Every year since our ‘tryst with destiny’, a person has stood on the high pedestal of Red Fort and exhorted us to embark on the path of ‘nation-building’. Every few years, we see, or rather imagine, the dawn of a ‘New India’ – one where there is freedom from involuntary dependence, not just ‘independence’ from colonial rules.
This year was no different. 200 kms from the capital, in Gorakhpur, a cruel tragedy unfolded, as it does every year. Newton would have felt insulted to see the inertia of bodies, stillness of momentum, lack of actions and abundance of reactions. Neglect of public health and sanitation weighed heavily on the strings of flags as they unfurled pompously. There are laws to punish denigration of flags and disrespect of anthems. Alas, babies are too lightweight to seek vengeance. Will our nation building have enough oxygen and vaccines next year? Let us believe what we must!
Further down the much worshipped banks of our filthy river, lives and livelihoods have been lost to floods, which are more regular than good monsoons. It is claimed that there is insufficient funds for relief operations and rehabilitation. Well, let’s just say – priorities matter. Fleets of helicopters took politicians over the flooded areas, ‘surveying’ – a euphemism for looking down – on the disruption. Once, the scene of havoc appearing in the window of the chopper had to photoshopped, just to make sure that people, not the affected but the unaffected, know that their leader was there. Perhaps, certain ‘reshaping’ of political expressions are needed when aired publicly, like the once demanded by Prasar Bharti as a condition for airing the speech of a chief minister. Is our notion of ‘nation building’ is too narrow in its considerations? Let us believe what we must!
A regulator suspends trading of some ‘suspected’ companies on stock exchanges and the financial press goes berserk. They find it an ‘ill-considered’ move by an ‘overzealous’ regulator, intruding without being given an opportunity to explain the innocence on the part of companies. The same press was all cheerful and exuberant when a few months ago, the currency supply of the country was left in tatters ‘at the stroke of the midnight hour’. The intrusive nature of the change was only scantily acknowledge, if only apologetically so. The depressive effects are still visible in remote villages. When decisions of ‘nation building’ are examined, will we be equally touchy in our assessment of its microaggressions and of it macro-objectives? Lets us believe what we must!
We are perhaps like the inebriate, looking for the lost keys under the streetlight because that is where all the light it. The effect is such that we don’t see occasional, now regular, flares that happen outside the narrow radius of that streetlight. We are inebriated by a pied piper, that controls not just the confines of the streetlight, and hence our vision, but also whether we will ultimately, however untimely, find those lost keys – keys to the chains that still confine us into self-assigned silos. We are too invested in the belief that we are independent. Let us believe what we must!
More importantly, let us not suspend disbelief.