Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mohandas, Subhas, Jawaharlal, Bhimrao chat about India at Heaven

The scene is heaven. India’s founding fathers are bored out of their minds by immortality and are longing for the tumult of India. They are all lazing around, all on first-name basis: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Rabindranath Tagore, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, C. Rajagopalachari, Ram Manohar Lohia, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Hansa Mehta, Madan Mohan Malviya, Chittaranjan Das, Zakir Husain, Jayaprakash Narayan.

Suddenly, Narada shows up to needle them.
Narada: So, dudes, how does it feel? India turns sixty-five. Not bad, eh?

Subhas (with sarcasm): Ask Mohan. He is the Father of the Nation.

Mohandas: Turns out I am not. The government never issued a notification. In any case, Bhimrao is the new god down there, ask him.

Bhimrao: No thanks to you lot! Ask Jawahar. (Turns to Jawaharlal) How’s your tryst with destiny? Has India awoken to life and freedom?

Jawaharlal: It has certainly awoken to life, the freedom thing is more complicated.

Rajagopalachari (rudely interrupting): Trust Jawaharlal to make freedom complicated. For him, freedom was freedom for the Congress to rule, not freedom for ordinary people to carry out a trade.

Shyama Prasad: And don’t forget the First Amendment.

Namboodiripad: And his conduct on Kerala.

Mohandas (visibly upset at this assault on Jawaharlal): You are being too unkind. Don’t blame him for India’s faults. It’s not my type of democracy, but at least he got us one. Not sure any of you lot would have held India together.

Bhimrao: And Jawaharlal built a constitutional and parliamentary tradition. What did you give us,
Mohan? Fasting and blackmail. (Turns to Shyama Prasad) And your lot would have condemned us to obscurantism.

Narada (interrupting): Did you see this, a yogi by the name of Ramdev has been arrested by a Congress government and put in Ambedkar stadium.
(Breaks into a song) Yeh duniya utpatanga, kitte hath te, kitte taanga. What a cool circus Delhi is. No wonder you are all bored and grumpy here.

Ambedkar: I repeat myself. I warned you about the Grammar of Anarchy.

Jayaprakash: And I warned you about shameless governments.

Jawaharlal: In hindsight, we all made mistakes. But we did take decisions. And you have to say, there was nothing petty even about our faults. This lot down there, even their virtues are petty. But this corruption thing is bad, huh?

Mohandas: Acquisitiveness is at the root of it.

Rajagopalachari: There you go again, exonerating your dear disciples. The Congress’s licence permit is at the root of it.

Jayaprakash: Total revolution is what we need, I say

Jawaharlal: What did your total revolution achieve? A ban on Coca-Cola!

Jayaprakash: Better a ban on Coca-Cola than a country drowning in Scotch.

Subhas: If the INA had won, India would not be so indisciplined.

Rabindranath: (In a sonorous voice) Where the head is held high and the mind is without fear.

K.M. Munshi (before Rabindranath could complete): Mind without fear? In a country with sedition laws?

Rabindranath: (Quietly hums) Ekla chalo

Narada (interjecting): Isn’t that cool traffic light music?

Vallabhbhai: (Shakes his head) The Union is in peril. Here we are in idle chatter. Refugees are again flowing across borders, riots in Assam. I always told Jawaharlal that China would gobble us up. He did not listen.

Jawaharlal: Why are you so glum? Heard they are building the biggest statue for you in Gujarat.

Vallabhbhai: That’s my fear. The more statues they build, the less they listen. Look at Jawaharlal, even his own family does not understand what he was about. And Bhimrao here, the more statues he gets, the less he is understood.

Abul Kalam: We have not solved anything. Partition turned out to be a non-solution to an insoluble problem. The Hindu-Muslim tension refuses to go away. The Indian Muslim is disenfranchised.

Mohandas: That is why I don’t celebrate Independence Day. Our peace is only surface calm. The devil of human division still lurks within us. (Hums) Raghupati Raghav raja Ram...

Bhimrao: But your methods will not rid us of them. Caste oppression remains the obdurate reality.

Jawaharlal: True. But come on, Bhim. There is some progress. You and I both know economic development will help mitigate caste oppression.

Bhimrao: Dalits are taking their future into their own hands. But don’t kid yourself, Jawahar, discrimination runs deep. And the state you created is such a failure in education that it will be centuries before we overcome disadvantage.

Ram Manohar: I always said caste would be overcome only by entrenching it first.

Jawaharlal: I never understood caste. I don’t understand how OBCs and Dalits became the same. (Turns to Ram Manohar) And your entrenching part has happened. But your overcoming will never come, will it?

Malviya and Zakir Husain (chime in together): You are forgetting the universities. The key to an enlightened society!

Shyama Prasad: Oh shut up. You should have named BHU Banaras Harvard University. Then someone might have listened to you. Anyway, no one would give you two permission to set up universities now.

Narada (interrupting): Calm down, guys. Celebrate! There’s lots to celebrate. India is a world power. Six hundred million cellphones. And six medals in the Olympics! Just a little more effort, India can grow so fast. Poverty is falling, animal spirits raring to go.

Mohandas: But no one followed my talisman: recall the face of the poorest and weakest person you see. Will your policies lead to freedom for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?

Rajagopalachari: You don’t talk about poverty, Mohan. You wanted India to remove poverty by remaining poor.

Bhimrao: And Mohan, you have to admit your ‘trusteeship’ thing was inside out. Instead of private wealth for public purpose, they turned it into public wealth for private purpose.

Jawaharlal: I always thought we needed a modern economy. We needed capital accumulation and all that. We needed a mixed economy. We needed new cities.

Rajagopalachari: You may have given us a mixed economy, Jawaharlal. But look at Manmohan. He has confused a mixed economy with a mixed-up economy. We say poverty is a curse. And then we say wealth is evil. That’s what I call mixed up.

Ram Manohar: And he always forgot the farmers.

Narada: (Breaks into a song and dance) Bharat Mata Ki Jai/ Sone ki chidiya, dengue malaria.

Periyar: This is all too Brahminical for me. Dravidian culture can save the nation. And you cannot rule India from Delhi.

Jawaharlal: But you can hold Delhi hostage?

Chittaranjan: No, Bengal should lead Delhi.
(In the background, the humming of Ekla chalo grows louder.)

Hansa: Sorry to disturb the boys’ party. But if you had taken the uplift of women seriously, we would not have been in this mess.

Jawaharlal: Well, things are changing. So many women leaders. Women are the wave of the future in higher education.

Hansa: But we still kill them, still confine them.

Narada: Hansaji, didn’t you know they give cash incentives for girl children now?

Hansa: Why do we do things only for money?

Mohandas: Why, indeed?

Narada: Well, T20 starts soon. That will be the celebration, eh? Don’t you guys regret not being around?

Subhas: Hum honge kamyab, hum honge kamyab.
(The rest joins in a chorus. Mohandas hums in the background: Sabko sammati de bhagwan. Narada dances to dengue malaria, dengue malaria.)

And, thus, all returned to an immortal bliss. India at sixty-five.

by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in Indian Express in 15th August 2012

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