principles, trains collide on jaundiced railway-tracks even in this age of modern technology, the Fourth Estate and media are in a haze of the metaphorical reality being subservient to inane trivialities, the buyer and the bought camouflage in shallow politics for the perdition called elections, and there are hypocritical speeches doled out on Independence Day each year from the ramparts of the Red Fort. And yes, we are buying pulses at Rs. 110 per kilogram! Because - you need to eat to be alive! Are we a total failure? Are we mocking ourselves? Are we an imbecile creature who should not have entrusted ourselves to rule? Rule, huh! who - but ourselves?

The sooner we get to the crux of the matter the better. It's high time we rectify the cataract clouding our priorities and wean away the aberration that's creating a mindless pandemonium and inconvenience for thought to even trickle down to something meaningful. It's high time we come out of Mr. Gandhi, and his closet, as to know our real 'we', our real 'selves', who can do much more in the next 10 years than the last 60 years of Independence combined. Mr. Gandhi’s shadow is, understandably, not the sole reason for our plight today, but the foremost amongst the many. Only when we dare to ask the right questions, shall we bestow on ourselves the chance to stumble upon the right answers.

If we do not act on it now, it might be too late before we could ask ourselves this question again - 'What makes India weak?'

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