58 Years of Independence
Freedom to . . . . . . . . . ?
by - Ranjit Butani
1947, August 15th. INDIA became independent – rid of the British yoke a Nation was born.
2005, August 15th INDIA, as perceived within the geographical boundaries at the time of partition, celebrates its 58th birthday, in the form of its present avatar.
1949, November 29th. I WAS BORN IN FREE INDIA. It is apparent that I share an almost equal and common life span with my motherland.
58 YEARS! At the age of 58 my father had to retire from service, implying that 58 years were adequate to achieve lifetime goals, fulfil lifetime ambitions and reach a critical point in life where further growth and progress was automatically triggered by the momentum of gains consolidated and accumulated over 58 years. This is however, a moot issue and not of any relevance here. What is of definite interest is a review and evaluation of the nation’s achievements – growth, progress or otherwise through its life span of 58 years and relate this to the corresponding and consequential repercussions on the lives of its citizens – on their moral fibre, character, sense of values, economic and spiritual advancement etc.
This exercise of comparative analysis of the time frames between various periods of my life with what is now discernible in contemporary times left me shell shocked and stunned. I do admit this piece makes for morbid reading – but I cannot restrain myself from sharing my observations with my readers and others with a desperate hope that SOMEWHERE, SOMEONE will come up with A SOLUTION.
The joint family structure was predominant during this period of my life. All aspects of my upbringing during those FIRST 5 FORMATIVE YEARS were conducted, controlled and monitored by my mother, grandmother, aunts, and elders within the family. This developed a strong and everlasting bond with the family and thereby with my culture, heritage, language, religion etc.
My grandmother loved to relate stories of sages and saints. My aunts entertained me with ‘Kafis’ and ‘Kalaams’. My mother regaled me with inspiring historical lore. Her lullabies sealed the attachment with my mother tongue. All this was in fact a subtle educative process, in which all the elders were involved – inculcating in me the values of honesty, integrity, discipline, obedience, respect for elders, morality, development of character etc. And all this transpired in a very natural and simple way as a result of which my subconscious soaked in the essence of my culture effortlessly and intuitively.
Entertainment was – celebrations with the family during festivals, pujas, attending marriages and family gatherings, visiting relations, going for an odd picnic with the family. The only external influence was restricted to an hour or so every day spent playing with the neighbourhood kids in a nearby park.
Thus during the first five most formative years of my life foundations for life long ties and solidarity with the family and culture were laid. These took roots and developed into BONDS TO LAST A LIFE TIME.
AND WHAT DO WE WITNESS NOW ?
No joint family, no elders at home besides the parents who are in any case busy with their own lives, no contact with relations, no clue about culture, language; no bonds with the family!
Like a blotting paper the child’s psyche soaks inputs only from external sources like the television; soaps, MTV, Commercials; watched with the live-in maid and with whom most of the waking hours are spent; neighbourhood kids – bragging about the new car, camera, cell phone, plasma TV or the latest electronic gizmo available at home; crèche or nursery school; - impersonal and artificial – preparing the child for the interview for admission into the right school!
What is building up in the child is anger and rebellion at not being the centre of attention due to the perceived notion of lack of interest by the parents; obsessive desire for all things material; rage, if the demands are not met. And most importantly what the child has lost out on, is the safety of a security net or a fallback mechanism provided by the family and relations at times of stress and strain. The child develops no solidarity with the family and is easily influenced by, dominant personalities he encounters in life that could lead it astray, and occurrences, the impact of which could lead the child to deviate from the right path.
YEARS AT SCHOOL
The transition was traumatic but short lived. My first real exposure to the external world – Parents and elders were replaced with a new set of faces for a greater part of the day – Principal, Head Master, Teachers, Classmates. But life got more interesting – studies, homework, games, pranks, examination fever etc. etc. The foundation for building the structure of our future well-being was being laid. We were just itching to grow up.
Respect and fear, vis-à-vis our teachers, was genuine. I would rather fake a stomachache and remain absent from school than attend class without having completed my homework.
