Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Public of the Republic

अब जिधर देखिए लगता है कि इस दुनिया में
कहीं कुछ ज़्यादा है, कहीं कुछ कम है

Yesterday , Indian republic completed 60 years- or in very sarkari parlance- attained superannuation. Well, as per extant rules, this is the age of retirement…but the new- senior citizen like many of his contemporaries is at the prime of life .Ready to take up new jobs with new vigour and would not even mind a facelift from being lazy elephant to a roaring tiger( a la Shashi Tharoor ). Every republic day I end up being proud, nostalgic and angry . Yes, all three sentiments together – sometimes with bits of hurt too. I like my country and its people and feel good about it most of the times. I feel nostalgic remembering my school days and those laddoos we used to get on 26th January. I feel angry at the sheer unfairness of celebration and the trend of honouring the rich and famous.

A colleague after going through the list of padma awardees commented that in our country if you are not mainstream- you just don’t exist . Well, Suhel Seth is not the only one who dreads reading the list of people being honoured every year by the padma awards . 2years back in this blog I wrote this - Honour me! and now I have come to the conclusion that in India because of the diversity and contradictions, multiple layers of thinking, experience, consideration and opinions- you just can’t be fair in selection of any kind. We do not live in the same world after all. India functions as a group of concentric circles where lives of people of one circle never intersects the other in many ways. So when we cannot be fair in our choice, let us not have the awards at all. I mean , why to disgrace the country by awarding the highest civil honours to the undeserving . Even worse, awaring some of the most deserving less than the undeserving. Its not only about one or two bollywood stars – its about the overall criteria of selection. Its about judging what we consider contribution to nation building through efforts in a particular area . Talking of that , perhaps it is no longer about the padma awards alone. It is about all the awards being given by government /semi government agencies. Sahitya academy and lalit kala academy for instance- are good example of incestuous organizations. Once you are in- you’re in. They keep on bestowing honours to people one hardly knows . I consider myself fairly aware about Hindi literature and for past many years I find the Sahitya Acdemy award going to someone of hardly any real importance to the literature of Hindi language . National film awards – as most of us know , are usually decided through recommendation of politicians and by the way, it is not a new trend. This is how things were always . Only reason why we do hear murmurs of protest these days is because of changed access to information . State governments like UP are for some time doing their bit to this mess . Giving awards to people who have hardly anything to do with state . Let us not allow the situation to get so bad that participants of Big Boss are awarded for their bravery while item girls lap these honours for their contribution to nation building through entertainment . My simple solution to it is – let us stop all state given awards for a while. I am very sure the sectoral organizations and private bodies are enough to replace these awards . I mean its one thing that a Femina miss India is being selected through SMSs of viewers and that a Bharat Ratna being given through similar way.

Now, coming back to the nameless faceless public of the republic – they do have a life beyond what we find in teary soup operas and useless controversies on nonsensical government ads . They have their age old worries of taking care of families and they are also dealing with the newly glamourised ambition ( read greed) of making big in the brave new world of India Inc . That they manage to pack few hours of entertainment cum concern for rest of the world every day in midst of so much work and pressure, is to their credit. Where exactly this entire tamasha of republic day celebrations stand in their list of priorities? Is it like any other holiday when one can do the unfinished laundry and buy weekly provisons or is it something to feel and feel good about . I got a fine glimpse of it last evening when a rather unknown news channel went across Delhi streets asking one basic question to the policemen on duty for republic day security – Why is 26th January celebrated? Well, about 40 out of 44 could not answer correctly and the incorrect answers ranged from “ Because president has to check the tanks etc “ to “ it was the day Britishers left India “ . The answer from a very confident policeman near Race course road takes the cake- when he said “ Dekhiye sahib, we are not authorized to reveal why it is being celebrated? You better speak to our higher authorities. “

I laughed out loud at this answer….but then is it not a very fair ( and very sad) estimate of how much our republic day means to the public? Perhaps the distance is widening between the concentric circles of Sarkari India , India Inc and Bharat and alas, neither of the three cares . So while I watched the sarkari patriotic song on DD bharti ( and liked it much more than the glamourised India Inc version of Phir Mile sur ) I am painfully aware that for most of the Public of our republic either of the two are non consequential .