Gateway Experience 2: My Rants

[Warning: Long Post]

I have a variety of mixed emotions as a landmark day in the history of Mumbai, and India comes to an end. During the day, I did my bit to spread the word of the event around. I sent out mails, twitters, facebook status messages, etc.  While I was doing it, I was not sure what the impact would be. I was expecting a large number of people. But my definition of large was a few thousand people. But the day turned out to be something else.

*********~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This Sunday, Gullu and Shivani had come over. Despite Shivani being -x days into her due date for delivery (they had a beautiful baby girl the night before gateway), our topic was largely around the state of affairs and what “we” can do. We also agreed, like probably thousands of other people across the city, that the time to stay silent was passe. It was high time we did something. After a lot of debates and discussions, the only thing we left the day with was that if nothing else, we need to show that we are alive, awake and together. That we are in it together, and we are ready to fight this time. We may not have the final solution yet, but we need to show that we all are collectively thinking about it, and that we cannot be taken for granted. That day, I started writing a mail to Amit Varma, Prem Panicker, Ideasmith, Patrick, Greatbong, Kuffir, Sakshi Juneja, and several other prominent bloggers. The mail was around organizing a daily 1 hour silent protest at the gateway. To start a movement that does not die down after one candle vigil, one silent march, one round of slogan shouting. A movement that goes on till we get an answer. That mail is still saved in my drafts folder. 

You may ask – why did I not send it? Because when I logged on to facebook, I noticed that there already are several protests that go on till the next week. Every day. The social media that I would have talked to, was already spreading the word around, but in an unorganized way. And it works fine for me. I am not one of those leader guys who can initiate a lot of these, unless pushed to the wall (at least not anymore). And I did not need to. Because my brethren were already doing what I had hoped to. 

Anyways, I have been getting active on twitter for the last few days. And following Prem Panicker, I realized that this rally at Gateway (and India Gate, Delhi) will become big if we all do our bit. And I started reflecting back on my conversation with Gullu. And I did my bit. For many’s surprise, I did not work after 4:30PM 😉

**************~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, back to the rally.

First reactions – AWESOME! Its like the people are  really reacting and acting. For a change. And not succumbing to the hogwash of “the spirit of Mumbai”.

Second reaction – Damn it. We are here. What next? The good or the bad thing was that there was no agenda. There was lots of anger, hurt and frustration.

Reaction when it was over – overwhelmed, emotional. I haven’t seen something like this happen ever before. The last time I saw the whole country “talk” about the same thing in the same emotion was the Kargil war. And I couldn’t resist a chuckle – This country unites only for cricket or war.

**************~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reactions now – ?????

Well. I will call the spade a spade. It was a huge turnout. For a change, a lot of people agreed on doing something together. But it was, end of the day, jingoism. Extreme aggressive patriotism. But it was directionless. Who is going to channel this energy? For long will this last? And a lot of frustrated angry thoughts crossed my mind –

1.       Who’s rooting? – In the last 7 days, I haven’t seen a single taxi driver/ auto rickshaw driver being interviewed about how they feel, and whether they are also party to such strong display of anger. Maybe, they need to keep their kitchens active. They don’t have the liberty to be online and plan a revolution. They need to keep earning their meager daily incomes.

2.       Who battle is it anyway? Is it, then, true that this is a battle that the elites are fighting against the polity? Is it true that we are hearing so much uproar because it’s the people who are close to the mouthpiece who are making the most noise? Because South Bombay was hit? Because Ratan lost 500 crores in those 60 hours? Because Shobhaa De was having dinner closeby? And a film director escaped by a whisker? Or a journalist died? Would the uproar be similar if 200 poor people had died in a bomb blast?

3.       Why now? Ideasmith’s tweet read –I bet there were no candlelight vigils for those who died in the #mumbai train blasts last year. I agree. And I wonder if we will have the same number of candle light vigils if a bomb blast happens in Assam or Sikkim. Or Bihar.

4.       Which way are we headed? Prem thinks that the direction will become clearer in due course. Under the leadership of who? Its basic mob psychology that he observed through his tweets during the rally as well. People want answers. They will turn to anyone who is ready to give one.  And it’s a mob. AT some point, the collective wisdom is the minimum of all individual wisdoms, if  it happens to be the loudest one. You need a leader to channelize the force. And what we don’t have right now, for sure, is the faith in any leader.

5.       Leadership? Why did we have only celebrities on the mike? Javed Akhtar? Alyque Padamsee? And the likes? Are they ready to leave the comfort of their day to day life and contest elections for a salary of a 30-40 grands? For that matter, how many of the 1 lakh people are?

