Friday, January 28, 2011

This Republic Day

For the first time in life, I have not seen the parade on TV or gone for a flag hoisting - things I have not missed till date.  Every republic day and independence day in the past ten years, I have religiously attended a flag hoisting either in college or the university.  If I have missed any, it would be because I was traveling.

This time around, the feeling was missing.  Not the sense of patriotism, but the sense of pride in my country.  The pride that I had, that I am an Indian.  The scams, the Kashmir problem, the Binayak Sen case, and increasing knowledge of caste and creed prejudices that remain entrenched even in urban centers made me pondering.

When I encountered the same issues personally, I felt disgusted and helpless.  I kept quiet not in acceptance but in the knowledge that the person standing before me professing that the caste I belonged to was somehow lesser,  was a fool and a bigot(forgive me for such strong use).  However, it also told me that education, no matter how high(the people whom I encountered were from very well off families and highly educated) does not necessarily educate.  I have not forgotten the incident - no.  The thing that helped me ward it off was the confidence I had that I am lesser than no one.   For that I have to thank my parents.  However, I have to confess, that it did eat my mind as to how I was lesser being talented and educated.  I continues to-date.

So, every time I read the paper and find a similar incident, I understand how someone from a less economic background, impoverished and insecure would feel.  It also told me that this country is not free.  More than half her people suffer, from discrimination; a feeling of being lesser mortals, a feeling of having been left out, sidelined, neglected.

Then there are the poor.  When people are becoming richer and richer on one side, there is a large population who live day to day.  They suffer, quietly.  The independence and republic day is just another day to them.  A day of work.

Whither independence ?  Of course I am happy that I am not under foreign rule.  No doubts about that and I value what my forefathers have done for me.  But then, what have I done ?  Have I done something ?  Not yet.  So, what should I celebrate ?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Escaping Responsibility

The Sabarimala episode is a tragedy. To rub salt into the wound, the cause of the stampede and the reasons for the same have been sidelined. Instead, what has become the core point of discussion is whether the Makaravilakku is man-made or not.

Of course, knowledge about the practices and doing away with something not according to customs is welcome. However, I think it is common knowledge that the light is man-made though pilgrims believe that seeing that light is divine. There are certain boundaries that are unseen and to be untouched. One is where religion and science touch. This line is questioned so much today, that instead of trying to avert tragedies, the finger is pointed at customs and beliefs of people.

A good disaster management and crowd management plan would have saved lives and much more than that averted this tragedy. No one is ready to answer questions as to why vehicles and people were allowed to congregate on the small hill in such mass numbers. Also is missing the answer to police personnel who should have been there to avert such an incident happening. Instead, the matter being questioned is belief of the people.

If that is the question, then the belief that God exists itself can be questioned - can't we. Man needs a reason, a reason to exist. A reason to understand his place in such a large world. A reason to rationalize his suffering. He needs something to place his trust on and believe that something would change his life for the better. That the power he veneres, will help him through the troubles he is facing. That is why lakhs of pilgrims undertake penance and take the arduous trip to Sabarimala. Instead of questioning beliefs, the government would better do to use the money pilgrims are offering in the temple to better use and provide better amenities. The question to be asked is how much of money offered in the temple is used for amenities and better of the Sabarimala complex ? I am sure that the government is spending the minimum and taking the money for other purposes. It has been preparing plans after plans and spending money on plans rather than coming up with something comprehensive.

So, let people believe what they want to believe. Of course, sensitize them to reality but don't question their beliefs and ridicule them, directly or indirectly. Especially when a tragedy like this which is man made and could have averted happens. Take responsibility and do something which changes things for the better. That is what a responsible government should do - but for that matter, where do we have a responsible government today ?