Monday, August 15, 2016

Freedom @ 70

It is that time of the year when every second car has a tricolour fluttering; social media sports either people dressed up in tricolour or changing their display pic to flag pnemonics. It is the time when websites, newspapers rehash the old pics, list of patriotic songs and obviously Nehru's speech of "tryst with destiny". Powerful and goose-bumpy it was, the core of the speech "responsibility" towards "people of India" remains forgotten by their representatives. While people proudly stand up for the national anthem, the respect towards the flag and anthem seems to be diminishing. Why - those very flags after the eventful day are seen lying on the roads tattered or in the garbage dumps - when till a decade back, the common man had no right to hoist a flag.  The responsibility to know the flag code of india is equally important as is the right to proudly hoist, display the tricolour. And every political party is in a race to own the kindred spirit and valiance of forgotten freedom fighters.

In the 69 years of Independence, while the nation has progressed towards 21st century, the core of the country probably still remains rooted in the erstwhile centuries. The abject poverty, access to clean drinking water, healthy food and clean houses with sanitation services, right to education still remains a dream. We see people living below the flyovers, on sides of the road - cooking in the steam of pollution emanating from our vehicles. When we travel by the train into the heartland, we pass by houses clothed in darkness as we go to sleep and looking for a place for morning ablutions as we wake up.

We see rage and hatred on the roads, in the families and on social media. We read about the threat and injustice to women in newspapers as they go on living their lives. While we gained freedom from Britain, we became slaves to corruption, greed and intolerance.

We want our houses to be clean but not our roads and localities. We want to be heard but not hear. We want the right to criticise but not to take responsibility. We want to be wealthy but not others around us. We want to be treated kindly but not treat others kindly. We want the right to follow our faith, but question other religions. 

The preamble to Indian Constitution succinctly states the rights of people of India - justice, liberty, equality and fraternity - the very tenets for which war of Indian Independence was fought. And today, this remains a textbook reading, good to talk about but not to practice.

I love the following lines by Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

It is this dream and pledge that still remains to be fulfilled, and till then we truly cannot celebrate our Independence or freedom! I am proud to be Indian, but cannot call myself a proud Indian today!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lost childhood

This monsoon season, while we have been spending more time on roads and traffic signals, it is unavoidable to observe life streaming about you. One sees people on motorcycles and bicycles going about on their work while trying to keep themselves dry, people in petrol-diesel guzzlers oblivious to rains while listening to loud electro-techno music blaring from their speakers. And then there are some who are engrossed in their own world of business or social media.

One also observes a small minority of hawkers peddling their wares at traffic signals - pirated books, cloth to clean your house or car, chargers for all kinds of phones, flowers and balloons. And come Independence Day or Republic Day, it's the tricolour in various sizes and forms that take the place of pride.

Then there is a knock, and you see a small child through the rain splattered window of AC cooled climes, completely soaked and bare feet requesting you to buy something from him so that he can buy food. Colourful balloons, roses or other flowers depending upon the season, sometimes books - the very things which are part of childhood to experience and not to sell. Sometimes, at certain intersections it is children showcasing their gymnast skills with goofily painted faces in their feeble attempt to entertain - all the while earning for their families.

You feel pity - it is so different from the childhood we all take granted for. In so many decades since Independence, with the Right to Education Act in place, it is disgusting that the a percentage of next generation lives on road trying to earn their living when they should be in schools and educating themselves for a better future.

Who is responsible for creating a better world for them?  The common man who lives in his own halo and vacuum of working for a still better life than these not-so-fortunate. The governments of state and centre elected who are apathetic to the life outside their own coterie of friends, colleagues and families. Or a small population of do-gooders who with their own monies or charity of friends, corporates and other NGOs trying to make a difference to the lives of such children.

Last evening, as I came out of a shop in the nearby market, I was beseeched by two small children - in bare feet and tattered clothes selling cheap pens. While I had no need for additional pens, I just couldn't walk past them to the comfort of home while they were on the road still selling to be able to buy food. I bought pens from both of them and passed them onto kids of hired help - from one child to another!