Even if austerity were a cow Shashi Tharoor wouldn’t have milked it every time he wished to drink milk. He would have had it on his table. Unlike his colleagues he doesn’t consider austerity to be a cow though opposite may be true. A cow to be seen with is to be perceived grounded and austere. To boot, a milk drinker always enjoys a reputation that can bring enough applauds for being a butch soiled in the true Indian style especially in north India. Austerity doesn’t have a beginning or ending as against any ministerial position, nor does it have insides or outsides. Neither austerity is a skeleton attracting mercy or empathy nor it is a bout needed to be won but a thought exuding aroma of a side of petals of virtues a person happens to possess. Austerity is also not a preserve of poor and nor can we say austerity is a facsimile for monasticism. In strict sense of prevailing austerity drive, the statue of self denial would be more lasting and weather braving if it were to have a plinth of genuine compassion and a desire to form bridges with those who our politicians claim to represent. If Tharoor can be casual as a politician after having been a top notch diplomat we too can chortle and forget and if possible even approbate his frankness.
Reprimanding Shashi Tharoor for his cattle class remark (actually it could also be his holy cow remark which Tharoor later ascribed to illogical dogmas went uncommented) by politicians who wear white austerity laden kurta pajamas and culture depicting sarees and lead a seven star lifestyle was tantamount to ordering a scholarly book to be an apt audience to a municipal election speech rendered by local muscleman. If as innocuous a remark as ‘cattle class’ can hurt the sensibilities of common man what about a 30 vehicle cavalcade wending its way through a busy road making the common man having to try all the possible alternatives to get to his office or home or wherever he dared. Because the remark cattle class piqued the senses of economy class travelers of airlines who actually are little less common compared to millions who put up with the indignation of being stowed in buses and trains diurnally not like cattle but like roosters in a cage before being butchered it deprived our honorable champions of austerity an opportunity to speak up for those for whom austerity is the only choice in their lives. Mr. Tharoor, next time when you tweet make sure to consider the real common man and say, “yes, I will travel in chhakda class in solidarity with cadaverous and perspiring holy cows.” I am pretty sure neophyte converts to austerity era would have more to say on why did you refer to buses as chhakdas than on the plight of cadaverous holy cows that they milk to the last drop and bloat their bellies.
If people like Nandan Nilekani (not yet in politics but still in the waters) and Shashi Tharoor who had been living in clover have jumped into the mire at the risk of malodorous stain then it is an example to be admired. Tharoor is a dapper and dandy but not corrupt. He is the face of the politics we had long desired to see in India too. He happens to be amongst those who can contribute to the nation instead of becoming a termite and sucking-in everything coming their way. Our most politicians, sons of the soil whose bank accounts have seen the swelling more on account of their vices than virtues consider politics a game to be won not a cause to be pursued. How many of these crying foul over one tenuous remark can afford to tell us what they do in their daily lives? If Pranab Mukherjee thinks Tharoor and Nandan Nilekani dwelling in humbler-by-a-politician’s standard bhawans can help government look more connected to masses then it is a good thought but I suspect half Sisyphean one.
If we cast aside controversies surrounding Tharoor that had very dangerously seemed to hijack the whole austerity drive set off by Congress leadership thanks to Congress’s foolhardy reaction, all in all still this is a positive step. But this positivism will be somewhat efficacious if instead of just traveling economy class or boarding trains our politicians put some effort into becoming unfeigned receptors to the ordeals their subjects endure. It is good if it percolates down and has a cascading effect on all the layers of government.
If government is really serious about presenting a Spartan face then it should not stop at some visible explicit photogenic gesture. If it is to really have this austerity drive taken seriously by their ‘common man’ then they ought to think not of saving money and wasting time but of saving time as to accommodate extremum work and bring the pelf squandering and sufferings down as much as possible. In as big a country as India government has already many folds more on its plate than it can cater to and the biggest service to the nation and its common man will be to have the maximum possible grievances addressed. Politics in itself is an act of austerity if the politician can transform himself or herself into a true leader. Any self conscientious person with a genuine feeling of solicitude for his subjects is bound to serve them without waiting for any reward in return. And an act of service is an act of austerity. That has been the hallmark of great leaders since time immemorial.
Its sixty two years now that we have been living with a colonial hangover. Our politicians are too much into being imperious and peremptory and our common man too happy to be at mercy of circumstances and being servile, obsequious and content with the plight. So much so that pot bellied corpulent caricature has become the most perfect symbol for a politician and an emaciated bunch of bones for the common man. This crystallizes the conclusion that difference and distance is too much and bridges are required. If someone like Tharoor who is neither a traditional politician nor a common man can act as bridge what is the harm. More the number of such bridges better it is for the nation’s politics and its image among the people who matter most but still don’t. Common man will have to realize politician is not ultimate boss and shaper of lives but someone with a job to be done and politician will have to understand that a job well done earns respect not avoiding it or even dramatization of it.
Note: The term common man (aam aadmi) has come to represent both genders in its collective meaning and in no way excludes or offends the womanhood.