I am one of you. I don’t usually go about shouting slogans, or carrying placards.
Sometimes, when I don’t have enough money to make ends meet, I choose to pay the Rs 100 that the policeman demands than the Rs 600 fine I’d have to pay for riding without a helmet. I am no Anna Hazare.
Yet, I don’t enjoy paying bribes. Every time I am forced to pay a bribe, I lose a bit of my self-respect. I shrink in my own eyes. I know I have contributed to the injustice that envelops us like an ever thickening smoke that will one day make any life with self-respect impossible.
So I joined the crowds last year. I left early from work every day so that I could be part of what I thought was the beginning of change, what I thought was the beginning of a new India, an India which didn’t make my sons and daughters feel inferior.
An India that was at the forefront of the world, an India that would be an example to the rest of the world – in development, freedom and high-thinking. For me, it was all about respect.
I rejoiced that so many of my countrymen felt like me. We flowed through the streets, at first barely a trickle, then a stream and at last, a mighty roaring river that shook the very foundations of power in Delhi.
I rejoiced to see those intoxicated by power tremble, and lose their composure, and start babbling and bickering like children.
Above all, I was happy for my children. I could see a country where they didn’t have to lose their self-respect every time they had to interact with a government agency – where they didn’t have to pass cash under the tables, or rely on smelly touts to get a drivers licence or ration card.
I saw an India with gleaming glass towers, clean, wide roads and handpumps that worked. I saw an India that made my children feel proud to say, ‘Yes, I am an Indian.’
Yesterday, I went again to Freedom Park. I knew I should have gone earlier. But I thought I also owed it to my family to focus on my work, and make sure I put bread on the table.
Saturday was an off-day for me. I thought I will find the lakhs I found there last time. I thought, well, they too are busy with their lives, but surely they can have lunch on Saturday and come out to support their countrymen who have been lying on the stage for three days, with only water to support their lives.
Surely, I thought, these men and women can cut down 3 or 4 hours of mall-hopping, if only because these men and women have been lying there hungry for three days. They have put their health, and their lives, at risk for everyone’s future, for the future of those who sit in their homes enjoying their films on TV. They have put their lives at risk for those who can’t even bother to skip their weekend fun for 3 or 4 days to come and visit them.
Does India’s middle class deserve such a sacrifice? If they are too busy decked up, crawling from mall to mall, ogling at others similarly decked up, do they deserve even a fraction of the hunger you have endured in the past four days?
Like I said, I am no Anna Hazare.
I am a simple, practical man going about his simple middle class life, trying to support my wife and kids. But I know it when I see ingratitude. I know when I see people who don’t deserve others to lay down their lives for them.
You are lying here, forgotten, with no one around you other than your wives, your little children, your aged parents. Meanwhile the great Indian middle class that you are laying your life down for is in the malls, in the multiplexes, having a laugh, having fun.
What are you doing here, all alone, with no one to look after you? Can’t you also go and have some fun? So what if India remains backward? So what if we become smaller and smaller men in front of our children? So what if we have to pay, pay and pay everywhere – to park in a free parking, to get a birth certificate for your new born, to get your pension approved?
Whose country is this anyway? Who told you to feel for those who can’t even stop having ‘fun’ for two hours to come and visit you once – even if only to see the faces of your young children who sit around you, worried for your life, but nevertheless don’t want you to give up?
They are all busy having fun.
Perhaps it’s because they weren’t there on Saturday when Dr R Balu said ‘go back to your middle class lives if that’s what you want, if that’s what you think you should do. But remember, there won’t be a middle class life for you to go back to soon if you leave these people to do what they want with your society.’
Till then, as they say, have fun, go to multiplexes, have a laugh. But remember, the foundations are slowly being eaten away by termites. Laugh, if you can.
Make money, even as others make those wads of cash useless.
Let Anna Hazare go to hell, let’s all have some fun this Sunday.
(Views expressed in the column are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect those of RTN.)