Signs Of The Times

By Humra Quraishi

Where are we going ? Nowhere ,of course ! In these powerless and penniless conditions can we go far , any further ?

There’s utter chaos spread out .Even optimists are squatting shut .They cannot mutter or utter any those niceties as darkness lies ahead. Darker spells looming ahead along a treacherous path .

Its difficult to imagine the very setback caused by these power failures of Monday and Tuesday .Bringing life to a standstill .A bleak scenario .And to compound the confusion these ministerial level changes .Whilst the lights were off , the top brass seemed working overtime .Reshuffling in the dark . But none of these ministerial level changes in those corridors of power can restore stability and that feeling of being provided those bare basics . In fact, this blackout has hit hard . Forcing one to move backwards , towards those dark ages …

In fact, today more and more of us, the angry Indians – angry with the sarkar and what it has to offer – are walking towards Jantar Mantar. The average Indian is not just angry but very angry . Fed up and disillusioned . And an easy option is to join Team Anna and cry out , rather loud and clear ‘hallabol’. Yes, in the last couple of days there seems a connectivity with Team Anna , who are sitting there fasting and braving the heat . In fact, conditions around them seems to match what an average Indian is going through – hunger and helplessness .And this factor in itself is adequate for that instant connectivity to take off .

You and I cannot connect with the ministers and the top bureaucratic rung .Our living conditions stand out in contrast : whilst they flourish in those bungalows , the rest of us survive in frightening living conditions . This in itself paves way for that inevitable distancing. Together with these disparities ,there’s a feeling of being pushed to the edge. There’s not one politician from any of the existing political parties who can be trusted to be a savior of sorts , who can help retrieve the mess , who can improve those basics , who can help provide us two basic meals and a corruption free setup.

Amidst this gloom and this ongoing vacuum , the average Indian does see some hope at Jantar Mantar. He and she seen marching in that direction . Don’t know whether Team Anna will be able to deliver. But they are setting that stage for a take off . Take off for an Indian to give vent to his or her disgust, anger at the establishment ….

And I have heard many comment that at least Team Anna isn’t sitting behind closed mansions but fasting out there , in front of thousands …And it seems that Arvind Kejriwal hasn’t sat still all these months for there you have a full fledged book by him .Titled ‘Swaraj’ ( HarperCollins ) it was launched last weekend at Jantar Mantar and it focuses on Anna Hazare led agitation against corruption .

‘The fakir from Ralegaon Siddhi shook the bastions of power in Delhi to their foundations. Even the middle class and the elite, who normally confine themselves to drawing room discussions on politics, joined the movement and took to the streets… The main demand of the group was the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Many promises were made by the political class, but nothing much actually happened – the bill has still not been passed by the Parliament. This book shows us the way forward, what we the people and what the opinion makers and political establishment in India can do to achieve true Swaraj – Lokpal is only one facet of this true devolution of power to the people.’

DISASTERS SPREADING OUR … Where are the elected representatives ?

In fact, whilst on today’s politicians and governance the ground realities in Assam hit .Ethnic cleansing killing and hounding and displacing hundreds ! Probably a grimmer scenario than what takes place in African countries , where civil war and ethnic clashes kills and uproots hundreds …Here the going seems no different .In this day and age killings went on for days before the establishment stepped in . Couldn’t those halt cries come in earlier, saving hundreds from disaster and death .

Its naïve to say that with lakhs sitting displaced in Assam , the situation is now reported ‘normal’. Can normalcy come about amidst this tragedy …ongoing tragedy .


Last month Niyogi Publishers brought out a set of twelve books by Rabindranath Tagore .As always, Niyogi has done an excellent job and as I sat reading these I kept thinking of the few who’d met Tagore and could narrate his charisma .In fact, several years back, the well-known Hungarian artist Elizabeth Brunner, who had made India her home, had told me in great detail about her meetings and interactions with Tagore, when she and her mother had been invited by him to stay at Santiniketan. In fact, Brunner had a particularly interesting backgrounder to offload along the strain that whilst they were still in Hungary her mother had a rather strange dream, through which it was relayed that she and her daughter should set sail to India and meet a sage … Thereafter, the mother-daughter duo packed their bags and reached India, landed in Santiniketan and stayed there for a considerable stretch of time as guests of Tagore. She had told me in great detail about her stay there, her interactions with Tagore and the subtle impact it had on her very work, on her very perception, on her bonding with India …

And in Khushwant Singh’s autobiography – Truth, Love and A Little Malice (Penguin), there are passages which carry details of his stay at Santiniketan. He had enrolled himself at Kala Bhavan (Santiniketan’s centre for music and the arts) for sitar and painting classes. Together with descriptions of Bengal’s countryside, from details centering around his sitar and art classes, to the everyday realities prevailing on those premises, to the mosquitoes which finally drove him away from Santiniketan, he has focused on Tagore. I quote Khushwant: “Once a week, we were allowed to have darshan of Tagore at his palatial mansion, Uttarayan (Tropic of Cancer). He was usually seated in a large chair, very much like those of dentists. It was covered with a mosquito net and had a couple of cup holders with incense burning in them. Only the privileged like Nand Lal Bose and a few others were allowed to touch his feet. Students sat on the floor awaiting pearls of wisdom to drop from his heavily mustachioed and bearded mouth.
He seldom had more than a few sentences to say to us …”

In fact, even to this day that fascination for Tagore reigns. Not just in India. but in other parts of the world, too. In fact, there is a volume published in Romania which carries this rather telling title — Tagore: Romania Remembers. And those pages are laced with details of Tagore’s travels, together with news reports and interviews conducted with him during the course of his foreign journeys. The editor of this volume – Daniela Neacsu – must be totally fascinated by Tagore, for it couldn’t have been an easy task to unearth newspaper reports of his travels and interviews, dating back to the mid-1920s. Some of those convey not just his stark views but also throw ample light on the then prevailing realities …I quote from an interview published in this volume, dated November 21,1926, in which Rabindranath Tagore speaks to Dimineata Daily. Says the interview taken on the train to Bucharest – “When we reached Ramadan, the sight was totally different. A pitch-like darkness had engulfed the pier all along. The representatives of the local authorities were the only persons who had come to welcome the poet Rabindranath Tagore looks like a biblical figure. A tall and slim old man with an oblong face and two black eyes of an impressive kind. Dressed in a long light brown robe and holding in his hand a book bound in light red leather, which gracefully interrupted the austere line of his appearance… .”


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