Jul 3, 2011

Ugly Indians! We are.

There's this guy that I know who is powerful, influential and wealthy. Born out of a poor family, he does not have the credentials that he would need to make his billions. However, by virtue of his monies, he is respected and is considered incapable of making a mistake or committing a crime. The boss of a sprawling business empire, he is considered one of the most powerful men in society. Tough on critics and loving towards his followers, he makes sure that he does not have any living enemies. His family members and associates however are of a different pod. In a race to make their billions, some of them have fallen from grace. Publicly and rightly so.

Our protagonist, the rich boss, now has to make the tough decision of doing the right thing by penalizing the guilty or covering up much muck. To make matters worse, true accounts of how the guy's cronies colluded with unscrupulous people, cheating and dishonestly favoring certain other businesses in return for billions of dollars in kickbacks reach the people outside.

The people demand the guilty be punished. Here is where the rich boss's honesty is going to be tested and his integrity proven.
If he were to prove himself to be honest he should punish those who plundered public wealth and trust, in the most severest way permissible by law. He should make an example of them.
But predictably, in a way that reveals where his loyalties really lie and his intentions are, he neither punishes the guilty nor allows for a stricter rule that would prevent future instances.

No moral story this, but if any of this sounded familiar, it should. This is the sorry saga of politics in our great Nation.
Gandhi and Nehru must surely be squirming in their graves. Looking down, they must be wondering 'Where did I go wrong?'
Although there is a surge in people talking about Anna Hazare and Hairy Baba, it's all gas and no inertia.

This is definitely baffling.
When people ask me how we've allowed such unprecedented levels of corruption to seep through, I believe it is mainly because we've chosen it. We are living comfortable lives. As long as you and I get to wake in our beautiful homes, where we are not unreasonably hunted down by the government, as long as we are able to reach our workplaces and back home without too much hassles, as long as we are not unreasonably tormented by our bosses or civic authorities, as long as we have basic amenities and certain luxuries of life and as long as we have money to spend we are not going to revolt.

Egyptians took 30 years before they gathered the political strength and emotional courage to overthrow one of the Middle East's most powerful government. While Yemen, Libya and Tunisia are still burning, it takes more than just peer pressure to win a popular uprising.

Though we are many decades away from an revolution like in Egypt or from any semblance of change, we do share a lot with what the people in Egypt went through.
Even as they do not call themselves dictators, many of our politicians live out their lives as autocratic emperors.
Even though we do not have a secret police, our coppers are conspicuous and equally notorious.
Many of us may not have suffered the ignominy of being imprisoned or tortured in secret chambers, but when I see, hear and read news reports of how the police are used to exact political and personal vendetta, and how protesters are dragged off in an awkward embrace that can only resemble a hunter dragging off his kill, I realize we do share a lot with our Arab cousins.

They say that when the roots are rotten, the fruits will be too. But in a country like India, where we've had one of the most inspiring freedom struggles in human history, where we've fought for the truth and all that is good with such poise how could we go so wrong?
Where did we take the wrong turn to end up in the concocted mess that we can barely recognize?
How could our politicians associate themselves to a family that laid down their lives for truth, when they loot and plunder with so little conscience?
And how could we condone politicians who does not want to be held accountable?

How must we retaliate? Anna's got the right weapon.
Could we possibly start over again? Maybe.
A clean slate? Possible.
Will it stay clean? Depends.

Ugly Indian, a movement that I came across online made a lot of sense.
We are the ugly Indians who will not hesitate to spit out our phlegm and our sweet paan on  streets or government stairways, but come to a mall, we are on our best display. Go abroad. We are the best ambassadors of everything polite and well behaved. And like the founders of the movement rightly pointed out, the ugly Indians are not the illiterate or the village folks. It is us. You and me. The highly educated, well heeled and appropriately wealthy city folks that are to blame. Because we are the ones with double standards.

The ugly Indian is here to stay.

The government knows this too.
The politicians want this.
They know that as long as we live and work in a air-conditioned bubble of comfort, they are safe. They want a class of people who will not revolt against them yet let them milk them for every dollar we are worth. 2G then, 3G now. Flyovers then, Mono Rails now. They are always looking for the next billion dollar project that will ensure that their personal coffers will overflow for a few generations.

It is not Pakistan that we need to fear.
It is not China that we need to hate.
We are feeding a parasite that is slowly eating us from inside out.

If our ranking on the Transparency International is any indication, we will soon be the shining example of what  happens if we delve in past glories.

Candle light vigils just won't do. 
Phony threats of fast won't be enough. 
Taking a lesson out of history, we need to unite. Again. 
This time against our tendency to bribe, against our tendency to be complacent with tiny promises. Without fear, head held high.

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.
 
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