Dear RK ji,
Today is your 94th birthday. And I am happy that you aren’t here to celebrate it. I am happy you didn’t live long enough to see the start of the new administration, priding itself on its agenda of ‘economic prosperity for the nation’. Nowadays, when I open the newspaper each day, I wonder how your Common Man may have reacted to dalits being lynched and people being killed for having beef. Less than 8 months since you passed away, the India the Common Man wanted to create and envision has also died, in such a short span of time.
I have realised that we have gone back to having secular discussions which were debates post-independence. We have gone back to discussing whether India should be a ‘Hindu’ swaraj or not. I have realised that dark days have arrived, and had you been alive maybe you too would have been sucked into this vortex of censorship. And this isn’t the Emergency where you can meet Ms. Gandhi on offending her. Here you will simply be uprooted and removed, without any warning or prior notice.
As a child I grew up reading your ‘Common Man’. I eagerly waited to grab the next Times of India just to read what you had to say about elections, censorship, films and politicians. If you belonged to this generation, I don’t think any newspaper would have been allowed to publish your Common Man today. In fact, if you were alive, maybe the Common Man would have been the first thing to be taken off newspapers.
This India, Sir, isn’t anything our creators envisioned it to be. Today, the Common Man has to return his award to protest against killing of rationalists. Today, the Common Man has to hide his sexuality in the closet because the law forbids them to be free. Today the Common Man has to eat what the Government wants him to. Today, the Common Man has to protest for hours outside the UGC office just for a meagre scholarship.
Quietly watching the world, your common man never spoke because he represented the silent majority of India, who have no voice. Now, your cartoons seem more relevant to me than ever before.
Today, one can’t speak, think or breathe. Thinking is a crime, questioning is a sin. Development is the agenda, but democracy isn’t. How would your Common Man survive this, Sir? The country is now in a State of Emergency, that too, without a Gandhi in power.
Do you know Sir, that our PM has a dedicated PR team to showcase all his ‘achievements’ to the public? Do you know that we now have a cleanliness programme to clean the country and dissenting elements in society are being ‘purged’ off? Do you know that we let diplomats who have raped women escape to their country because we want to maintain good relations with our trade neighbours? Do you know that student protests are quelled by the police now? Do you know that this is the INDIA of 2015?
Your cartoons are a painful reminder to me of how we haven’t changed since Independence, in fact, now we have changed for the worse. If you were alive… I don’t want to imagine that possibility anymore. I really don’t. I am happy you aren’t alive to see all of this, RK ji. I hope you rest in peace.
A loyal reader of the Common Man by RK Laxman.