Ok to exhale?

Yesterday, the newspaper headlines literally jumped out and grabbed me by the lapels. Quickly putting the paper down, I ran to the window and stuck my head out, brimming with anticipation. You can imagine my dejection when I realised that either they hadn’t started blowing just yet, or the winds of change feel exactly like regular winds do. But how was that possible? I could have sworn I’d felt a gust. There’d been a rustling for a while now. Last October, Lalu was sent to the slammer. This January, Chautala. Then there was Yeddyurappa, Jagan, Madhu Koda… the list was reasonably long. But I hadn’t been wringing my hands with glee just then. I knew that the judiciary needed to put up this pretence from time to time. It’s called appeasement. A little bit of make-believe hubris to keep the citizens thinking that they weren’t entirely at the politicians’ mercy and were indeed doing their job within the confines of the law. And someone seems to have convinced our pathetic politicians too, that it is absolutely necessary to play out this façade from time to time. Absolutely being the operative word. Else, they wouldn’t give an inch. If they could have it their way, those citadels of shamelessness would just continue conducting their business with impunity. I think after a while, they just simply forget that the rule of law applies to them too. Take Ajit Singh for example. What was he thinking? How can one just flat-out refuse to vacate government accommodation months after being voted out of power? Pitrupaksha! A memorial for Charan Singh! They’ll try every trick in the book, won’t they?

So, I hadn’t thought too much of these stray occurrences. I hadn’t been fooled into believing that justice was being done. So what if Subroto Roy has been refused bail for over 6 months now. After all, Mulayam doesn’t wield the same clout he used to. And I haven’t seen Amar Singh in the news for a while now. But all that changed with Amma. This was the first time in the history of independent India that an incumbent CM was convicted and sent to jail. What added to the incredulity was that it was while the AIADMK boasts of an absolute majority in the assembly. Sure, it was just a sessions court that had sentenced her. Sure, John Michael D’Cunha has a track record of paying scant heed to the defendants’ political stature. Sure, in all probability she’ll be out as soon as the High Court reconvenes on the 6th of October. And sure, the fact that she rejected the overtures of Mr. Modi after his landslide victory might have contributed, but this does get one’s optimistic antennas wagging, doesn’t it?

I had heard the rustlings a few months ago, when Rahul Gandhi had derided his own party members for wanting to nullify the Supreme Court’s ordinance that held 8(4) unconstitutional, but the realist that I am, I saw the timing of it, the shaky ground Rahul (and his mother’s party) stood on, and figured that this could well be just another political ploy by the wily Edvidge Antonia. But the Congress sank without a trace, and the ordinance stood. Yaay!

What is surprising, though, is that my countrymen don’t even seem to notice these little gusts of progress. It is the very people who stand to benefit most from the winds of change are the ones attempting the hardest to keep them from blowing. 16 suicides because Amma was arrested??! How in the world does one explain that? Riots, fasts unto death, resignations, bandhs… those I can understand. But a suicide is taking the stage act a little too far, isn’t it? And heart attacks! I mean you can’t fake a heart attack, can you? Exactly how stupid are my fellow countrymen? What mammoth leverage does she have against them? Or are we just a bunch of subservient idiots who think so little of themselves that we actually find comfort in being enslaved? When a Nobel laureate, a supposed progressive thinker though so little of the abilities of his countrymen that he felt we were better off continuing under the British rule, it is a serious cause for worry about our mind-set, isn’t it? Sure, that was a hundred years ago. Sure, today we have a prime minister who’s making all the right noises, but shouldn’t we be comparing him to other heads of state of note, rather than his predecessors? Shouldn’t we wait for sustained evidence of progress before according him superhero status? I mean come on! His performance at the Madison square garden was ordinary at best. The element of spectacular came from the audience. One could be forgiven for thinking that the reception was for an Indian Olympic gold medallist in a track and field event rather than a premiere without any substantial proof of delivering the magnificent! Did anyone notice the Bohri section of the audience, by the way? I am presuming they were Bohris based on their attire. They didn’t seem to be as hysterical as the rest. Apart from some robotic waving of our tricolour, they seemed pretty stoic. But then perhaps the vast majority have been waiting to exhale for as long as I have and they’re just too tired to wait for confirmation. Perhaps it was just a gentle breeze that blew a few leaves around in the first place. Perhaps even mere winds won’t suffice. I’m beginning to think what my country needs today is a hurricane! One so strong that it will yank the masks of duplicity right off the faces of these “democratically” elected representatives and blow away the cobwebs that cloud our minds. One that will take my great land into that promised heaven of freedom.

That day will come. It has to. Me, I’m folding up my sleeves readying to jump into the mire to hasten its arrival. But I shall not be fooled into believing that it is here yet. And I’m holding my breath till then.