Deep-rooted fatalism, dumb acceptance of misery, a raging sea of poverty, and a few islands of vulgar luxury, inhabited by a few who behave as if nothing has happened
There is distress all over the country. The reality, grim and grinding, beckons the nation to a desperate prospect. The economic hardships alone do not account for the mounting discontent. Much more is involved in the present complex situation. Dark clouds of war and instability cast a sombre shadow over this great country.
Deep-rooted fatalism, dumb acceptance of misery, a raging sea of poverty, and a few islands of vulgar luxury, inhabited by a few who behave as if nothing has happened. This is India today. And this should disturb every sensitive Indian today. The time is long past when one could pacify one's conscience by angry outburst or exposure of a few misdeeds. The situation is far more serious, the prospect grimmer. Sixty one years of freedom have widened the gulf between the rich and the poor and helped create a meaner, more selfish and more dangerously tense society – the crushing poverty and misery. Today our society is disfigured by gross unfairness, which, without constant correction, feeds strongly upon itself.
The cancers that have grown in the vitals of India are so horrendous that whole limbs may decay and die before some sort of curative effort succeeds in the rest of the system. Corruption has become so entrenched that responsible national leaders justify it as a fact of global life. Parliament has become a shadow of what it used to be. Politics presided over the liquidation of the systems and values that nurtured this nation through its early years. Men of vision, integrity and merit were at the helm in those years. A different set of qualifications has now become necessary to attain and then retain office. Men and women of merit have disappeared from the higher echelons of power. When Pandit Nehru jotted down the names of his first cabinet, the list contained men of great eminence in their own right – men like Ambedkar, John Mathai, Shanmukham Chetty, C.H.Bhabha and even Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. These were, of course, in addition to titans like Sardar Patel and G.B.Pant who could and often did, stand up to Nehru. The welter of crashing values, the miasma of poverty, the insensate outburst of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, regionalism and casteism: it is chaotic. One is also shocked at the sight of brute force trampling upon the underprivileged, while the elite enjoy all the inevitable accompaniments of permissive morality, addiction to vicarious violence, erotic and narcotic fantasies. It is a situation where: "The best lack all conviction/ And the worst are full of passionate intensity/The things fall apart/The centre cannot hold/Mere anarchy loosed upon the world"(W.B.Yeats). It is the winter of our discontent.
Caught in the immediacy of the present we may be agonizing over these maladies. There is still hope. "There is an ebb and tide in the affairs of man. Things will change". This may be the darkest hour before the radiant dawn. God has not gone bankrupt. He can make the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame cross the mountain. If past is any pointer to the future, there is indeed hope. There is resilience in our people, which no combination of adversities can kill. Our ideals and principles might appear to be in eclipse. But, eclipses are short-lived.
In an atmosphere surcharged with cynicism on the one hand and despair on the other, we would do well to remind ourselves that our present predicament is not unique. There was a time when many Indians sold their souls to foreign overlords and many among us despaired of ever liberating the country from the grip of foreign rule and from the corruption it bred. Yet, our leaders were able to dispel the gloom when it was at its darkest and to show the way not only to freedom from foreign rule, but also from the vice that polluted public life. Our leaders were idealists, visionaries and poets.
Yes, India in the past has seen many a crisis. But, the country lives on. The present ordeal too will pass and the country will again resume the path of progress. If one has eyes to see and ears to hear, this country is moving. It is bestirred by new urges. There is intense heart-searching, groping in the dark – not out of despair, but in the earnest hope of finding a way out. The old value system has collapsed, but already an intense search has begun for new values for the establishment of a new morality in public life. Go out anywhere, amidst the din and bustle of the factory or vast expanses of the fields, in the beehive of busy offices or in the boisterous, crowded campuses – among men, women, the young and the old – you will hear a thousand and one questions why things have gone wrong and what's the way out of it.
Dedicated men and women, sacrificing comfort and many allurements of the consumerist society, are building a new India in the remote villages and hilly regions of this vast land of ours. There abound in this country today men and women of finest moral qualities, experts in their respective fields seeking to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to serve the community by disseminating it to the public. In the prevailing darkness they move about like figures in silhouettes; soon the sun shall arrive and identify them, and among them shall be seen new leaders with a new message of enriched patriotism. A new resolve to make this land of ours a better place to live in. The saga of such endeavours is hardly publicised by the media addicted to the burlesque of present-day politics. But they give us reasons for hope. The reserves of India are too strong to be contained by the unworthy for too long. Today's rulers as well as the ones waiting in their wings to be future rulers must necessarily be themselves marginalised sooner or later because they are superficial manifestations of a superficial phenomenon; neither they nor the phenomenon that sustains them have any validity in the general scheme of human progress. Like wars, seemingly hopeless political cancers help steel a nation's nerve and accelerate the maturing process. India will then step out of the new into the newer. "I have a dream…" That was how Martin Luther King Jr. prefaced each paragraph of his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial after the Civil Rights March. It was early 1960s. John F.Kennedy had sounded the bugle for Just Society. Idealists stood together shoulder to shoulder in the movements against the Bomb, neo-colonialism, Vietnam War and the inequality of women and gays. All joined the refrain, "We shall overcome…some day," many a time. King Jr. was one of their guiding lights. He said that he was a true Gandhian visionary. When he said that, we just felt good. Let us today join together and loudly sing: "We shall overcome…some day".
Lastly, please remember a little history;
Mohamed Iqbal filled us with a sense of pride and glory with his "Sare jahamse acha, Hindusthan Hamara". Of our India and its people he sang: "It is our rose garden, we are its nightingales". That was how we rang in the twentieth century. The sweet melody of Rabindra sangeet did not lull us to sleep but awakened us to our duties and responsibilities. Gurudev filled us with lofty ideals through Gitanjali: minds without fear, free knowledge, undivided by narrow domestic wall, clear stream of reason; that was how we were exhorted to enter the haven of freedom. Down South, Subramanya Bharati recited to his ode to freedom, equality and brotherhood -Viduthale, Viduthale, Viduthale. "Acham illai, acham illai, acham enbathu illaye, uchimeethu vaan idindhu veezhugindra podilum, acham illai, acham illai, achamenbathuillaye…(There is no fear, there is no fear, even when the sky falls, there is no fear). We joined the struggle for independence. An idealist led us. A " half-naked fakir", staff in hand, clad in loin cloth, bespectacled, a cleft in the row of front teeth when he laughed or smiled (which he always did). He spoke of his dreams: swadeshi, swaraj, panchayati raj, Harijan, Raghupathi-Eshwar-Allah, Ramrajya. Heled us from behind, for he said, "I follow the people, because I am their leader." And, the conquerors left. P.N.BENJAMIN
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