Extra curricular activities were games and sports, participation in debates and drama competitions, annual school picnics, occasional visit to the cinema to watch a WALT DISNEY film, reading ENID BLYTON - adventure books, visits to the circus, visiting relations during summer holidays, listening to “Binaca Geet Mala” on Wednesdays at 8 pm over Radio Ceylon and during senior years in school to ‘DATE WITH YOU” at 10 pm on Saturday nights. Elvis Presley, Cliff Richards, Shadows were the rage then and THEN CAME the BEATLES and we all wanted to form our own foursome music groups.
During the final 2 years in school we suddenly grew up and with the first signs of hair above our upper lips, and the slight baritone in the voice-tried to sneak into theatres screening movies meant for ADULTS ONLY. ‘COME SEPTEMBER’ starring Rock Hudson and Sandra Dee and ‘Lovers Must Learn’ starring Troy Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette were 2 films that remain etched in memory. An innocent period of adolescence.
AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT NOW?
1. Extra Curricular Activities:
• Kids don’t have to sneak into theatres to see ‘A’ rated movies – they watch them on DVD’s at home.
• Forget about Radio Ceylon or AIR – they download all the latest music from the net on their iPods.
• Forget physical sport – exercising the fingers for operating the remote to play games, sending sms or operate the keyboard to chat on the internet, is enough.
• Grand birthday parties with grander themes are a must now.
2. Material wants :
• The kids to-day are conscious about designer labels and brands and want to wear the best. In our times we often wore clothes of our seniors altered to fit us. No big deal. It didn’t really matter.
• The kids are aware of the various cuisines – Thai, Malaysion, Italian, Chinese and want their parents to either take them out dining or give them enough pocket money to do so themselves with friends.
• And you can’t forget the games – I mean the electronic kind. Its truly become a materialistic world.
3. Moral Values
• These have taken the severest beating. The foul language and 4 letter words used would put a sailor to shame. The frank talk about sex and indulging in exchange of pornographic material is shocking, to put it mildly.
• The direct and forthright conversation on chat lines would make us go red in the face.
• Innocence has been lost as also the faith, respect and expectation of integrity from peers.
• I distinctly remember - during Independence Day or occasions when PM – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru or President Rajendra Prasad visited our city – we would line up the streets to catch a glimpse of our leader’s motorcade, waving flags - our chests swollen with pride. Today the kids look down upon our leaders and politicians with the contempt and disdain that obviously a majority of them deserve.
• Above all the real tragedy is instead of attempting to rectify the wrong they witness they want to emulate it.
YEARS AT COLLEGE
The first real years of freedom. You could actually bunk classes and make a friend give proxy for you. You could interact with the opposite sex – go disco dancing – attend parties. College day, Christmas and New Year’s Eve were events meticulously planned – what to wear; who to ask out etc. Great times.
Although by that time the drug scene had reached India and the flower children made their impact there was no sign of violence, decadence or debauch behaviour.
Taking girls out was ok although curfew hours were strictly observed. Going out for movies, holding hands was ok but pre marital sex was a no no. After all, at that time, all our beautiful and glamorous film heroines of the Hindi silver screen were presented in the form of ‘sati savitries’ who never allowed the hero to get too physical. Seeing those romantic scenes now, enacted in the Hindi films of those times, is really hilarious. But that’s the way it was. And we accepted it.
Times have changed – it is now the female of the species making the first move and you sometimes see the male nervous and prudish.
But honestly speaking I think our times were better – the covered female form was far more exciting and alluring – because it allowed imagination to come into play and run wild. And as is generally accepted more than half the fun is in the chase and the male youth today has lost the thrill of the chase as the female becomes more aggressive and dominating.
As far as academies go – things have remained more or less the same – other than that the parents pay tuition fees twice over – once to the college and then again to the coaching classes. It seems college students these days go to college for socialising and for academics attend the mushrooming coaching classes.
As in the case of years in school the main areas of difference are –
• Extracurricular activities – more pubbing, chilling out, partying in fashion. And all this during late evenings and nights against the morning or afternoon visit to discos during our college days.
