The husband is coming back this week. I have already fixed up our weekend plan – we are going to Tihar Jail and yes we are going voluntarily. I need to check out the complex, their living quarters (cell sounds so uncool). Are there any shops there, especially Body Shop? The toilets, I hope they are clean. I am very picky you know. I just read in the papers, the government is planning to offer a free stay in Tihar for Bloggers. Not that it’s a swanky resort but at least I won’t have to pay rent. I’ll get to eat very healthy food which I might not want to eat at all. I’ve heard they make you work really hard! Goody! It almost sounds like a health farm. If only they won’t make me wear that boring uniform with a number printed on it.
You see, our Sarkaar in its humble attempt to become tech-savvy has accidentally stumbled upon a Utopian land called blogosphere. A strange place whose denizens are free to speak their mind, are quick to point out injustice meted out, boldly express their rage at the sorry state of affairs, they question, rationalize, debate, and worse, spread awareness on the world wide web. Our Netas are in a tizzy! I beg to state but this shall not be tolerated. Why don’t we pass a bill in a language that no-one understands and shut them up for over. Let’s create confusion and chaos. Let’s have them cower in fear. Citizens who walk with their head held high, who dare raise their voice, are a threat to democracy. We don’t want an Egypt on our hands do we?
We are living in strange times. With the advent of economic liberalisation we are zooming in the fast lane. Our buildings are getting taller, cars swankier and our clothes slinkier. We huff and puff to Lady Gaga singing I wanna take a ride on your disco stick. We speak accented English, sip coffee at Gloria Jeans and swipe our multi coloured credit cards at Armani Exchange.
But has liberalization made us more liberal?
Someone somewhere was hounded out of the country for his “blasphemous” paintings. In a desert country the revered artiste pines for his motherland.
Someone somewhere just got shot at point blank range by the grandson of ex MLA of Jatavpur. He didn’t like her face.
Someone somewhere was lynched by an angry mob for trying to steal a rusty bicycle. Our ministers embezzle crores of public money – we tch tch, shake our heads in disgust and crack a few jokes at their expense.
Someone somewhere was dragged out of the bar and beaten up by the watchdogs of morality. How dare the great Indian Naari strut around in jeans, hold hands with a man and enjoy her beer. Look how education corrupts!
Someone somewhere said it’s fine for young girls to have pre-marital sex and no educated man should expect his wife or girlfriend to be a virgin. She stirred a hornets’ nest and had 22 criminal cases slapped against her. It’s a crime to speak the truth.
That someone somewhere could be me next time!
Thinking India is bewildered, it wants to spread out its wings and touch the sky only to find its wings clipped. Is the Then India feeling threatened by Now India?
We are walking the tight rope between economic liberalisation and cultural fascism. Immorality, crime, sex, may now be the underbelly of urban existence, yet our policy makers live in a state of denial. Our I&B ministry has blindfolded itself to the notion of reality and goes into overdrive the moment there is a mere mention of sex and sleaze on Television. They are still under the notion that our billion babies and more were hand delivered by storks. The history of film censorship has been a tortured tale of snip-snip-cut. The next gen may be using fuck as comma and full-stop, yet the censor board turns beetroot red and beeps it out. Smoking is injurious on screen, Zindagi cannot be saali, a bare back causes outrage.
We are not free to decide our rights and wrongs. The state decides for us. We may be India shining but our government treats its janta as a bunch of imbeciles. The aam-janta needs to be told what to think, what to say and what to see. Gandhiji tried to show the way through his three wise monkeys – bura mat dekho, bura mat kaho, bura mat suno. Many leaders thrust their own antediluvian interpretation of ‘bura’ on us, but exhibit selective amnesia when it comes to their own brazen, corrupt and venal deeds that bleed the very nation that they ‘proudly’ represent.
Our freedom of speech in under threat – if the ITAA 2008 bill is passed, it will be perilous to be right when the government is wrong. So what do we do? Is it enough to express outrage, join an online campaign, vent, express our impotent rage?
Let’s not get intimidated. Let’s keep working towards an India that will be proud of its citizens - Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.... Where words come out from the depth of truth..... Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way.... Where the mind is led forward by thee...Into ever-widening thought and action...Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
(Excerpts from Rabindranath Tagore’s Sanchaita)