6.       Political Change? If I look around, I see that one lampoon will be replaced by another one. Politics in India will continue to be the farce that it is. To be fair, I think we have brought it upon ourselves by letting them go unquestioned for long. But right now, the reaction against politicians seems to be the collective trying to shirk its responsibility. We brought them to power, by voting or by not voting. And we want them out. Lets wait till the elections, shall we. Or, has someone got a brilliant suggestion somewhere that I missed?

7.       Criteria for Politicians? One brilliant suggestion, which I fully agree with, is to have an age limit on politicians who serve the nation. The reason why firms/ departments don’t allow people to work beyond the age of 60, because you are considered a spent force by then. You start losing your mental and physical agility, and you are, thus, not the best candidate for running a ship. How come we trust the nation in the hands of people who probably won’t survive one tight slap from a fit 20-something guy. Agreed. What else? Criminal records? A mix of written, oral examinations, inter-party debates at local/regional level, followed by voting? Scores and everything shared with people? I will come back to this separately in another post.

8.       We’ll boycott! Let’s go 49-0 -? I mean, c’mon guys. If all of us go and vote for no-one, the elections will be considered void. What happens then? Re-election. New candidates? Do we again vote for no-one? What happens then? How do we pay for so many elections?

9.       Through our taxes?  I forgot! We are withholding our taxes. How, if I may ask? How many corporate, HR and accounts department guys are ready to pledge that their companies will stop depositing advance taxes? Or, are we talking about the billions that are anyways not paid as taxes by the big guys? Or, are we talking about the taxes that should have been paid for the billions that our politicians hold in Swiss bank accounts? And do we just stop paying? Or keep it somewhere? Who’s keeping accounts?

10.   Anti Terrorism Fund? And where does this money go? In some anti-terrorism fund? Who handles that money? Who is the signatory? On what basis? This is a leaderless and faceless revolution anyway, right?

11.   Is this an opportunity? Bloody hell, this is! But I am still clueless on what next? Is it my fault that I cant help but think in a linear way. A leads to B leads to C. But here, the gateway is leading to another event at gateway. Gradually, the queues will start fading as the mundanities of day-to-day life set in. People need to earn their wages. Thousands of salaried people like me who must go to their jobs every day. Thousands of cabbies, vada pao sellers who must go back and earn their daily living. And thousands of students, who during the election month, must be preparing for their exams. And needless to say, that’s the fatalist in me talking.

 

There is another optimist in me, who does not care where it started, for whom it has meant a lot, for whom it has not, for what end are we doing, and how are we going to do it. THAT me believes that we will see change. Much before Obama made it his brand slogan, change was the only constant thing in life. But this time, we are talking about that point where a quantum change sets in.

Someday, we shall remember this day as the day the Kshatriyas of modern society were attacked, and that they took the war to the enemy. Someday, we shall remember this day as the day when the battle of a class became the battle of a nation, as the suppressed sentiments from three decades of tolerance give way to the enraged battle cries. Someday, we shall all look back, and say – Huh, so this is how it started!

 

Advertisements

Gateway Experience 1: A friend’s narration

This is what a friend wrote after coming back from the Gateway rally. And I think its definitely worth a read

********************

 

Just back from the show of strength at Gateway (not that I intended to go but happy that I happened to be there)

While we will know the number of people who assembled to show solidarity and demand explanation from media reports tomorrow, I would be surprised if the number is less than 25,000. College kids (both genders) stole the show but suede white collar workers and people on the wrong side of 50’s also made their presence felt. It took us a good 45 minutes to walk through a distance of 200 m. And I thought why should I care just because some smart asses in the media are trying to create hype to fill their pages and timeslots !!!!!!!

When I first saw the crowd I though it was a recipe for disaster. Too many people packed in a narrow lane with no directions (or anyone to direct…remember this was not an organized event but people gathering because someone forwarded them a sms or an email) and fire in their hands (relax, its candles). But wrong I was once again. People walked in orderly fashion, held hands and gave way to elderly. I never thought women could be so vociferous and men so creative with their slogans and placards. 

If you are thinking that it a typical throng gathering for a netaji zindabad rally, a performance by a Bollywood star or a game of cricket, you cannot be further from the truth. For a change people gathered against the politicians and shake hands of the otherwise ordinary policemen / military / firemen. A glance at the mass of people and you could feel chalta hai is chalta hai no more.  

I am smelling like a pig and my shoes and trousers are all soiled but I am feeling quite good none the less. I thought the country was going to the dogs, but wrong I was once again. 

**********

%d bloggers like this: