Just read ‘Death of a salesman and other elite ironies: Tarun Tejpal‘ – a pure logical thought provoking writing. One of the few ‘mass’ writing by the ‘mass media’ that is intellectually stimulation and emotionally moving. The link unfortunately has ‘ads moving’ all over the page 🙂 😦 His writing strikes a true chord with my dis-illusioned state I find myself after 3 years of moving back to india + various experiences (rich, vivid and exhausting!).
What strikes me the most is what he says in the end : India’s elite should start getting its hands dirty so they can get a clean country. My thoughts on that: True, very true. But guess what most of the elites feel they have worked ‘hard’ to be elites and feel its time to take back from the country (non-diplomatically translated as exploit and show-off!) Then we come to ‘true’ elites – they are trying in their own way. We need a system thats brings it together i.e. collective action. Not downplaying the whole thing – we need ways to structure in the ‘whole’ thing to see impact!
Have some of the writing in quotes for my personal archive.
What the Indian elite is discovering today on the debris of fancy eateries is an acidic truth large numbers of ordinary Indians are forced to swallow every day.
The system does not work, the system is cruel, the system is unjust, the system exists to only serve those who run it. Crucially, what we, the elite, need to understand is that most of us are complicit in the system. In fact, the chances are the more we have — of privilege and money — the more invested we are in the shoring up of an unfair state.
For too many decades now, the elite of India has washed its hands off the country’s politics. Entire generations have grown up viewing it as a distasteful activity. In an astonishing perversion, the finest imaginative act of the last thousand years on the subcontinent, the creation and flowering of the idea of modern India through mass politics, has for the last 40 years been rendered infra dig, déclassé, uncool. Let us blame our parents, and let our children blame us, for not bequeathing onwards the sheer beauty of a collective vision, collective will, and collective action. In a word, politics: which, at its best, created the wonder of a liberal and democratic idea, and at its worst threatens to tear it down.
We stand faulted then in two ways. For turning our back on the collective endeavour; and for our passive embrace of the status quo. This is in equal parts due to selfish instinct and to shallow thinking. Since shining India is basically only about us getting an even greater share of the pie, we have been happy to buy its half-truths, and look away from the rest of the sordid story. Like all elites, historically, that have presided over the decline of their societies, we focus too much of our energy on acquiring and consuming, and too little on thinking and decoding.
Let’s track one causal chain. The Congress creates Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to neutralise the Akalis; Bhindranwale creates terrorism; Indira Gandhi moves against terrorism; terrorism assassinates Indira Gandhi; blameless Sikhs are slaughtered in Delhi; in the course of a decade, numberlessinnocents, militants, and securitymen die. Let’s track another. The BJP takes out an inflammatory rath yatra; inflamed kar sewaks pull down the Babri Masjid; riots ensue; vengeful Muslims trigger Mumbai blasts; 10 years later a bogey of kar sewaks is burnt in Gujarat; in the next week 2,000 Muslims are slaughtered; six years later retaliatory violence continues. Let’s track one more. In the early 1940s, in the midst of the freedom movement, patrician Muslims demand a separate homeland; Mahatma Gandhi opposes it; the British support it; Partition ensues; a million people are slaughtered; four wars follow; two countries drain each other through rhetoric and poison; nuclear arsenals are built; hotels in Mumbai are attacked.
In each of these rough causal chains, there is one thing in common. Their origin in the decisions of the elite. Interlaced with numberless lines of potential divisiveness, the India framework is highly delicate and complicated. It is critical for the elite to understand the framework, and its role in it. The elite has its hands on the levers of capital, influence and privilege. It can fix the framework. It has much to give, and it must give generously. The mass, with nothing in its hands, nothing to give, can out of frustration and anger, only pull it all down. And when the volcano blows, rich and poor burn alike.
And so what should we be doing? Well, screaming at politicians is certainly not political engagement. And airy socialites demanding the carpet-bombing of Pakistan and the boycott of taxes are plain absurd, just another neon sign advertising shallow thought. It’s the kind of dumb public theatre the media ought to deftly side-step rather than showcase. The world is already over-shrill with animus: we need to tone it down, not add to it.
The first thing we need to do is to square up to the truth. Acknowledge the fact that we have made a fair shambles of the project of nation-building. Fifty million Indians doing well does not for a great India make, given that 500 million are grovelling to survive. Sixty years after independence, it can safely be said that India’s political leadership — and the nation’s elite — have badly let down the country’s dispossessed and wretched. If you care to look, India today is heartbreak hotel, where infants die like flies, and equal opportunity is a cruel mirage.
Let’s be clear we are not in a crisis because the Taj hotel was gutted. We are in a crisis because six years after 2,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Gujarat there is still no sign of justice. This is the second thing the elite need to understand — after the obscenity of gross inequality. The plinth of every society — since the beginning of Man — has been set on the notion of justice. You cannot light candles for just those of your class and creed. You have to strike a blow for every wronged citizen.
And let no one tell us we need more laws. We need men to implement those that we have. Today all our institutions and processes are failing us. We have compromised each of them on their values, their robustness, their vision and their sense of fairplay.
Look around. How many constables, head constables, sub-inspectors would risk their lives for the dishonest, weak men they serve, who in turn serve even more compromised masters?
I wish Rohinton had survived the lottery of death in Mumbai last week. In an instant, he would have understood what we always went on about. India’s crying need is not economic tinkering or social engineering. It is a political overhaul, a political cleansing. As it once did to create a free nation, India’s elite should start getting its hands dirty so they can get a clean country.