“Come,Watson come! The game’s afoot.”
If I can think of one line, which aptly describes the situation prevalent when I was between 9 years to about 13 years of age i.e. from about 1989 to roughly 1993, then the above written and quite famous line spoken by my favorite fictitious character – Sherlock Holmes to affable Dr Watson in the story – Adventure of Abbey Grange- would be the one.
Yes! So much was happening in India back then, and well actually in the world, come to think about it, that literally the atmosphere was fully charged all the time. These were my formative years, a time when the character and personality of a child solidifies into the mould which the world around him or her has built, and this foundation more or less remains in a substantial form – evident or concealed, in one’s personna through out the life.
I was in the thick of the things – informationally, I mean; I was acutely aware of chaos going around me – students burning themselves in schools and colleges to protest the acceptance of recommendations of Mandal commission, a veteran leader riding on a chariot through the narrow lanes of congested cities to complete his Rath-yatra, later he and others getting up on a building and demolishing it and the country burning, militants gunning down innocents in Kashmir and the numbers of military personnel going up in the valley and that of tourists nosing down, bombs ripping apart Bombay, Harshad mehta decimating the stock market….Phew! Those were dangerous and uncertain times.
I remember the standards fifth to seventh through a haze of repeated closures of school due to one or other unrest. There were curfews, and me and my extended family had a blast in these forced vacations, so much so, that the writer in me was born during this time and I wrote a comical-satirical peice which welcomed the curfew (personified as a welcome guest) in my town, and it was published in the local newspaper! I was in sixth standard and it was the highpoint of my life till that time.
So, I have a foggy memory of school during this period and I have a strong suspicion that the fundamental deficiency in my understanding of most of the subjects is the direct result of spending more time at home rather than the classroom in these formative years.
It was not that only this country was transforming, winds of change were sweeping all over the globe – I distinctly remember watching the English news on Doordarshan with my family in late November’89 as Berlin wall went down, then later the revolution in Czechoslovakia and finally the fall of mighty U.S.S.R. in 1991….It was big man! Big. The cold war ended just like that – once mighty U.S.S.R. got split and communism was dealt a deathly blow. U.S.A. was not going to be left behind- it declared a war on Iraq ( Gulf war) and I distinctly remember the excitement when we saw the first direct reporting from a war field and the Oohs! and Aahs! as we saw Tomahawk missiles being launched, going up a trajectory and then coming down on Saddam’s forces with unbelievable destructive power.
I remember all of it. I had a great interest in current affairs back then and had almost an obsessive desire to ‘know everything’ and I doggedly followed each event keenly – through newspapers, magazines and television.
That I turned up into a slouchy, cynical couch-potato living a comfortable life without any interest in national and international affairs, wolfing away delicious delicacies cooked by my lovely wife as I binge-watch daily soaps on the idiot-box is a testament to the inherent inertia of my personality and the mighty will to – just sit around and let the world pass by.
Yes I do think I was saved by my monumental laziness. Otherwise I didn’t stand a chance!
Had I been a tad more active and enterprising, and had there been google, republic t.v. , twitter and whatsapp during those years, I would have definitely turned up a raving maniac, shouting slogans, sending forwards about our great country and discussing politics and politicians heatedly with my fellow countrymen.
I am infinitely grateful that we didn’t have Whatsapp and internet back then, otherwise I would not have wasted time and would have promptly gone insane. The deluge of inflammatory messages and memes would have been such that anyway nobody could have held on to his or her sanity.
Not that everything was happening in a negative way back then, two leaders; who cannot be named now, were fighting to keep the country stable and progressive; used their magic wand and bingo! the rusty indian economy opened up, big foreign brands started coming to India and the rise of Indian middle class started and eventually reached a point where I and my friends thought of staying back here, instead of going to foreign shores and we were able to create a good life here – decent salary, upscale neighborhood, costly schools for our kids and a gorgeous home.
Of course, one has to ignore the India which one meets outside one’s home and swanky workplace, because otherwise there is a clear danger of our bubble getting burst.
There is a limit to which good things can happen to us and one should not be greedy and demand for everything – like Scandinavians for example. They can demand and perhaps can obtain a non- corrupt beurocracy, an intelligent and well read political leadership, universal health and education for everyone, a non-polluted atmosphere, a high per capita income, a non-biased and influential media, tip-top and efficient infrastructure, liberty and basic rights for everyone…Hugh! I got exasperated in just enumerating all this…imagine, demanding and hoping for of all this!
But we have long been ingrained to- not to be too idealistic and optimistic about our country, so there is no real danger of anyone getting frustrated and disillusioned with current and future prevalent conditions; and if one feels really strong about some issue he or she writes vehemently on facebook and whatsapp,and sends some forceful forwards regarding that matter on social media and goes on living exactly in the same way; so now we decorate our houses, get big cars, eat in Michellin starred restaurants and go on foreign vacation twice an year and ignore everything else. Easy…this is the way to live in India. Why bother about anything else? Anyway it doesn’t change anything.
