It has been a beautiful Sunday - cool, clear, glorious all the way. I'm looking forward to meeting my neighbours at an elegantly put together annual dinner on the extensive lawns downstairs. I hope they're serving Bellinis ( my current obsession!). The year has started on a delightfully high note and my children have made me feel beyond wonderful. This can be scary ! Three guesses for figuring out why!!! Come on, guys. You can do it!!
This appeared in Sunday Times this morning.
When India shrugs and moves on….
I’d sent out my usual, cheery New Year greetings to friends and family last week, jauntily describing 2012 as ‘the year of ‘Hope and Optimism.’ Most recipients responded enthusiastically and echoed the sentiment.But one person differed vehemently - my Italian publisher. He asked in his toota-phoota English, “What is there to be optimistic and hopeful about? Italy is sinking.” Hai, bechara! So true. Fortunately, India remains pretty buoyant. So,perhaps, we could start feeling a little better about ourselves and stop the self-flagellation. Positive thinking has its uses. And now is the time to get out of the ‘we are such losers’ groove, crank up our flagging spirits and get on with it. To those who insist nothing is going right ( cricket! Corruption! Prices!), let’s concentrate on a few things that are (food inflation, for example).On so many levels, last year was a defining one. Apart from the Anna-factor, that briefly galvanized the nation, the fact that so many biggies were marched off to the clink, made the average citizen lull himself into believing in justice and the power of public opinion. That is a fantastic development in a country that had virtually surrendered to terminal cynicism and permanent resignation. We had all but stopped believing in our own strengths as a democracy, which is bolstered by a billion-plus free voices.
Today, those voices are busy testing their own range. If they do get amplified, 2012 may yet see a fresh demonstration of people power. Blood has been tasted. And the aam aadmi is thirsting for more. Unfortunately, our attention spans are a bit too short. We expect instant results. When those don’t happen,we shrug and move on. As in the case of Anna and his aborted movement. A movement that lost its momentum and got derailed before critical mass could be reached.Even skeptics like myself, were somewhat disappointed by how swiftly ardent supporters abandoned Anna and went back to waiting in the wings for the next Superman to show up and save them. Talking to young people, their disenchantment with Anna - the God Who Failed - revealed their deep-seated frustration and angst. Worse, it reflected their abject apathy. Unlike the young and the restless across the world, who took it upon themselves to fight for change and freedom, in India we expected someone else to do the dirty work for us. Lighting candles, signing petitions, marching and fasting to express solidarity for a cause, was one thing. Putting oneself on the line, giving up privileges, facing arrest and generally being pro-active, quite another. As of now, students seem to be waiting for some sort of divine sign at the beginning of 2012. Aware that Anna may be too frail to take the dream of a corruption-free India forward, they have pinned their hopes on a new messiah emerging from the shadows and leading them into an era that spells ‘clean’ in capital letters.What if such an individual fails to show up? What if, we slide back still further?
The single biggest disillusionment of 2011, was the handling of the Lokpal Bill by our worthy parliamentarians. It now appears as if there was zero intention of the Bill getting through from the word go. All that drama was just that – a cleverly scripted production to try and convince citizens that the worthies meant business. It was such a shrewd, vile and deceptive move, it almost fooled the unwary (who closely followed the live debate) into believing the UPA was sincere, and the BJP, perverse, even obstructionist. For all the gullible public knows, this could well have been a part of a master plan, that allowed both factions to fake heated exchanges, hurl accusations ( reality television at its most dangerous!) and engineer a deadlock. What a brilliant strategy, if true. Kya ‘setting’ kiya, boss! For once, politicians and bureaucrats were united in their objectives. Which one of them could possibly want a clean up of the system? Is there any political party in India that can afford close scrutiny? Which neta is mad enough to want transparency and accountability in public life? Scuttling the Lokpal Bill while pretending to get it through , was an act of genius. Whatever we are witnessing today ( BJP appealing to the Prez to reconvene a Lokpal session) is nothing but an eyewash. There are far too many skeletons rattling around in cupboards across party lines and all over the country. As a futuristic scenario, another forty years of debating the merits of the Bill suits everyone splendidly. By then, Anna’s original supporters will be in their sixties and seventies. And the new generation of netas will still be talking pointlessly about ‘‘subversion of parliamentary democracy.”
Where are the real ‘Players’ when we need them the most to pull off an authentic Italian… oops, Indian job?