It’s not about twenty eight thousand supporters reaching the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi today. It’s also not about storming the Bastille at Gwalior, the palace ruling the politics of popular thinking. It’s also not about the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Sitting at distant shores, I wonder what could have happened in my town of Gwalior on a certain day. Gwalior is not a city, its in fact a mind that remains strangely complacent to tide and turbulence. Stranger people have been elected and far more stranger people have contested from this parliamentary seat. Rude summers and likely arrogance have been the face of political organisations ruling this district. Land mafia tightens the noose of an average ambition of the middle class dreaming to stay in a six hundred square foot of built enclosure.
That was really a long time back. A certain Municipal Commissioner approached a group of doctors which included me and gave us a place from where can practice medicine at the most nominal rent that one can ever think. It seems to me now a most unlikely event when an officer of the public sector approached us merely to help. He could have given to any trader but he didn’t do so. This definitely remained an exception.
The public sector services at Gwalior have stayed at the lowest low. The corruption indices irrespective of political governments have reached a zenith when it remains unfashionable not to be corrupt. It’s a face that grins at you and dares you to stop. A surname of Kushwaha and Bhadoria is far more effective in calling the shots in Gwalior than Tamilian or a Bengali surname. Anand Sharmaji made it quite clear to me many years back.
I am a product of the seventies ideology. There was neither Chetan Bhagat nor even Anna Hazare. A certain writer named Ayn Rand stormed into our capabilities by urging us to think again. She talked about the mind and the power of reasoning. But then reasoning remained locked within most Indian minds and more probably among a certain section of the people of Gwalior. Locked within themselves and hating every other car with a red beacon, artificial buccinator smiles and pronated hands, they finally came out of their homes on the twentieth august 2011. Doctors including prominent specialists demonstrated at Phool bagh in support of Anna Hazare. Unfortunately the same doctors and even the local branch of Indian Medical Association never bothered to lift a finger in support of Dr. Binayak Sen when he was imprisoned on false charges. The Middle Class in Gwalior have understood and came out in groups, displaying their emotions at City Centre and Maharaj Bada.
Wikipedia defines, Anger as an automatic response to ill treatment. It is the way a person indicates he or she will not tolerate certain types of behaviour. It is a feedback mechanism in which an unpleasant stimulus is met with an unpleasant response.
So is this the middle/lower class response to years of torture. Is this a response to their failed objectives or just tiredness to giving constant bribes. I really won’t be able to answer. I believe that it’s the combination of all. How many Padma Award Winners from Gwalior even murmured a dissent? Unbelievingly none.
I think the political equations at Gwalior would change. There would be fewer mercy beggars joining the chortle of laughter of wannabe politicians. Who knows Gwalior might even become a beautiful place to stay.
Anna Hazare has given us an unchained thought far removed from political spheres. It’s for us to accept it or not. I remember Lewis Carroll saying, "One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others."
The storming of the Bastille never took place. The people of Gwalior are in too much awe to anything remotely connected to the former royalty. Somewhere instead their conscience could not be kept bottled up. The people’s mandate has already been given. Crossing faiths and ideologies, class and caste, an inspiring message is being given; strident are people’s voices finally against corruption. The average thanedaar, municipal employee, telephone and electricity department workers at Gwalior and the clerk in charge of transfers of Assistant Surgeons in the health department at Bhopal , all of them who have been demanding bribes just to let people continue with a middle class life style have shuddered to a final stop. The baksheesh and the licence raj which we received as a part of a heritage pack from the colonial rulers are seeing their curtains being drawn down.
I saw Sanjay Nirupamji on the hot seat at NDtv. He seemed unhappy at answering questions which didn’t seem to make any sense to him. It was not a surprise that he along with Priya Dutt left the official Congress I stand on keeping silent to an understanding that everybody shared. Grass root level Congress I workers at Gwalior along with senior leaders and former Mayors like Dr. Paprikar and Chimanbhai Modiji demonstrated against the ruling party’s indifference towards a popular people’s revolt.
Followers of Digvijay Singhji at Gwalior still refused to accept the notion that people have spoken. They continue to toe the official policy of Congress I, fearing otherwise the wrath or their chances of getting a party nomination in the next election getting slimmer. Some of them even decided to take the train to Delhi. I don’t know whether it was to meet the party high command or Arvind Kejriwal. The chances of a political organisation that would belong to the people are getting brighter. Some just quietly stayed within the confines of Madhya Pradesh Bhawan.
Many years back, a builder named Sengar ( one can’t think of having a Tamilian surname in a builder/contractor category ) tried to sell me a house at Gwalior. I even gave him Rs 25000 as an advance towards the house. On further enquiries from The Gwalior Development Authority, I later found out that he had built the house on an illegal piece of land. On querying him about this, he retorted, ‘Daactar Sahab, Humney aapko maakan becha hai, Jumeen nahi. I have sold you a house and not the land’. He never gave back the money. Gwalior remains an abode of such crooks posing as respectable builders.
Traders at Dahi Mandi debated whether it would be a good idea to follow Anna. After all he won’t be there for them when they face problems later. They might even be victimised for following him. Others wanted to know whether the Jan Lokpal bill would give a relief from their taxes and municipality rentals. Some of them were worried after seeing the disastrous sequence of events that unfolded after the burning down of Victoria Market.
Intellectuals and Scientists wished to know the core principles of Anna’s philosophy and how closer it is to Archimedean principles or Bohr’s Atomic Theory. An eventual blending of thoughts and ideas to the mind of a common man seems so unscientific but continues to shine in all its glory.
The princely families wished from their remote comfort that such an Arab Spring shouldn’t have reached India especially Gwalior.
Gwalior remains an Alice in the Wonderland where the cat wanted to know Why Alice is here or similarly in Sadat Hasan Manto’s story on reasoning of Toba Teg Singh being sent to Hindustan. Many of my friends from the prevailing political spectrum always want to know why I visit Gwalior or write so often on Gwalior. Its best summed by Lewis Carroll, Be what you would seem to be - or, if you'd like it put more simply - never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.