Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Memorial Service....

Jodhpur image at the Dom Perignon brunch.... nice???

This appeared in the Sunday Times....
                                         Memorial Service
This is all terribly confusing. Especially if you live in Mumbai. Between Babasaheb,Balasaheb and any other future Saheb, our overcrowded Minimum City is going to find it difficult to accommodate the living, forget the dead. There will come a time (sooner, rather than later), when a single extra person showing up will sink these seven narrow islands we call home.Then what? But before that disaster takes place, we have to make room for permanent memorials. Obviously,dozens of  strategically located statues aren’t good enough. We need acres of public space, preferably in the very heart of the city, to erect memorials that can pacify hard core followers. Mine is bigger than yours, gets an entirely new meaning in this context. Location, as any canny real estate developer knows only too well, says it all. And that’s where the actual problem arises. If  Babasaheb has bagged a spot in the compound of Indu Mills, why shouldn’t  Balasaheb grab Shivaji Park? This is , of course,  a crude way to put it, since it’s their devotees who are clamouring for these prime plots…. and it is election time. Maha netas of maha parties are entitled to God’s little acre ( or several acres). It is a question of respect. Of sentiment. Whose? Don’t ask!
While the nation’s focus is on the tussle for memorials in Mumbai, it’s strange that very few commentators have mentioned the sprawling ‘Sthals’ of  Delhi. Four of the most expansive ones belong to the Nehru-Gandhi family. These well- tended memorials with manicured lawns, are obligatory stopovers for visiting dignitaries. ‘Paying homage’ is a national past time in India. Several work days in the calendar are reserved for this past time. We have more national holidays dedicated to the birth and death anniversaries of our deceased leaders than possibly any other country. One gets the feeling, Maharashtra will soon be adding another date in November  to this jam packed schedule of  zero work and lost man hours. If things go according to plan, Mumbai will also get two brand new tourist spots, which will attract the faithful in droves. Where will they congregate, for what purpose and how that will add to a better life, is anybody’s guess. Nearly all such aggressive demands , turn out to be nothing more than land grabs by another name. Opportunistic politics and shrewd emotional manipulation often work wonders. Poor Prithviraj Chavan. First, he got talked into the state funeral and now his back is against the wall  regarding the demolition of the make shift platform in the corner of the historic Shivaji Park in central Mumbai. Damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. Renaming the park is another demand he’ll find hard to negotiate with the likes of  Manohar Joshi who has brazenly urged party members to ‘take law into their own hands’ if their demands are spurned. With such blatant threats, Maharashtra’s beleaguered C.M. finds himself between a rock and a  hard place. It’s a tough call. There will be many more deaths and high profile funerals in future.  Supporters  of other netas from across the board ,may also decide to  light funeral pyres in public places, so as to make it easier for followers to participate in the rituals. What if every party and every neta starts claiming the same rights for themselves? What if every free space in the city is blocked off to appease different factions? Who is to decide which dead leader ‘deserves’ such a great and permanent honour? Hey Bhagwan.
Perpetuating personality cults is an Asian disease. We need these ‘sthals’ and memorials for our own selfish needs. For the survival of the successors and followers. Where does this sort of sycophancy end? Well, it should end on the funeral pyre or in a designated grave, as it does elsewhere in the world. Grief stricken party workers  pay their respects at the funeral of the personality and  go home. End of the story. But here, we need to keep the family business up and running as long as it’s possible. We need to rename streets, avenues airports, bridges, stadia and any other landmark, so as to keep the memory of the person alive. But surely, true legacy goes beyond statues and chowks? Wouldn’t it be far better to follow the ideals of those one looks up to? Or if we need to remind ourselves of the inspiring leader’s good and wonderful deeds, why not create public hospitals, schools, shelters, sustainable projects that actually benefit ordinary people in real terms? The  rest is pure humbug.  Let’s be honest - it is nothing but encroachment , but with a far a grander name. It’s time to let VVIP squatters across India know exactly where to get off.


Satish Ashtaputre said...

superb article Madam ! You deserve an applause for your candid opinion.In fact,you spoke the same feelings as that in the minds of several professionals like me in this horrible country.Are we bothered about poverty,illiteracy,filthiness,corruption in India than so called 'sthals'and memorials? Here people can't speak English with proper pronunciation,state of science & commerce is pathetic with no good schools or colleges.only politics,vote-bank,khana-pina,slums & bollywood; this is India story,nothing else ! And on top of it,our joker netas shamelessly preach that mera mahan Bharat is going to become super power by 2020.

saket suryesh said...

One of those writings of yours, Ma'am with which no thinking man can argue. Brave and spectacular. Hope you are not going in with Article 66A.

Jogeshwar said...

Never thought about this perspective. You are right we can't afford to mismanage our inhabitable land, especially when our cities are so densely populated. Surveys suggest that areas having high population density have a much lower human development index. Poverty eradication, better human development index etc. are some of the gravest challenges that our country faces. In the face of such challenges, it is imperative for our survival, that we use our natural resources very wisely.

Chitra Parmar said...

This ones a hit Ma'am! It reflects a common mans message, of course he wouldn't have this much courage.

Bold and Thoughtful!

Caravan Family said...

I'm actually a little disgusted by the maharaja/noble class after my Rajasthan and Gwalior visits...these guys live in unimaginable luxury while their aam junta starved and lived very miserable lives.

Granted (and I understand) that they're kings/noblemen but these guys did nothing or barely anything by way of social programs or schemes to better their subjects' lives.

On the contrary, they were off playing polo and jaunting around the world while sending their over-privileged spoilt and obese kids to Harvard and Stanford..tch, tch..tres disgusting

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