But I digress, the reason why I got up from my couch and started writing all this was that I was feeling nostslgaic and a bit sad because two of our long standing issues were suddenly brought into limelight and were actually solved and done away with!
Yes I am talking about – Kashmir and Ayodhya issue- and yes I know that I am entering a dangerous territory here, as has been forewarned to me umpteen times by social media- that all the messages will be scrutinised, don’t write or share anything about Ayodhya verdict – as if I already don’t know all of this.
I might be a fool, but i am not an idiot.
What a line!..It has the potential to become a famous quote in the future and seems to have come from the pen of that master of caustic wit – Oscar wilde. But it has a very humble origin i.e. from my typing pad, and it also suffers the ignonimity of being true in my case.
Anyways, I don’t want to delve into the legality, timing, ethical part, execution, and morality of the decisions which has brought closure to these issues because; well – what’s the point?
I am talking about the void which the sudden demise of these two aged problems has left in our lives. It’s like the death of an uncle, a cousin of one’s father, who used to visit one’s home often, and one has become accustomed to his repeated appearances in the house for few days and then the uncle would go away, only to come back later on occasions like marriages etc. in the family.
Suddenly now he is gone, it doesn’t change one’s life in any substantial way but one feels a little sad or a tad empty at the swift disappearance of this distant relative from one’s life.
Perhaps you are thinking, O! wise reader, that I am being a wisecrack and trying to be satarical.
But, I am not, I really feel that what would we do now? What is there to look forward to? and what does media – digital, social and print- have to report now?
Ever since I have gained conscious memory, these two issues have been constantly in the horizon of my mind somewhere or the other – whether in the front glaringly or somewhere in the background- but always present. I had learnt to live with them. How can suddenly they be gone! What about – conscious uncoupling? That’s a word prominently trending nowadays, isn’t there a scope for something like that? Straight away – divorce or clinical execution of these two matters? I cannot wrap my head around it.
And I feel somewhat saddened in not being able to pass these two erstwhile problems to my sons as inheritance, along with all other difficulties which I myself inherited from previous generations, and was looking forward to pass the baton to the upcoming one.
I am totally able to visualise the bitter recriminations which I am going to pour upon my kids twenty years from now, when defeated from the shitty life in this country and this planet, they will argue with me that they want to shift to the Moon village on the moon, which is providing great opportunities to the young and enterprising youngsters who want to explore new vistas to enhance their future and career, ” What do you mean young man that you can’t breathe properly in the toxic air of this city? We have lived all our lives here and we did good.. Didn’t we? We raised you despite all odds ….You are already tired from the threat of the nuclear world war and the scarcity of water…Hamare zamane main…there was Kashmir and and then there was Ram mandir issue. We kept on living with such absurdities through out our childhood and most of our adult life, but were never got tired of them …Never had the escapist tendencies like you to run away from the problems… Hugh! Wants to shift to moon… Who is going to pay for your transport over there?…Your father?”
See? I mean this conversation is quite plausible.. and that is a problem for me.
On further thinking and calming down a little, I have come to a conclusion that perhaps I am over-reacting. Every generation has few social issues which are tied around its neck like the albatross and that generation thinks that it’s only it, which has been burdened with something this nerve-wrecking and humongous, but it’s not so.
Look what my father had to endure in his youth – emergency! Janasangh!…All that was huge!…And I can’t think of what my grandfather went through- The great war of Indian independence!
And it’s not like there are no other distractions available which will drag on few decades further till my sons reach my age.
The issue of reservation has a great potential I think, to keep us busy for many- many years, it’s burning brightly everywhere in the country. Then issues like statehoods for many regions who want their own separate states is one, inter-fighting amongst people originating from different states of India is on the rise and one feels in the bones that it’s only going to worsen in the coming decades – biharis and marathas for example, and of course – the perennial pain in the ‘ you know where’ Pakistan is not going to disappear overnight, it should keep giving Masala to us to talk about for a very long time I think.
And at the world stage, definitely the current u.s. president is going to leave behind such a troublesome legacy that it will be my grandsons who still will be talking about him. Iraq ,Syria and terrorism will be staple news for a long time and of course the cold war might have ended a long time ago, but it’s more sinister version, the economic one, has already started to play havoc, in the form of China. Then there is North Korea. And small talks about global warming, deteriorating environment and pollution are our constant pass times now and will remain so in the future surely.
So, it turns out I was unnecessarily getting emotional about Kashmir and Ayodhya. We can put them to rest …bury them, there are other difficulties to look forward to and get agitated about. And if my kids, currently 7 and 4, ever raise their eyes from the mobile screens and come out of the world of Avengers and Marvel universe, rest assured they will not have any dearth of issues to talk about at their workplaces, in the trains, on the lounges at the airport… anywhere.
Ok!..I feel much better now, my tension has ebbed away. Perhaps you are feeling a bit tensed now, O! Wise reader. Don’t worry , chant along with me – All is well..All is well…
And if that doesn’t provide enough solace to you, come watch SAB Tv with me as slide back down on my comfy couch and watch the world pass by.