• Material wants : The youth wants the best of everything available and wants it now. They are in a tearing hurry to savour and possess all that massages their ego and are prepared to achieve this by fair means or foul.
• Moral values : It is felt that success in life does not come from upholding moral values and when they see their own peers treading this path the concept of right and wrong gets distorted to mean that all that helps in achieving and fulfilling your desires is right, period. Conscience – what’s that ?
During our times, if a traffic cop waved your scooter to a stop for breaking a traffic light, we broke into cold sweat and offered profuse apologies – whereas the kids now lean out of the car window and yell “don’t you know who’s son I am?, do you want me to get you transferred?” or slip a 100 Rupee note with a gesture of disdain.
Having hardly spent any time in the classrooms – they search is on for touts selling question papers during pre-exam period. And if that is not enough find touts who can guarantee high marks at the time of evaluation of answer papers. You just pay the price.
Finally after graduation having emerged from expanding cocoons, we were exposed to the external world in its totality.
We were in our early twenties with dreams of making a success of our life in the young nation of opportunities. We also wanted to serve the nation and were prepared to make sacrifices towards that end. But a sense of gloom gradually enveloped us. Opportunities grabbed by the corrupt and crooked; demands and power without responsibilities, rewards without obligations, remuneration without work was the order of the day.
It seems that after 25 years the joints of our nation had become rusty and you needed to lubricate and grease every part to function. “Chai Pani” was not required to be provided for some extra service but for what was due to you in the first place as your basic right. The ROT HAD SET IN.
And since then the ROT has only kept growing in magnitude. Technology has grown in a geometric progression – colour television in the seventies to plasma TV today with over 100 channels, telex to telefax to email via internet, cordless to mobile handsets. Ambassador or Fiat to any world-class model today, microwaves, washing machines, dish washers – the list is endless.
But simultaneously the hydra headed monster of crime and evil with its love for lucre has spread its tentacles far and wide – Bribery, Corruption, Dishonesty, Sycophancy, is the order of the day. Power and wealth has become the be all and end all. You name it and you have it –
• Adulteration in foodstuff and medicines.
• Distribution and encouragement of addiction to drugs.
• Proliferation of gambling and prostitution dens.
• Extortion and protection rackets.
• Commissions and kickbacks in every transaction – medical, legal even charitable.
The only positive aspect we can claim is THAT NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE IN MY COUNTRY – provided you are ready to pay the price. You just have to negotiate the price tag.
And the tragedy is –
• Not only that all this happens – but happens blatantly and openly
• Nor is there any attempt to keep distance from such activities and perpetrators of these activities – but on the contrary people take pride in flaunting association with such perpetrators.
• Not only are such wrongdoers not ignored and avoided – but are rather packaged and promoted in the media and invited for social events as chief guests – even the so called gurus and self professed spiritual leaders are today professionally packaged and promoted by their spin doctors.
In summation the 58 YEAR BALANCE SHEET – as far the citizens are concerned :-
Food, Clothing and Shelter
Roots, Morals, Character and the nation as an entity
Comprehensive sectoral gains in Technology, Industry, Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure etc and the maintenance of Democracy.
Corruption of governance – legislature, executive, judiciary, law and order etc and a mockery of Democracy.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION ?
Just as our community, realising its dilution of bonds with Sindhyat – with our roots, heritage, culture and language is now striving to rejuvenate itself to revive its glorious past – so too must every citizen of this great and noble nation first realise that Freedom did not mean Freedom to be in the state we are in today but freedom to spread the true wealth of knowledge, contentment and spirituality – the true inheritance of our ancient but advanced civilization – rejoice in the erstwhile glory of ‘BHARAT VARSH’ – and set out to be an example to be emulated and become a beacon for the rest of the world.
SINDHISHAAN INVITES YOU TO SEND YOUR VIEWS.
(It is not the intent of Sindhishaan to hurt the sentiments of those few exceptions to the pattern used for comparison - but only to highlight the situation in general.)