In a dhabba, a canteen or in a packed hall, debating Laws or Acts or State or Market or Bob Marley or Michel Foucault, ideas are well incorporated into debates, when you have a cup of tea in your hand. A few pieces of cookies can quench your psychological need for jargons. I found it true and engaging when I had the luxury of both. Although I did not earn it, I still enjoyed it in the company of band of curious Aam Aadmi.
It happened so that I was invited to an Aam Aadmi party weekly meeting (Hari Nagar, West Delhi) by one of Aam Aadmi party co-coordinator Jagdeep Singh to discuss the issues on current political turmoil and the role of Aam Aadmi. Putting on my best of intellectual attitude, I assured myself that people would be less informed than me about political issues in India. I had prepared a long speech intended to enlighten them. When I entered the meeting hall, around two dozens of people from completely different faith, age, occupation, dialect and even social background were sitting together. I realised this starkly noticeable heterogeneity, when I began talking to them. When the group opened up to itself, it opened a can of questions for self realization to me.
A sense of being betrayed, with a hope of discovering self was evident in this public gathering. People were willing to come across themselves to find new system for the generation next. The acceptance of being failure in the past was probably also credence to the new disposition.
The Pandora’s Box was opened and the evil, which came out first, to be discussed were the Aam Aadmi themselves. Contrary to my expectation, people discussed their flaws first, like being inactive in performing their duties towards their nation, family and above all towards the generation next. They discussed how Aam Aadmi missed the opportunities to make a better future by making better decisions while voting. People felt the pressing need to evolve out of their cocoon and think of time ahead. No matter the debate was modest or not, the mark of submissive humbleness to their failure chagrined me, by criticizing themselves they gave me an option to look at the ground realities, beyond debating the intellectual curves of the problems. I firmly believe self criticism to start a debate could be a positive move as it is a perfect tool to evaluate oneself at a larger gathering. However self enhancement based on self criticism will largely depend on the practical changes brought up by people. This is long term process, and it would be too early to give a judgment on it. However, the beginning could be defined as the base for moving ahead.
Next issue which cropped up was about impuissance to get their ration cards, UID cards, voter cards or services from particular Government facilities. A man among ‘them’ had been actively involved in rendering his service in this particular field. I thought him to be a con, who takes money and gets work done. Another thing was coming to me - he clearly mentioned the right rules, gave his share of suggestions and asked people to get it done by them, most importantly, by being serene and polite to officials. Being polite is the key to success, he added later with few examples, which pulled up a complete sense to me. People also discussed about some practices, rules and regulation to adhere by, especially for the youths (present there) who drive recklessly or the medical facilities for older generation, which I was completely unaware of. I had always thought that being learned gave me a special slant toward social events; until, I meet these people.
Later, we watched a video in which Aam Aadmi top activists (some would like to call them politicians) talked about acts, laws, taxes, lokpal bills and not to forget the hike in electricity and water bills in Delhi. When they debated these issues, to my surprise they had nearly complete awareness about all these facts marked with precision, which could be only attained through meticulous research. When I asked the reason behind being so informed, they said they are following every news and events, properly, after Lokpal agitation. I read some of the pamphlets there, which did not talk in details about these issues but gave enough information to persuade people to further Inquire into the issues. It was their sheer willingness to get more and more information that surprised me.
I tried to sum up all these as a part of political maneuver by one or two individuals. Surprisingly, many among them were from different constituencies, and some even from Gurgaon and Noida. They got together to show their solidarity to the Aam Aadmi Movement. It was more than two and half hours and people came on pouring from youth to old ones. Slowly, the sense of it being a political meeting washed out. The meeting finalized with nation Anthem and people got up to move back to their places.
A sense of being betrayed, with a hope of discovering self was evident in this public gathering. People were willing to come across themselves to find new system for the generation next. The acceptance of being failure in the past was probably also credence to the new disposition. This new apperceptive outlook should be welcomed by other groups around country. It’s an attempt by ordinary citizens to move ahead of ‘Government will take care of it’ attitude. This new outlook is about self awareness, forcing people to think of themselves, for the policies and the programme they follow. Aam Aadmi party is just creating a platform for them to assemble and debate their issues. To me, infact it was not an Aam Aadmi party meeting; it was more a part of a whip around strategy for a formative self assessment.
Time for me to leave, a polite susurration of conversation followed me. Arvind Kejriwal has announced his fast from March 23 against the rising electricity bills, charging Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit of colluding with Private power companies to burden consumers with illegitimate bills. He has asked consumers, not to pay the bills or at least not for a month, to show dissent to the corruption in the country. The dummy run for the next year general elections has begun. This is going o be a Litmus test for the people of Delhi- a political decision to be made on a crucial social issue.
This was just a tiny fraction of the urban population of India, struggling to survive with each passing days. They have the solace of being in the heart of the country. There are billions across the India, and undoubtedly the impact of Jan Lokpal bill agitations to the current movement would be different on different mass groups, both at urban and rural level. I am oblivious to those facts, but what I am aware of, is the fact that certainly a change is happening in this part of region. Walking down I tried to suss out myself and the penny dropped. I could feel the advent of Aam Aadmi in me; I could feel more of ‘we’ then ‘them;’ nevertheless, I tried to refigure out, how the debates would be without, you guessed it right - a cup of tea and (a) few cookies.