Millennium Post

Small beginnings

This is a battle that has raged on for 4,000 years, since the world’s first king ruled in Mesopotamia. But this first happened in India. And this is happening yet again today, as we now have a revolution in the making

Small beginnings

History has taught us an important and ingratiating lesson, one that warns us that even the smallest of sparks can lead to the most devastating of fires, infernos that can mature and consume everything in their path, obliterating and annihilating the most powerful of visible forces. Thus it is that the world has got new beginnings over the eons, time and again. Mahatma Gandhi showcased this in South Africa, as a young Indian lawyer who refused to comply with the sadistic rules of racial segregation on a train, a protest that led him to be ejected from a railway car at Pietermaritzburg.

It happened in the Americas of yore too, where subjugated Red Indians defied insurmountable odds and finally emerged independent. And it happened in Japan, which became a technological superpower just a few decades after being the only unfortunate nation in the history of the world to face the wrath of A-bombs and mass destruction. America's plutonium-enriched 'Fat Man' and uranium-based 'Little Boy' hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A country was brought to its knees and the Second World War ended in a horrific manner. History is witness to the aftermath, good and bad, the apologetic and the apoplectic, and despite the repeated apologies of subsequent and future American Presidents, I clearly have no plans to go to the Americas anytime soon.

It happened in South Africa as well, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in jail, between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. Ultimately, amid domestic and international pressure and fears of impending civil war, President Franklin Willem de Klerk released Mandela in 1990, after which he rose to become the country's first black President. This happened in the United States too, when Barack Obama became the first African American President in 2009, defying centuries-old nepotism and dusting off ill-assumed might of the Whites. Small beginnings do work.

Long-drawn battle

This 'small-beginnings' battle, which has been raging since time immemorial, started 4,000 years ago, when the world's first 'real global' empire was established in Mesopotamia by King Sargon of Akkad. Is this now happening in India and do we have visibility into our very own 'new and small' beginnings? Time shall tell. I apologize to my countrymen who may take affront and remind me that India created the first true civilization – vide Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Indus Valley. Mind you, despite my teenage trots along Delhi's railway lines and middle-aged rants from the rusticity of Himachal Pradesh, I know my history too.

So what is happening today, on my streets and in our towns? Is India making a new and belligerent beginning? One would like to believe so, for a beginning of sorts is finally being made.

For a little bit, let's focus on our farmers, who have been agitating for nearly a year, beginning with Delhi-NCR's borders. They have been called many names – 'annadaatas', 'khaalistaanis', terrorists, anarchists, anti-nationals, politically-motivated activists and mawalis, yet they have persisted, They have been placated since justice has to be seen to have prevailed, and deprived. Finally, our farmers' scented their first minor victory last week, when former SDM Ayush Sinha was 'sent on leave' after the Karnal standoff and the 'gherao' (surrounding of an institution). Ironically, it took a Gandhi – Varun Gandhi, on September 11, 2021 – to write a letter to bring about some sensibility into the decision-making process. He beseeched the Government to raise sugarcane prices. And reduce the prices of diesel. But, lo and behold and oops; nothing has happened since. And let's forget what he said about electricity prices.

For a small beginning has been made.

Time for a deep breath

Anyhow, this SDM allegedly issued orders, in the presence of live TV cameras, instructing police personnel, men and women, to redesign the heads of protestors who dared to cross the 'Lakshman Rekha', as advised by his Government. When all hell broke loose, he was punished by means of being granted a fruitful posting in Chandigarh. That only stoked the fire some more, inspiring the farmers to get angrier, agitate some more and cry foul. Et tu, Brutus, they screamed.

The history of just the last 10 months tells us that almost everyone is now really torn apart. By its very definition, history runs deeper. Hitler, Mussolini, Genghis Khan and Napoleon Bonaparte come to mind as examples. Let me close a poignant case. At the risk of rubbing some people the wrong way, let me blatantly state that what is being touted as a little victory for the farmers is actually a massive step in a very optical state of affairs.

Is this route right or wrong? I am no expert, and time shall tell. What I do know is that a beginning has been made by a very persistent set of our populace. A telling indicator is that the powers-that-be are now not being allowed to enter villages in districts and tehsils that are soon going to polls in Utttar Pradesh and Punjab. Is this the divine justice that I mentioned in last week's writeup? Will our authorities at least now wake up from their stupor and step up to the plate and they revisit the whiplash they faced in West Bengal? We can only wonder.

Pandora's Box

Clearly, the Pandora's Box has been opened. The authorities, facing an unseasonable depletion in their seemingly indeterminable might, are now suddenly lacking in both the gumption and temerity to tackle this unexpected reversal, one that has been triggered by their own mask-less statements and careless innuendos. Over the last few days, we have seen India's hottest leaders being belligerent and vociferous at rallies in cities and towns in India's election tipoff spots, oft getting booed off the dais. It has happened in Muzzafarpur, Ghazipur, Tikri, Karnal and Aligarh.

The greatest vacillation lies in the numbers released last week by the authorities themselves, which proffer that the average Indian farmer earns Rs 27 per day; a ludicrous and preposterous grand total of Rs 810 a month. That is food for thought, reminding us how much you and I pay for a cup of coffee or a loaf of bread or for an N95 mask to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Yet, we have the spleen to question why they are protesting, not wearing masks in public, following COVID-19 protocols, et al.

Let's not even go into what some of some chosen Corporates have brought to the table, for that is something they treat as stubble. They are offering a pittance even for premium agri-products; apples, orchids, lichchis, plums and peaches. That is an eye-opening tale in itself, underscoring the fact that we are losing the plot. We are thumbing our nose at those people who took care of us through the pandemic – agriculture – the only sector of the economy that kept India's GDP going through the lockdowns. This particularly makes the fact that we have been paying them Rs 27 per day for their efforts very nice.

It is all about Yoga

Yoga is the way out, we are told each year on International Yoga Day, when we spend hundreds of crores to celebrate a legacy that shall solve all our problems. I admit that I adore Shilpa Shetty – who doesn't and wouldn't? But today, my real India is facing some grim lessons of lost jobs and slimmer salaries. A wispy waistline is pretty low on the wish-list now, unfortunately. In this new India, one of my friends spoke to me recently of very long official WFH (work from home) hours. I wryly reminded him that long hours are better than no hours at all, and he immediately acquiesced. This is our new India. How did we get to this?

At the end of the day, a small revolt or rebellion once in a while is good, for it stokes a nation's soporific conscience and yanks it out of mindless sobriety. Exercise and Yoga are good, but not when dealing with souls devolved of even the most basic of emotional and mental prowess. It is far mightier to get food into hungry Indian bellies than to heave chants and rant verses into debilitated and depraved minds. A full happy stomach shall always be more humane than a hundred empty minds, says an ancient saying.

When he found America, Christopher Columbus said, "The Sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings him home to his own people." Share this thought with those who are sleeping on the roads on our Capital's borders, far from their homes and loved ones. They are the only ones who can tell us how it really feels. This, after all, is just a small beginning.

The writer is a communications consultant and a clinical analyst. Views expressed are personal

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