The Chasm of Hope
The extraordinary thing about progress is that it happens in broken parts. Incredible India is not a story about an entire subcontinent of a country that has continental variations. It is no longer a united vision of a confident leap into the future, but a vague definition which means different things to different people.
From Rs 32 per day, or even Rs 64 per day survival, to lakhs of crores stashed in realty here and banks in remote global locales, the reality of progress and meaning of hope undergoes variations as vast as vistas viewed on a Trans-Siberia train journey.
The discussion about two Indias, the one upwardly mobile and the other struggling for two square meals, is now stale. Even young kids know the stark difference between the wretched faces staring at them from car windows and the warm carousing at expensive restaurants and malls.
The new fragmentation is in the segments of the haves. As the rise of India becomes a story of yesterday’s papers, we have been lulled by inertia caused by pushes and pulls of polity and economy.
The parody that occupied the attentions of most of India for much of the latter part of last year related with the Anna fast. Never in independent India was there more uproar caused by a man who refused to eat.
From the August Kranti to the winter whimper, Anna and team seem to be roaming in delusionary streets of self obsession. Where is the vision, people ask!
First it was a war between the righteous civil society and venal political class. Increasingly, the lines have blurred. Taints in Anna’s team and their political slant (as exposed in Hisar) have taken away their moral high ground. The political class has been clever enough to appear like a divided house to keep a strong law at bay. But while the ruling class has been engaged in jugglery of jargon to keep Lokpal tame and toothless, an ailing Opposition has found life support to keep up the temperatures and their chances alive.
‘The Protestor’ may have made it to the Time’s 2011 prime cover for some valid reasons, but the Opposition and coalition allies have made it a toy of their reckless lack of imagination.
The business class is vexed because policy decisions are not being taken. Pranab Mukherjee has admitted his hopelessness in managing the fiscal deficit and the currency has weakened to a point of no-return.
Where does that leave us – the common man? Caught amid a state of political flummox and slowing economy, we have been surrounded by a morbid sense of gloom and indolence.
The terrible tragedy is that all these wedges have been drawn by the shallow human traits of unbridled greed and selfishness. The government would not want greater transparency, the Opposition wants an issue to needle the government, and the civil society wants to grasp the limelight.
It is a situation akin to one sketched by Charles Dickens in his novel ‘Hard Times’, where he highlighted the social and economic difficulties of mid 19th century Britain.
Dickens wrote in his book: “(Coketown) contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.”
The extract indicated an all the pervading sense of sameness and pessimism. When our tomorrow begins to impress upon us like a replica of yesterday, then it means that the juggernaut of today’s wheel has come to a standstill.
Let better sense prevail, and let us not be so entrapped in our black holes of blind self-centeredness that we are unable to set a positive national agenda. Deep into the months of the Cimmerian glacial season, we must allow for thaw of our frosty winter of discontent.